Different Versions of Sita’s Reunion with Rama in Ramayana
The Ramayana was an epic Hindu saga that portrayed a love story between Rama and Sita. The Ramayana was dated to one of the old ancient saga of the Hindu culture, its known to occur almost around the BCE time. The story follows Rama the King of Ayodhya saving his wife Sita, the daughter of King Janaka from being abducted by a demon named Ravana. Rama obtains help through a group of monkeys and his brother Laksmana, Rama’s brother to find Sita. Ravana and Rama have a battle amongst each other and Rama obtain victory, and rescues Sita. Although Rama and Sita faced multiple challenges in their relationship their love for one another stayed unchangeable. But due to moral values and his honor of being the King of Ayodhya he did not take Sita back to be his wife right away because she was abducted by another man, although she did remain pure and only Rama’s. Sita was devastated by the denial of Rama and makes a decision to through herself in the fire, but the God of Fire protects her, which makes Rama come to a realization that her purity is still intact. Throughout time there have been multiple ways in which Sita reunion with Rama after Ravana’s defeat is narrated and interpreted. R.K Narayan writes this version of the Ramayana to portray the modern day readers, in order for them to have a broader and less descriptive understanding of the Ramayana because the original copy had about 24,000 stanzas.
The Hindu Myth of the Ramayana has been well spread to multiple countries besides India. Some of which include: Thailand, China, Japan, Nepal, and many more countries. These countries translated the Ramayana into there own language and along with the change of language, some have even changed the plot or added a twist to the storyline. These changes were either affected negatively or positively for the Hindu community. With time evolving and generations changing the way the in which the episode of Sita’s and Rama’s reunion has evolved portrayed either a negative controversy or a positive aspect of the Ramayana.
There have been multiple version of Sita’s reunion with Rama after Ravana’s defeat. The movie created by Nina Paley “Sita Sings the Blues” created multiple controversies because it was portrayed in a disrespectful and negative manner of the Ramayana. Within the film, it showed the most graphic images of Rama kicking Sita and another image showing Rama walking on Sita with a pregnant stomach after the rescue of Sita. Throughout the animated movie, there were multiple scenes in which there were false representations of what had actually happened. For example, when Hanuman returns after seeing Sita and tells Rama the condition she is in, Rama faints. This doesn’t occur in the actual Ramayana and Rama was a strong undefeatable man, a demon wouldn’t scare him. Another example that interrupted “Sita Sings the Blues” to be disrespectful was the way Sita was dressed because she was exposed more than a woman in that time period would be. Since it was a religious myth its considered to be morally wrong to demonstrate a movie in a negative aspect. Due to the animated movie, protesting occurred because of the disrespect it portrayed towards the Hindu religion and belief of Rama and Sita. Once Sita has rescued it showed in the animated movie that Rama kicks Sita into the agnipariksha, but in the version written by R.K Narayan Sita doesn’t get kicked into the fire by Rama, Sita herself enters the agnipariksha. This was considered to be one of the most negative ways in which the episode of Sita’s reunion with Rāma after Rāvaṇa’s defeat. The question started to arise on whether or not their people should be required permission to write newer versions of the Ramayana. The “Sita Sings the Blues,” was overall a disrespects to the beliefs of Hindu culture and religion.
Sita was an idealized woman in the Hindu culture and these were some of the challenges mostly every Indian girl faced back in time. Some of the challenges include; getting married at a young age, having kids young, listening to what the husband says, and not having the right to speak. But now the time has change to be very modern and intellects a more modern change. Throughout not only has the episode of Sita’s reunion with Rāma after Rāvaṇa’s defeat has been idealized as the virtual of beliefs, but it has also brought out the differences of the old age literature and the modern day literature. “The Questions Return” by Vijaya Dabbe focuses on the modern feminist aspect of literature. Vijaya Dabbe mentions in her poem, “The Ashoka tree spread its shade. There was your own brimming sorrow and time enough. What more did you want? Sita, why didn’t you speak?” (Dabbe, p.1) Vijaya wanted to hear the voice of Sita, which is why in her poem she addresses questions, asking “Sita why didn’t you speak?” the Author Dabbe wanted to contextualize the Sita and her viewpoint on the struggles she faced through her abduction. Vijaya Dabbe demonstrates a more feminist aspect of the story, the focus point isn’t Rama, its Sita in her modern literature.
