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.
The Sacrifice for Bettering Oneself in Ramayana
The Ramayana myth of Rama and Sita are used as examples and teachings in the Hindu religion. Sometimes they are portrayed as gods and sometimes as humans. This myth has several manuscripts and is very old dating back to the 6th century BC. There are several different versions of this myth which originated as a poem with over 24,000 verses, but each share the ideas of power in ethics, morals and duty when good is faced with evil. In this version, the closest translated version to the original, there are many examples of the sacrifice for bettering oneself.
Joseph John Campbell was an American professor known for his comparative approach when interpreting myths from different cultures. According to Joseph Campbell on the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, “Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.” For example, after Sita’s disturbing experiences, she is transformed from a submissive and passive wife into a confident woman who can voice her opinions and make her own decisions while acting according to her morals and religion. She supports her husband and together they end up ruling their kingdom. This myth is an intriguing piece because its message describes how people can change into stronger and better versions of themselves without giving up their morals especially after traumatic or extreme changes in their lives. Their sacrifices lead them to become who they desire to be. Using Campbell’s approach this piece of the myth can show the growth a person can go through spiritually and personally.
The culture in the myth of Ramayana is to obey the king and follow the path given to them. Usually, the firstborn of the king takes over and reigns over the kingdom. In the myth of Ramayana, occur many instances where temptation and desires often interfere with the overall “success” of the characters.(Chalapathi pg 234) It is only with sacrifice and thinking through what the possibilities are that one can make a good decision that will lead to success. For example, in Ramayana, the King, Doshetha had to make a very important decision about who would be ruler of the kingdom in his place after him. On one hand he had a most obvious choice, his oldest son, Rama, that traditionally would be heir to his throne and rule the kingdom. On the other hand, one of Doshetha’s wives held him to a promise that he made long ago that he would owe her two favors when she asked. She wanted their son to be the ruler. Kaikeyi spoke, “This great king of Ikshvakus never swerved from the path of Dharma. The king had agreed me two boons. I have saved his life in the war between Devas and Asuras. Then he granted me two boons for saving his life.”(Chalapathi pg 67) This was a decision and a sacrifice that Doshetha had to make. He was faced with upholding a promise he had made rather than disgracing his dignity and jeopardizing his honor. If word got out that he did not uphold his debts, it would most likely affect how the people thought of him as a leader. Doshetha had to sacrifice the honor of giving his oldest son, Rama, the throne and gave it to Rama’s younger step-brother instead. This action describes sacrifice. The sacrifice Doshetha made for himself and his kingdom to prevent any type of disturbance is a teaching of this myth.
The Ramayana myth depicts the many temptations as well that require sacrifice for overcoming. Some of the temptations our society has can include spending money, eating unhealthily, gambling, adultery, and betrayal for immediate gain or satisfaction. In the Ramayana myth Rama, Sita, and Laksmana were faced with some of these temptations that they overcame because of their loyalty to dharma and their culture. We can relate these temptations to today’s world where obesity is high, the divorce rate is increasing, and more people are experiencing bankruptcy. Everyday people are faced with temptations that may lead them in the wrong direction. For example, not being able to control overeating may be satisfactory at present, but food choices and quantity will have results on your health. Decisions and actions that are not agreeable with a spouse could impact the health of a marriage in the future. Finally, the market is filled with impulse items that lure a person into making financial decisions that are not supported by their income. This usually leads to a purchase that is later regretted. Whether in today’s society or presented in a myth, temptations are very abundant and very real.
As appealing as one path may seem, it takes a strong mind and willpower to look ahead into the future and realize what impact their decision may make. It takes sacrifice to overcome immediate desires for the better of the self. An example of this is when Sita was offered an easy escape from the demon Ravana by the monkey named Hunaman. She did not take this route because she knew that was not the way of dharma. Sacrificing her happiness and comfort Sita demonstrated faith in her husband. “Apart from this it will not be a credit to Rama if you carry me. Secondly I will not allow another person to touch me. Regarding Ravana I was helpless. No one was there to protect me. So I kept quiet. You better go and inform Rama. Bring them here as early as possible.”(Chalapathi 234) According to the Webster dictionary, sacrifice means to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end.
