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By: M. N. Ramkumar
Ramaayana is one of the two itihaasa [historical account] scriptures of Sanathana Hindu Dharma. It contains the story of Lord Raama the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the tretaa yuga - referred to as the silver age among the four ages in a Mahaayuga. Ramayana along with Mahaabharaatha is the most popular amongst the Hindus all around the world today and in fact is even considered by many as a fifth veda.
The original Ramaayana was authored by Rishi Valmiki in Sanskrit. However, it has been written in most of the Indian languages, a few of them being Sant Tulsidas Ram Charitramanas in avadhi and Kambars Kambaraamayanam in Tamil. The Interesting thing about Ramaayana is that it unfolded after it was written. The incidents that were to happen around the seventh avataar of Lord Vishnu were revealed to sage Valmiki before they even took place. Once Sage Valmiki watched two Krauncha birds sitting on a tree. Suddenly one of the Krauncha bird fell down after being hit by a hunters arrow. Seeing this incident, Valmiki was so overcome with pain and compassion for the bird on one hand and on the other, he was very angry with the hunter that he cursed him that he will not attain bliss for eternity. It is said that the oyster breeds the pearl in a moment of irritation. This incident spurred Rishi Valmiki to compose this Adi Kavya. There is also a belief amongst certain circles that Lord Vishnu played out the role of Lord Raama as dictated in the Raamayana.
The entire Raamayana is like a game of chess. The scene set is kind of a battlefield where the forces of right and wrong are waging war. Rama represents righteousness and Ravana represents unrighteousness. Some might ask, Is it not the same theme as in Mahabhaaratha? However there are some interesting differences between Lord Raama and Lord Krishna - the avataars of Lord Vishnu. Raama was born as a prince and died as a king but lived as an ascetic. Krishna, on the other hand was born in a prison, and died to a wound caused by a hunters arrow but lived as a king all his life. In the form of Raama, Lord Vishnu plays a role of an ideal human being whereas as Krishna, He reveals that He is God incarnate.
In the sacred epic of Raamayana, many profound secrets and truths are hidden. Lord Raama, however, did not impart these secrets to anyone at anytime. Just as a ripened fruit falls to the ground, so also people with ripened hearts alone will realise the truth. Whatever stage we are in, let us try to listen carefully and contemplate upon the various khandaas which are being summarised so that we would understand the greatness of this epic.
Raamayana stresses on bhakthi- yoga - the yoga of devotional love. Lord Raama represents the ideal man, Sitaadevi, the ideal woman and Hanumanji is the epitome of a bhaktha. In fact some people refer to Raama as Rama, meaning a woman. Raamayana also means that it is a story of Sitadevi.
Raamayana represents the best of relationship among humans whether it is between father and son or between husband and wife or between brothers or between a disciple and his master. Even the raakhshasas followed a strict code of conduct in their relationships. The story of Lord Raama is not that of a single towering personality . All other characters in Raamayana whether it is Sitadevi or Lakshmana or Bharata, shine in their own greatness. All of them are so closely interwoven in Lord Raamas life that it is difficult to think of anyone without the other. In fact it is Lord Raama who is always the first to appreciate the unique and noble qualities in others character.
Where in lay the secret of this unique greatness in Raamas personality? He is called Maryadha Purushottama- the great one who never deviated from the norms of Dharma. In the eyes of a Hindu, the touchstone of human excellence is Dharma. Devotion to Dharma came first in Raamas life. It was his supreme commitment to putra-dharma that made Raama smilingly depart to the forest for fourteen years. Again He did not budge from the path of Dharma when he was made the future emperor of Bharat. Dont we recite in Vishnu Sahasranama that Raama is Dharma himself :
Ramo Viramo Viraj, Marg Neyo Neyonayah
Veera Shakthimathan Shresta, Dharmo Dharmavidhutamma
Lord Raama was ready to forsake everything else to uphold his kingly duties - Rajdharma and take care of his countrymen. In fact he once told Sitadevi that he would not hesitate to sacrifice even her if the welfare of the people of Ayodhya required it.
Sneham dayaam cha soukhyam cha, yadi vaa jaanakimapi
Aaraadhanaaya lokasya, munchate naasti me vyatha.
However, the most crucial test came when Lakshmana violated the orders of Lord Raama and admitted Durvasas presence with a view to averting the destruction of Ayodhya by Durvasas curse. Raama stuck to the Law of the land and awarded death sentence to Lakshmana- one whom he loved dearer than his own life. Such was Lord Raamas intense adoration and love for the motherland and this is revealed in the following legendary couplet
Janani Janmabhoomischa Swargaadapi Garreyasi
This means that the mother and motherland are greater to me than the heavens themselves.
Sri Raamas role as one of the first and foremost national unifiers of Bharat is also unique and extraordinary. He embraced Guha, the boatman and also enjoyed the fruit offered with devotion by Shabari, a tribal lady without any hesitation. Lord Raama has become so much identified with all the good, great and virile qualities of a human being that expressions such as "Us me Ram nahi Hai" have become common usage.
What have we to learn from Raamayana ?
The world today is in dire need of the message of the Raamayana. Jealousy, Hatred, disobedience, selfishness - all these evils has had bad influence on the society. Raama preached to the world the basic truth that the world is one family besides teaching the duties one should perform in everyday life in a society and towards a family. This triple stream of duties is the message of Raamayana. We need to perform our duty in the best possible manner like Lord Raama did.
Raama dwells in the heart of everyone. He is the indwelling spirit. When we sing " Atmaraama" week after week, this is exactly what we mean. Ayodhya, where Raama resides, symbolises our heart. Only if we keep our heart pure and firm, there will be room for Raama to stay forever. Among the many avataars of the Lord, the avataar of Lord Raama is also unique in the sense that the word "Raama" is not only a name but also a mantra in itself. Has not the Phalasruti we say in Vishnu Sahasranamam - Sri Raama Raama Ramethi .. been equated to reciting the entire sahasranamam ?
Lord Raama taught us how to remain unruffled in the presence of difficulties or joys, in pain or pleasure. A good man by his good conduct achieves greatness. These are the qualities, which everyone should cultivate. In fact the comparison of Sri Raamas fortitude and strength to the Himalayas and the grace of his personality to the ocean- Samudra iva Gambheerye, dhairye Cha Himavaan iva portrays how his personality has been blended with the entire country.
When a Hindus acting in this world comes to an end, he is bid Raam Naam Satya Hai. Before we are bid such a farewell, let us atleast put into practice the teachings of Lord Raama. Vishnu Sahasranamam gives an assurance by saying Priyakrut Pritivardhana meaning when we stay in his path namely Dharma and Satya, he not only bestows all the desires but also takes the responsibility of keeping the devotee steadfast in his love and devotion towards him. Again the last reference to Sri Raama in the Vishnu Sahasranama is the word "Kshitisham" "Kshitisham" means a king. The Sahasranamam confirms Lord Ramaa to be our king and urges everyone to take the guidance of Ramaayana.
SRI RAMA JAYAM
November 14, 1999 12:20 PM