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|Affiliation||Seventh avatar of Vishnu|
|Mantra||Om Shri Ramaya Namah|
|Weapon||The Bow (Kodandam)|
|Children||Lava and Kusha|
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Rama (//; Sanskrit: राम Rāma) or Ramachandra is the seventh avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. He is the central figure of the Hindu epic Ramayana, which is the principal narration of the events connected to his incarnation on earth, his ideals and his greatness. Rama is one of the many popular deities in Hinduism, and especially of the various Vaishnava sects. Religious texts and scriptures based on his life have been a formative component in numerous cultures of South and Southeast Asia. Along with Krishna, Rama is considered to be one of the most important avatars of Vishnu. In a few Rama-centric sects, he is considered the Supreme Being, rather than an avatar.
Born as the eldest son of Kaushalya and Dasharatha, ruler of Ayodhya Kingdom(now in Uttar Pradesh), Rama is referred as ''Maryada Purushottama" within Hinduism, which literally means the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. His wife Sita is considered by Hindus to be an avatar of Lakshmi and the embodiment of a great woman.
Rama and his brothers Lakshman, Bharat, Shatrughna were the chaturvyuha expansions of Vishnu (Vasudev, Sankarshan, Pradyumna, Aniruddha). Rama's life and journey is one of adherence to dharma despite harsh tests and obstacles and many pains of life and time. For the sake of his father's honour, Rama abandons his claim to Ayodhaya's throne to serve an exile of fourteen years in the forest. His wife Sita and brother Lakshmana decide to join him, and all three spend the fourteen years in exile together. While in exile, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the king of Lanka. After a long and arduous search, Rama fights a colossal war against Ravana's armies. In a war of powerful and magical beings, greatly destructive weaponry and battles, Rama slays Ravana in battle and liberates his wife. Having completed his exile, Rama returns to be crowned king in Ayodhya and eventually becomes emperor, rules with happiness, peace, duty, prosperity and justice—a period known as Rama Rajya.
The legend of Rama is deeply influential and popular in the societies of the Indian subcontinent and across South East Asia. Rama is revered for his unending compassion, courage and devotion to religious values and duty.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Literary sources
- 3 Balkand
- 4 Dharma Of Exile
- 5 Rama and Sita
- 6 Sita's Exile
- 7 Later life
- 8 Abilities
- 9 Maryada Purushottama
- 10 Companions
- 11 Rama in war
- 12 International influence
- 13 Rama worship
- 14 In Jainism
- 15 See also
- 16 Notes
- 17 References
- 18 Further reading
- 19 External links
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The name Rama appears repeatedly in Hindu scriptures. Besides the name of the protagonist of the Ramayana (subject of the current article), the name is also given to other heroes including Parashu-Rama (Bhargava Rama) and Bala-Rama.
In the Vishnu sahasranama, Rama is the 394th name of Vishnu. In the interpretation of Adi Shankara's commentary, translated by Swami Tapasyananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, Rama has two meanings: the supreme Brahman who is the eternally blissful spiritual Self in whom yogis delight, and the One (i.e., Vishnu, the supreme Brahman) who out of His own will assumed the enchanting form of Rama, the son of Dasaratha.
Some of the popular names of Rama are-
- Rama - charming
- Ramachandra - Rama with a moon
- Raghava - descendent of Raghu
- Siyaavara - husband of Sita
- Ayodhyapati - king of Ayodhya
- Dashrathaputra - son of Dasharatha
- Maryada-Purushottama - best ideal man
The primary source of the life and journey of Rama is the epic Ramayana as composed by the Rishi Valmiki. The Vishnu Purana also recounts Rama as Vishnu's seventh avatar, and in the Bhagavata Purana, ninth skandha, adhyayas 10 & 11, the story of the Ramayana is again recounted in brief up to and including the slaying of Ravana and Prince Rama's return to Ayodhya. Additionally, the tales of Rama are reverently spoken of in the Mahabharata. The earliest documentation of Rama is in the Buddhist text of Dasharatha Jataka.
The epic had many versions across India's regions. However, other scriptures in Sanskrit also reflect the life of Ramayana. The followers of Madhvacharya believe that an older version of the Ramayana, the mula-Ramayana, previously existed. They consider it to have been more authoritative than the version by Valmiki. Another important shortened version of the epic in Sanskrit is the Adhyatma Ramayana. The seventh century CE Sanskrit "Bhatti's Poem" Bhaṭṭikāvya of Bhatti who lived in Gujarat, is a retelling of the epic that simultaneously illustrates the grammatical examples for Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as the major figures of speech and the Prakrit language. Versions of the Ramayana exist in most major Indian languages; examples that elaborate on the life, deeds and divine philosophies of Rama include the epic poem Ramavataram by the 12th-century poet Kambar in Tamil, and Ramcharitmanas, a Hindi version of the Ramayana by the 16th-century saint, Tulsidas. Contemporary versions of the Ramayana include Sri Ramayana Darshanam by Kuvempu in Kannada and Ramayana Kalpavruksham by Viswanatha Satyanarayana in Telugu, both of which have been awarded the Jnanpith Award. The epic has transformed across the diverse regions of India, which boast their own unique languages and cultural traditions.
The essential tale of Rama has also spread across Southeast Asia, and evolved into unique renditions of the epic – incorporating local history, folktales, religious values as well as unique features from the languages and literary discourse. The Kakawin Ramayana of Java, Indonesia, the Ramakavaca of Bali, Hikayat Seri Rama of Malaysia, Maradia Lawana of the Philippines, Ramakien of Thailand (which calls him Phra Ram) are great works with many unique characteristics and differences in accounts and portrayals of the legend of Rama. The legends of Rama are witnessed in elaborate illustration at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok. The national epic of Myanmar, Yama Zatdaw is essentially the Burmese Ramayana, where Rama is named Yama. In the Reamker of Cambodia, Rama is known as Preah Ream. In the Phra Lak Phra Lam of Laos, Gautama Buddha is regarded as an incarnation of Rama.
