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Rama

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Devanagari  राम
Abode  Ayodhya and Santanaka
Weapon  Bow (Kodandam)
Sanskrit transliteration  Rāma
Mantra  Om Shri Ramaya Namah
Rama
Affiliation  Seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu

Rama(/ˈrɑːmə/; Sanskrit: राम Rāma) or Srī Rāmachandra (Sanskrit : श्री रामचन्द्र) is the seventh avatar of mythological Hindu God Vishnu. He is the central figure of the Hindu epic Ramayana, which is the principal narration of the events connected to his incarnation on Earth, his ideals and his greatness. Rama is one of the many Deities in Hinduism and especially of the various sects of Vaishnavism. Religious Texts and scriptures based on his life have been a formative component in numerous cultures of South Asia and Southeast Asia. Along with Krishna, Rama is considered to be one of the most important avatars of Vishnu. In Rama-centric sects, he is considered the Supreme Being, rather than an avatar.

Contents

Born as the eldest son of Kaushalya and Dasharatha, ruler of Kosala Kingdom(now in Uttar Pradesh), Rama is referred as Maryada Purushottama within Hinduism, which literally means the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. His wife Sita is considered by Hindus to be an avatar of Lakshmi and the embodiment of a great woman.

Rama and his brothers Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrughna were the chaturvyuha expansions of Vishnu(Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, Aniruddha). Rama's life and journey is one of adherence to dharma despite harsh tests and obstacles and many pains of life and time. For the sake of his father's honour, Rama abandons his claim to Ayodhya's throne to serve an exile of fourteen years in the forest. His wife Sita and brother Lakshmana decide to join him and all three spend the fourteen years in exile together. While in exile, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the king of Lanka. After a long and arduous search, Rama fights a colossal war against Ravana's armies. In a war of powerful and magical beings, greatly destructive weaponry and battles, Rama slays Ravana in battle and liberates his wife. Having completed his exile, Rama returns to be crowned king in Ayodhya and eventually becomes emperor, rules with happiness, peace, duty, prosperity and justice—a period known as Rama Rajya.

The legend of Rama is deeply influential and popular in the societies of the Indian subcontinent and across South East Asia. Rama is revered for his unending compassion, courage and devotion to religious values and duty. The deity Hanuman declared Rama to be a supreme being, and said that, by chanting the name of Lord Rama, all earthly problems may be resolved. By chanting the name of lord Rama 10 million times, moksha can be achieved.

Etymology

The name Rama appears repeatedly in Hindu scriptures. Besides the name of the protagonist of the Ramayana(subject of the current article), the name is also given to other heroes including Parashurama(Bhargava Rama) and Balarama.

In the Vishnu sahasranama, Rama is the 394th name of Vishnu. In the interpretation of Adi Shankara's commentary, translated by Swami Tapasyananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, Rama has two meanings: the supreme Brahman who is the eternally blissful spiritual Self in whom yogis delight and the One(i.e., Vishnu, the supreme Brahman) who out of His own will assumed the enchanting form of Rama, the son of Dasaratha.

Other names of Rama include Ramavijaya(Javanese), Phreah Ream(Khmer), Phra Ram(Lao and Thai), Megat Seri Rama(Malay), Raja Bantugan(Maranao), Ramudu(Telugu) and Ramar(Tamil).

The greatness of chanting of Rama's name is mentioned in the Ramacharitamanasa.

In Sanskrit, the word Rama(राम) means charming. The name is commonly given to male in India and Nepal.

Some of the popular names of Rama are:

  • Rama - charming
  • Ramachandra - Rama with a moon
  • Raghava - of the lineage of Raghu
  • Raghunandana - scion of Raghu
  • Siyaavara - husband of Sita
  • Ayodhyapati - king of Ayodhya
  • Dasharathaputra - son of Dasharatha
  • Maryada-Purushottama - best ideal man
  • Rama & Sita

    At Mithila, Rama breaks Shiva's bow and Janaka arranges the marriage of his daughter Sita to Rama. The Wedding of Rama and Sita concerns two entities coming together to form a whole. An Indian marriage forges an alliance not only between two people, but also two families.