The culture of Ramayana can be compared to our culture today. It has been known for generations that we should be diligent and sometimes sacrifice things to gain even more in the future or for the better of others. Today, sacrifice is a science that is studied and broken down into steps as a means to success.(Moore) A perfect example is John Maxwells book entiltled “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership where he escribes how a leader must make personal sacrifices for the good of a company. This describes Doshetha’s situation where he sacrificed his choice for king to follow up on his word. Sacrifice is learned from an early age. For example, kids are given a dollar and told to save it for bigger and better things, they are sacrificing their want to get a toy or something immediate and instead, waiting to buy a more expensive better one.
Many people don’t want to give up what they have currently in order to gain a higher level of income in the future. An example of this would be saving or investing your money. You are forfeiting the chance to spend it on what you want right now and instead planning for the future. Achieving success, according to an article entitled, “Your Willingness to Sacrifice Directly Determines Your Level of Success” written by Anthony Moore in Aug. 2017, talks about how you would have to step out of your comfort zone many times before success can be achieved. Your pride and what you currently believe would have to be reconsidered. What you might think is the right way or what seems the easiest route may not be the correct way to success.
College is another example of sacrifice. With a look ahead into the future, a student will make sacrifices in order to attend classes and continue their studies. Many people have a goal to become healthy and strong, but we all know there are delicious temptations we might give into from time to time. Everyday people are giving up time, sleep, wants and even sacrificing their health or life for a greater good.
During the time that Rama was banished into the forest, both his other step-brother and his wife, Sita, decided to sacrifice living in the kingdom as well. They chose to go with Rama into the dangerous, evil-filled forest to live. “The wife is the half partner of her husband. She has to share good or bad along with her husband. When you are banished I must also follow you to the forest.”(Chalapathi pg 81) “Lakshmana who was standing in the door heard Rama taking Sita along with him, he fell at the feet of Rama and said he would follow them.”(Chalapathi pg 82)With these sacrifices, their goal was to remain a devoted brother and wife of Rama. They could have easily stayed in the kingdom. But there was an even greater success waiting for them because of their level of sacrifice.
While in the forest, Sita had resisted the temptations of getting rescued by Hanuman, the monkey kingdom ruler. By doing so she showed sacrifice for her freedom and waited until Rama himself came back for her. What followed this was sacrifice by Rama in pursuit of Sitas freedom. He had sacrificed his followers lives as well as his own to save his wife the way dharma intended. While he may have had the temptations to walk away from the war for his wife, he followed through to the very end even when he was unsure of his wife’s purity.
Loyalty and friendships benefit in the end where the characters ban together during this battle helping each other succeed and initiating the main concept of fulfilling one’s duty to themselves through dharma. This relays the message of how valuable relationships are when going through these personal battles and self-discovery through their sacrifice to find themselves. Valmiki, the person who wrote this poem, originally found himself to be a thief who was redeemed later in life thanks to the help of Narada. Narada helped guide Valmiki and initially this gave him his name. This situation could further confirm that a possible meaning behind this work could be the power of self-fulfillment throughout the trial’s life brings that end up guiding a person especially with the help of others. Without the company of others, reaching your goal through sacrifice would be less impactful on situation and more impactful on just the self.
