Whereas, Gita is an embedded part of the Mahabharat sprouting out Krishna’s discourses and instructions on morals and practicalities in facing challenges of life, Ramayan, on the other hand lacks direct statements from Lord Ram.
He is the leading character of the prolific epic drama in the Ramayan, and who is considered to be a reincarnation of Vishnu, a part of the Hindu Trinity. The latter part is repressed perhaps for the simple reason that the Lord wanted to be perceived as a human folk.
The ethical and moral interpretations in the Ramayan like in Mahabhart are also metaphorical. But here more effort is needed to extract its teachings from the fascinating and adventurous episodes of Ram and other main characters in the voluminous apologue.
The emblematic representation tries to portray an ideal father, son, wife, brother, a friend or servant in an ideal kingdom of perfect harmony and the rule of equality referred as Ram-rajya, meaning regime of Lord Ram.
A major part of the epic Ramayan is devoted to fighting evil. Ram as part of his mission was out to destroy the wicked represented by devil king Ravan. According to some celestial course of action God Vishnu in the guise of human, descended on earth as Ram to tackle the growing destructive powers of devilish forces.
The original authorship of Ramayan is attributed to Sanskrit poet Valmiki, a contemporary of Ram, and believed to be in the period of 500 BC to 100 BC. Valmiki’s epic poem has 24,000 verses of over 480,000 words.
Many other versions of Ramayan appeared later on. One of them, and it seems to be the most popular one, was written by 16th century poet Tulsidas. It is titled Ramcharitmanas and was written in the Hindi dialect of Awadi.
The story in Ramayan begins with the birth of Ram to the King Dasharath and his queen Kaushalya. Passing thru his childhood in the company of his three brothers born to other queens of the king, Ram came to adulthood when he was married to Sita. She was the adopted daughter of a neighboring king who found her in a plowed furrow, signifying her birth took place direct from the mother earth.
Just before his coronation to the throne after his aging father, king Dasharath, decided to retire, Ram’s step mother Kaikeyi reminded the king of his promise to accept her two boons whenever asked for. The covert scheme was to install her son Bharat to be the king and asking Ram to be far away from the kingdom city.
Accordingly, Ram was told to live in jungles for 14 years and upon completing this ordeal he could be the king. As a devout son he honored the orders from his father, and proceeded to the forests along with his ever devoted wife and faithful younger brother Lakshman. The latter did not take his wife, Urmila along despite her pleas that Sita, her elder sister, was accompanying Ram.
As the exile period folded, and upon their return Ram was coroneted to the throne, and his rule of justice, peace and equality is considered to be a utopian regime known as Ram-rajya.
After the eventful years the return from the exile was marked by big celebrations and fireworks. The Hindu major festival of Diwali celebrated to this day symbolizes those festivities signifying the victory of forces of light over darkness or good over evil.
One of the high points of the Ramayan story is the abduction of Sita by demon king Ravan who wanted to marry her because of her exquisite beauty. A subsequent war followed to get her released and replacing the evil regime of Ravan with a righteous rule. This all happened with the dedicated support of Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Ram but himself an incarnation of Trinity partner Lord Shiv in the form of a monkey. With his skillful and agile army of monkey soldiers Hanuman played a crucial role in Ram’s mission to fight the evil and achieve the ultimate victory.
The adventures faced by the trio, Ram, Sita and Lakshman during their 14-years in exile are essentially the episodes of fight between righteousness and immorality.
In the happy ending of the Ramayan story an episode of contention is Ram’s doubts about Sita’s chastity during her time spent under Ravan’s custody. For that, upon Ram’s instruction she had to undergo an ‘agni pariksha’ which involved plunging into flames of some sacrificial fire and coming out of it unharmed. Certainly, Sita obeyed Ram’s authoritative command and passed the test of her purity. But that was not the end of her celibate doubts. Even the people of Ram’s kingdom were in dubiety about her virtue.
This intervening part of the Ramayan is subjected to questioning under women’s freedom of rights and dignity about Ram’s ‘sat-purusa’ ideal man status. Both Ram’s and Lakshman’s personalities were somewhat derailed from the merits of being ideal husbands toward their wives.
Nevertheless, Ramayan in its bottom-line is a volume of celebrations. It is celebration of good over evil and forces of light over darkness. It is a celebration of relationships, support and sacrifice of family members and friends. It is a celebration of facing obstacles with vigor and strength. It is a celebration of a rule of law, peace and prosperity.
And that as a whole is an aspect of Hinduism highlighting that life is a celebration too.