    Maryada Purushottama

    As a person, Rama personifies the characteristics of an ideal person (purushottama), who is to be emulated. He had within him all the desirable virtues that any individual would seek to aspire, and he fulfils all his moral obligations(maryada). Rama's purity and piety in his intentions and actions inspires affection and devotion for him from a variety of characters from different backgrounds. For example, he gave up his rightful claim to the throne and agreed to go into exile for fourteen years, to fulfill the vow that his father had given to Kaikeyi, one of King Dasharatha's wives. This is in spite of the fact that Kaikeyi's son, Bharata, begged him to return to Ayodhya and said that he did not want to rule in place of Rama. But Rama considered his dharma as a son above that of his own birthright and his life's ambition. For such supreme sacrifices, and many other qualities, Rama is considered a maryada purushottama or the best of upholders of Dharma, God in the form of an exemplary human.

    Bharata & Lakshmana

    Absent when Rama is exiled, upon his return Bharata is appalled to learn of the events. And even though Kaikeyi had done all this for his benefit, Bharata is angered at the suggestion that he should take Ayodhya's throne. Denouncing his mother, Bharata proclaims to the city that he would go to the forest to fetch Rama back and would serve out his term of exile himself. Although initially resentful and suspicious, people of Ayodhya hail Bharata's selfless nature and courageous act. Despite his fervent pleas to return, Rama asserts that he must stay in the forest to keep his father's word. He orders Bharata to perform his duty as king of Ayodhya, especially important after Dasharatha's death and orders Shatrughna to support and serve him. Returning saddened to the city, Bharata refuses to wear the crown or sit on the throne. Instead, he places the slippers of Rama that he had taken back with him on the throne and rules Ayodhya assiduously keeping Rama's beliefs and values in mind. When Rama finally returns, Bharata runs personally to welcome him back.

    Bharata is hailed for his devotion to his elder brother and dharma, distinguished from Lakshmana as he is left on his own for fourteen years. But he unfailingly denies self-interest throughout this time, ruling the kingdom only in Rama's name. Vasishtha proclaims that no one had better learnt dharma than Bharata and for this piety he forms an essential part of the conception of perfect manhood, of the Seventh Avatara of Vishnu.

    Shatrughna's role to Bharata is akin to that of Lakshmana to Rama. Believed to be one-quarter of Vishnu incarnated or as the incarnation of his eternal companion, Ananta Sesha, Lakshmana is always at Rama's side. Although unconstrained by Dasharatha's promise to Kaikeyi, Lakshmana resists Rama's arguments and accompanies him and Sita into the forest. During the years of exile, Lakshmana constantly serves Rama and Sita – building huts, standing guard and finding new routes. When Sita is kidnapped, Rama blazes with his divine power and in his immense rage, expresses the desire to destroy all creation. Lakshmana prays and pleads for Rama to calm himself and despite the shock of the moment and the promise of travails to come, begin an arduous, but systematic search for Sita. During times when the search is proving fruitless and Rama fears for Sita and expresses despair in his grief and loneliness, Lakshmana encourages him, providing hope and solace.

    When Rama in his despair fears that Sugriva has forgotten his promise to help him trace Sita, Lakshmana goes to Kishkindha to remind the complacent monarch of his promise to help. Lakshmana twangs the bow inside the hall quaking the entire building and threatens to destroy Sugriva and the monkey kingdom with his own divine power. Lakshmana is unable to tolerate Sugriva breaking his vow to Rama while enjoying material and sensual pleasures while Rama suffers alone. It is only through the diplomatic intervention of Queen Tara, Vali's wife, that Lakshmana is pacified. Tara then scolds and galvanises Sugriva into honouring his promise to Rama. Sugriva and Rama are then reconciled with the help of Lakshmana and Tara. Sugriva sends the monkey hoards to find the location of Sita and lead the monkey army into battle against the demonic forces of Ravana.

    Lakshman is uniquely responsible for slaying Indrajit, the invincible son of Ravana who had earlier defeated Indra and the Devas, outwitted the Vanara's on several occasions and even twice defeated the brothers. Rishi Agastya later points out that this victory was the turning point of the conflict. Rama is often overcome with emotion and deep affection for Lakshmana, acknowledging how important and crucial Lakshmana's love and support was for him. He also trusts Lakshmana to carry out difficult orders – Lakshmana was asked to take Sita to the Ashrama of Valmiki, where she was to spend her exile. Lakshmana's deep love for Rama, his unconditional service and sacrifice as well as qualities of practical judgment and clear-headedness make him Rama's superior in certain situations and perspectives. Lakshmana symbolizes a man's duty to his family, brothers and friends and forms an essential part of the conception of ideal manhood, that Rama primarily embodies.

