Rishi Valmiki composed Ramayana. It is regarded as the first epic not only for Hindus, but of the entire mankind. Even Sage Ved Vyasa had studied Ramayana. Following request from King Yudhishtra, Sage Ved Vyasa wrote Ramayana Tatparyadeepika as a commentary on Ramayana before he composed his own mammoth epic Mahabharata. Other epics of the world such as Mahabharata, Iliad, Odyssey, and Paradise Lost were composed centuries later.
Literary Importance of Ramayana
Valmiki’s Ramayana has served as the fountainhead of inspiration not only for subsequent epics on the same theme, but has been a global trendsetter in the style of epic writing, and has influenced other formats of literature. The theme of this epic continues to attract dancers, musicians, story tellers, dramatists, cinema and folk arts in India, South East Asia in particular and the rest of the countries in general.
Ramayana has been translated in all the languages of the world. The original Ramayana inspired many subsequent writers to compose different versions of the same story, of which Shri Ram Charit Manas composed by Saint Tulsi Das in Hindi (Awadhi dialect) is most read. Besides many other salient features, Tulsidas’s literary masterpiece stands out for being the only epic in the entire literature of the world, where feminine beauty of the heroine has been described by the author visualizing her in the image of his own mother, rather than beloved. Though Sita is projected as the most beautiful women of the universe she is virtuous and reverend and referred by the poet from beginning to end in the form of his own mother.
The pictorial quality of Valmiki’s descriptions is superb. His description of a feast arranged by Sage Bhardwaj to welcome Bharat’s army would dwarf the arrangements of any five-star hotels of our times. When entire Europe did not know the existence of Pacific Ocean till sixteenth century, Sugriva‘s briefing given to his subordinates for tracing Sita has listed all the four major oceans and prominent land marks existing on the surface of the globe today. The take off by Hanuman to cross ocean for going to Lanka in search of Sita contains all the details of future Concord Air plane taking off. These are treats to the imagination yet to be surpassed in literature and convince scientific mind as well.
Conceptual Effect of Ramayana
The environment depicted in Valmiki’s epic is not of a primitive human society, but that of a well-developed civilization. It contains geographical references, dynastic charts, social customs, diplomatic protocols, and political concepts that are being followed even by advanced nations of the modern world. Description of military organizations, weaponry, tactics, intelligence gathering system, and military maneuvers are valid even today. It preceded even Sun Tzu’s military doctrines, Aristotle’s theories, and Arthashastra of Kautillya, which are regarded today as authentic texts on Military Science and Diplomacy.
Ramayana has influenced and affected social customs and Indian society in every walk of life for thousands of years. Hindu society is molded that way. Rama and Sita represent an ideal couple for every Indian household. The story of prince Rama living an ideal life has inspired millions of Indians as a model for the roles that a person has to perform in life under different situations. The illustration of Rama discharging his obligations in the roles of an obedient son, a caring husband, an affectionate brother, a loving father, a sincere friend and an ideal king have universal appeal irrespective of religion to every human being of the civilized world today. While Rama has been projected as ‘Maryada Purshottam’, the other characters of Ramayana are mixed of human strengths and weaknesses found in every society.
Historical Importance of Ramayana
Ramayana with her characters and sites makes every human proud of this universal heritage of mankind in general and to every Indian in particular since we are closely related to it. This epic contains early history for the mankind.
Some Westerners and few Anglicized Hindus regard Ramayana as fictional literature on the pretext that its historical substance cannot be established according to the parameters set by western historians. They purposely ignore the fact that in ancient India historical records were kept by way of epics as well as chronicles like Puranic stories. It was much later that some Kings had chronicles written by foreign travelers also. The authenticity of historical events of past thousands years cannot be established as per European standards today.
In the style of epic writing the descriptions used to be metaphorical, and to some extent the poets could be biased to favor or denounce their patrons and rival kings. The same custom continued all over the world. Even Mahmood Ghaznavi in Medieval period had his biography written by Persian poet Firdausi. All such records are taken into account for linking the past where fool-proof evidence is not available. History is nothing but a legend agreed upon. It is also an indisputable fact that much of Hindu historical evidence in the form of literature, chronicles and historical sites has been destroyed during Muslim rule.
How ironical it was that we had to wait till twentieth century to be told by British historian Sir John Marshal that we were the oldest civilization on the globe after the excavations of Harappa and Moein-Jodaro. Efforts are needed to trace and connect the missing links in our past, but due to vote bank politics and anti-Hindu politicians, the same has been kept in abeyance. On the other hand vested interests had contemplated destruction of our ancient heritage. The plan to destroy Ram Setu was a treacherous step in the same direction. The recorded evidence about Nala Setu ( as Ram-Setu was constructed under the supervision of Engineer Nala) is available in Valmiki Ramayana.
While returning to Ayodhaya after libration of Sita, Rama pointed out to Sita from his Pushpak Vimana the bridge that he had got constructed to transport his army across the ocean. It goes as under:
ऐष सेतुमर्या बद्धः सागरे लवणाणर्वे।
तव हेतोविर्शालाक्षि नल सेतुः सुदुष्करः।। (16 Yudhakand 123 sarga)
Meaning – “O large eyed Sita, to rescue you there lays the bridge to be remembered by the name of Nalasetu. With great difficulty the bridge had been laid across the saline water of the ocean on my orders”.
The ongoing controversy about the authenticity of Ramayana, the existence of Rama, and Rama-Setu is a nefarious plan to destroy the cultural pride of India.
- Can any person deny the existence of his grandparents’ grandparents? Certainly NO, but in spite of having own great grand parents lived about hundred years ago, no person can provide any historical proof about the existence of great grandparents. Every living person is a conclusive proof to support the fact that not only he had his parents, but also had a chain of great grandparents; otherwise he would not have come into existence. Similarly the faith and belief about Rama and the Rama-Setu named after Him do not require any proof to be given. Rama-Setu stands out as the first man-made, and recorded archeological land mark for the entire mankind. It has been referred as Adam’s Bridge, in Atlas published by other nations also.
- Another mischievous theory was advanced to justify British colonial rule that the story of Rama symbolized the Aryan aggression over Dravidian This is absurd. Ravana was also a part and parcel of Aryan culture. Ramayana tells that Ravana was a Brahmin, son of a reverend Rishi Vishweshrava from Somalian mother Kaiksi, and was well versed in Vedas. He performed Yagnas, worshiped Lord Shiva of the Trinity of Gods and had obtained his blessings. How can he be a non-Aryan? Ravna’s flag insignia depicting a human scalp has come to be regarded as a warning sign for ‘danger’ all over the world!’
Historical Record of Human Civilization
Valmiki Ramayana opens up a window to peep in the past of our cultural heritage. It contains valuable data on multiple subjects to include Ayurveda, Tantra, Astrology, Music, Evolution of life on Earth, History, Geography, Diplomacy and protocols, Economics and Military Science. The instances can be corroborated to match other ancient accounts given by different saints and learned persons on different occasions and places. Every one cannot be suspected to have fabricated history through identical narration of details. All of the account put together suggests the existence of a well-developed human civilization in ancient India.
Ramayana is therefore the historical record of mankind, but having been living in close proximity Hindus have deep sentimental attachment for the epic. The attributes of this great classic can be known properly by reading the original text.
Chand K Sharma
(Next: Splashes – 14/72 – Mahabharata is Grand Panorama)