To the Valmiki Ramayana, Rama was born in Ayodhya, India, on 9th day (now celebrated across India as Ram Navami) of Chaitra lunar month (March–April), when Moon and Jupiter were rising in the east in Cancer sign and four other planets (Sun, Mars, Saturn, Venus) were exalted in their exaltation signs. Jupiter in the sign Cancer is exalted.
According to Valmiki Ramayana and other ancient sources, Rama was born about 880 thousand years ago, near the end of Treta Yuga, and eleven thousand years after his coronation, Dwapara Yuga started which lasted 864000 years, followed by Kali Yuga in which 3101 years had elapsed at the beginning of Christian Era.
Birth As An Avatar
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The Ramayana speaks of how the earth goddess Bhudevi, came to the creator-god Brahma begging to be rescued from evil kings who were plundering her resources and destroying life through bloody wars and evil conduct. The deva (gods) also came to Brahma fearful of the rule of Ravana, the ten-headed emperor of Lanka. Ravana had overpowered the devas and now ruled the heavens, the earth and the netherworlds. Although a powerful and noble monarch, he was also arrogant, destructive and a patron of evil doers. He had boons that gave him immense strength and was invulnerable to all living and celestial beings, except man and animals.
Brahma, Bhumidevi and the other gods requested Vishnu, the Preserver, to intervene and rid the Earth from Ravana's tyrannical rule. Vishnu promised to kill Ravana by incarnating as a man – the eldest son of Kosala's king Dasharatha. According to the Ramayana, king Dasharatha remained childless for a long time and finally decided to perform a yajna to beget a child under the supervision of the royal priest. During the ritual, Prajapati arose from the sacrificial fire and gave a vessel of sacred potion to Dasharatha for distribution to his three wives. The three queens drank the divine potion and conceived four sons: Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
Goddess Lakshmi took birth as Sita in order to accompany her consort Vishnu and was found by king Janaka of Mithila while he was ploughing a field. Vishnu's eternal companion, the Shesha is said to have incarnated as Lakshmana to stay at his Lord's side on earth. Throughout his life, no one, except a few select sages(among which are included Vashishta, Sharabhanga, Agastya and Vishwamitra) know of his destiny. Rama is continually revered by the many sages he encounters through his life, but only the most learned and exalted know of his true identity. At the end of the war between Rama and Ravana, just as Sita passes her Agni pariskha, Brahma, Indra and the gods, the celestial sages and Shiva appear out of the sky. They affirm Sita's purity and ask him to end this terrible test. Thanking the avatar for delivering the universe from the grips of evil, they reveal Rama's divine identity upon the culmination of his mission.
Other scriptures provide other reasons for the avatar. The chastity of Vrinda, wife of the demon Jalandhara, that protects the life of her husband is destroyed by Vishnu by deceit so that Shiva can slay the demon. She curses Vishnu to be born on earth and that in this birth of his, his wife's(Lakshmi as Sita) purity and chastity will be a question in his mind throughout his life and he will be separated from her and live with sadness and grief.
Another legend narrates that Jaya-Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vishnu, were cursed by the Four Kumaras to be born on earth three lives; Vishnu took avatars each time to free them of their earthy existence. They as born as Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna, who are both killed by Rama. Also, due to a boon, Kashyapa and Aditi are born as the parents of Rama, Dasharatha and Kausalya.
Another tale says that the sage Narada cursed Vishnu to be born on earth as a king, to be helped by monkeys and suffer separation from his wife. Narada also curses Jaya and Vijaya to be born as the demon brothers.
Initiation Of The Avatar
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Sage Vishwamitra takes the two princes, Rama and Lakshmana, to his ashram, as he needs Rama's help in slaying several Rakshasas that have been harassing him and several other sages living in the area. Rama's first encounter is with a Rakshasi named Tataka, who is a celestial nymph cursed to take the form of a demoness. Vishwamitra explains that she has polluted much of the habitat where the sages reside and there will not be any contentment until she is destroyed. Rama has some reservations about killing a woman, but since Tataka poses such a big threat to the Rishis and he is expected to follow their word, he fights with Tataka and kills her with an arrow. After her death, the surrounding forest becomes greener and cleaner.
Vishwamitra presents Rama with several astras and sastras(divine weapons) that will be of use to him in the future, and Rama masters the knowledge of all the weapons and their uses. Vishwamitra then tells Rama and Lakshmana that soon, he along with some of his disciples, will perform a yagna for seven days and nights that will be of great benefit to the world, and the two princes must keep close watch for the two sons of Taadaka, Maricha and Subahu, who will try to defile the yagna at all costs. The princes therefore keep a strong vigil for all of the days, and on the seventh day they spot Maricha and Subahu coming with a whole host of Rakshasas ready to pour bones and blood into the fire. Rama points his bow at the two, and with one arrow kills Subahu and with the other arrow flings Maricha thousands of miles away into the ocean. Rama deals with the rest of the demons. The yagna is completed successfully
Rama also frees Ahalya, the wife of Gautama Maharishi, from a curse. She was cursed to turn into stone by her husband after a displeasing incident. However, the dust on Rama's feet touched the stone and turned it back into a woman again. Gautama Maharishi was gratified that everything was back to normal again.
Sage Vishwamitra then takes the two princes to the Swayamvara a wedding ceremony for Sita. The challenge is to string the bow of Shiva(Pinaka) and shoot an arrow from it. This task is considered impossible for any ordinary king or living being, as this is the personal weapon of Shiva, more powerful, holy and of divine creation than conceivable. While attempting to string the bow, Rama breaks it in two. This feat of strength spreads his fame across the worlds and seals his marriage to Sita, celebrated as Vivaha Panchami.
