This lesson is a summary of the famous Hindu epic of ‘Ramayana.’ In summarizing this great love story, it will focus on Hindu virtues, like loyalty and duty. It will also highlight the deity of Vishnu.
Introduction to Ramayana
If you walked down the streets of your hometown and asked a few people to name the most famous love story of all time, I bet more than one of them would say Romeo and Juliet. However, if you asked the same question on the streets of India, I’m guessing you’d be met with the answer Ramayana.Today we’re going to discuss this famous Indian love story. However, unlike Romeo and Juliet, Ramayana is not just a secular story of love; it is a revered Hindu guide for living.So deep is this famous story, we could spend hours studying it. Like many Hindu tales, it comes with a full list of characters.
Since most of these characters play side roles, we’re only going to give names to a few of the main players. As we focus on these characters there are two things we need to remember:
- As we said before, the story is a sacred Hindu guide for living.
- The main character, Rama, is actually an incarnation of the god Vishnu.
With this in mind, let’s get to a quick summary of the story.
Rama ; Sita
Once upon a time, there lived Prince Rama and his beautiful wife, Sita. Rama and Sita were what we’d call a match made in heaven. Rama was brave and virtuous, and Sita was beautiful and kind. In these two were encompassed the Hindu virtues of selflessness and honor.
Even their engagement was a tale of heroism mixed with humility.When the pair first met, Sita was instantly and strongly attracted to the brave Rama. However, Rama was not the only man interested in the beautiful girl. To decide among her many suitors, Sita’s dad decided to create a contest of strength. Any man who could string the giant bow of Sita’s homeland could have his daughter’s hand.
Despite her attraction to Rama, Sita obeyed her father’s wishes, giving us an example of the importance Hinduism places on duty and honor.Lucky for the smitten Sita, Rama was the only guy up to the task. Making him even more impressive, the story tells us he strung the bow with great humility, another Hindu virtue, and with this the rather perfect pair was wed.
The Crown Is Taken
After their blissful vows, Rama, being the eldest son of royalty, was set to become king. Realizing he was aging and knowing the great character of Rama, the King was more than proud to pass the crown to his eldest son.Unfortunately, before the coronation could take place, Rama’s dad was secretly tricked by one of his wives into giving the crown to Rama’s brother, Bharta.
Making matters worse, his beloved son, Rama, was forced into exile for 14 years.In most stories, this is where violence would take center stage. However, the exact opposite happened. Rather than being happy about the trick that earned him the crown, Bharta was devastated and begged Rama to return from exile. Even more surprising, Rama refused to retake the throne. Whether done by trickery or not, Rama knew the throne was given to Bharta, and therefore, Bharta was king.
Rama would obey the edict and dutifully remain in exile for 14 years.Although Bharta was finally convinced to take the throne, he did so in protest and told anyone who’d listen that he was ruling as a mere representative of the great Rama, his brother who should have been king. So contrary to most power-hungry kings, these men embodied the revered Hindu virtues of selflessness and duty.
Sita Is Kidnapped
As Bharta returns to the kingdom, Rama and his wife, Sita, live as hermits in the forests of the land. Together they led a simple yet joyous life. However, their bliss was shattered when the demon king Ravana heard of the beautiful Sita and decided he must have her!With disguise and deception, Ravana was able to catch the beautiful Sita alone.
He then kidnapped her and took her back to his wicked lands. Upon realizing that the love of his life had been taken by the evil Ravana, Rama set out to find his bride.Along the journey to recover Sita, Rama met several characters who were rather needy but offered to help Rama if he would first help them. Again, in true Hindu form, Rama helped those in need. When he was finally joined by a brave group of warriors – who, by the way, happen to be monkeys – Rama was ready to do battle with the evil Ravana.After a vicious struggle between good and evil, the villain Ravana was killed. After evil was vanquished, the beautiful Sita was freed to return to the heroic Rama.
Now, in most fairytales this is where we’d say, ‘And they lived happily ever after!’ However, this was not yet to be the case for these two lovers. Upon being freed, Sita rushed to Rama. However, in an odd turn of events, Rama stopped her and told her they could not be together because she had been with another man!In great despair, Sita pleaded with Rama, telling him she had not touched the evil Ravana. She had remained faithful to her wedding vows.
Shocking Sita and everyone else, Rama rebuffed Sita’s affections and tears. Mortified by this, Sita decided to throw herself into a fire, saying if she was pure and without guilt the gods would protect her from death.Despite the horrified pleading of all the others, Rama did nothing to keep Sita from the flames. Broken-hearted, Sita walked into the fire in a scene that would reduce any modern-day moviegoer to tears.
Vishnu ; the Conclusion
With all seeming lost, Sita surrendered to the flames. However, before she was consumed, the god of the fire rose up and gently lifted her from the flames.
As she was carried from the flames to safety, the god declared her innocence to all.At this point, in a move that could get even the most laid-back viewer to react, the wise and wonderful Rama declared with great joy (and I very loosely translate), ‘I knew beyond any doubt my love was innocent! I just needed it to be proven to the entire world so no one could ever doubt the love and loyalty of my bride!’Next, in a moment worthy of a spot in the fairytale hall of fame, Rama’s true identity as the god Vishnu was revealed, and the lovebirds were taken up in a chariot of air. In this transport fit for a god and his bride, they are then transported back to Rama’s homeland where he is welcomed with open arms and finally made king.
Together they ruled over a kingdom that would esteem the Hindu virtues of loyalty, selflessness and devotion. And thus, we end with; and they lived happily ever after.
After finishing this lesson, you should feel ready to summarize the significance, characters, and plot of ‘Ramayana.’