Aarti Natarajan Sharma
The Ramayana is one of the two great Sanskrit epics of India, the other being the Mahabharata. The Ramayana is the story of Lord Ramaa. In Sanskrit, the name of the epic literally means ‘Ramaa’s journey.’ This epic poem was composed by the great Sage Valmiki, also known as Adikavi or the First Poet of India. The Ramayana was written sometime in the fifth century BCE and consists of 24,000 verses divided over seven chapters of kaands.
The Ramayana takes us through the birth of Lord Rama, his training under Guru Vishwamitra, his winning Sita’s hand in marriage by lifting Shiva’s bow in the court of King Janak, his exile to the forest for 14 years accompanied by Sita and his brother Lakshman; the abduction of Sita by the demon king, Ravan, and her rescue by Lord Rama with the help of his faithful devotee, Hanuman. The story goes on to describe how Lord Rama banishes his pregnant wife Sita to the forest, bowing before his people’s questions on her chastity. Sita stays at the ashram of Sage Valmiki and gives birth to two sons—Luv and Kush. The Ramayana ends with Lord Rama asking Sita to return to the palace with his sons but on the condition of going through a test of fire (agnipareeksha) to prove her chastity. Sita refuses and chooses to be swallowed up by the earth, who is considered to be her mother.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rama is the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, one of the Gods in the Hindu Trinity. Sita is considered to be an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Whenever Lord Vishu takes on a new avatar, Goddess Lakshmi follows suit.
Ramayana as a Gift
The Ramayana and books related to it makes for excellent gifts. The Ramayana is available in a number of versions. The Valmiki Ramayana is the oldest available version at present. This has been translated into a number of languages and can be found in several other Asian countries apart from India.
Another popular version is the Manka Ramayana. This is a prayer sung in praise of Lord Rama in the form of 108 mankas (prayer beads). These mankas talk of Lord Rama’s journey from his birth till his journey to vaikunth.
This is an excellent gift and comes in a unique box, which makes it easy to carry. The font is large and easy to read and printed on top quality paper.
The Rama Chalisa is another popular way to worship Lord Rama. This is a 40-verse prayer to Rama and is printed in both Hindi and English. It comes with its own luxurious box and personalisation options.
Another extremely popular version of the Ramayana is that by Goswami Tulsidas called the Rama Charitamanas, written in the 16 Century. The Sunderkand is the fifth chapter of this Ramayana and is the story of his most staunch devotee Hanuman. Sunderkand describes the qualities of Hanuman such as courage, strength and above all devotion to Lord Rama. The Sunderkand is one of the most common gifts given to any devotee of Lord Hanuman and Lord Rama.
The Ramayana is chanted and sung throughout India as a means of worshipping Lord Rama. There are scenes and plays enacted during the festivals of Navratri and Dussehra, popularly known as Rama-Leela. Each character and each story in the Ramayana highlight an important life lesson. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Good always wins over evil. This is one of the most important takeaways from the epic. No matter how strong or powerful evil is, ultimately it shall be defeated in face of goodness and righteousness.
- Family is important. Despite being the rightful heir to the throne, Lord Rama abdicated it and took to the forest so that his father could keep his promise to one of his three wives, Kaikeyi. For him family and a promise made to them were all important.
- A king’s duty triumphs all else. Despite Sita being his wife, Lord Rama bowed down to the will of his subjects and banished her to the forest. As a king, the subjects he ruled over came before anyone else, even his own wife.
- Rama is also known as Maryada Purushottam (the perfect man). He is considered to be an embodiment of truth and morality and a symbol of all good virtues.
- Choose the right path. Despite being Ravan’s brother, Vibhishan opted to take Lord Rama’s side because he knew that a sin has been committed by Ravan in abducting Sita.
- ‘Yatha raja, thatha praja’. Lord Rama’s life was a reflection of this dictum. He believed that as a king is, so shall his subjects be. He was a king who led by example.
- An example of sibling relationships. Despite being born to different mothers, the sibling bond between Rama and Lakshman is talked about through the ages. Lakshman gave up his life in the palace, left his wife Urmila, only to follow Rama to the forest. He was unwavering in his dedication and loyalty to his brother.
- Differentiating between right and wrong. When Lord Rama was banished to the forest, his brother Bharat was anointed as the King of Ayodhya. Instead of taking on the role, Bharat placed a pair of Rama’s slippers on the throne and declared himself as the proxy king, guarding the throne till Rama returned.
- Beware of evil doers. Kaikeyi, the mother of Bharat was essentially a good woman. However, she fell into the trap of constantly listening to the advice of her loyal maid servant Manthara. Over time, Kaikeyi starts following Manthara’s advice and starts coveting the throne for her own son instead of letting Lord Rama have it. A series of events follow, resulting in Lord Rama’s banishment to the forest.
The Ramayana and its teachings are relevant even in current times. Children are often narrated the story of this epic to teach them the fundamentals by which we should aspire to live our lives.
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