After Rama weds Sita and the entire royal family and the Ayodhya army begin their journey back, the great rishi Parashurama(Bhargava Rama) appears before them, having descended from his mountainous hermitage. Parashurama is an extremely powerful rishi, responsible for killing all of the world's tyrannical and oppressive emperors and kings 21 times. He is the sixth Avatara of Vishnu and finds it unbelievable that anybody could break the bow of Shiva. Considering himself to still be the most powerful warrior-rishi on earth, he brings with him the bow of Vishnu(Saranga) and intends to challenge Rama to prove his strength by stringing it, and then fighting a battle with him to prove superiority. Although the entire Ayodhya army is forestalled by his mystical power, Rama is himself angered. He respectfully bows to Parashurama and within a twinkling of an eyelid snatches the bow of Vishnu(that is his own, an example of irony here) strings it, places an arrow and points it straight at the challenger's heart. Rama asks Parashurama what he will give as a target to the arrow. At this point, Parashurama feels himself devoid of the tremendous mystical energy he possessed for so long. He realizes that Rama is Vishnu incarnate, his successor and definitely his superior. He accepts Rama's superiority, devotes his tapasya to him, pays homage to Rama and promises to return to his hermitage and leave the world of men.
Rama then shoots the arrow up into the sky with Vishnu's bow, performing a feat true to his supreme, divine nature with his natural weapon. His overpowering of Parashurama and using the supreme weapon with incredible ease and perfection dazzle the spectators and his relatives, but no one save Parashurama and Vashishta associate this with his true identity. It is said that the Rama's arrow is still flying across space, across time and across all of the universe. The day it will return to earth, it is said, it will bring the end of the world. Others say that the flying arrow destroys all evil on earth to uphold dharma and righteousness.
Dharma Of Exile
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King Dasharatha announces to Ayodhya that he plans to crown Rama, his eldest child the Yuvaraja(crown prince). While the news is welcomed by everyone in the kingdom, the mind of queen Kaikeyi is poisoned by her wicked maid-servant, Manthara. Kaikeyi, who is initially pleased for Rama, is made to fear for the safety and future of her son Bharata. Fearing that Rama would ignore or possibly victimize his younger brother for the sake of power, Kaikeyi demands that Dasharatha banish Rama to a forest exile for fourteen years and that Bharata be crowned in Rama's place. She had been granted two boons by the king when she had saved his life a long time ago in battle, and the queen now used them to serve her purpose. The king's court and the people are outraged at this turn of events. Dasaratha loved and cherished Rama dearly and is in personal turmoil. Completely estranged now from his younger wife, he abhors the prospect of separation from Rama. But Rama realizes that the king must not break a solemn promise at any time, and neither should a son disobey his father's command. Sita joins her husband in exile despite his discouraging her, as it is her duty and out of love for Rama that she must be at his side at all times. His younger brother Lakshmana also immediately decides to join Rama rather than remain in the city.
As he leaves for exile, the people of Ayodhya are deeply saddened and angered at Dasharatha and Kaikeyi. Dasharatha's heart is broken and he collapses and dies during the night of the sixth day, unable to bear the agony of separation from Rama. Despite the reasoning of Vashistha and the pleas of his brothers, Rama refuses to return. Although horrified at the news of his father's death, Rama finds it impossible that he should break his dead father's word. Rama does not bear any anger towards Kaikeyi, believing firmly in the power of destiny. According to the explanation of the classic, this exile actually presents Rama the opportunity to confront Ravana and his evil empire.
Rama and Sita
Rama and Sita are the protagonists in one of the most famous love stories of all times. Described as being deeply in love, Sita and Rama are theologically understood as Incarnations of Lakshmi and Vishnu respectively. When Rama is banished from the kingdom, he attempts to convince Sita not to join him in a potentially dangerous and certainly arduous existence in the jungle, but Sita rejects this. When Rama orders her in his capacity as husband, Sita rejects it, asserting that it was an essential duty of a wife to be at her husband's side come good or ill. Rama in turn is assiduously protective and caring for Sita throughout the exile.
When Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, both Sita and Rama undergo great personal hardships during their separation. Sita protects her chastity assiduously, and survives over a year in captivity on the strength of her love and attention to religious values and duty. She is completely unfettered in her resolve despite Ravana's courting, cajoling and threats. Meanwhile, Rama, not knowing who had kidnapped Sita or where was she taken, often succumbs to despair and tears, denouncing himself for failing to defend her and agonizing over her safety and pain. Sita knows that it is in Rama's destiny to fight to rescue her(she refuses to be rescued thus by Hanuman, who discovers her), but is deeply anxious for his safety and fearful of Ravana's power.
The Wedding of Rama and Sita concerns two entities coming together to form a whole. An Indian marriage forges an alliance not only between two people, but also two families. The marriage of Sita and Rama creates an alliance between two people, two families, and two kingdoms: Mithila, home of Sita and Kosala, home of Rama. Furthermore, Rama's marriage to Sita on earth parallels the celestial union of Vishnu and Lakshmi; each deity took birth on earth, and so when Rama marries Sita, he is actually reuniting with his divine consort Lakshmi, Goddess of Good Fortune, who brings prosperity to Kosala. At an allegorical level, the union of Rama and Sita represents the relationship between God and the devotee, with Rama as the beloved divine king and Sita as his devotee. Finally, at a societal level, the dance drama brings together north and south Indian dance traditions.
Lord Rama sent a messenger to Ravana that said, "Come to me and I will forgive you," before he slays Ravana. After Rama slays Ravana and wins the war, Sita wants to come before him in the state which over a year's imprisonment had reduced her to, but Rama arranges for Sita to be bathed and given beautiful garments before they are re-united. But even as Sita comes before him in great excitement and happiness,the society starts doubting Sita's purity so Rama decided to prove that his Sita is still pure and chaste in front of the society, so he tells her that she has to give Agni pariksha. At this sudden turn of events, all the vanaras, rakshasas, Sugriva, Hanuman and Lakshmana are deeply shocked.
