The Indian epic poem Ramayana was written about two and a half thousand years ago.
According to the accounts, the author of the epic is a poet called Valmiki. The work includes 24,000 verses written in Sanskrit.
Everyone knows this story and on every occasion of the most trivial of events it is staged in various forms, both traditional and modern art. The Ramayana is commonly called the Book of the Everlasting Philosophy because it contains not only the message that is the root of the history of the Indian nation, but also a subtle symbolism reflected in the realities of the present day. The manner in which human motives, actions and reactions are portrayed serves as a model for interpretation and application at all times and conditions of life. These negative figures of Ramayana called asuras are seen today at high levels of military, economic and political power.
India is a multilingual country where each region has its own language. Thus, over the centuries, hundreds of translations of the epic into regional languages have been created on the basis of Valmiki’s work. Here we have this work written in Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Kannada, Telugu, Malayam – just to name a few – and of course in Hindi.
When I was studying in India, at age of 14, I had about 6 English teachers, to keep up with an understanding of other classes. One day came another teacher. He looked like a guru from Bollywood movies. He visited our school only a few times, but he took his time to tell me the story of Ramayana. At this time I had no idea what it is but I remembered the story well.
Reducing this great epic to the most important events, the content of which is known to everyone in this great country, I will say that it is the story of Sita and Rama, who are in human minds the epitome of the greatest wonders. Rama was born in the family of a king, forgetting in a human body that his true manifestation is the mind of the great Vishnu – the supreme ruler of the world. However, the sage Vishwamitra, the master and teacher of Rama and his brother Lakshman, with whom he spent his youth, was aware of the true nature of the king’s son and his supernatural powers. So he skillfully directed the events, allowing the young people to convince themselves of their divine nature.
Dasharatha was the King of Ayodhya. He had three wives: Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, but no children. So he arranged a Putra-kameshti sacrifice (putra = son, kameshti = that which is desired). At the sacrifice, Agni (god of fire) arose from the flames and handed the king a golden vase brimming with nectar. “Give this to your queens”, said the god and disappeared. As result Rama was first born to Kaushalya, Bharata was born to Kaikeyi, Lakshmana and Shatrughna were born to Sumitra.
Rama and Sita
Rama met the royal daughter Sita, whose true nature was the mind of the great Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort.
Janaka was the King of Mithila. One day, a female child was found in the field by the King in the deep furrow dug by his plough. Overwhelmed with joy, the King regarded the child as a “miraculous gift of God”, who actually was the reincarnation of Lakshmi. The child was named Sita, the Sanskrit word for furrow. The King had decided that who ever could lift and wield the heavy bow, presented to his ancestors by Shiva, could marry Sita.
Sage Vishwamitra took Rama and Lakshmana to Mithila to show the bow. Rama pulled the string and it broke. Rama marred Sita and all his brothers married her sisters.
Young people meeting each other felt their insurmountable kinship, not knowing about their divine nature. The wisdom of the masters and the strength of the good wishes surrounding the royal families of their subjects meant that nothing could stand in the way of the relationship of the mighty Rama and Sita of extraordinary beauty.
However, the main content of the epic is the victory of Rama and his team over the demon Ravana inhabiting the island of Lanka – present-day Sri Lanka. Ravana stole the beautiful Sita when the young people lived in the forest while in exile from the kingdom of Kosala…
But how it happened that Sita and Rama, worshiped by all Kosala subjects, ended up in exile. So it was… Old King Dashartha, the father of Rama, notices his old age and decides to hand over the crown to his chosen son. Undoubtedly, Rama is to be the heir, but there is one and only person in the kingdom who is very concerned that the inheritance should pass into the hands of his brother Bharath. She is the hunchback Kuni, also known as Manthara – a friend and confidant of the king’s beloved wife, Kaikeyi.
Kuni learns that Rama is to be king, so rushes to her mistress’s chambers with this news, but her lady reassures her, saying that everything is in accordance with God’s will. Kuni, however, stubbornly tries to convince Kaikeyi of her fall as an old, forgotten woman. Kaikeyi is depicted as a saintly doer of divine will – she explains to the silly hunchback that “Rama was born to be a ruler.”
“Don’t you know that a man of his position should have five mothers: the one who gave birth to him, the stepmother, the father’s sister, the older brother’s wife, and the guru’s wife – all of them have the same rank of mother (…) I am his mother, just like Kausalya. So you are mistaken for taking me for a fool who does not understand anything.”