    Jatayu, Hanuman & Vibhishana

    When Rama and Lakshmana begin the desperate search to discover where Sita had been taken, after traversing a distance in many directions, they come across the magical eagle Jatayu, who is dying. They discover from Jatayu that Ravana was flying away with a crying, struggling Sita towards the south. Jatayu had flown to the rescue of Sita, but owing to his age and the Ravana's power, had been defeated. With this, Jatayu dies in Rama's arms. Rama is overcome with love and affection for the bird that sacrificed its own life for Sita and the rage of his death returns to him in the climactic battle with Ravana.

    Rama's only allies in the struggle to find Sita are the Vanaras of Kishkindha. Finding a terrified Sugriva being hunted by his own brother, king Vali, Rama promises to kill Vali and free Sugriva of the terror and the unjust charge of plotting to murder Vali. The two swear everlasting friendship over sacred fire. Rama's natural piety and compassion, his sense of justice and duty as well as his courage despite great personal suffering after Sita's kidnapping inspire devotion from the Vanaras and Sugriva, but especially Hanuman, Sugriva's minister. Devoted to Rama, Hanuman exerts himself greatly over the search for Sita. He is the first to discover that Sita was taken to Lanka and volunteers to use his divine gifts in a dangerous reconnaissance of Lanka, where he is to verify Sita's presence. Hanuman hands Rama's ring to Sita as a mark of Rama's love and his imminent intention of rescuing her. Though captured, he candidly delivers Rama's message to Ravana to immediately release Sita and when his tail is burned, he flies and sets Lanka on fire. When Lakshmana is struck down and near death and Rama overcome with love and concern for his brother, Hanuman flies to the Himalayas on the urgent mission to fetch the sanjeevani medicinal herbs, bringing the entire mountain to Lanka so that no time is lost in saving Lakshmana. The Vanaras fight the rakshasas, completely devoted to Rama's cause. They angrily dismiss Ravana's efforts to create international divisions within their army when he suggested that Rama considered them, monkeys as mere animals. At the end of the war, Indra restores life to the millions of fallen Vanaras.

    Before the onset of war, Vibheeshana, Ravana's youngest brother comes to join Rama. Although he loves his brother and Lanka, he fails in repeated efforts to make Ravana follow religious values and return Sita. Vibheeshana believes that Ravana's arrogance and callousness will cause the destruction of Lanka, which is a gross violation of a king's duty and that Ravana's actions have only propagated evil. Vibhishana refuses to defend the evil of Ravana's ways and inspired by Rama's compassion and piety, leaves Lanka to join the Vanara Army. His knowledge of rakshasa ways and Ravana's mind help Rama and the Vanaras overcome black magic and mystical weapons. At the end of the war, Rama crowns Vibheeshana as the king of Lanka. Vibheeshana and to a greater extent Hanuman, embody the perfect devotee in the wider conception of perfect manhood.

    Rama In War

    When Rama is thirteen years old, he and his brother Lakshmana are taken by Vishwamitra to the forests, with the purpose of killing rakshasas who are wrecking the tapasya and sacrifices of brahmins. When asked to slay the demoness, Rama demurs, considering it sinful to kill a woman. But Vishwamitra explains that evil has no gender. Rama replies that "My father asked me to follow your orders, I will obey them even if it is a sin". Rama proceeds to slay Tataka, a cursed yaksha demoness. The killing of Tataka liberates the yaksha soul who was cursed for a sin, and had to adopt a rakshasi's body. It restores the purity of the sacrifices of the brahmins who live nearby and protects the animals who live in the forest and travellers. Rama and Lakshmana are taught the advanced military Arts and given the knowledge of all celestial weapons by Vishwamitra. The main purpose of Vishwamitra's exursion is to conduct his yagna without interruption from two evil demons, Maricha and Subahu, sons of Tataka. Rama and Lakshmana guard the sacrifice and when the two demons appear, Rama shoots an arrow named Manava Astra that carries Maricha across the lands and into the ocean, but does not kill him. Rama and his brother then proceed to kill Subahu and accompanying demons. Rama explains to Lakshmana that leaving Maricha alive was an act of compassion, but the others did not heed the point and chose to attack. During the forest exile, sages plead for protection and help against evil rakshasas who spoil their sacrifices and religious activities and terrorize them. Many rakshasas had even killed and eaten sages and innocent people. At Janasthana, Rama uses his exceptional prowess to single-handedly kill over fourteen thousand demon hordes led by the powerful Khara, who is a cousin of Ravana and Dushana.