Archetypal Roles within the Ramayana
The similarities between different culture’s origin stories and mythologies is quite remarkable. It is debatable whether or not the commonality to these stories can be explained by the proximity of early civilizations and the divergence of the stories over time for different groups, or whether the universalities to these stories are intrinsic to the human psyche and that they represent something deep within. These ideas are discussed by Otto Rank in his The Myth of The Birth of The Hero (Devinney and Thury 605). This paper will explore Rank’s contention of the affirmation of the former statement above: that the commonalities to these stories must be understood through underlying archetypal roles that are natural to the human psyche and will manifest in stories or dreams. To explore the archetypes of mythologies and the similar plot events, it is imperative to review a given ancient mythological text as well as a general analysis of the Hero’s journey and the archetypes that arise. This is why the focus of this paper will be on the analysis of the characterizations of the archetypes within the Ramayana (Narayan and Mishra), an ancient Hindu text, and draw on ideas expressed by Joseph Cambell, and Carl Jung, about these archetypes in their own texts and analyzed by the textbook, Introduction to Mythology: Contemporary Approaches to Classical and World Myths (Devinney and Thury). The Ramayana is an epic story about the prince of Ayodhya, who must rescue a princess and kill the king who kidnapped her. This classic trope can best be explored through the analysis of three major characters and their respective journeys. These characters are, Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu and arguably the main character of the Ramayana, Sita, the kidnapped woman and female protagonist, and finally Ravana, the discontent and material obsessed King who kidnaps Sita. Through the examination of these three characters, we can explore the generality of the archetypal roles that the characters represent and the lessons ingrained in the text through these characters.
Our analysis begins with the origin story of Rama. The Ramayana initiates by relaying the story of a king, Dasaratha, who is unable to birth a child. The king discusses this problem with a sage and advisor to the king, Vasishtha, who is immediately remind of a vision he had about the gods. In this vision, it is revealed that Vishnu, the supreme God, must be incarnated as a human in order to defeat a demon god who is growing in power and is therefore threatening to the other gods. The text explains this through Vishnu’s words, “Ravana can be destroyed only by a human being since he never asked protection from a human being” (Narayan 4). The sage Vashishtha then instructs the king to perform a specific sacrifice for the gods to ask for a son with a specific sage. The king does as he is told and gives a portion of rice to his three wives who then bear children. One of his wives, Kausalya, births Rama, who is the incarnation the Supreme God Vishnu. In this prologue section of the Ramayana, we are already being set up for a true archetypal hero story. Along the classic trope of many mythological stories, our hero’s quest begins with origins of divinity. As the incarnation of God, the Ramayana sets up Rama as the true protagonist and since he is human, the message here is that humans carry out the will of the gods through our physical form. Certain key events occur that push Rama’s story along until he finally defeats the demon god, Ravana. These are the events that will be examined in order to outline what truly makes Rama the hero of the Ramayana. In Rama’s Initiation, a sage named Viswamithra comes to King Dasaratha and asks that Rama accompany him on his mission to complete a yagna, which a sacrificial ceremony, but explains that he must defeat demons along the way. King Dasaratha is unwilling at first to let his son go, as he is not aware of the divine origins of his son and refers to Rama as “too young and tender to contend with demons” (Narayan 8). Nevertheless, the sage requests Rama to join him by simply replying, “I know Rama” (Narayan 8). There is something to this line here that implies that the sage is aware of Rama’s divinity and understands that it is Rama’s destiny to fulfill. This further illuminates Rama as the hero of the tale. Rama then falls in love with a woman named Sita, who