Another the way in which this episode has been narrated and interpreted through the ages is the modern graphic novel by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar called the “Sita’s Ramayana.” The modern graphic novel was more interpreted for children, it was for their understanding and teachings. The story is defined by graphics and captions throughout the book, not only does it give a textual concept of the book, but it also gives a visual aspect of the book. In the Hindu culture, the stories of both Ramayana and Mahabharata are told to children a young age. This is because they are taught the values and beliefs through the use of these myths. The episode of Sita’s reunion with Rāma after Rāvaṇa’s defeat was defined as broad versus it being very detailed compared to R.K Narayan version of the Ramayana. In the book Sita’s Ramayana after Sita’s reunion with Rāma after Rāvaṇa’s defeat she says, “I thought the end of the war had meant freedom for me. I had hoped for a love I had hoped for justice. That was not to be. Instead of love, I found suspicion. Instead of justice, I met with false accusations and distrust.” (Chitrakar) This quote from the book demonstrates what Sita had felt, while the others novels focused more on the third person point of view. In the book Sita’s Ramayana it is more of a commentary novel compared to a detailed descriptive novel. Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar narrated and interpreted a more modern day visual for children to understand on an easier level.
There have been multiple versions of the Ramayana the interpret and narrate the Sita’s reunion with Rāma after Rāvaṇa’s defeat. Some show the feminist side of the ending, others portray a negative controversy, and others just want to continue to teach children the Hindu beliefs through the use of graphic novels. Throughout time not has the concept of the Ramayana changed, but it has become a broader.
Common Ideas in Epic of Beowulf And The Ramayana
Heroes can be defined in a variety of different ways. Many have completely different qualities and characteristics that lead them to their fame and glory, but they all have factors that link them together in no matter what culture or time period they reigned. In the heroic epics Beowulf and The Ramayana, the heroes are vastly different while strikingly similar. Beowulf is arrogant and prideful while Rama remains humble and obedient. Even though they share numerous differences, they are both courageous and passionate in all their endeavors. While the opposing traits add diversity in the cultures, they also remain closely related through their honorable courage and passion for their country and people.
To those who stand in the crowd to watch their magnificent hero receive more rewards and gifts for their bold acts, the characteristics of passion and courage are to be honored and placed upon a pedestal for all to see, but only if these traits are accompanied by other respected qualities such as kindness and humility in which Beowulf lacked. Beowulf was a great and powerful leader as he defeated numerous enemies and boasted as he stood, “indifferent to death,” (Beowulf, 145). His pride and arrogant personality made him all the more revered, but also landed him a place at death’s doorstep. Death was never an issue for Beowulf since he lived without fear and a zealous belief that, “fate goes ever as fate must” (121). His idea of life was not in what happens after death, but what is done before death that can ultimately lead to fame and glory for many years to come. Making a name that would never die was his main goal and he made it widely known to his people when he said, “let whoever can, win glory before death” (144). He strived for honor among his people through his acts of violence and killing. Slaying all the beasts and fighting all the battles that he could with the least amount of help was how his pride and fame rose. He boasts of his “awesome strength,” and counts himself as dangerous as Grendel any day (121; 127). He never stops to humbly thank everyone for the support and high honors he receives, but is only fueled from all the attention. This leaves him thirsty for more as he basks in the light of his fame.
Nonetheless, Beowulf’s acts of pride and arrogance are driven by nothing more than courage and passion. He may act out in bold and often daring acts to receive his glory and honor, he does it in a way they leaves him as a hero to be praised. He even said, “I shall win the gold by my courage” (169). His courage is what pulses through his soul, encouraging him to push harder and attain a higher status among his people. His courage is his passion and with it he rises to the top. He is described to have, “bore himself with valor,” as he went into battle among his many enemies, while he also “behaved with honor,” as he stuck close to what was true and noble (161). Even though his courage leads him to his death, he does so with dignity that makes his death only the beginning of the legacy he dreamed of leaving behind.
Contrary to Beowulf is Rama, who in his actions lived an obedient and humble life among his people. He treats everyone with the highest respect and accepts any hardships that disrupt his pleasant life “without the least sign of displeasure,” (The Ramayana, 1177). In fact, when he is sentenced to an unfair banishment, he simply replies with, “So be it” (1177). He acts with poise and grace that emanate a peaceful ambiance wherever he goes. This is what draws him to the favor of his people. His love for happiness and aversion towards violence give the people something more to hope for. He is automatically a hero to begin with just by his attitude and character. He lives with an opinion that is “not fond of wealth and pleasure,” but believes that the universe “rests on truth,” leaving him “devoted to truth” (1179). His desired to gain simple and non-tangible rewards such as peace, truth, and love. These were a few of the acts that would earn a spot in heaven and not fame and glory down on earth. His banishment to the forest only proved this character he portrayed to be genuine as he urges that “there be no hostility towards Kaikayi… she is not to blame,” (1180). Even though she is the one who decided on this horrible fate that Rama would have to endure for the next fourteen years. He possesses the action of forgiveness early on which gives him even more respect from those around him who witness his humility and love towards those who plot against him. Many do not recognize his character as something positive and he begins to think “our meekness is misunderstood to be weakness,” (1201). Rama does not want to be known as weak, but he that does not change the way he carries himself or the way he treats those around him. His humility is important to him along with being “full of self-control, compassion and devotion…,” to everyone and everything (1201). His obedience allows others to take advantage of him, but he remains the same through all of his trials. He pushes past all the negative outcomes and fights until all is just and fair in his life.
