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HINDUISM - THE RAMAYANA


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Bianca
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« on: July 05, 2007, 01:32:45 pm »








I



The Story


 
The story of Lord Rama has inspired millions over the centuries. It is said that the first Ramayana, as the epic is called, was written by sage Valmiki in Sanskrit, much before the incidents occurred. Valmiki was a contemporary of Rama and when Sita, his consort, was exiled by King Rama. She stayed at the Ashram of sage Valmiki. The latest recension was done by Sant Tulsidas in Avadhi, the language of the masses, in the 15th century.

In the present interpretation of the epic the main actors of the drama are personified by various attributes common to the human race. This interpretation could, therefore, command universal appeal. This is called Adhyatma or spiritual Ramayana which explains the esotericism in the great epic.

Till very recently, none in India bothered to verify the veracity of the story. It was not their concern to investigate the actual happenings in history—when Rama lived and ruled or the places he occupied during his fourteen years’ period of banishment by his father. To Indians it was the grain that mattered and not the chaff.

The modern period is the age of reason, not of faith—faith in tradition, in the past, in epics, in authority, in parents, even in oneself. For everything the modern generation clamours for proof, authenticity and verification. In the case of past events there can be circumstantial evidence, historical support, archaeological proof and literary or even astronomical occurrences to support dates and incidents. The Ramayana, i.e. the history of Lord Rama, in the light of the temper of times, has also been subjected to detailed scrutiny. Historians have been busy locating various places where certain events of his life took place.

Some are of the view that Lord Rama never went beyond the Vindhyas and the entire episode occurred in northern India. Lanka of the Ramayana is said to be somewhere in Madhya Pradesh. Mandu is pinpointed as the city where Mandodari, the wife of Ravana, lived. The demon king Ravana is also said to have been living nearabout. As evidences are cited a huge brick-mound known even today as Ravana Kursi or the seat of Ravana, a musical instrument played with a bow on strings popular in the region is called Ravana-hattha. Panchavati is supposed to be situated near Nasik and authentically shown round to visitors as the place where Sita lived with her husband and his brother Lakshmana for a part of the banishment period.

The historians contradict these views and quote literary events in the Valmiki Ramayana to prove that Lanka did lie across the seas and Rama offered prayers to Siva before launching the construction of the oversea stone-bridge. At Rameshwaram there is a temple with the idol of Lord Siva who was worshipped by the royal couple before they mounted an attack on Lanka. Since Rama’s spouse Sita was in the custody of Ravana and the worship could not be performed without the wife being by his side, it is said that Ravana agreed to send Sita for a short while so that the worship could be performed according to the rites laid down in the scriptures.

There are historians who contradict all this since, obviously, it looks strange and incredible. According to them, there was no Rama, Sita, Ravana, the battle, the banishment and a victory of Rama over his rival Ravana. They say that the entire story is a tale told by elders from generation to generation assuming the shape of history over the years. The story, like any other fiction, has been so much ingrained in the race-unconscious that by constant repetition over a few thousand years, people have started believing that it is a part of history which is far from the truth.

Be that as it may, we will not enter into an argument whether the story of Lord Rama is a historical fact or otherwise. We would prefer to stick to the grain and start with the assumption that the story is basically true. It has inspired millions of Indians all over the country to follow the right path. It continues to inspire millions today, and will continue to do so in future.

Many epics have been written about the life and activities of Lord Rama. There are hundreds of them written in the North, South, East and West of the country. Among these about 36 are considered to be important. One of them, the Adhyatma Ramayana, gives a symbolic interpretation of the various characters and events of Ramayana. Since such an interpretation could be of universal significance, we would concentrate here in giving a brief outline of the symbolism. Before we do that it would be better to be acquainted with the generally accepted story of Lord Rama.
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