Sita begs Lakshmana to build her a pyre upon which she could end her life, as she could not live without Rama. At this point, Lakshmana is angered at Rama for the first time in his life, but following Rama's nod, he builds a pyre for Sita. At the great shock and sorrow of the watchers, Sita sits into the flames. But to their astonishment and wonder, she is completely unharmed. Instead, she glows radiantly from the centre of the pyre. But the gods headed by Brahma and Shiva appear, reveal Rama's and Sita's true identity and requests that Rama take Sita back as she is truly pure. Rama replies that he had never doubted her purity for a second, but, the people of the world would not have accepted or honoured her as a queen or a woman if she had not passed this Agni pariksha before the eyes of hundreds. Agni would destroy the impure and sinful, but not touch the pure and innocent, irrespective of Parvati's/Adishakti's curse on him.
There is a version of Tulsidas's Ramacharitamanasa, which is popular, which states that Rama had Sita under the protection of Agni God. After Sita was released it was necessary to bring her out of security of Agni god. This finds echo in the sthala purana of Tirupathi.
Another version of this, used in Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan, was that Rama had known Sita was going to be abducted by Ravana ahead of time. So he entrusted her to Agni, the god of fire. Rama did this so that he, who in reality was Vishnu, could kill Ravana. Sita, in turn, left behind a shadow, or twin-like version of herself behind. The shadow Sita had been abducted by Ravana. Therefore, the lila of Agni Pariksha was to retrieve the genuine Sita from the temporary care of Agni Deva. Rama explains this to Lakshmana before the Pariksha is done. This version has also been written in the Ram Charit Manas.
In the Uttara Kanda, Rama banishes his wife Sita, even as she is pregnant, asking Lakshmana to deliver her safely to the forest. He does so after receiving word that some of his subjects in Ayodhya believed that Sita was unfit due to her long captivity in Ravana's city. As a king is expected to uphold moral principles, Rama reluctantly banished Sita in order to uphold his duty. Sita took refuge under the noble sage Valmiki.
A legend by Rishi Agastya in the epic states that Vishnu in a previous age had been cursed by Rishi Bhrigu, whose wife had been killed by Vishnu for sheltering his enemies escaping from battle. The Rishi condemns Vishnu to be denied for a long age the companionship of his soul mate, just as Vishnu, had deprived the Rishi of his loving wife. Thus Rama, Vishnu's incarnation, must live the rest of his life without Sita.
Many Hindus, such as the followers of Sri Vaishnavism, consider this entire section of the Ramayana to be interpolated and thus they do not accept the authenticity of this story claiming that Sita was banished. An alternate narration of Ramayana does not state it so. It says that Sita later lived in her father's kingdom of Mithila with her sons Lava and Kusha as per the North Indian(especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) custom that children be brought up in their nanihal or maternal grandmother's place. Sita and her sons later live in Valmiki's ashram for the boys' education and military training. As per Tulsidas' Ramcharitmanas, both the princes grew extremely intelligent and strong under Rishi Valmiki's tutelage.
According to legend, Kusha and Lava are the twin sons of Lord Rama and Sita. Born in the forest after the banishment of Sita from Ayodhya, the twins were educated and trained in military skills as their mother took refuge in Sage Valmiki's ashram, located in a forest on the banks of Tamsa river.
As Rama performed the Ashvamedha Yajna, a horse strayed into their forest, Rama sent Hanuman to retrieve the horses. Rama's sons Lava and Kusha captured the horses. Hanuman, seeing Lava and Kusha recognised that they were the son's of Rama. He let them capture him and tie him up. There Hanuman started meditating on the name Rama. Worried Rama sent his brothers to look for the horses. As they saw Hanuman tied up and two boys guarding him, they thought that the two boy had stolen the horses. So Rama's brothers started attacking Lava and Kusha. Although Rama's brothers should have won, but Lava and Kusha defeated them all, knocking them unconscious. Lava and Kusha were protected by Hanuman. Then Rama himself went looking for the horses fearing that Hanuman and his brothers had been attacked. On his way there, Rama intuitively knew that Lava and Kusha were his sons and purposely slept on his chariot to delay tension and confrontation with his sons as he knew it would be inappropriate for a father to fight his sons. Upon reaching the battlefield, the sage Valmiki interrupted the potential battle between father and sons by explaining to Rama that Lava and Kusha were his sons. A familial reunion took place.
When Devi Sita found out that Lava and Kusha had defeated Ayodhya's forces, she proudly revealed their/her identity. Rama desired Sita and his sons to live with him in his kingdom but as this took place, the general population of the kingdom resented Sita from returning. In response, Sita forsaked her life and sought final refuge in the arms of her mother Bhumidevi, the Goddess Mother Earth and ultimately returned to Rama in the form of Vishnu in Vishnu's abode - indicating that forced separation from her beloved husband is only limited in life on earth compared to her eternal union with her beloved in life after death.
Rama's reign is known as the Rama Rajya which lasted for 11,000 years. During this period, people were healthy, holy, satisfied and lived with complete peace and harmony. There was no evil, no wars, no natural calamity and no diseases. Rama ruled the whole earth without using military force as all kings submitted themselves to him.
His brothers Bharata and Shatrughna settled in their later lives. Bharata, with the help of his uncle Yudhajita, conquered the eastern land of the Gandharvas and ruled it. Shatrughna slew the Asura Lavana and founded the city of Mathura. Rama acquired a rare gem from Rishi Agastya which entombed the powers of the gods Indra, Varuna, Yama and Kubera, which helped the king rule efficiently. After his reign, Rama, his brothers and his allies peacefully left the earth on the river Saryu abandoning their mortal bodies. Valmiki Ramayana mentions an abode named Santanaka invested with all spiritual qualities and located beyond Brahmaloka, which was attained by all followers of Rama, after Rama along with his brothers, entered into Vaishnava potency. Lava and Kusha ruled Kosala and continued the solar race.