is actually the incarnation of Lakshmi, who was Vishnu’s wife. Though they are infatuated with one another, in their human form, they have no access to the memories of their relationship as gods. As King Dasaratha approaches old age, he desires to make Rama king. However, through a series of events caused by jealousy and paranoia, one of King Dasaratha’s wife convinces King Dasaratha to banish Rama to the forest for 14 years. Rama accepted this fate by saying “I will carry out his wishes without question…I have no interest in kingship…and no aversion to a forest existence” (Narayan 45). Here Rama is displayed as so at peace with his own fate, he is willing to follow and respect the path he is supposed to take. He is not therefore, annoyed or angry with this turn of events, but rather accepts the outcome of the circumstances. This idea of following the ebb and flow of life and not trying to control reality speaks to the value of staying humble to the will of the gods and not demanding the autonomy to pursue what the physical body desires. Now Rama begins his journey being sent away from his place of familiarity to a place unknown. This can be recognized from Joseph Cambell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which Cambell expresses that all archetypal heroes embark on a similar journey which starts with a phase of departure from their familiar reality (Devinney, Thury (Whomsley) 219). Along Rama’s journey he encounters many trials and temptations. Rama must deny the temptation of a beautiful woman, Soorpanaka who is revealed to be Ravana’s sister. Soorpanaka falls for Rama and assumes that if she kills Sita, she can have Rama for herself. When she tries to do this, Rama’s brother who goes with Rama to the forest along with Sita for his 14 year exile, who is named Lakshmana, sees this and saves Sita but doesn’t kill Soorpanaka because she is a woman. Instead the text states “Instead of taking out his arrow, he takes out his sword and chopped off her nose, ears, and breasts” (Narayan 69). Taking pity on her because she is a woman seems to be a value that is being instilled by the Ramayana as well since Lakshmana, although to a lesser extent compared to Rama, is a hero as well. Rama is of course victorious throughout the Ramayana, due to his divinity and his fate. He kills several demons throughout and finally defeats the king Ravana and saves his wife Sita from captivity which will be discussed through the lens of Ravana and Sita’s story below.
Sita is the incarnation of Vishnu’s wife, Lakshmi, and she falls in love instantly with Rama as soon as she sees him. This is conveyed by Sita’s discontent after she sees Rama, claiming that her maids have failed to make her bed properly as she cannot sleep. She cannot stop thinking about Rama and says “Shoulders of emeralds, eyes like Lotus petals. Who is he?” (Narayan 23). This is a very telling scene. Both Rama and Sita have fallen in love with each other the moment they see each other however neither of them know about their origins or the fate of their union. This means that their connection is destined which emphasizes the romantic nature of the union of man and woman. Sita can be best analyzed as the influence of the Anima of Rama. For example, as Jung writes “the anima is responsible for helping a man find the right marriage partner” (Devinney and Thury (Carl Jung) 622). Jung also writes that “even more vital is the role that the anima plays in putting a man’s mind in tune with the right inner values” (Devinney and Thury (Carl Jung) 623). This can best be seen through Rama’s interaction with Soorpanaka, as she tries to convince him that Sita is not who he thinks she is. Rama plays along with her initially saying “Ah, how true! No one can deceive you, being yourself so transparent”. Here, the Ramayana is indirectly commenting on how Soorpanaka is actually the deceiver since she is taking the form of a maiden just to seduce Rama. When Sita ran to Rama as she was frightened, Soorpanaka becomes angry and her true rage begins to show. It is only now that Rama ends his conversation with her, now holding Sita by his side. Here Sita is playing the exact role that she is supposed to play. She is the anima of Rama, helping him to avoid the temptation of the seductress Soorpanaka, which in turn leads to the development of the rest of the story and the introduction of the next archetypal role in the Ramayana, the antagonist, Ravana.