    Varuna

    Faced with the dilemma of how to cross the ocean, Rama performs a penance tapasya, fasting and meditating in perfect Dhyana for three days and three nights to Samudra, the Lord of Oceans. The ocean god does not respond and Rama on the fourth morning, pointed the Brahmastra towards the ocean. The Vanaras are dazzled and fearful at witnessing the enraged Rama demolish the oceans and Lakshmana prays to calm Rama's mind. Just as Rama invokes the Brahmastra, considered the most powerful weapon capable of destroying all creation, Varuna arises out of the oceans. He bows to Rama, and begs for pardon. Since Rama had to use the weapon, he suggests Rama re-direct the weapon at a demonic race that lives in the heart of the ocean. Rama's arrows destroys the demons, and establishes a purer, liberated environment there. Varuna promises that he would keep the oceans still for all of Rama's army to pass and Nala-Neel construct a bridge(Rama's Bridge) across to Lanka. Rama justifies his angry assault on the oceans as he followed the correct process of petitioning and worshipping Varuna, but obtaining the result by force for the greater good.

    The bridge today is known as Rama Setu, which supposedly has its existence between India and Sri Lanka, originates from Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, India.

    Facing Ravana

    Rama asserted his dedication to dharma when he offered Ravana a final chance to make peace, by immediately returning Sita and apologizing, despite his heinous actions and patronage of evil, but Ravana refused. In the war, Rama slayed the most powerful rakshasa commanders, including Atikaya, Ravana's brother, Kumbhakarna along with hundreds of thousands of rakshasa soldiers. He defeated Ravana in their first battle, destroying his chariot and weapons, and severely injuring him, but he allowed Ravana to live and return to fight another day. But since he was playing the part of a human being, Rama also proved vulnerable on occasion to his enemies. He was put to a deep sleep along with Lakshmana by the nagapash of Indrajit, but they recovered when Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu and enemy of serpents appear. Before Indrajit was killed, he twice defeated Lakshmana and Rama and in both occasions Hanuman's intervention saved them from certain death.

    In the grand finale of the battle, Rama engaged Ravana, who through the devastation of losing his sons, his brothers and friends and millions of his warriors, aroused his magical powers and made full use of the boons of Shiva and Brahma. Rama and Ravana competed fiercely, inflicting severe injuries on one another with powerful weapons capable of destroying the universe. After a long and arduous battle, Rama successfully decapitated Ravana's central head, but an ugly head, symbolic of all of Ravana's evil powers arose in its place. After another long battle, Rama decapitated it again, only to find another growing in its place. This cycle continues and as darkness approached, Ravana's magical powers increased in force. Mathali, Indra's charioteer who had been sent by Indra after being counselled by the witnessing rishis, Danavas and Devas. Seeing the war, Vibhishana then told Rama that Ravana had obtained amrita, the nectar of immortality, from the gods. Though he could not consume it, he nevertheless stored a vessel of it in his stomach. This amrit was causing his heads to regenerate as soon as they were cut off. Upon the advice of Agastya, Rama worshiped Lord Surya(his ancestor), with the famous Aditya Hridayam prayer and then invoked Brahmastra. Rama fired an arrow into Ravana's chest/stomach and evaporated the store of amrit, finally killing him. However it is stated in the Ramayana that Ravana called for Rama as he was shot and as a result, was immediately dispatched to Heaven. Following Ravana's death, Rama expressed deep compassion. After investing Vibhishana as the next king of Lanka, he asked the new king and the surviving rakshasas to properly cremate their dead king, despite his patronage of evil.

    Rama Rajya

    Rama's birthday is celebrated as Rama Navami(on Chaitra Shukla Navami, Punarvasu Nakshatra fourth Pada). Diwali is celebrated as a festival to commemorate the successful victorious return of Lord Rama after killing of the demon Ravana to Ayodhya with Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sugriva, Jambavan, Angada etc., which coincided with the end of his exile period. Then Lord Rama's Coronation(Saamraajya Pattabhisekham) ceremony took place on the following day at the same Muhurtha kept for Rama's Coronation that is given by Dasharatha and Vasistha before Rama's 14 years of Exile, Paduka Pattabhisekham(happened before Rama completing his exile time done by Rama's brother Bharatha, when then Ayodhya is ruled by his Paduka or shoes till the end of 14 years exile time period of Rama returning Ayodhya). Lord Rama ruled Bharatvarsha through his virtues that is popularly known as period of Rama Rajya that lasted for 11,000 years. Rama Rajya means the embodiment Of Dharma Or Dharma has taken a form of Ramachandra.

    International Influence

    Rama remains an immensely revered and inspirational figure to people across the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia. In Jainism, Rama is enumerated among the nine Baladeva. Hundreds of towns and villages are named after Rama.