Even though Rama seems peaceful with great humility and poise, he also possesses the same qualities of passion and courage that Beowulf portrayed as well. Once his beautiful wife, Sita, is snatched away Rama does not give up until she is rescued. He proclaims that “I shall destroy all of them,” when he refers to the demons who took her away. (1200). Along with his peaceful and humble side, Rama will prove his courage and bravery when the time comes. He will not let others walk all over him and he will rise up and take back what is rightfully his. His great courage brings him glory and honor that he humbly accepts. His passion may have a different force guiding it than Beowulf, but it is still passion for what he believes and for his people. These traits leave people to love and adore Rama. He is even described to be “the truth and eternal,” (1230). He placed in the spotlight and glorified for his actions and deeds. Once he is proclaimed as king, it was said that “there was no poverty, no crime, no fear and no unrighteousness” (1233). Just the way Rama lived his life before, now as king he puts those beliefs and values into how he rules his people. He is loved and becomes a hero for many great reasons contrary to wealth and violence.
These two cultures are much different, but how these two heroes act goes hand in hand with the time period and background they were raised up with. The people that Rama was faced with were all naturally more peaceful than that of Beowulf’s culture. One more violent while the other more neutral, these two cultures can truly tell countless things about each of these heroes and how the culture shaped their character. While it is easy to see that these places and time periods are different, it also shows what was normal for day to day life in each of these places. The beliefs, morals, and values all differ which makes a hero unique wherever he may come from.
Though these two heroes look to be complete opposites through their character and actions, they still share the common traits of a hero in any day and age: courage and passion. They act with the bravery and ambition that is needed to defend their country and the ones they love. These two cultures have backgrounds that believe and support completely different morals, but the passion these heroes emit places them hand in hand, linking them through time and space.
Dharma And Karma: How Does It Work?
Around the year 300 BCE, there lived a rishi named Valmiki (Ramayana). One day, while Valmiki and his youngest disciple were on the banks of the Tamasa, they saw a bird and his mate (Menon 5). Suddenly, a hunter appeared and shot the bird, eliciting a curse from Valmiki. The event continued to plague Valmiki for the rest of the day. That night, Brahma visited Valmiki and told him to write down an epic in the same meter with which he had earlier cursed the hunter. In just a week, Valmiki wrote twenty-four thousand verses of poetry. He named the masterpiece the Ramayana, after the main character, Rama.
Valmiki then taught the Ramayana to two twin brothers who learned it by heart and recited it in the court of Rama himself, who was the twins’ father (Menon 7). The forces of good and evil battle through the entirety of the Ramayana, with many characters on both sides. In the end, though, good triumphs as it must. Throughout the Ramayana, two main themes emerge. These themes are dharma and karma, two forces that seem very different yet are rather similar and work together, weaving themselves in and out of each other to create the masterpiece that is life.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines dharma as “the principle or law that orders the universe” and “individual obligation with respect to caste, social custom, and law” (Dharma). This should be the driving force for the actions of humanity. Dharma, or righteousness, defines how one should live and act in any situation. It is inside everyone, yet many choose to ignore it and pursue their own interests and passions instead. This leads to the spread of adharma, or evil, in the world. There are three basic rules for dharma. The first is that, under dharma, one should not lie. Dharma is truth, and as such, it has no place for lies in its perfection. The second rule of dharma is that one should be faithful to his or her husband or wife. Dharma is faithfulness and perfection, leaving no room for unfaithfulness. Those who are unfaithful are not under dharma and must suffer punishment for their wrongdoing. The third rule of dharma is that one should not kill without cause. The dharma of kshatriyas, the caste of royal warriors, is to judge the people of the earth and punish them for their evil deeds. Therefore, their dharma is to kill those who need punishment, but not innocent people as well. Along with dharma comes a force called karma.
Karma is, according to the American Heritage College Dictionary, “the total effect of one’s actions during the successive phases of one’s existence, regarded as determining one’s destiny” (Karma). Karma is one’s reward or punishment for one’s actions, usually in the negative sense. This is not confined to only one life, however. Karma carries over throughout every life in which a being exists. When one breaks the rules of dharma, karma punishes them. This can take many forms, depending on what the person did to break dharma and who cursed them in the person’s previous life or lives. Karma builds up throughout a person’s lives until they are punished for it, so a person who broke the rules of dharma many times in a past life must pay for their errors in their future lives until they pay the debt of their broken dharma.
