March 09, 2021

#08-056: The Ramayana

Rama lies with his head in Sita's lap, as Lakshamana seems to be giving him a pedicure; a dead deer lies in the foreground
Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana in the forest

Note: One of the glories of Indian religion is that its teachings are embedded in charming stories of the gods and goddesses interacting with humans. The two epics mentioned below are filled with such stories.

Get Ready: What is the value of stories about gods and demons for people who believe in neither?

We have spoken before of the great Indian epic, The Mahabharata. There is another such work, of equal or greater importance to some groups, known as The Ramayana, the title of which can be taken to mean "The Journey(s) of Rama," a prince who is actually an important Indian god.

Rama's father has three wives. One of them, Kaikeyi, asks a boon at the time of Rama's coronation, that Rama's father will exile him for fourteen years. By this means Kaikeyi's son Bharata (Rama's half-brother) becomes king. His grief-stricken father, overwhelmed by the weight of the duty he was compelled to perform, passes away after Rama's departure.

Rama wanders in the forest with his wife Sita and his younger brother Lakshmana. Needless to say, they have many, many adventures. In one of these, they defeat a group of demons; when the demons' brother, Ravana, hears of their shame, he seeks revenge on Rama and his party. Ravana kidnaps Sita through trickery and tries to seduce her, but she remains firm.

Setting out to rescue Sita, Rama and Lakshmana are joined by Hanuman, an ape-like creature (and, some say, part of the inspiration for Sun Wukong in The Journey to the West). This prodigy leaps from India to the island occupied by what is now the country of Sri Lanka, where Ravana has taken Sita. Hanuman locates her there, and offers to take her back to Rama. This, she says, is Rama's duty, not Hanuman's, but she does accept Rama's signet ring from the ape as a token of good faith.

Hanuman goes on a rampage, destroying much of the island and slaying Ravana's demon warriors. Allowing himself to be captured, he takes the opportunity to destroy much of the demon king's inner citadel.

After Hanuman's return to India, there follows a full-force invasion of Sri Lanka (by means of a supernatural bridge) and a mighty battle ensues. After a titanic struggle, Rama and his followers are victorious, and Sita successfully undergoes a test of chastity (to prove she has not succumbed to the demon).

In the end, Rama is restored to his throne, with his loyal aides Lakshmana and Hanuman by his side, as well as his lovely Queen Sita, who becomes the mother of marvelous twin boys, Lava and Kusha.


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Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. boon
  2. chastity
  3. citadel
  4. coronation
  5. ensues
  6. kidnaps
  7. prodigy
  8. rampage
  9. seduce
  10. succumbed

  1. a favor; a benefit
  2. the stronghold of a fortress or castle
  3. persuade to make love to
  4. follows; results
  5. "steals" a person
  6. gave in; yielded
  7. a violent, destructive attack
  8. sexual purity
  9. the act of crowning
  10. a wonder; a marvel

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 9, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. h; 3. b; 4. i; 5. d; 6. e; 7. j; 8. g; 9. c; 10. f