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Rama was a great king and warrior. He had exceptional mastery over the Vedas, the scriptures, administration and warfare under the tutelage of Brahmarshi Vasishtha, the son of Lord Brahma. He also acquired mastery over celestial weapons from Sage Vishwamitra. Agastya gave him a divine jewel, a divine bow, a quiver of arrows, an impenetrable armour and a sword. Rama and his brothers had conquered the world before going to exile.
Rama also possessed tremendous strength, as he was easily able to lift the mighty bow of Shiva which required 5000 strong men to pull it. He also once sent the skeleton of the gigantic Asura Dundubhi flying over 130 km by a flick of his toe. The Sage Parashurama, renowned for his skills in warfare granted Rama the full power of his penances, contributing to Rama's prowess.
In the Shiva Purana, Sage Upamanyu briefly refers to Rama, stating that he performed a penance in the Himalayas to please Lord Shiva. Shiva was pleased and gave Rama a divine bow and arrows as well as the divine knowledge of weapons and warfare and the mastery of the Vedas. Before going to war, Rama once more prayed to Lord Shiva. Shiva granted him victory over Ravana and the sovereignty of the entire earth.
After the death of Ravana, Lord Brahma agreed to grant any boon to Rama. Rama asked to be freed of his sins, to always remain virtuous and to become invincible in battle. Brahma granted all these boons.
As a person, Rama personifies the characteristics of an ideal person (purushottama) who is to be emulated. He had within him all the desirable virtues that any individual would seek to aspire, and he fulfils all his moral obligations (maryada). Rama's purity and piety in his intentions and actions inspires affection and devotion for him from a variety of characters from different backgrounds. For example, he gave up his rightful claim to the throne, and agreed to go into exile for fourteen years, to fulfill the vow that his father had given to Kaikeyi, one of King Dashratha's wives. This is in spite of the fact that Kaikeyi's son, Bharat, begged him to return to Ayodhya and said that he did not want to rule in place of Rama. But Rama considered his dharma as a son above that of his own birthright and his life's ambition. For such supreme sacrifices, and many other qualities, Rama is considered a maryada purushottama or the best of upholders of Dharma, God in the form of an exemplary human.
Some of his ideals are as follows:
1. At the time when it was normal for kings to have more than one wife, Rama gave the ideal of having a single wife. In Balakanda of Valmiki Ramayana it is written that Rama and Sita resided in each other's heart.
2. Rama always followed his promise at any cost. In fact, he went to forest to make his father's promise to Kaikeyi true. Another instance was when, he had promised the Spirit of Time that during their conversation, if anyone was to intrude, Rama would have pronounce an instant death sentence upon the individual. They were intruded upon by his beloved younger brother Lakshmana, and to keep his part of the promise, pronounced the death sentence. There are many examples of Rama's promises which he kept. Most important are the promise to sages to save their lives from Rakshasas, getting back Sugreeva's kingdom, making Vibhishana the king of Lanka.
3. Excellent friend: Rama had very touching relations with his friends irrespective of their status. Some of his friends are Nishada-raja Guha, King of Nishaadas (a caste whose profession was hunting the birds), Sugreeva (the Vanara king) and Vibhishana.
4. Even towards his enemies, Rama showed great nobility and virtue. To gather information about the enemy army's strengths and weaknesses, Ravana sent two of his spies, Suka and Sarana, to the Vanara camps. Disguised as Vanaras they blended into the enemy camp, but Vibhishana saw through their deceit. The duo sought Rama's protection when the monkey warriors thrashed them. Rama gave them refuge. He then asked them what their mission was and whether they fulfilled it. After listening to them, he sent for a Vanara to give them a proper tour of all the Vanara camps and give them all the information they desired about the major soldiers and their strengths. He then told the spies to give this message to Ravana. "Tomorrow morning, I will destroy all of Lanka. Keep all sides of your palace well defended and be ready with all of your men by sunrise." The spies were greatly astonished with Rama's charisma, courage, and adherence to the codes of war. After Rama gave them leave, they knew that their king was bound to lose against this virtuous and courageous man. When Ravana first fought with Rama, Rama defeated him to such an extent that Ravana lost his charioteer, horses, chariot, flag, weapons and armor. Though the situation was at his advantage, Rama instead praised Ravana for a great fight that day, and asked him to retire and take rest, as he must be quite tired. Ravana was greatly embarrassed at this, but he was also gratified that Rama saved his life, and this led him to consider for a moment whether to retreat and give Sita back...
Even as Rama is the ideal conception of manhood, he is often aided and complemented in different situations by the characteristics by those who accompany him. They serve Rama devotedly, at great personal risk and sacrifice.
Bharata and Lakshmana
Absent when Rama is exiled, upon his return Bharata is appalled to learn of the events. And even though Kaikeyi had done all this for his benefit, Bharata is angered at the suggestion that he should take Ayodhya's throne. Denouncing his mother, Bharata proclaims to the city that he would go to the forest to fetch Rama back, and would serve out his term of exile himself. Although initially resentful and suspicious, the people of Ayodhya hail Bharata's selfless nature and courageous act. Despite his fervent pleas to return, Rama asserts that he must stay in the forest to keep his father's word. He orders Bharata to perform his duty as king of Ayodhya, especially important after Dasaratha's death, and orders Shatrughna to support and serve him. Returning saddened to the city, Bharata refuses to wear the crown or sit on the throne. Instead, he places the slippers of Rama that he had taken back with him on the throne, and rules Ayodhya assiduously keeping Rama's beliefs and values in mind. When Rama finally returns, Bharata runs personally to welcome him back.