Dharma and karma work together to form what life is. Dharma is the “rule book” for life and karma is the penalty for not following the rules. If a person is a kshatriya, his dharma is to execute justice when someone has broken dharma. While most people’s dharma is not to kill, kshatriyas have a different dharma because that is the caste to which they belong. People who are sudras, those of the lowest caste, cannot kill people because of their dharma. If a sudra kills a kshatriya or even another sudra, a kshatriya must judge the sudra because he or she violated dharma. If the sudra is then reborn, he or she will pay the price of breaking dharma through karma. Things will go wrong and the sudra will see the consequences of his or her adharma. Often, karma corresponds to the adharma the person committed. For example, if a sudra stole food from a rishi, the rishi might curse the sudra that his or her food would be stolen many times either in the current life or the next. This would come true because of karma. Thus, all of life is made of dharma, truth, and karma, punishment for violating the truth.
In the Ramayana, the themes of dharma and karma are quite prominent; in fact, the entire reason Rama came to earth was to establish dharma and save the world. Rama, the central character of the Ramayana, was the god Vishnu incarnate. Vishnu created Brahma, who in turn created the world and everything in it. Everything was perfect, but Brahma also created rakshasas, demons who were not necessarily evil but almost always turned evil. Adharma came into the world and dharma suffered. Therefore, Vishnu came as a man to rid the world of evil. Though Vishnu was a god, he still broke dharma before he was Rama. This meant that though Rama himself never did anything wrong, he had karma from his past lives because of things Vishnu did to break dharma.
In a past life, the god Vishnu killed the maharishi Bhrigu’s wife after a battle. Bhrigu found out and cursed Vishnu that he too would lose his wife in a later life (Menon 604). When Rama was born as a human, he did not do anything to break dharma. However, since Rama was Vishnu incarnate, he suffered the curse of Bhrigu for Vishnu. Rama had to send his wife Sita away after he saved her from the rakshasa Ravana. Rama’s subjects were convinced that Sita was unable to resist the charms of Ravana and did not stay faithful to Rama. This was untrue, but the people believed it nonetheless. Therefore, since Rama’s dharma was first to his people, he had to send Sita away so as not to disgrace his name or title as king. This was all to fulfill Rama’s debt to dharma, through the karma of losing Sita. Though Rama himself was blameless, he suffered because of Vishnu’s anger.
Another character dharma and karma greatly affected in the Ramayana was Rama’s father, Dasaratha. When Dasaratha was young, he became very skilled at hunting. He could even hit a target he was unable to see, as long as he could hear the sound it made. One day while he was hunting, Dasaratha mistook the sound of a man for the sound of an animal and shot him. The man lived with his blind parents, who were understandably upset about their son’s death when Dasaratha told them. The man’s parents cursed Dasaratha that he should lose his son as well and become blind right before he died (115-117). This came true when Dasaratha’s wife Kaikeyi forced him to banish Rama so her own son could rule the kingdom. Just days after Rama left Ayodhya, Dasaratha lost his eyesight and died. Thus, dharma and karma worked together yet again in the lives of the characters.
A third character in the Ramayana that dharma and karma ruled was Ravana. Born a rakshasa, Ravana followed dharma at the beginning of his life. As time went on, however, Ravana became more and more hungry for power. He attacked countless cities simply to establish his dominance and lordship over all the earth. On the way, Ravana collected women from all over the earth, and none could resist his charms. Ravana was practically the incarnation of adharma, or evil, in the world. Therefore, he accumulated quite a bit of karma throughout his life. The world needed Rama to save it from Ravana, among the various other evil things that existed in that day. When Rama killed Ravana, he fulfilled both his dharma and Ravana’s debt to karma.
Thus, dharma and karma work together in one’s life. Though they appear to be opposites, they really go together, as one must follow the other in a general procession. First, dharma exists. Second, as must happen, one breaks dharma and throws off the balance of everything. Third, karma is accumulated and dispensed according to one’s violation of dharma. Rama, the savior of the world, came to free the world from adharma and to establish dharma everywhere. His actions against Ravana and other rakshasas showed their adharma and karma and that he must, under his dharma, punish them for it. Rama was perfect in his dharma; in fact, he was the incarnation of dharma itself. Throughout the Ramayana, the themes of dharma and karma are very prominent. The entire epic depicts the struggle for righteousness and punishment for the wrong that people do. Yet, through all the unrighteousness, the bright light of dharma continues to shine. It will never go out, despite how depraved the world may be. Dharma will continue. Dharma will survive. Dharma will triumph.
The Moral Of Life From The Sociological Prospect In The Texts Of The Ramayana And Gilgamesh
Moral values are known to be the right or wrong ways that a person perceives life. They affect the paths and choices you make, and ultimately your life depends on them, considering you grow up believing in them. Losing someone can awaken your morals, or eventually make you lose sight of what you used to believe in. In the texts of the Ramayana and Gilgamesh, the moral of life was awakened in relation to the Sociological Prospect. The Sociological Prospect, as stated by Campbell is that it is known to be “the validation and maintenance of an established order.” It can also be wisdom and be an embodiment of morals that eventually teach us how to behave and live life.