Ravana is introduced in the fifth chapter of the Ramayana, called “The Grand Tormentor”. In this introduction, the text depicts Ravana as this supremely powerful entity. He even has gods working for him. Indeed the text states “He had also enslaved the reigning gods and put them to perform menial tasks” (Narayan 74). This is a particularly powerful scene. Even the gods are working for this king and are even just menial laborers for him. This is truly a display of power for Ravana, as he clearly desires power and material wealth. He is surrounded with riches, entertainment, beautiful women, yet he is dissatisfied with it all. It is with this characterization of Ravana that the text then initiates the next plot developments. The now mutilated Soorpanaka comes to Ravana and explains what has happened to her. The book states that when Ravana sees her like this, he screams “What is the meaning of this? Who has done it?” (Narayan 75). Immediately Ravana’s thoughts go to anger and vengeance. Ravana is immediately painted as the antithesis of Rama, and as the antagonist of the story. As the opposite role of the hero, Ravana represents what life not to live. Obsessed with power, material wealth, and control, Ravana is set up as the true villain of the Ramayana. Very quickly, as Soorpanaka tells her tale, the Ramayana then fleshes out Ravana’s character even more as a lustful king full of desire. He falls in love with the description of Sita and begins hallucinating about her. When he asks Soorpanaka if Sita is the woman he sees, she replies “Oh, no. The person who stands before us is…Rama. You are only imagining” (Narayan 78). Here it is important to understand that both Ravana, and Sita are seeing what they lust and desire for, instead of what is there. These two archetypes of anti-heroes in the Ramayana convey the message that lust and physical desires are blinding to the individual who seeks truth. Ravana then goes on with his plans to kidnap Sita. When Lankshama leaves Sita by herself, Ravana comes out disguised as a hermit and introduces himself to Sita. He says “Anyone inside to welcome a Sanyasi?” (Narayan 85). What is interesting about this is that Ravana is using the virtue of politeness and kindness within Sita in order to manipulate and deceive her. Such an act is surely condemned within our archetype of the hero and therefore such actions are seen in the antithesis of this archetype, represented by Ravana. Then as the scene progresses into Ravana kidnapping Sita, he again elies on his trickery and bending of rules to get his way. He remembers, as the text puts it “an ancient curse that is he touched any woman without her consent, he would die that instant” (Narayan 87). This is clearly a rule that Ravana has no choice but to follow, however he thinks of a way around this by only touching the ground beneath Sita, and kidnapping her that way. By doing this, Ravana is very clearly exploiting a loop-hole to a rule in order to control his reality to award his lust and physical desires. The Ramayana is therefore condemning this behavior, as his desire for control comes from a place of lust and vengeance. The Ramayana is further illustrating that logical faculties can manipulate the rules that are guide human conduct to get around the moral qualms of an act, however such manipulations are only semantically effective, as this act initiates Ravana’s defeat by Rama in the later chapters. Finally, Ravana’s downfall is foreshadowed in the eighth chapter, when Ravana speaks with his brother. “You remind me that I have not asked protection from human beings…You think I have conquered the gods because of the boon conferred on me by them” (Narayan 127). Ravana is boasting of conquering the gods while ironically talking to exactly how he will be defeated. He is too arrogant to consider that he should ask for protection from the humans, as he considers himself so great, that he does not have to worry about humans like Rama, despite the admiration he admits he feels towards Rama. This leads to the final battles between the armies of Ravana and Rama and then finally the final fight between Rama and Ravana. The gods help Rama by giving him a chariot to help him fight which shows the support of Rama by the gods until the very end. Meanwhile Ravana continues to demand he can defeat Rama and doesn’t quit until he dooms himself, again through foolishness and arrogance. As it is written, “While he had prayed for indestructibility of his several heads and arms, he had forgotten to strengthen his heart, where the Brahmasthra entered and ended his career” (Narayan 146). Rama pierces his heart with this holy weapon and ends the final battle, emblematic of the hero’s prevailing victory over the antagonist archetype.
The Ramayana displays the lessons to be noble, modest, to go with the way of destiny and not to try and demand control over fate, and to avoid the temptations of lust and material desire. These lessons are ultimately conveyed through the use of several archetypal roles. Discussed above are three of these roles, the hero, the anima, and the antithesis of the hero. By following the guidelines that the hero sets forth, incorporating the anima to align one’s values towards virtue and by avoiding the characterizations of the archetypal villain, Ravana, the Ramayana tells of how to conduct oneself in life to be the fully developed hero, who betters society and is at peace with their fate and circumstances in life. In this way, The Ramayana is an excellent example of a mythological text that follows Cambell’s and Jung’s analysis of the inherent archetypal roles that act as the universal framework for lesson conveying stories within any culture.
