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Epic Characters of Ramayana


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SRI RAMA -1

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Sri Rama , an avatar of  Lord Vishnu, was born to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya after the  king performed the Aswamedha and Putrakameshthi yajnas. Rama and his three brothers had all the qualities of kshyatriyas and endeared themselves to one and all in  Ayodhya. Sage Viswamitra once came to the king’s palace and requested for Rama to be sent to protect his yajna from two demons’ interference. Much to the king’s consternation, Rama and Lakshmana left with the sage. The sage initiated Rama into the ‘Bala- Atibala’ mantra. He first tackled Tataki successfully. The sage was so pleased that he initiated Rama into a number of divine weapons. Rama, in turn, initiated  Lakshmana into them. Armed suitably, all the three reached the ashram  where the yajna was to be performed. Everything went off well for  five days but on the sixth day, Rama and Lakshmana  destroyed Mareecha and Subahu as well as many demons who tried to defile the yajna.  The yajna was then completed successfully. In due course, the princes heard the stories of the sage’s parentage and how he came to live in Siddhashrama,  of Ganga, Himavantha, King Sagara and Sage Kapila. They reached Gowthama’s ashrama where Rama relieved the sage’s wife, Ahalya, of the curse she had been under. Moving on from there, they went to Mithila where Rama won Sita’s hand. After their marriage, Lakshamana got married to Urmila, Bharatha to Mandavi and Shatrughna to Shrutakirthi.

SRI RAMA – 2

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After all the four weddings, Rama, his brothers and parents went to Ayodhya. On the way they met Parasurama who acknowledged that Rama was superior to him. Rama’s coronation was stalled as Kaikeyi demanded Dasharatha to send Rama to the forest and anoint Bharatha king of Ayodhya. The king, Kausalya and many others were shocked. In spite of leading a sheltered life, Sita pledged her support to her husband. Lakshmana also joined them and together they left for the forest, reached Chitrakoota and later on they moved to Panchavati. It was here that Ravana cheated Rama and Lakshmana and abducted Sita. Lakshmana and Rama took the help of the vanaras, particularly Hanuman, killed Ravana  and finally  got back Sita.  When challenged, Sita proved to Rama that she was as pure as ever. Everyone then proceeded to Ayodhya and Rama was crowned king. When some people again started doubting Sita’s fidelity, Rama sent her away to the forest. Sita was pregnant then and Valmiki took her under his care. By and by she gave birth to twin boys.  When the sage asked Rama to accept her vouching for her purity as well,  Rama again asked her to prove it to the people of Ayodhya.  Sita prayed to Bhoomidevi who came and took her away. Sri Rama crowned Lava and Kusha kings and as desired by Brahmadeva, went back to his abode by entering the river Sarayu. The object of his incarnation was fulfilled.

SITA

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Sita, Kushadhwaja’s daughter was Vedavathi who did severe tapas to win Vishnu as her husband. As Ravana tried to take her forcibly by her hair, she swore that he had defiled her and that she would be born as a woman just to destroy him. Thus, King Janaka found her  as a baby in a box while ploughing the field. She was called Sita and came to be known as Maithili, Janaki and Vaidehi.  When she grew up, King Janaka announced that he would get her married to the one who would string Shiva’s bow. It was thus that Rama won her hand. Sita remained  an ideal wife  to him, following him to the forest and renouncing everything in the palace. If Anasuya blessed her by giving her a divine string of beads, sages in Agastya’s ashram placed her among the greatest pathivrathas. He troubles started with the arrival of Shoorpanakha. Ravana then abducted her. All through her stay at the Asokavana in Lanka, she refused Ravana’s offer to become his queen and in fact, did not succumb to his threats either. She was thrilled on meeting Hanuman and knowing that Rama and Lakshmana had left no stone unturned in their search for her.  After Ravana was killed by Rama in a mighty battle and she was released , Rama wanted her to prove her fidelity. She prayed to Agnideva and entered the lit pyre. The Fire God then emerged with her  and handed her over to Rama.  In spite of this test, she had to prove her fidelity once more after Rama was crowned king and some people started suspecting her. Rama asked Lakshmana to leave a pregnant Sita in the forest near Sage Valmiki’s hermitage. Sage Valmiki took care of her until she gave birth to twin boys. He then initiated them into education  and when they were grown up, he came to Ayodhya along with Sita, Lava and Kusha.   Again when Sita was asked to prove her purity to the people of Ayodhya, she prayed to Mother Earth to vouchsafe for her. In no time, Mother Earth appeared seated on a divine throne.  She beckoned to Sita to sit on her lap and simply disappeared. Sita led a life of suffering, yet she never complained even once . She remained a faithful and loving wife and truly a queen.