In the Ramayana, Rama believed people’s words and did not believe in Sita and her devotion towards him. He felt victim to people’s nay-say which claimed that Sita was impure because of how long she had stayed with Ravana. However, she later proved them all long. When Sita’s and Rama’s sons, Lava and Kusha, found Rama and his kingdom, it eventually led Sita back to Rama. He learned that she was faithful after all after seeing that she was the twins’ mother, but it was also confirmed after she dropped into the Earth that she was never unfaithful to him. Losing his wife and failing to see his children grow up most likely awakened a moral of Rama’s. The moral would probably be that you shouldn’t be so careless to fall into people’s words. Strangers don’t know your family better than you. In the sense of the Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh lost his best friend Enkidu to the hands of the Gods. He kept challenging the Gods by slaughtering anything considered sacred to them, and so eventually both men faced the Gods’ wrath. They chose one to die, and the other to learn a valuable lesson from the death. Fear was instigated in Gilgamesh from the Gods, but a moral was also learned. Gilgamesh should not challenge authority that he has no right to be going against.
Besides both men losing their loved ones, they can be remembered for the love they offered to the others. Gilgamesh and Rama both had gone on a journey, for their own purposes, however, someone had accompanied both of them along the way. In a way, the people who had accompanied them had also built their character to how we can view it now. Rama went on his journey with both Lakshmana and his wife Sita to destroy the evil of Ravana. He became more motivated on his journey and continued to build his dharma once his wife was kidnapped. Anything that he would do would be because of her and her safety. Similarly, Gilgamesh went on a journey with someone who filled the void in his life like Lakshmana and Sita did to Rama. Enkidu became Gilgamesh’s best friend and gave him a purpose and way to build his character. He was no longer just the cruel tyrant that everyone hated. Out of this, both characters grew as a whole and learned the moral values of companionship and love.
There is some sort of similarity in the divine prospect both stories portray, but yet a vast difference in the motives. Rama is already divine, considering he was an incarnate of Vishnu, yet relies on the Gods to help guide him through his path to defeat Ravana. He gets what he wants because he completes his Dharma to his wife and the Gods. On the other hand, Gilgamesh was proclaimed to having been born of the Gods, yet when you read the story, there is almost no divine aura you can grasp of his. Yes, he defeated many of the Gods’ sacred obstacles, but he didn’t do it for good. He even brought famine upon his kingdom. Rama never looked for immortality, despite being a human-like Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh however, looked to attain that prospect, and yet failed. Rama did things for the good of the world and received that goodness back in turn. With Gilgamesh it was the opposite, he expanded his kingdom, but exploited its people. He didn’t necessarily do any good if his own people prayed to the Gods to send something to deter him. And so, the moral that can be learned from both of these experiences is that do to others what you’d want to be done to you. And really, be kind to people, for what comes around, goes back around.
The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana
The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana are two of the oldest epics and examples of heroisms to date. While both Rama and Gilgamesh have many key similarities, there are some distinctive differences between the two. Both of these heroes exhibit the “prototype” characteristics of heroes, such as valor, strength, wisdom, and magnanimity. It’s the origin and cultivation of these characteristics in both Rama and Gilgamesh that is the biggest difference between these heroes. Both of these heroes also embody key values of their respective culture as well. Gilgamesh shows the importance of religion and gender roles, while Rama also shows the importance of religion and family values.The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization. So, as a result, Gilgamesh, is known to be the first great, or epic, hero in time.
Not only could you say that Gilgamesh is the blueprint, more or less, for the epic hero, but he can also be seen as a symbol of the Mesopotamian culture itself. The Mesopotamians were a polytheistic people, meaning they believed in many Gods. They feared and loved these Gods and did everything in their power to keep them happy, from building temples and making sacrifices to their favorite Gods. So it comes as no surprise that they believed Gilgamesh was 2/3s God and only 1/3 man. The story of Gilgamesh cannot be entirely written off as another myth, he was a real King, and Uruk was a real city. Based on how pious the Mesopotamians where who would they think was better to rule them than a man who was part God? Gilgamesh is also a very strong male character.
Men in ancient Mesopotamia, and in virtually every other civilization thereafter, where expected to be tenacious leaders and providers of their households. Gilgamesh, was a firm king, maybe too firm in the beginning of his story. Even after his journey with Enkidu, who was again, a male creation of the divine, Gilgamesh is still a strong example of the alpha male prototype during this time.It is said that the epic, Ramayana, has had a deep-rooted influence on Indian life and culture. As a result, its lead character, Rama, embodies many key aspects of Indian culture. Much like Gilgamesh, Rama is also a divine being, since he is the avatar of the God Vishnu. There is some division within Hinduism, some are polytheistic while others are henotheistic or monotheistic, but all believe in purusartha, samsara, and in finding nirvana. While other Gods come to play in different parts of the story, the main one that is mentioned is Vishnu, since the main character is his avatar after all, so it comes to no surprise that many monotheistic Hindus believe in only Vishnu.
