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Who is Rama?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
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Rama is a prince in Hindu mythology and is the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana. The character is revered as an exemplary Hindu and is a popular figure in the religion. He is remembered for his dedication to fulfilling his dharma, the spiritual obligation of his life.

The hero of the Ramayana is believed by some to be an incarnation of the god Vishnu. The legends state that Vishnu promised to be born as a man in order to defeat Ravana, the evil king of Lanka. His godly wife, Lakshmi, takes human form as well as Sita, who marries Rama before being kidnapped by Ravana.

In the Ramayana, Rama is the oldest son of King Dasaratha, and is the heir to the throne. To win Sita’s hand, he attempts to string the bow of Shiva, and accidentally breaks it, leading all to recognize his god-like powers. After the wedding, one of Dasaratha’s jealous wives tricks Dasaratha into exiling his heir for 14 years, during which time her own son, Bharata, will rule. The noble prince accepts the situation, believing that it violates dharma to break a promise or to go against his father.

While in exile, Sita is kidnapped, and her husband must wage war to get her back. Defeating Ravana in battle, the prince remains committed to his dharma, offering Ravana a chance to apologize and simply return Sita. Ravana refuses vehemently and is finally killed in battle. Continuing to act on his dharma, Rama feels great compassion for his fallen enemy, and orders him properly cremated according to custom.

After the death of Ravana, Sita is rescued. Despite her protestations that she has remained honorable throughout her captivity, her husband forces Sita to undergo trial by fire. Sita, though angry that her husband does not trust her, passes through fire unharmed, proving her fidelity. The prince apologizes, again citing that it is his dharma as a ruler to provide a correct example, though he never doubted her purity.

The couple returns to the city victorious, and the prince is properly crowned king, His reign is considered an age of perfect happiness. By the hero’s example of proper behavior and virtue, the whole country adheres to their dharma and peace and prosperity rule the land.

Rama is revered for his commitment to dharma, even when easier propositions are offered. He is considered the ideal Hindu, and his held up as an example of proper behavior. As an incarnation of a god, Rama is considered a deity in his own right, and devout pilgrims often trace the route of his travels across India.

Several festivals honor Rama, including Diwali, and Vijayadashami. Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a five day celebration in memory of Rama’s return to his home city after his exile and war. Fireworks and special light displays are characteristic of this national Indian holiday. The ten-day festival of Vijayadashami celebrates the defeat of Ravana. Public readings and plays from the Ramayana are held, and effigies of Ravana are burned in memory of the triumph of good over evil.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Historical Index. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon127534 — On Nov 16, 2010

RE: "believed by some." On what basis, do you say "by some"?

By anon49758 — On Oct 22, 2009

Dharma is a very loaded word in Sanskrit, and is usually translated as 'right conduct', 'morality', 'ethics' and so on. The difficulty to define dharma is essentially due to our inability to say what is right or wrong. Both the Hindu epics (Ramayana and the Mahabharata) repeatedly stress that Dharma is very difficult to define and that we need to depend upon one's own judgment, 'inner light' etc, and that only time will tell what's right or wrong.

By anon32189 — On May 17, 2009

Can you explain what the dharma is?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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