Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hinduism: Rama

This week, I am going to write a few words about the incarnation of Vishnu as Rama, the great hero who defeated the demon Ravana.

The adventures of Rama are told in the epic Ramayana, which is one of the epics we read in my Epics of Ancient India class. We actually read two different English adaptations of the epic - one by an Indian author, R.K. Narayan, and the other by an American writer, William Buck. I can recommend both versions very highly!

Just as in the previous incarnations of Vishnu that I've reviewed here - Narasimha, the Man-Lion; Vamana, the dwarf; and Parasurama, "Rama with the Axe" - the hero Rama was born into a world facing a crisis. In this case, the crisis was provoked the demon Ravana, who had challenged even the gods with his aggression and violence.

Ravana, for his part, managed to kidnap Sita, Rama's wife, and held her captive. Rama, together with his brother Lakshmana, led an army not just of men, but also of monkeys and bears, in order to do battle with Ravana and rescue Sita. Among the monkeys, Rama's most devoted follower was the mighty Hanuman, the divine son of Vayu the Wind-God.

One of the most common depictions of Rama and his wife Sita shows them dwelling in the heart of Hanuman, their loyal follower. So here is a picture done by a folk artist in Bihar that shows the monkey-god Hanuman as he reveals what is in heart, Rama and Sita. Meanwhile, you can read much more about Rama in the detailed article at wikipedia.

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