Bharata is hailed for his devotion to his elder brother and dharma, distinguished from Lakshmana as he is left on his own for fourteen years. But he unfailingly denies self-interest throughout this time, ruling the kingdom only in Rama's name. Vasishtha proclaims that no one had better learnt dharma than Bharata, and for this piety he forms an essential part of the conception of perfect manhood, of the Seventh Avatara of Vishnu. Shatrughna's role to Bharata is akin to that of Lakshmana to Rama. Believed to be one-quarter of Vishnu incarnated, or as the incarnation of his eternal companion, Ananta Sesha, Lakshmana is always at Rama's side. Although unconstrained by Dasaratha's promise to Kaikeyi, Lakshmana resists Rama's arguments and accompanies him and Sita into the forest. During the years of exile, Lakshmana constantly serves Rama and Sita – building huts, standing guard and finding new routes. When Sita is kidnapped, Rama blazes with his divine power and in his immense rage, expresses the desire to destroy all creation. Lakshmana prays and pleads for Rama to calm himself, and despite the shock of the moment and the promise of travails to come, begin an arduous but systematic search for Sita. During times when the search is proving fruitless and Rama fears for Sita, and expresses despair in his grief and loneliness, Lakshmana encourages him, providing hope and solace.
When Rama in his despair fears that Sugriva has forgotten his promise to help him trace Sita, Lakshmana goes to Kishkindha to remind the complacent monarch of his promise to help. Lakshmana twangs the bow inside the hall quaking the entire building and threatens to destroy Sugriva and the monkey kingdom with his own divine power. Lakshmana is unable to tolerate Sugriva breaking his vow to Rama while enjoying material and sensual pleasures while Rama suffers alone. It is only through the diplomatic intervention of Queen Tara, Sugriva's wife, that Lakshmana is pacified. Tara then scolds and galvanises Sugriva into honoring his promise to Rama. Sugriva and Rama are then reconciled with the help of Lakshmana and Tara. Sugriva sends the monkey hoards to find the location of Sita and lead the monkey army into battle against the demonic forces of Ravana.
Lakshman is uniquely responsible for slaying Indrajit, the invincible son of Ravana who had earlier defeated Indra and the devas, outwitted the Vanara's on several occasions and even twice defeated the brothers. Rishi Agastya later points out that this victory was the turning point of the conflict. Rama is often overcome with emotion and deep affection for Lakshmana, acknowledging how important and crucial Lakshmana's love and support was for him. He also trusts Lakshmana to carry out difficult orders – Lakshmana was asked to take Sita to the ashrama of Valmiki, where she was to spend her exile. Lakshmana's deep love for Rama, his unconditional service and sacrifice, as well as qualities of practical judgment and clear-headedness make him Rama's superior in certain situations and perspectives. Lakshmana symbolizes a man's duty to his family, brothers and friends, and forms an essential part of the conception of ideal manhood, that Rama primarily embodies.
Jatayu, Hanuman and Vibheeshana
When Rama and Lakshmana begin the desperate search to discover where Sita had been taken, after traversing a distance in many directions, they come across the magical eagle Jatayu, who is dying. They discover from Jatayu that Ravana was flying away with a crying, struggling Sita towards the south. Jatayu had flown to the rescue of Sita, but owing to his age and the Ravana's power, had been defeated. With this, Jatayu dies in Rama's arms. Rama is overcome with love and affection for the bird which sacrificed its own life for Sita, and the rage of his death returns to him in the climactic battle with Ravana.
Rama's only allies in the struggle to find Sita are the Vanaras of Kishkindha. Finding a terrified Sugriva being hunted by his own brother, king Vali, Rama promises to kill Vali and free Sugriva of the terror and the unjust charge of plotting to murder Vali. The two swear everlasting friendship over sacred fire. Rama's natural piety and compassion, his sense of justice and duty, as well as his courage despite great personal suffering after Sita's kidnapping inspire devotion from the Vanaras and Sugriva, but especially Hanuman, Sugriva's minister. Devoted to Rama, Hanuman exerts himself greatly over the search for Sita. He is the first to discover that Sita was taken to Lanka, and volunteers to use his divine gifts in a dangerous reconnaissance of Lanka, where he is to verify Sita's presence. Hanuman hands Rama's ring to Sita, as a mark of Rama's love and his imminent intention of rescuing her. Though captured, he candidly delivers Rama's message to Ravana to immediately release Sita, and when his tail is burned, he flies and sets Lanka on fire. When Lakshmana is struck down and near death and Rama overcome with love and concern for his brother, Hanuman flies to the Himalayas on the urgent mission to fetch the sanjeevani medicinal herbs, bringing the entire mountain to Lanka so that no time is lost in saving Lakshmana. The Vanaras fight the rakshasas, completely devoted to Rama's cause. They angrily dismiss Ravana's efforts to create international divisions within their army when he suggested that Rama considered them, monkeys, as mere animals. At the end of the war, Indra restores life to the millions of fallen Vanaras.
Before the onset of war, Vibheeshana, Ravana's youngest brother comes to join Rama. Although he loves his brother and Lanka, he fails in repeated efforts to make Ravana follow religious values and return Sita. Vibheeshana believes that Ravana's arrogance and callousness will cause the destruction of Lanka, which is a gross violation of a king's duty, and that Ravana's actions have only propagated evil. Vibheeshana refuses to defend the evil of Ravana's ways and inspired by Rama's compassion and piety, leaves Lanka to join the Vanara Army. His knowledge of rakshasa ways and Ravana's mind help Rama and the Vanaras overcome black magic and mystical weapons. At the end of the war, Rama crowns Vibheeshana as the king of Lanka. Vibheeshana, and to a greater extent Hanuman, embody the perfect devotee in the wider conception of perfect manhood.