Another notable thing about Rama is his constant trust in his dharma and his belief that if he continues to put his trust in his fate he will eventually be lead to nirvana. Throughout the Ramayana, Rama always takes the route that he believes to be his fate, even his banishment. Hierarchy and family respect and harmony are also two major elements of Indian culture. Not only is Rama at the top of the chain, being heir to the throne, and part God, but he is also a superb example of a son and husband. He is wise and always listens to his elders, even if their wishes go against his own. For example, when he is banished he accepts his fate humbly and makes no move to go against his father’s will, even after the death of his father. As a husband, he always provides for his wife Sita and does whatever necessary to keep her out of harm’s way, even if it means hunting down the indestructible demon Ravana. He is a shining example for the Indian men to follow.
Rama is accomplished, pious, and wise, all of which are strong virtues in the Indian culture.Both Rama and Gilgamesh are renowned for their divine traits and capabilities such as physical strength, beauty, and nobleness. In both stories, each hero is already in a position of power in their respective societies. The most obvious distinction between the two is their journey to becoming such renowned heroes. Gilgamesh begins as a selfish tyrant, whose oppression over his people is so strong and cruel that they feel the need to turn to the Gods to end his cruelty. It is very easy to mistake him as villain and expect Enkidu to destroy him. Instead, he surprises us all by befriending his enemy. This twist in his story leads him on a path towards wisdom and knowledge, which Gilgamesh eventually acquires, and once he does he is transformed into a valiant and worthy King. It’s Gilgamesh’s quest that makes him into a hero. In comparison, Rama is wise and well loved by his subjects at the beginning of his story. He already had admirable qualities like valor, chivalry, and humility. He handles his banishment from his own kingdom in an extremely poised manner and decides to trust his Dharma, which just deepens his subjects” devotion and respect for him, in fact, once he is gone his Kingdom starts to suffer and even his brother Bharata didn’t want to take the throne from Rama. Rama’s innate wisdom and trust in his fate sends him on the mission that ultimately leads to the completion of his destiny.
In Rama’s story he proves himself as the hero we already knew him to be which contrasts deeply with Gilgamesh, who has to prove that he even is a hero. In the end, both heroes have more in common than not. They are both renowned by their societies, and even the rest of the world today. Both Rama and Gilgamesh set the tone for what a hero is, and what a man is in their societies. They both showed the values and potential dangers of their religions. Both The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana teach many lessons that many societies and cultures around the world can and do learn from..
Ramayana: D’harma in the 21st Century
The principle of d’harma that appears throughout Ramayana is one that calls for a specific kind of righteousness. D’harma is a difficult concept to pin down, but it essentially translates as the individual’s proper place and role in the cosmic cycle. D’harma manifests in many forms throughout Ramayana, but perhaps its most concrete manifestations are the father and son relationship and the husband and wife relationship. The principle of d’harma is brought to life by Rama’s respect and devotion to his father. Similarly, Sita is celebrated for her devotion to her husband Rama. These themes of respect and devotion appear in 21st century culture but have developed over time to account for new values. While the d’harma of the Ramayana places significance on duty to the father and husband, modern d’harma moves away from roles of obligatory respect and focuses on the autonomous individual.
Rama’s characterization as the ideal man in Ramayana relies heavily on his adherence to the principle of d’harma. D’harma entails righteousness, purity, and nobility. In Rama’s case, this righteousness, purity, and nobility mean an unquestioning respect for his father’s wishes. In this way, Rama’s duty to the principle of d’harma is a duty to his father. Rama’s unwavering devotion to Dasharatha is seen when Kaikeyi orders that he accept his father’s demands before he even hears what they are. Kaikeyi demands: “From faith, as well the righteous know/ Our virtue and our merits flow/ Now, be they good or be they ill/ Do thou thy father’s words fulfil:/ Swear that his promise shall not fail/ And I will tell thee all the tale” (2. 95-100). D’harma calls for such unconditional respect for the father that Rama is expected to accept Dasharatha’s command before the fact. Once Rama hears that he will be exiled, he responds without question: “Yea, for my father’s promise sake/ I to the wood my way will take/ And dwell a lonely exile there/ In hermit dress with matted hair” (11. 144-148). The d’harma celebrated in this scene is Rama’s loyalty before and after he is exiled. His righteousness is not derived from the knowledge of a greater good or consideration for his father’s possible intention behind banishing him. Rather, Rama displays d’harma in that he promises to obey his father’s command without regard to its severity or purpose.
