The Ramayana is an Epic poem from India written in Sanskrit language. The epic derived its name from the name of its hero, ‘Lord Rama’ and ‘his journey’ which in Sanskrit is ‘ayana’[Journey]. The journey of Lord Rama represents the journey of virtue over vice. [Good over evil]. It is believed that the text was written during the Treta Yuga [the second yuga out of the four Yugas as per Hinduism]. The Ramayana is considered to be an Itihasa which means a narration of past events mainly with the intention of teaching moral values of life to the mankind. The Ramayana teaches human values and righteousness [Dharma].
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two epics from India. The Ramayana, written by Hindu Sage Valmiki, is one of the important texts of Hinduism. Valmiki’s Ramayana is an epic poem consisting 50,000 lines. According to Hinduism, Lord Rama is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The main purpose behind the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Rama is to teach human beings, the path of righteousness [Dharma]. The epic poem Ramayana is said to be a ‘Smriti’ which means ‘memory’.
The Ramayana is composed of verses called ‘Sloka’. These verses are grouped into chapters called ‘Sargas’. Each ‘Sarga’ [chapter] depicts an event. The chapters are grouped into books called ‘Kaandas’. The word ‘Kaanda’ [Book] also means a particular phase in the course of the entire story. The entire story of Ramayana [Journey of Lord Rama] is divided into seven books:
- Bala Kaanda : Book based on life as a Youth. It consists of 77 chapters.
- Ayodha Kaanda: Book based on life in the city of Ayodha. It consists of 119 chapters.
- Araya Kaanda: Book based on life in Forest during exile. It contains 75 chapters
- Kishkindha Kaanda: Book based on life in the Kingdom of Holy Monkeys. It contains 67 chapters.
- Sundara Kaanda: Book depicting the adventures and glorious deeds of Hanumana. It has 68 chapters.
- Yuddha Kaanda: Book illustrating the battle between Lord Rama and Ravana, representing the forces of good and evil..
- Uttara Kaanda: Book based on Luv and Kush, the twin sons of Lord Rama and Sita.
Ramayana teaches the duties and responsibilities of each relationship. It portrays ideal relationships like the ideal son, the ideal brother, the ideal husband, the ideal wife, the ideal king and the ideal devotee. Lord Rama is the epitome of righteousness [Dharma]. He embodies everything that is good, positive and divine. He is known as the ‘Mariyada Purushottam’ which means ‘He, who is the greatest of all men’. The teachings of Ramayana are relevant in all ages and for everyone to follow a path of righteousness.
The most important lessons of Ramayana are:
- Humility: To be humble and treat everyone with respect
- To maintain a calm and peaceful mind devoid of anger.
- To maintain good company. It is not enough to have a good heart, we need to be careful while choosing friends.
- Lord Rama portrays a persona of ‘eternal optimist’. The lesson here is to be an optimist and respond positively even in adverse situations.
- When rewarded by Lord with all the goodness of life, it is important not to get lost in the comforts of material life and forget to express gratitude to the Lord.
- Hanuman represents devotion, determination, courage and single-minded focus to accomplish a task. Another very important point is that Hanuman’s focus is only on his duty and not the reward. Similarly, we are supposed to focus on our respective duties and not fix our minds on the rewards or benefits.
- Hanuman always attributes all his accomplishments to the Lord and was totally free form pride or arrogance. As human beings, we should attribute the credit of a work done to the blessings of God.
The teachings of Ramayana are endless. It is a true goldmine of knowledge. The principles of Ramayana are beyond any boundaries of time or place. By following these precious principles of life, we can uplift ourselves from ignorance to light.