Liberal Arts Blog — the Ramayana — Rama, Sita, and Hanuman
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Culture, and Religion Day
Today’s Topic— the Ramayana — Rama, Sita, and Hanuman
There are two great Sanskrit epics — the Ramayana (24,000 verses) and the Mahabharhata (200,000 verses). The latter includes the Bhagavad Gita (700 verses) which is often considered to have been Gandhi’s “Bible.” Both epics were written between the 4th century BCE and the 3rd century CE and are not to be confused with the Four Vedas, the most ancient of Sanskrit scriptures which consist of 20,379 mantras and date back to 1500–1200 BCE. Today, the focus is on the Ramayana, the story of the good prince Rama, his beloved wife Sita, her kidnapping by the evil Ravana, king of Lanka, and her rescue by Rama, his brother Lakshmana, and Rama’s devoted sidekick, monkey-headed Hanuman. The retelling of the Ramayana is an integral of the celebration of the Diwali, the Hindu version of Christmas. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
RAMA — SEVENTH AVATAR OF LORD VISHNU — HERO OF THE EPIC
1. Rama is a Christ-like figure in that he is a God who has chosen to adopt a human form.
2. He is also spends time in exile (14 years) versus Christ’s 40 days.
3. A personification of the good, he triumphs over evil.
NB: But it’s complicated. He is jealous. He abandons his pregnant wife in the forest. He insists that she undergo an ordeal by fire.
SITA — KIDNAPPED THEN RESCUED, BUT HER PURITY IS CHALLENGED
1. “Daughter of the earth goddess, Bhumi and the adopted daughter of King Janaka of Videha and his wife, Queen Sunaina.”
2. Chooses Rama from among many suitors after a contest (swayamvara).
3. The couple go into exile together in the Dandaka forest where she is abducted by the Voldemort-like Ravana but rescued by Rama, Lakshmana, and Hanuman.
NB: On her return, her purity is questioned and she goes through an ordeal by fire to prove it. In a kid-friendly version she and the prince live happily ever after. In a more adult version, she is sick of having her purity challenged and goes back to live with her earth mother.
HANUMAN — THE MONKEY GOD, RAMA’S DEVOTED FOLLOWER, MAGICAL POWERS (EG. FLIGHT)
1. Commander of the monkey army and symbolic of human devotion. He has magical powers of flight and the ability to grow infinitely large.
2. “Hanuman crossed the strait between India and Lanka in one leap, despite the efforts of watery demonesses to stop him by swallowing him or his shadow.”
3. “He was discovered in Lanka, and his tail was set on fire, but he used that fire to burn down Lanka.”
NB “Hanuman also flew to the Himalayas and returned with a mountain full of medicinal herbs to restore the wounded in Rama’s army.”
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