Rama in war
When Rama is thirteen years old, he and his brother Lakshmana are taken by Vishwamitra to the forests, with the purpose of killing rakshasas who are wrecking the tapasya and sacrifices of brahmins. When asked to slay the demoness, Rama demurs, considering it sinful to kill a woman. But Vishwamitra explains that evil has no gender. Rama replies that "My father asked me to follow your orders, I will obey them even if it is a sin". Rama proceeds to slay Tadaka, a cursed yaksha demoness. The killing of Tadaka liberates the yaksha soul who was cursed for a sin, and had to adopt a rakshasi's body. It restores the purity of the sacrifices of the brahmins who live nearby, and protects the animals who live in the forest, and travelers. Rama and Lakshmana are taught the advanced military arts and given the knowledge of all celestial weapons by Vishwamitra. The main purpose of Vishwamitra's exursion is to conduct his yagna without interruption from two evil demons, Maricha and Subahu sons of Tadaka. Rama and Lakshmana guard the sacrifice, and when the two demons appear, Rama shoots an arrow named Manava Astra that carries Maricha across the lands and into the ocean, but does not kill him. Rama and his brother then proceed to kill Subahu and accompanying demons. Rama explains to Lakshmana that leaving Maricha alive was an act of compassion, but the others did not heed the point and chose to attack. During the forest exile, sages plead for protection and help against evil rakshasas who spoil their sacrifices and religious activities and terrorize them. Many rakshasas had even killed and eaten sages and innocent people. At Janasthana, Rama uses his exceptional prowess to single-handedly kill over fourteen thousand demon hordes led by the powerful Khara, who is a cousin of Ravana and Dushana.
Faced with the dilemma of how to cross the ocean, Rama performs a penance tapasya, fasting and meditating in perfect dhyana for three days and three nights to Samudra, the Lord of Oceans. The ocean god does not respond, and Rama on the fourth morning, pointed the Brahmastra towards the ocean. The Vanaras are dazzled and fearful at witnessing the enraged Rama demolish the oceans, and Lakshmana prays to calm Rama's mind. Just as Rama invokes the Brahmastra, considered the most powerful weapon capable of destroying all creation, Varuna arises out of the oceans. He bows to Rama, and begs for pardon. Since Rama had to use the weapon, he suggests Rama re-direct the weapon at a demonic race that lives in the heart of the ocean. Rama's arrows destroys the demons, and establishes a purer, liberated environment there. Varuna promises that he would keep the oceans still for all of Rama's army to pass, and Nala constructs a bridge (Rama's Bridge) across to Lanka. Rama justifies his angry assault on the oceans as he followed the correct process of petitioning and worshipping Varuna, but obtaining the result by force for the greater good.
Rama asserted his dedication to dharma when he offered Ravana a final chance to make peace, by immediately returning Sita and apologizing, despite his heinous actions and patronage of evil, but Ravana refused. In the war, Rama slayed the most powerful rakshasa commanders, including Atikaya, Ravana's brother, Kumbhakarna along with hundreds of thousands of rakshasa soldiers. He defeated Ravana in their first battle, destroying his chariot and weapons, and severely injuring him, but he allowed Ravana to live and return to fight another day. But since he was playing the part of a human being, Rama also proved "vulnerable" on occasion to his enemies. He was put to a deep sleep along with Lakshmana by the nagapash of Indrajit, but they recovered when Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu and enemy of serpents appear. Before Indrajit was killed, he twice defeated Lakshman and Rama and in both occasions Hanuman's intervention saved them from certain death.
In the grand finale of the battle, Rama engaged Ravana, who through the devastation of losing his sons, his brothers and friends and millions of his warriors, aroused his magical powers and made full use of the boons of Siva and Brahma. Rama and Ravana competed fiercely, inflicting severe injuries on one another with powerful weapons capable of destroying the universe. After a long and arduous battle, Rama successfully decapitated Ravana's central head, but an ugly head, symbolic of all of Ravana's evil powers arose in its place. After another long battle, Rama decapitated it again, only to find another growing in its place. This cycle continues, and as darkness approached, Ravana's magical powers increased in force. Mathali, Indra's charioteer who had been sent by Indra after being counselled by the witnessing Rishis, Danavas and Devas; seeing this then told Rama that Ravana had obtained amrita, the nectar of immortality, from the gods. Though he could not consume it, he nevertheless stored a vessel of it in his stomach. This amrit was causing his heads to regenerate as soon as they were cut off. Upon the advice of Agastya, Rama worshiped Lord Aditya, the Sun, with the famous Aditya Hridayam prayer and then invoked Brahmastra. Rama fired an arrow into Ravana's chest/stomach and evaporated the store of amrit, finally killing him. however it is stated in the Ramayana that Ravana called for Rama as he was shot and as a result, was immediately dispatched to Heaven. Following Ravana's death, Rama expressed deep compassion. After investing Vibheeshana as the next king of Lanka, he asked the new king and the surviving rakshasas to properly cremate their dead king, despite his patronage of evil.