My Impressions From Ramayana Book
My independent reading book was titled The Ramayana. The author of The Ramayana is R. K. Narayan. R. K. Narayan is short for Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami. Narayan was an Indian writer who specialized in writing fiction stories/ legends of India. He is known as one of India’s greatest English language novelists. Narayan was born on October 10, 1906. He died May 13, 2001 at age 94. During his lifetime, he was given many awards. Some of these awards were Akademi Award, AC Benson Medal, Padma Bhushan. Narayan was known as one of the most famous Indian literature writers. He brought a lot of Indian culture to the worlds attention.
In this legend, it begins in a peaceful kingdom, during 1000 B.C. The royal family is one of the richest families around. They encounter little struggles and challenges in the beginning of this story. But as more and more characters are added to this dramatic legend, the main family (kingdom of Aydohya) start to fall apart. In this tale, some antagonists appear, war breaks out, kidnappings occur, and forbidden, romantic love stories are shared.
This legend dates back to the 1000’s BC, in India. During this time, there is many mystical creatures and dramatic events. In the 1000 BC, it was a time of kings, and queens, and large kingdoms. Many kingdoms would go into battle with each other over disagreements of some sort. This book focuses on one main battle between the city of Lanka and Rama with the Monkey Kingdom. Also, another main focus of this book is the relationships of people. In the beginning of the book, there is a lot of drama at one particular kingdom. This sets the mood for the rest of the book. One main theme of the book is good against evil. Many characters play roles of evil disguised in a humanly form. Evil causes several events in this book such as sneaking around and plotting evil schemes. This leads to larger events later on in the book. One last main focus is the love between Rama and Sita. Back in the 1000’s BC, it was a romantic forbidden love period. Marriages were usually arranged by parents, and true love was very hard to find. When Rama gets banished from the kingdom and is forced to go to the enchanted forest, it causes Rama and Sita to fall into great sadness. They are separated and this unfolds as their love story. Eventually Sita refuses to stay there without Rama and heads to the enchanted forest to be with him. But later on in the book, Sita and Rama get separated again and their forbidden romantic love story resumes.
The main characters of this legend are Dasaratha, Rama, Sita, Bharata, Hanuman, and Ravana. Dasaratha is King of Ayodhya whose oldest son is Rama. Rama is the main character. He is a very obedient, caring character. He knows to always do the right thing and he is always the one to stand up for what is right, and fight. He is one of India’s main heroic figures. Sita is Rama’s wife. Sita plays a shy woman who is obedient and does not act out of order. She doesn’t have many rights, and doesn’t make her own choices. Bharata is Rama’s brother, and Dasaratha’s second born son. Bharata takes over his father’s throne shortly after his father retires. Bharata’s mother Kaikeyi convinces Dasaratha to banish Rama to an enchanted forest and let Bharata take his throne. Bharata is a naive young man. Hanuman is the Monkey Kingdom leader. Ravana is the 10-headed king of Lanka who kidnaps Sita. Ravana’s actions lead to a war between Rama (along with the Monkey Kingdom) and the kingdom of Lanka. The main protagonist is Rama. The main antagonist is Ravana.
The main conflict is the kidnapping and war towards the end of the book. Ravana kidnaps Sita (Rama’s wife). Rama is determined to get his wife back. He requests help from the Monkey Kingdom. Hanuman (the Monkey Kingdom leader) agrees to help get back Sita. Ravana and the Lanka kingdom go into battle with the Monkey Kingdom and Rama. This main battle shows bravery and courage. The main character, Rama, uses bravery and leadership to overcome the events in this legend. For example, when Sita gets kidnaped by Ravana, Rama doesn’t just ignore it. He gathers as many soldiers (from the Monkey Kingdom) as he can to try and fight for the right thing, which is saving Sita.
The main theme of this legend is a great battle of good and evil. This is a very powerful message that can be used throughout our lifetime. This battle can show courage and bravery and respect. Just as the main battle shows in this book. On one side of the battle there is good fighting for the right reasons. And then there is evil, fighting for their own selfish reasons.