    Rama is a great hero to the adherents of Agama Hindu Dharma and to the Muslims who practice Abangan, a syncretic form of Islam and Hinduism, in Indonesia. He is revered by the people throughout Indochina who otherwise adhere to different forms of Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism. His regal bearing and fighting prowess is emulated in various Indian martial arts that in turn influenced various Southeast Asian fighting systems such as silat. The Rama Leela is performed across South East Asia in numerous local languages and the story has been the subject of art, architecture, music, folk dance and sculpture. The ancient city of Ayutthaya stands in Thailand as the tribute of an ancient Thai kingdom to the great legend. Many ancient and medieval era kings of India and South East Asia have adopted Rama as their name.

    Rama Navami

    Rama's day and time of birth, as well as marriage to Sita are celebrated by Hindus across the World as Rama Navami. It falls on the ninth day of a Hindu lunar year or Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami. This day is observed as the marriage day of Rama and Sita as well as the birthday of Rama. People normally perform Kalyanotsavam(marriage celebration) for small statues of Rama and Sita in their houses and at the end of the day the idols are taken in a procession on the streets. This day also marks the end of nine-day Festival celebrated in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh called Vasanthothsavam(Festival of Spring), that starts with Ugadi. Some highlights of this day are:

    1. Kalyanam(Ceremonial wedding performed by Temple priests) at Bhadrachalam on the banks of the river Godavari in Bhadradri Kothagudem district of Telangana.
    1. Panakam, a sweet drink prepared on this day with jaggery and pepper.
    1. Procession of idols in the evening that is accompanied with play of water and colours.
    1. For the occasion, Hindus are supposed to fast(or restrict themselves to a specific diet).
    1. Temples are decorated and readings of the Ramayana take place. Along with Rama, people also pray to Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman.

    Vijayadashmi

    The occasion of victory over Ravana and the rakshasas is celebrated as the 10-day Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra. The Rama Leela is publicly performed in many villages, towns and cities in Northern India and also in places where there is a large population of North Indians. Hindus also celebrate Vijayadashmi as the day of victory of Goddess Durga over the Rakshas Mahishasura.

    Diwali

    In some parts of India, Rama's return to Ayodhya and his coronation is the main reason for celebrating Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights. In Malaysia, Diwali is known as Hari Deepavali and is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. It is a federal public holiday. In many respects it resembles the traditions followed in the Indian subcontinent. In Nepal, Diwali is known as Tihar and celebrated during the October/November period.

    In Guyana, Diwali is marked as a special occasion and celebrated with a lot of fanfare. It is observed as a national holiday in this part of the World and some ministers of the Government also take part in the celebrations publicly. Just like Vijayadashmi, Diwali is celebrated by different communities across India to commemorate different events in addition to Rama's return to Ayodhya. For example, many communities celebrate one day of Diwali to celebrate the Victory of Krishna over the demon Narakasur.

    Temples

    Temples dedicated to Rama are found all over India and in places where Indian migrant communities have resided. In most temples, the standing idol of Rama is accompanied by that of his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. In some instances, the monkey God, Hanuman sits at the feet of Rama or is situated facing the Rama family at a distance or at the entrance of the temple. There are numerous Rama temples in Tamil nadu that date from the end of the first millinium of the common era. Important Rama temples include:

  • Ram Janmabhoomi, Ayodhya
  • Kalaram Temple, Nashik - built in 1788
  • Raghunath Temple, Jammu - built in 1827
  • Ram Mandir, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
  • Kodandarama Temple, Chikmagalur
  • Kothandarama Temple, Thillaivilagam
  • Kothandaramaswamy Temple, Rameswaram
  • Odogaon Raghunath Temple, Odisha - dates from Middle Ages
  • Ramchaura Mandir, Bihar
  • Sri Rama Temple, Ramapuram
  • Bhadrachalam Temple, Telangana - built in 1674
  • Shree Rama Temple, Triprayar, Kerala
  • In Jainism

    Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana forms one of the nine sets of Baladeva, Vasudeva and Prativasudeva whose stories forms a basis of Jain universal History. Rama is described as a pious layman in Jain scriptures. Jain scriptures tells different version of Ramayana than Valmiki's version. According to this version, Lakshmana(Vasudeva) is the one who kills Ravana(Prativasudeva). Rama(Baladeva) is described as a non-violent person who attains Moksha. Lakshmana and Ravana, on the other hand, goes to hell on account of their violence & will attain moksha in their next birth. Ravana will take birth as tirthankara of next era. It is said that in the end, Rama and Sita take Jain diksha in this version.

    References

    Rama Wikipedia


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