The end of the war coincides with the end of Rama's tenure of exile. Flying home on the Pushpaka Vimana, Rama returns to a joyous Ayodhya. His mothers, brothers and the people joyously welcome him. The next day, Rama is invested as the King of Ayodhya, and Emperor of the World. Although he first asks Lakshmana to become the yuvaraja, upon the rejection of Lakshmana he invests the position to Bharata, who has had fourteen years of experience as the ruler of Ayodhya. Rama performs the holy Ashwamedha sacrifice, purifying and establishing dharma across earth. Rama’s birthday is Celebrated as Rama Navami (On Chaitra Shukla Navami, Punarvasu Nakshatra fourth Pada). Diwali is celebrated as a festival to commemorate the successful victorious return of Lord Rama after killing of the demon Ravana to Ayodhya with Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sugriva, Jambavan, Angada etc., which coincided with the end of his exile period. Then Lord Rama's Coronation(Saamraajya Pattabhisekham) ceremony took place on the following day at the same Muhurtha kept for Rama’s Coronation which is given by Dasaratha and Vasista before Rama’s 14 years of Exile, Padhuka Pattabhisekham [happened before Rama completing his exile time] done by Rama’s brother Bharatha, when then Ayodhya is ruled by his Padhuka or Rama shoes till the end of 14 years exile time period of Rama returning Ayodhya). Lord Rama ruled Bharatvarsha through his virtues which is popularly known as period of Ram Rajyam which lasted for 11 thousand years. Ram Raajyam means the embodiment Of Dharma Or Dharma has taken a form of Ramachandrah.
Beyond the Ramayana, the eleven thousand years of Rama's rule over the earth represent to millions of modern Indians a time and age when God as a man ruled the world. There was perfect justice and freedom, peace and prosperity. There were no natural disasters, diseases, ailments or ill-fortune of any nature on any living being. There were no sins committed in the world by any of his people. Always attentive and accessible to his people, Rama is worshipped and hailed by all – the very symbol of moksha, the ultimate goal and destination of all life, and the best example of perfect character and human conduct, inspiring human beings for countless succeeding ages.
Rama like other Indian kings went undercover every night to hear the pleas of his subjects and have a common man's perspective of his rule. During Rama's tenure as King, the people apparently had no locks on their doors as they feared no burglaries or other such misfortunes.
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Rama remains an immensely revered and inspirational figure to people across the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia. In Jainism, Rama is enumerated among the nine "Baladeva". Hundreds of towns and villages are named after Rama.
Rama is a great hero to the adherents of Agama Hindu Dharma and to the Muslims who practice Abangan, a syncretic form of Islam and Hinduism, in Indonesia. He is revered by the people throughout Indochina who otherwise adhere to different forms of Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. His regal bearing and fighting prowess is emulated in various Indian martial arts which in turn influenced various Southeast Asian fighting systems such as silat. The Rama Leela is performed across South East Asia in numerous local languages and the story has been the subject of art, architecture, music, folk dance and sculpture. The ancient city of Ayutthaya stands in Thailand, as the tribute of an ancient Thai kingdom to the great legend. Many ancient and medieval era kings of India and South East Asia have adopted Rama as their name.
Rama's day and time of birth, as well as marriage to Sita are celebrated by Hindus across the world as Rama Navami. It falls on the ninth day of a Hindu lunar year, or Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami. This day is observed as the marriage day of Rama and Sita as well as the birthday of Rama. People normally perform Kalyanotsavam (marriage celebration) for small statues of Rama and Sita in their houses and at the end of the day the idols are taken in a procession on the streets. This day also marks the end of nine-day Festival celebrated in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh called Vasanthothsavam (Festival of Spring), that starts with Ugadi. Some highlights of this day are:
- Kalyanam (Ceremonial wedding performed by temple priests) at Bhadrachalam on the banks of the river Godavari in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.
- Panakam, a sweet drink prepared on this day with jaggery and pepper.
- Procession of idols in the evening that is accompanied with play of water and colours.
- For the occasion, Hindus are supposed to fast (or restrict themselves to a specific diet).
- Temples are decorated and readings of the Ramayana take place. Along with Rama, people also pray to Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman.
The occasion of victory over Ravana and the rakshasas is celebrated as the 10-day Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra. The Rama Leela is publicly performed in many villages, towns and cities in Northern India and also in places where there is a large population of North Indians. Hindus also celebrate Vijayadashmi as the day of victory of the Goddess Durga over the Rakshas Mahishasur.
In some parts of India, Rama's return to Ayodhya and his coronation is the main reason for celebrating Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. In Malaysia, Diwali is known as Hari Deepavali, and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. In Nepal, Diwali is known as Tihar and celebrated during the October/November period.
In Guyana, Diwali is marked as a special occasion and celebrated with a lot of fanfare. It is observed as a national holiday in this part of the world and some ministers of the Government also take part in the celebrations publicly. Just like Vijayadashmi, Diwali is celebrated by different communities across India to commemorate different events in addition to Rama's return to Ayodhya. For example, many communities celebrate one day of Diwali to celebrate the Victory of Krishna over the demon Narakasur.
Temples dedicated to Rama are found all over India and in places where Indian migrant communities have resided. In most temples, the standing idol of Rama is accompanied by that of his wife Sita and brother Laxman. In some instances, the monkey God, Hanuman sits at the feet of Rama or is situated facing the Rama family at a distance or at the entrance of the temple. Important Rama temples include:
- Ram Janmabhoomi , Ayodhya
- Kalaram Temple, Nashik
- Raghunath Temple, Jammu
- Ram Mandir, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
- Kodandarama Temple, Chikmagalur
- Kothandarama Temple, Thillaivilagam
- Kothandaramaswamy Temple, Rameswaram
- Odogaon Raghunath Temple, Odisha
- Ramchaura Mandir, Bihar
- Sri Rama Temple, Ramapuram
- Bhadrachalam Temple, Telangana(Previously Andhra pradesh)
- Shree Rama Temple, Triprayar, Kerala
Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana forms one of the nine set of Baladeva, Vasudeva and Prativasudeva whose stories forms a basis of Jain universal history. Rama is described as a pious layman in Jain scriptures. Jain scriptures tells different version of Ramayana than Valmiki's version. According to this version, Lakshmana (Vasudeva) is the one who kills Ravana (Prativasudeva). Rama (Baladeva) is described as a non-violent person who attains moksha. Lakshmana and Ravana, on the other hand, goes to hell on account of their violence & will attain moksha in their next birth. Ravan will take birth as tirthankara of next era.
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