A major symbol in this book is the main character Rama. I think this because, Rama is the center and human form of good in this legend. He is a perfect role model and does what is right. This legend shows how Rama (the good) goes against the world and all of its evils. In many events Rama starts to fail and lose, but in the end, good always wins. Rama is a good example of this.
This book can relate to almost everyone in the world. This includes the past and present and future. This book/legend may originate in India, but it is an overall universal theme. The legend has many unpredictable and mystical events that occur. You can not really relate to these events, but when you break down the literature and understand the main theme of these events, they become quite simple. For example, in the book there was a huge battle between Rama (with the Monkey Kingdom) versus Ravana (the seven headed king) and the city of Lanka. You can not relate that to your everyday life today, but the main theme of that battle is good versus evil. You can relate this main theme to your everyday activities at any point in your lifetime.
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..
Domination – The Power Shift from Women to Men Through Ancient Literature
Through history, civilizations and cities have typically put men in positions of authority, showing their dominance in society and giving them all the power. Ancient Sumeria was a refreshing sight in contrast to this. Evidence from literature and myths of the ancient Sumerians heavily support the idea that Sumeria was a matriarchal society. Women, instead of men, were the ruling sex. Ancient hymns praise Inanna—a goddess who ruled over all the humans, animals, and other gods in Sumeria. She can easily be seen as the ultimate god in Sumeria, the one who all look up to. Indeed, she may have helped the matriarchy in Sumeria, as women were revered as being higher than men, and were given more rights than they were. Much as the Ramayana serves as a prime example of what a relationship should be like for couples in India, Inanna could have served as a role model for women in Sumeria. However, as androcratic ideas began to blend into Sumerian society, the matriarchy was slowly overthrown, and ancient Sumeria became as patriarchic as the rest of the world’s history. The fall of Inanna in literature showed the drastic shift from a female-dominated society to an androcratic one. The tale of Gilgamesh rose to popularity and remains more well-known than the hymns of Inanna. A great empire ruled by a great goddess, overthrown by influential powers. Sumeria, much like the rest of the world, had its power falling into the hands of men.
Inanna was hailed and worshipped under many titles. She was the “Queen of the Earth Gods, Supreme among the Heaven Gods”, the “First Daughter of the Moon”, and many other titles (Wolkstein and Kramer, 1983). The hymns portray her in such a bright light that showcases how much they worshipped her. “The people of Sumer parade[d] before the holy Inanna” and “purif[ied] the Earth for her” (Wolkstein and Kramer, 1983). It is hard to identify, based on the hymns, if she was human or not, as the texts make many references to both ideas. Ultimately, Inanna was a savior of all people, someone that all the Sumerians could look up to. To love someone so much and hold them as a symbol of power, love—whether they were human or not—shows how Inanna may have been a model to, not just women in Sumerian society, but all other people as well, as “the male prostitutes comb their hair before” her (Wolkstein and Kramer, 1983). By contrast, ancient India was a strong androcracy, in which males were treated better than their female counterparts. The Ramayana serves as an example, in which Sita, the devoted wife to Rama, speaks multiple times of her place beside her husband, as her duty lies with him. Rama and Sita are hailed as models for couples in India. If the couple is comprised of a male and female, the male takes after Rama, and the female after Sita. It is clear that Sumeria was unique in itself in this right. Inanna was the one major god that everyone could look to for almost anything. Being one of the few matriarchies in the world, however, the female ruled society soon began to assimilate to match the rest of the world.
