As my first major experience of Indian culture the retelling of The Ramayna by Narayan was a very interesting read for me. I enjoyed learning about the Indian epic and understanding one of the major cultural influences on Indian society. I think that it is amazing in how many different versions of The Ramayana there are yet, most of them all hold the same core values while portraying the same general story of the great Indian epic.
The content of The Ramayana was an interesting read for me. I understand that if I had read the longer version of The Ramayana I may not have liked it as much but, the version that I did read was full of action and drama. I think that my favorite part of the epic was the ending battle. The fight that looped around the world and had Rama and Ravana throwing magical items at each other was quite interesting. As for the different versions of The Ramayana, I think that Ravana's storyline was the most intriguing. As part of my time capsule I researched and gained more information regarding Ravana's storyline. Ravana's storyline was mostly a role reversal rather than an entire rewrite of The Ramayana. It had Ravana as the hero and Rama as the villain switching their characteristics and traits. I think that The Ramayana is comparable to other epics from other ancient civilizations. Much like the Odyssey, Rama is separated from his wife and must overcome the trial of defeating Ravana. In a similar manner, Odysseus is separated from his wife and must overcome the various trials put in front of him. The story and character development of The Ramayana was good but, I think that the main ideas portrayed in The Ramayana are the moral guidelines to live one's life by.
The Ramayana has many great examples of being a moral person. It ranges from performing one's dharma (duty) to being a forgiving and respectful person. The Ramayana begins with the Indian god Vishnu being sent down as a human named Rama. His dharma is to rid the world of ashoka (demons) and their leader Ravana. This is because Ravana has become invulnerable to all things except humans. Ravana did this by praying to the gods and asking for immunity from all things but, was not concerned with any human being and thus, did not ask for immunity against them. Rama's journey begins when he is exiled for fourteen years because of his father's two promises. He complies and carries out the task without any resentment or attitude towards his father. Following your father's wishes can at times be difficult and doing it without any complaints or grumbles is quite remarkable. For example, there are some people who have to come to VMI simply because it is their father's wish. While I cannot say whether they argued or not, I am sure that for some of them, VMI was certainly not their first choice. Rama's dedication to his dharma is admirable and he completes his dharma without any major setbacks. Along the way he meets many different people but, he is never swayed from his path and remains a morally right person.
The completion of one's own dharma can be a difficult task at times. Whether you are in the military and need to execute a tough mission or, are in charge of grading a lot of essays, I believe that the principle behind the two is the same. While there are varying degrees of difficulty to the completion of different dharmas they all require a personal inner strength. Rama shows that willpower and determination by continuing on in his journey and never giving up or quitting half way.
Another great moral lesson exhibited in the Ramayana is the ability of showing someone forgiveness and treating them fairly. Rama is great at doing this and many other characters are great at showing this lesson to the reader. The main example of showing forgiveness for past deeds throughout The Ramayana is the story of Ravana. After stealing Sita, Ravana had many chances for forgiveness. He was offered to return Sita by Jatayu and then subsequently, he was asked many times to return her by various people. He refused and ultimately met his demise but, Ravana's story helps display two very important moral lessons that all people should keep in mind. The first moral lesson that can be taken away from Ravana's story is that it is never too late to ask for forgiveness. Ravana was offered many chances to redeem himself but, never took the opportunity to set things right and receive forgiveness for what he had done. The second moral lesson that can be taken away from the story of Ravana is that forgiveness should be offered to everyone, even those who are not necessarily good people. In Ravana's case he was far from being a morally right and upstanding person but, he was still offered forgiveness.
Being a forgiving person can sometimes be very hard. That is why I believe that Rama is quite the remarkable hero. I know that there have certainly been times when I have had trouble forgiving someone over small things. For example, I remember having trouble forgiving my sister for chipping my two front teeth but, that is in the past and I have since forgiven her. I believe that at first, it can be hard to forgive someone for what they have done but, they still deserve forgiveness. In a sense, forgiving someone is showing them that you are the bigger or more mature person. You do not necessarily have to like someone but, you should try to forgive them because it is the right thing to do.
Doing all of these things, Rama has gained immense respect from the people that he has met along his journey. As a morally just and upstanding person people like Rama and follow him. Rama gained the respect of his people in Ayodhya. For the people in Ayodhya it was very hard to see Rama being sent into exile in fact, they tried to follow him and leave the kingdom behind. Later, he helps Sugreeva by killing his brother Vali. Rama manages to gain the respect of Sugreeva who then helps raise an army in order to fight the demon king Ravana and the rest of his Ashokas. Overall, the Ramayana teaches good lessons in morality. It shows that when you are someone who completes their duties and are a forgiving person you can gain the respect of others. By gaining the respect of others you can often times gain people's trust and receive help from them when in times of need.
I think that my reading of The Ramayana was a great cultural experience. I enjoyed the storytelling and the morals included within the story. While there were some points that I disagreed with while looking at Rama's point of view such as, his treatment of Sita and his decision of killing Vali, I do believe that it is hard to judge someone in that position. The reason for this is because I believe that it is hard to judge someone when looking from the outside of the situation instead of, being in the decision making role. The Ramayana has helped me reflect on my personal morals and I hope that by reading and understanding The Ramayana I have been able to become a better person.
Narayan, R. K., and Kampar. The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (suggested by the Tamil Version of Kamban). New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.