Introduction to Ramayana by Dr. C.S. Shah SignUp
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Introduction to Ramayana
by Dr. C.S. Shah Bookmark and Share
 

In India, Lord Vishnu is worshiped primarily as Avatar, or incarnations, particularly as Rama and Krishna, the principal characters of the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In both of these wonderful long stories the God takes on human form in order to heal a breach in the order of society, and thus the world in general. In doing so there is an attempt to reestablish the moral code of social conduct and proper relation of mankind to divinity.

In addition, certain collections of tales come to be widely known in popular life, especially from these two great epics. Ramayana tells the story of Rama, the ideal Hindu man and king, whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. There is subsequent hilarious journey of Rama to Lanka to conquer the demon king and recapture Sita.

Both the epics are filled with educative tales, edifying poems, and fables. It is probably through their constant retelling in the villages over centuries that Hinduism is most efficiently disseminated from generation to generation.

However, India's beautiful spiritual mythology can constitute a serious obstacle to the Westerner who is developing an interest in Vedanta if he takes this mythology too literally (as many people do). He draws back in amazed disbelief when he discovers that there is no good historical evidence for India's favorite divine incarnations, Rama and Krishna.

He is further taken aback when he encounters India's many gods; some beautiful, some strange, and some grotesque! He can be so shocked that he may lose interest in India's great spiritual tradition before he has investigated it.

Therefore, people with superficial knowledge of Indian mythology may conclude that these epics contain mere fictitious folklore (and superstitions) rather than true religious or spiritual truths.

All the same, without any suggestions to rectify such misconceptions at this stage, I still feel it is worthwhile to read this wonderful story of Rama...

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21-Aug-2010
More by :  Dr. C.S. Shah
 
Views: 45363
Article Comment It is unnecessary to have this information here. Little children are reading this story as value based Ramayana. No body is inquiring about sati or polygamy or a washer man! Sita did not go with Hanumana because she wanted her husband to defeat Ravana and rescue her. It was the question of her honour. For little ones Ramayana must end before the washer man's doubts. It should end with the coronation of Lord Rama.
I am in process of making a portal of Hindu blogs of Puranas. I will certainly not include you unless you remove following paragraphs.
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[At the death of her husband, therefore, it was not unusual to see the widow attempting to immolate herself at the funeral pyre of her husband. Of course, later in medieval India, many instances of widow burning were related to acquisition of ancestral property etc - Sati Tradition. But that was an aberration rather than the rule. Today this system is not in vogue any more.]
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It is important to note that Rama and Sita did not have any physical contact during these fourteen years of forest life.
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In those days polygamy was not unusual in common people, and hence such requests were natural. But Rama never dreamt of any other woman as his wife other than Sita. He had vowed to monogamy. Moreover he could very easily see through the plan of Shurpankha.
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That Hanuman was celibate from birth and had vowed to remain so throughout his life. Therefore, it was impossible for him to touch a woman without the permission and in absence of her husband;

That Sita also had vowed to remain loyal - faithful - to one man as her husband, and sitting over the shoulder of another person without permission and in absence of her husband would break her vow.
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Story of Rama should end here. A happy ending.

But because of some inexplicable reasons this does not happen! The story continues to its most tragic end. As if the trials and tribulations - suffering of Sita was not enough, a new and queer situation develops. I am not inclined to proceed further, but as is customary, the story, whether tragic or comic, must be told in full. Therefore, reluctantly I will tell the remaining story in brief.

In this Rama Rajya, one voice of protest and dissent was gradually making itself heard. It spread from one ear to another, from one house to the next, from one province to the next. Initially it created a faint rumble, but gradually the faint murmur acquired the intensity of audible words.

And what was this all about?

One washerman and his wife doubted the purity of Sita because she had stayed as a prisoner of Ravana! In the Royal Court, they declared:
"O Noble king, as a perfect master you should always lead the most ideal life, above any reproach. There should not be darkness under the lamp! Our culture and tradition does not allow infidel woman to stay with her husband. She must be deserted/banished. Sita has stayed in the custody of Ravana as a prisoner. What proof she has to prove her innocence and purity! Who will believe her? It will be better if you leave her. It will be in conformity with the noble tradition of Raghu Dynasty, as well as a just gesture on your part as the king of Ayodhya."
Rama and the whole court was stunned to listen to these inauspicious words of the washerman. But who can hold the tongue of the masses! Who can shut the mouth that speaketh thus! Rama tried to put an end to this useless allegation by informing the court and the assembly about the Fire Test that Sita has already gone through (passed) successfully. But this did not convince everyone. An occasional voice of protest was still heard in the court.

Then Rama offered that Sita would take another Fire Test to prove her innocence and purity. To this Sita herself took objection. She said,

"O my lord, there will always be some one who cannot be satisfied by any 'test' or any proof. Their convictions are hard-pressed in their psyche and no amount of genuine proof will convince them about the truth, for they do not want to get convinced. They are born to raise doubts about the Truth itself.

Today this washerman has stood to cast aspersions on my character, tomorrow some one else is sure to follow the suit. He would want fresh proof. Then should I continue to pass the test every day? O noble lord, I appeal to you to make your own judgment and act accordingly."

Rama passed many sleepless nights. Sita was carrying his two sons in her womb. She was innocent, Rama knew and believed. But as a righteous king, as the caretaker of all, not only in matters of food and shelter, but also regarding their emotions and conventions he was accountable. Ultimately, Rama decided to desert Sita, the Purity personified!!!

Rama Deserts Sita

This difficult duty fell on the shoulders of Laxmana. Only 'Sanyasin' Laxmana would be able to control his emotions at the harsh moment of leaving Sita. A chariot was arranged one day which took Sita and Laxmana to far off forest Ashrama of Sage Valmiki. The Rishi was already briefed about Rama's decision. The sage was pleased to receive Sita and promised every care for her health. Sita gave birth to two lovely sons: LAVA and KUSHA. [Later his two sons were accepted by Rama, and were handed over the reigns of Ayodhya.]

Sita Departs
Sita now was tired of her difficult life. Insult, humiliation, distress did make her impact on her. And this daughter of Mother Earth prayed to Mother Earth to make room for her so that she could find peaceful rest for sometime in her life. The Earth separated into two and Sita buried herself under the protective cover of her Mother.

And Rama Too

Rama was distressed. His golden rule and prosperity of his people, his Rama-Rajya meant little to him now; the episode of Sita hovered constantly over his heart. The folly and compulsions of authority and social welfare became clear to him. One day, all alone he drowned himself in the holy waters of river Sarayu.
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Medha Kelkar
04/14/2015
Article Comment Looking for an 'alphabetical list' of Tulsi Ramayana also known as Ram-charit -manas. Is there any thing like thisavailable?brbrbrThank you.
Vinay Pandey
07/06/2011
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