Devotion to one’s father is a principle that has been dismantled over time. In 21st century society, unwavering devotion to the father has namely been disregarded for its inherent misogyny. The principle of devotion to the father stems from the belief that he is the assigned and rightful authority over the wife and children. The 21st century recognizes that a principle of unconditional loyalty to the father suggests a lack of loyalty to the mother, or at least a less pressing or significant one. The inherent misogyny of this aspect of d’harma can be seen in Sita’s unconditional devotion to Rama. When Sita learns of Rama’s impending exile, she responds, “The wife alone, whate’er await/ Must share on earth her husband’s fate./ So now the king’s command which sends/ Thee to the wild, to me extents./ The wife can find no refuge, none/ In father, mother, self, or son” (2. 388-393). Here Sita’s unchanging loyalty to her husband is celebrated as d’harma, although a 21st century reader would likely recognize the pressing issue of the perception of the wife as an extension of the husband. Though this form of d’harma is between husband and wife, Sita displays the proper righteousness by ignoring any desires of her own to follow Rama into exile. Kaikeyi is portrayed as manipulative and antagonistic for taking advantage of Dasharatha’s integrity and ordering that he banish Rama. Though Kaikeyi is antagonistic, her antagonism is made more severe in the face of the expected d’harma, or devotion to her husband. The 21st century sees past these obligatory forms of devotion to male figures and instead deals in the rights of the woman as an individual. This point brings forth the fact that 21st century society has also developed from ideas of individualism and autonomy. Unwavering respect for the father’s command, under the lens of 21st century culture, undermines fundamental rights of the individual. A modern family wouldn’t call for or be expected to call for the child’s blind adherence to the father’s every desire. Instead, individual thought, free will, and contemplation have been set forth as highly valued principles in their own right. Similarly, the ideas surrounding the family unit itself have shifted. While the Ramayana holds Rama accountable for fulfilling the commands of his parents, 21st century culture has established that “family” may not necessarily be blood relatives. Rama’s unwavering respect and calm acceptance of banishment might be seen as a form of manipulative abuse on his father’s part. The individual of the 21st century might rightfully take Dasharatha’s command as cruelty, and forge new connections and meaningful relationships that offer security, love, and compassion.
The d’harma celebrated in Ramayana stems from the notion of the individual’s “proper” behavior and actions in the cosmic cycle. Part of the ascribed proper behavior deals in an unconditional respect for the father’s authority. Rama is celebrated for his unconditional respect for Dasharatha, following his every command without question or regard for his own well-being. While these values are applauded in Ramayana, a 21st century individual would likely view them as dangerous. Rama’s code of conduct deals in reverence for his father, but 21st century culture recognizes that one’s code of conduct must deal in his or her individual needs and desires. Instead of viewing the individual as an extension of the father, the 21st century values the individual for his or herself.
How to Handle Your Feelings: Anger as an Antagonist in the Ramayana
Negative emotions such as despair, disappointment, fury, bitterness are very impactful on one’s life and actions; at times, such sentiments can drive one away from the right path. The complexity of feelings is accountable for the depth and dimension of a being. One of the reasons why the Indian epic the Ramayana has such profound layers is the emotional development of its characters. The flow of the story paints the perspectives of each character, good or bad, through multiple lenses. The demons, Rakshasas, may appear to be the main antagonists of Rama in the Ramayana, but negative emotions are the true fatal enemies within each characters, no matter whether men or animals.
In this epic, anger is a negative emotion that can destroy a person’s life with its immediate, horrifying consequences. When the evil Manthara fuels the Ayodhya queen Kaikeyi with hatred, and when she shows her rage; “Kaikeyi ran to the palace anger-room, slammed the door and locked it behind her. She broke off her strands of pearls. […] I want to die!” (Buck, 68). This moment of fury leads her to the inescapable hole of misery and misfortune. Shortly after, her beloved husband Dasaratha passes away due to tremendous grief, caused directly by her decision to exile Rama. However, the most painful results that Kaikeyi has to suffer is the denial of her son Bharata and the death of her husband Dasaratha. The queen does everything in her power to make Bharata king, but he does not accept the throne. Contrary to her imagination, Bharata disagrees with his mother’s actions, calling them “hateful” and telling her that she is “like a deer lured into a snare by a sweet song” (114, 115). He does not appreciate what Kaikeyi considers “efforts” and “good intentions” to him. One who causes destruction to another must receive the same result. She is deeply wounded by her son’s words, just as how Dasaratha suffers immense depression because of hers. Similar to Kaikeyi, Surpanakha’s rage leads to a terrible result. When Ravana’s sister fails to seduce Rama, her anger leads to an outburst, in which “she rushed at Sita, and held out before her her claws curved like elephant hooks” (157). Her intentions to harm Sita ultimately result in Lakshmana’s anger and cause him to cut off her ears. Her will to hurt Sita, in a moment of burning fury, causes her own wounds. Her brother, the demon king Ravana, also makes the same mistake. When Ravana and Time hold a conversation, the Rakshasa lord lets fury take over him and insults Time: “You little liar! […] And whatever you give you steal back, by fraud, from hiding, when you’re not watched” (337). Time and Death are the most powerful entities known, but Ravana, in his moment of anger, dares to humiliate Time. When Kala goes on, Ravana loses his patience and “made ready to seize Time and crush him with his steely strength” (339). Similar to Kaikeyi and Surpanakha, his anger catches him and his insult backfires. Not long after, he faces his doom, in his own ignorance and isolation. Thus, fury is a catastrophic negative emotion that has the ability to cause devastation within a very short amount of time.
