Ram is known as Maryada Purushottam, which is another way to say that he is the ideal man in every respect. Lord Vishnu came to the mortal world in the form of Ram to show us how to live and what a utopian society might look like. Even now we compare our lives and society to that high standard.
The story of Ramayana is something we grow up listening to as Hindus in India. The story is popular and the lessons are clear. But we still struggle to follow the ideal path.
For now, let me try to summarize the story of Ramayana in one post.
Treta yuga was going on, and evil was rising. Jaya and Vijaya were brothers who were cursed and had to take birth three times as mortals and had to fight Lord Vishnu. In their second life, they were born as Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna. Lord Vishnu took the avatar in the form of Ram to end them.
A great sage Vishrava married an asura princess Kaikasi. Ravana and Kumbhakarna were their sons.
Ravana was very intelligent and learnt Vedas and Shastras at a very young age. Both Ravana and Kumbhakarna were highly trained warriors. When they grew up, they went to Lanka. Their half-brother Kubera was the ruler of Lanka. There Ravana defeated Kubera and became the new ruler of Lanka.
Under Ravana’s rule, Lanka prospered even more. There was so much gold in Lanka that it was said that the entire country was made of gold.
Meanwhile, in Ayodhya, Ram was born in King Dashratha’s home. Dashratha had three wives and had four children with them. Ram was from Kausalya. Bharata from Kaikeyi, Lakshmana and Shatrughna from Sumitra.
When they grew up, they were sent to rishi Vashistha’s ashram to get trained in various skills. There they also helped in killing many monsters. When their education was over, rishi Vashistha took them to Mithila where King Janaka’s daughter Sita was having a swayamwar where she was going to choose a suitor to marry. There Ram fulfilled the condition of swayamwar and married Sita. Janaka was so impressed by Ram and his brothers that he decided to marry his remaining daughters to Ram’s brothers.
When Ram and his brothers returned to Ayodhya with their new brides, there was a huge celebration. Dashratha thought that this is the perfect time to coronate Ram and retire from his royal duties. When Kaikeyi found this she demanded that her son Bharata be crowned as king instead. She also demanded that Ram be exiled and sent to live in a forest for fourteen years.
Long ago Kaikeyi had helped Dashratha in war, and in turn, she had received boons from him. She reminded him of those boons and asked him to keep his word. Reluctantly, Dashratha agreed. He thought that maybe Ram will protest and take over the crown by force. But when Ram found out that Dashratha had given his word to Kaikeyi, Ram instead chose to keep his father’s word and prepared to go into exile.
Sita and Lakshmana declared that they would go with Ram as well. In no time Ram, Sita and Lakshmana left Ayodhya and went to a forest. While all this was happening, Bharata and Shatrughna were visiting another country. Dashratha suffered a lot when his two sons left for the forest. His health took a sudden turn for the worst. Bharata and Shatrughna were called back immediately. But before they could reach Ayodhya, Dashratha died. At his end, he could not see any of his sons.
When Bharata found out about what his mother had done to get him onto the throne, he became furious. He loved his elder brother Ram and believed that Ram was the rightful owner of the throne. He went after his brother to get him back. When he finally found Ram in the forest and informed him of their father’s death, they both grieved together.
Bharata asked Ram to come back and take his rightful place as the king of Ayodhya. But Ram refused. He still wanted to honour his father’s words. Ram decided to stay in the forest for fourteen years, as previously instructed by Dashratha. However, Bharata refused to be crowned king of Ayodhya. Instead, he named Ram as the king and agreed to rule as a proxy for fourteen years in Ram’s absence.
Time went by quickly. Ram, Sita and Lakshmana had almost finished their fourteen-year exile. One day a lady came to the cottage they were living in. She had seen Ram and was impressed by him. She wanted to marry him. When she approached Ram, he refused and explained that he is already married and introduced her to Sita. The lady got angry at the refusal and tried to attack Sita. Lakshmana reacted quickly and saved Sita. In the process, he injured the lady and got her nose and ears damaged.
This lady was Ravana’s younger sister, Surpanakha. She went away crying and told Ravana about the Ayodhya royalty living in the forest. She told Ravana about Sita’s beauty, which piqued his interest. Ravana thought that such a beautiful lady should be his wife and not live in a forest. He quickly made plans to abduct Sita.
Ravana took his Pushpak Vimana and flew to the forest where Ram, Sita and Lakshmana were finishing their exile. With the help of his loyal followers, he created an illusion of a golden deer. Ram saw the deer and followed it deep within the forest away from their cottage. Next Ravana had to get Lakshmana away too. His next illusion mimicked Ram’s voice screaming in agony, asking for help. Thinking that Ram is in some kind of danger, Lakshmana too went into the forest. But before he left, he drew a protective line around the cottage to keep Sita safe.
This time Ravana used the illusion to change his appearance. He disguised himself as a saint asking and asked for food from Sita. She didn’t suspect anything and came out of the cottage to give food to the hungry saint. As soon as she was out of the protection, Ravana grabbed her and took her to his Pushpak Vimana. Soon Ravana took Sita to Lanka.
Meanwhile, Ram and Lakshmana returned to an empty cottage. Upon inquiry, they found out that Ravana had taken Sita to Lanka. Ram and Lakshmana were quick to follow. But they were on foot, and it would take them a long time to reach and rescue Sita.
On their way to Lanka, they met Hanuman and upon his advice helped Sugriva to gain his support. Step-by-step Ram was moving towards Lanka and building his army along the way.
When they reached the coast directly across Lanka, Ram asked Hanuman to fly to Lanka and check if Sita was well. Hanuman had special powers and could complete this task very easily. He met Sita in the garden Ravana was keeping her. After giving her the message that Ram was coming for her rescue, Hanuman went on a rampage to destroy whatever he could. He gave the same message to Ravana. Ravana mocked him, and that led to a further fight between Hanuman and Ravana’s soldiers. Ultimately, Hanuman returned with news about Sita.
Ram and his army built a bridge to cross the sea, and soon they marched on Lanka. A fierce battle occurred in which Ravana was killed with Kumbhakarna.
Ram and Sita were happily reunited, and they all returned to Ayodhya.
Ramayana is a long story and in this post, I have just managed to touch a few major points. While the main point of the story is the conflict between Ram and Ravana, there are a lot of other things going on as well.
In the Darwinian evolutionary scale, the Ram avatar would correspond to intelligent humans living in well-established societies. The conflict is that of morals and values.
There are more stories from Dashavatara as shown below. Do check them out and find out more interesting facts.
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