Sumeria began to advance and allow more foreigners into their land. The influence of foreign populations began to change ancient Sumeria. Either willingly or by force, Sumeria was pushed to shift into a patriarchy. Akkadians and Assyrians from the neighboring territories began to ease into Sumer. Both were strong cultures that had spoken Semitic languages and both were very involved with warfare (Wilson, 2013). Sumeria began to develop its own army, as they moved out of their land to find materials they did not have themselves, and the influences of more warlike nations on their territories encouraged the behavior. Militaristic ideas and the leaders of the army slowly became permanent, and democratic ways of governing fell, as the rise of the monarchies led by kings emerged (Wise, 2013). Inanna was pushed back, no longer the goddess that all Sumerians looked up to and worshipped. The goddess Ninlil did not take Inanna’s place, but her myths and legends may have contributed to the harsher treatment of women in Sumeria. Ninlil was raped four times by Enlil, once when he was not under a guise, and three times when he had disguised himself as someone else (Black, 1998). The legend may have served as an excuse for men who saw fit to rape women and ultimately hold power over the Sumerian women. The fall of Inanna spelled disaster for the female population of Sumeria, as men began to decrease the value that women held in society and traded them off as slaves and wives for money (Wise, 2013). They were seen as expendable members of society with no other purpose aside from childbearing, cooking, and standing beneath men, much like the rest of the world had come to see women in their societies.
From a position of power to one of ridicule, Inanna’s popularity decreased amongst the ancient Sumerians, as even Gilgamesh himself looked down upon her and who she was. long gone was the highly respected, all powerful god of Sumeria. Gilgamesh, in which she is known as Ishtar, portrays her as a liar who wants nothing more than to seduce him, then throw him away like she had to all her previous lovers (Mitchell, 2004). She comes off as a spoiled brat and a manipulator, as she convinces her father to give her the Bull of Heaven, then proceeds to use it to kill three hundred innocents—there is no trace of the once highly renowned and loved goddess that used to be known as the Great Lady of Heaven in ancient Sumeria. Gilgamesh is the strongest literary example of how Sumeria had morphed from a matriarchy into a patriarchy. Inanna, who was once seen as the greatest being in all of Sumeria, had been replaced by Gilgamesh, a cruel king who did as he pleased as long as it was for his own benefit. He took sons from their fathers and daughters from their mothers and broke them. He was the sole ruler of Sumeria; there was no queen to rule by his side. There is a stronger sense of monarchy now than there was when Inanna was revered with power. The city now looked up to Gilgamesh, and even after seeing his abuse of power, they did not remove him from where he stood in the social hierarchy. Instead, they saw fit to placate him with another man, Enkidu, who would change Gilgamesh into a better ruler of the people. And so Inanna fell and Gilgamesh rose to power, symbolizing the overthrowing of the matriarchy and introduction of the androcracy.
One can use ancient Sumerian literature to trace the power shift between men and women in the civilization. Early ancient Sumeria hailed Inanna, either a goddess or an ordinary human, as their queen, the strongest power in Sumeria whom all could look up to for guidance in many things. Hymns would praise her beauty, strength, and abilities, and she had quickly become someone that all the citizens of Sumeria would have liked to look up to. As time passed, however, invading powers began to shift Sumerian ideals, bringing with them their patriarchal claims and beliefs that would forever change Sumeria. Inanna lost popularity amongst her worshippers and men rose to power then. King Gilgamesh, now seen as the strongest being in Sumeria, stole Inanna’s thunder and used his own privilege to put her down and cast a dark light on her. From there, the power never did shift back, and along with the rest of the world, Sumeria moved through history, a society dominated by men, their great priestess discarded and forgotten.
Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Fluckiger-Hawker, E, Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The ElectronicText Corpus of Sumerian Literature (http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/), Oxford 1998Brisch, N. (n.d.). Ninlil (Mulliltu, Mullissu, Mylitta) (goddess). Retrieved November 4, 2015,from http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/ninlil/
Mitchell, Stephen. Gilgamesh: A New English version. New York: Free, 2004
Wilson, E. (2013, October 8). Development of Patriarchy in Sumer. Retrieved November 4,2015, from https://heartwellproductions.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/development-of-patriarchy-in-sumer/
Wise, J. (2013, July 26). Part V: Punishing Eve: Tracing the Shift to Patriarchy in Sumer. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/26/1226749/-Part-V-Punishing-Eve-Tracing-the-Shift-to-Patriarchy-in-Sumer#
Wolkstein, Diane, and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer. New York, Harper and Row, 1983
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.