Anger is not the only negative feeling that exists in Ramayana. Lust plays an important role in the epic as well. Its consequences are shown most clearly through Ravana’s actions and his life. Ravana is a role model for a lecherous lifestyle. He is so lustful that he steals women who are happily married, ultimately leading to Nalakubara’s curse after he rapes his wife: “Ravana, when you next attack a woman who won’t have you, your ten heads will burst!” (180). This curse stops the king from conducting wrongdoings towards women and preventing him from stepping into his own doom. But lust is a lethal foe of all beings and even the mighty Ravana cannot escape his fate. The feeling that Ravana has towards Sita, which he calls “love”, is in fact another appearance of lust. It covers his eyes, lures him from his path to Dharma and ultimate happiness and pushes him to the edge of doom. Because of lust, the Rakshasa king abducts Sita and indirectly causes his loved ones, even his brother and his own son, to die. Lust is the basis of the stubbornness in Ravana’s actions when he neglects the truthful advice from others. Regardless of Kumbhakarna’s warning “A King is the roof his people’s happiness, and if he is wrong their lives are in danger and their nation will die” (301) or Indrajit’s wisdom “You took Death on your lap the day you stole Sita, and Death have you courted all this time” (318), he insists on killing Rama and seizing Sita. He ignores the well-being of his people and even himself, just because lust deceives him. He has to undergo the sorrow of loss, exactly as Rama feels when he took Sita away. Even though the consequences that desire brings are not as swift as rage, their impact is much worse. In the end, the demon king dies at the hand of Rama, the man whose wife he steals. While the appearance of lust seems to be beautiful, as what Ravana calls “love”, it is a deadly enemy that slowly crushes one to death.
While anger and lust lead to actions that are controllable, grief — another destructive negative emotion, is a reaction and the greatest suffering that is unstoppable and inevitable. Dasaratha, once the mighty king of Ayodhya, suffers an agonizing depression due to his son’s departure. When Rama goes to visit his father before his great journey of fourteen years, he finds Dasaratha who “shut the wine-vault doors and locked them closed and barred them; […] he sat not in a palace but in a death-waiting house; he was a pilgrim come to die at some holy place in one of the little stone-built rooms” (77). His actions show how destructive grief can be. He abandons his status and hope, just waiting for death to claim him. Grief transforms him from a wise king to a hopeless man and takes away all his hopes and joy. The heartbreak ends Dasaratha’s time on Earth and death approaches him, shortly after Rama is exiled. However, grief is not identical to anger or lust. While rage and lust are the roots of sin and often expressed by an action of one on another, grief is a reaction that usually only has impact on oneself rather than others. This difference makes the emotion unique and reveals a hidden aspect: if one can get over the agony of grief and let go of vengeance and bitterness, they can achieve happiness and peacefulness, according to their definitions.
Sita is one character who is a victim of grief, but later successfully overcomes it. When Indrajit, the master of illusions, creates a false death of Rama, it causes Sita such sorrow that she decides to die: “She quietly opened her hand, and let life slip and fall away through her fingers” (286). Grief is so devastating that it can take away her life if Rama no longer exists. Her patience and willingness to continue is barely clinging onto her hope in her reunion with Rama. However, at the end of the epic, Sita finally lets go of her sorrow and becomes independent from grief. Even though Rama is still alive, she decides to return to her mother’s arms, indicating that she no longer relies on her husband. Rama is also a role model in his ability to prevent himself from falling into the hands of grief. Sita’s departure from his life at the end of the Ramayana certainly affects him, but he does not let it take over him:”[…] I will never meet Sita again as a man.” Rama sighed, and still he was smiling” (417). His smile shows his acceptance of the event. Indeed, he cannot eliminate grief completely, but he does not fight it either. He makes peace with grief and stays calm. In the end, Rama receives his long, deserving rest from life and reunites with Lakshmi in Heaven, after transforming back into Narayana. Therefore, even though grief is devastating, if one can overcome sorrow without harming others, he or she will be able to find joy and wishes fulfilled. Negative feelings are the main factors that lead to the ruin of Ramayana characters.
While anger and lust cause the immediate destruction of one when they do harm to others, grief acts as a challenge that test if one has the ability to seize happiness. Emotions are the biggest obstacles to stop a person from obtaining their goal, thus it is important to stay aware and conscious of our own actions. If one survive the impact of feelings, he or she can achieve the “everlasting Dharma wheel and truly set it turning”, an achievement tantamount to ultimate joy and happiness, as well as freedom from desires and needs.
Buck, William, translator. Ramayana. University of California Press, 1976.