Rama in Jainism
Rama (Rāma), the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana and a Hindu god, is also described in the scriptures of Jainism, where he is regarded as one of sixty-three figures known as Salakapurusa. Among these, there is nine sets of Balabhadra, Narayana and prati-Narayana. Rama was the 8th Balabhadra with Lakshmana and Ravana being his Narayana and Prati-narayana counterparts. He is described as a young prince who is deprived of his throne and turned into a pauper. He lives in an exile where his wife Sita is kidnapped by Ravana. He, with the help of his brother Lakshmana and King Sugriva rescues Sita. Ravana is killed by Lakshmana (a deviation from the Hindu epic where Rama slays Ravana) and they both go into hell. Sita and Rama becomes Jain ascetics. The former is born into heaven while the later attains moksha.
The story of Rama in Jainism can be broadly classified into three groups; Samghadasa's version, Vimalsuri's version and Gunabhadra's version. Some of the early works which deal with Rama are:
Some of the later works which mention the story of Rama are:
- Ramayana of Jinadasa (c. 15th century CE)
- Ramacharitra of Padmadevavijaya gani (c. 16th century CE)
- Ramacharitra of Somadeva Suri (c. 16th century CE)
- Laghu-trishatisalakapurusha of Somaprabha (c. 15th century CE)
- Padmapurana of Raidhu in Apbhramsha (c. 15th century CE)
- Padma-Ramayana of Nagchandra in Kannada (c. 11th century CE)
- Ramacharita of Devavijayaganir (c. 1596 CE)
- Laghu-trishatisalakapurusha Charitra of Meghvijaya (c. 17th century CE)
Dasaratha was the king of Ikshvaku dynasty who ruled Ayodhya. He had four princes Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. Janaka ruled videha. His daughter Sita was married to Rama. Sita was kidnapped by Ravana who took her to his kingdom Lanka. During the search for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana meet Sugriva and Hanumana. Sugriva, the king of Vanara clan was removed from his throne of Kiskindha by his brother Valin. Rama and Lakshmana helped Sugriva get back his kingdom. They, along with the army of Sugriva marched towards Lanka. Vibhishana, Ravana's brother tried to persuade him to return Sita. However, Ravana did not agree. Vibhishana allied with Rama. There was a war fought between the armies of Rama and Ravana. Lakshmana kills Ravana in the end (deviating from the Ramayana where the hero Rama slays Ravana) and Vibhishana becomes the king of Lanka. Rama and Lakshmana return to Ayodhya. Rama had around eight thousand wives among whom Sita was the principle consort (in the Hindu epic, Rama has only one wife Sita), where as Lakshmana had around sixteen thousand wives in which Prithvisundari was his principle consort. After Lakshmana's death, Rama becomes a monk. He attains kevala jnana and subsequently moksha. Lakshmana and Ravana, on the other hand, go to hell. Sita was born in heaven.
Vimalasuri's version is one of the most important and influential Jain story of Rama. Vimalsuri claims that the Ramayana of Valmiki is filled with illogical and false stories. In his version, Kaikeyi is shown to be a generous and affectionate mother who wanted to stop Bharata from becoming a monk. For this, she wanted to give him the responsibility of a king. When Rama knew about it, he willingly went into exile. Ravana was also called Dasamukha (ten-headed one) because when he was young, his mother gave him a necklace made of nine pearls. She could see his face reflected ninefold. Hence, he was named thus. In Vimalsuri's Paumchariya, Rama married thrice when he was in exile. Lakshmana, his brother married eleven times. Ravana, was well known for his abilities in meditation and ascetic practices. He was the king of Rakshasa, a kingdom of civilized and vegetarian people. Sugriva was appointed by his brother Vali to become the king before Vali renounces the world and becomes a Jain monk. Sambuka was accidentally killed by Lakshmana. Ravana had passionate feelings for Sita. He said to have suffered in the end due to the effects of karma which was because of this vice. Lakshmana, Rama's brother kills Ravana. Both Ravana and Lakshmana go to hell for their actions where as Rama attains moksha (salvation). The vanaras were humans, belonging to a dynasty or clan which has a monkey as their emblem.
The story of Rama in Jainism is found in Ravisena's Padmapurana (Lorebook of the Lotus) is termed as one of the most artistic Jain Ramayana by Dundas. He belonged to the Digambara sect of Jainism and hence removes almost every Svetambara elements that was present in the tale.
In the svayambhu's version, Rama is son of Aparajita and Lakshmana is the son of Sumitra. Sita is shown to be the daughter of Janaka. There is also a narration about Sita's brother Bhamandala. He did not know about Sita being her sister and wanted to marry her. He even wanted to abduct her. This narration ends when Bhamandala, after knowing that Sita is her sister, turns into a Jain ascetic.
Sanghadasa version presents only a brief account of Rama's story. In this version, Dasaratha had three queens; Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. Rama was from Kaushalya, Lakshmana from Sumitra, Bharata and Satrughna from Kaikeyi.
Sita is said to be the daughter of Ravana's queen Mandodiri. It was predicted that the first child of Mandodiri would bring annihilation to the family. Hence, Ravana deserted the child when she was born. The minister who was responsible for this took her in a pearl-box, placed her near a plough and told Janaka of Mithila that the girl is born from the trench. Janaka's queen Dharini became Sita's foster mother.
While in exile, Rama visited a place called Vijanasthana. Surpanakha was dumbstruck at the beauty of Rama and wanted to have sex with him. However, Rama refused to have sex with another person's wife. He inturn cut her ears and nose after she was scolded by Sita. Surpanakha complained about this to Khara-dusana who was killed by Rama on their quest for revenge. Surapanakha then goes to his brother Ravana.
In the Harisena's kathakosa, there is an incident where Rama asks Sita to give the famous Agnipariksha. When Sita steps into the fire, the whole area turns into a lake. A Jain nun appears and Sita and others around will become Jain ascetic.
In the story of Gunabhadra, Dasratha lived in Varanasi. His queen Subala gave birth to Rama and Kaikeyi gave birth to Lakshmana. Sita was born of Ravana and Mandodari. She was subsequently abandoned by Ravana in a place where Janaka was ploughing the field.
Pushpadanta gives elaborate description of the marriage between Rama and Sita.
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