VALMIKI

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Sage Valmiki, who lived on the banks of the Tamasa, was asked by Brahma to compose the Ramayana in the form of slokas. Valmiki was originally  Ratnakara, a dreaded robber. Once Sage Narada advised him to mend his ways and asked him whether the people who were living on the fruits of his robbery would partake of his sinful acts. Ratnakara confidently approached his parents, people, wife and son  only to be told that they were not willing  to make his burden of sins lighter. In disbelief, he gave up robbery and tried to redeem himself by severe tapas, meditating upon Lord Rama’s name.  He did this until he was covered by anthills and the saptharishis, the Devas and Narada appeared before him. Ratnakara attained a new radiant birth after his tapas and came to be know as Valmiki as ‘Valmika’ means ‘mole hill’. Lord Srihari who gave him a number of boons also made three divine bows out of the bamboo grass growing on the mole hill. Valmiki then built an ashram at the foot of the Chitrakoota hill and played host to Rama, Lakshmana and Sita during their sojourn in the forest.  Again, it was the sage who took care of Sita when she was sent to the forest to prove her purity to the people of Ayodhya. He taught the Vedas to Lava and Kusha, took them and Sita back to Ayodhya and vouched for Sita’s fidelity. After handing over the bright boys to their father, Rama, and witnessing Sita being absorbed by Mother Earth, he returned to his ashram.

HANUMAN

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Hanuman was born to Anjana, a vanara woman who was cursed by Brihaspathi for having pestered him to marry her. Hanuman was extremely radiant at birth and as a little baby, had once jumped into the sky to eat up the sun thinking it was a fruit! During a scuffle among Devendra, Rahu and Hanuman, Indra injured the child Hanuman and Vayudeva got angry with him. In retaliation, he took away the child and went into a cave. The world became bereft of air and Brahma had to intervene to ease the situation. He and all the devas took turns to specially bless the child and bestow on him special powers.  Later Hanuman used these powers in his search for Sita and during the great battle at Lanka. The whole of Lanka was petrified by his actions as he went about destroying  Pramadavana and the 80,000-strong army of Ravana. His tail was set on fire and he was paraded through the streets of Lanka but he used this opportunity to observe each and every house and street of Lanka. During the battle when Rama and Lakshmana fell down unconscious, he brought the Sanjeevani mountain which contained  life-saving herbs. Hanuman was a divine messenger as he carried the good news of  Ravana’s death to Sita  as well as to Bharatha and Guha. Earlier he had carried the most comforting message of Rama and Lakshmana’s search for Sita to  her. After the coronation, Sri Rama gave expensive gifts to everyone.  When he gave an exquisite necklace of pearls to Sita,  she looked at him to be told that she could give it to anyone who had made her happy. Very rightly, she gave it to Hanuman. When Sri Rama was ready to go to his heavenly abode after completing the  mission of his incarnation,  he ordered Hanuman and Vibhishana to remain on earth as pillars of his victory and his righteousness.

LAKSHMANA

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Lakshmana was Dasharatha and Sumitra’a son, Rama’s brother and an incarnation of Adisesha, the divine serpent. He mastered the Vedas and other subjects in quick time.  He accompanied Rama when sage Vishwamitra wanted help in the conduct of a yajna which was being troubled by demons. After standing guard  with Rama at the yajna  and helping him kill several demons, he expressed no desire to return home.  After Rama won Sita’s hand, Lakshmana got married to Urmila. When he came to know Kaikeyi’s evil demand, he was furious and was prepared to eliminate all obstacles, even if it meant  killing his father. He gave up everything in order to be with Rama and Sita during their stay in the forest. He protected both of them  as can be seen by the way he chopped off Shoorpanakha’s nose and ears when the latter tried to  attack Sita. After Sita’s abduction, it was Lakshmana who instilled confidence in Rama  whenever he lost it. He was highly duty conscious and expected others to be like him –Sugreeva got crowned as king of Lanka and promised  to help Rama in searching for Sita but forgot about it. Lakshmana was furious and had to be calmed down by Rama. His support to Rama during the battle at Lanka was invaluable. After Rama was crowned, he desired Lakshmana to be the yuvaraja but he insisted that the honour must go to Bharatha. He was heartbroken when Rama asked him to leave Sita at Valmiki’s hermitage because some people had doubted her fidelity. Caught between his duty to his brother and Durvasa, he chose to sacrifice himself. Thus he faced banishment and later entered swarga with his body and soul. It was no wonder that Sage Valmiki expressed that Lakshmana was the outer breath of Sri Rama.

RAVANA

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Ravana was born to Kaikasi and Vishravasa, and  Pulatsya ( son of Prajapathi Brahma) was his grandfather. Kumbhakarna and  Vibhishana were his brothers and Shoorpanakha was his sister. As he was born with ten heads, he was known as Dashagreeva, Dashanana, etc. He went to Gokarna with his brothers and performed such severe penance that Lord Brahma  appeared before him and granted him a boon by virtue of which he would be immune to death at the hands of devas, danavas, yakshas, nagas and garuda. He also got back his nine heads that he had offered to Brahma as well as the power to take any form he liked. Following Sumali’s advice he demanded Lanka back from Kubera and waged war against him too. Later he married Mandodari and due to arrogance, came to be cursed by Nandikeshwara, one of Siva’s followers, saying that his end would come at the hands of monkeys. He received the divine weapons, Shakthi and Chandrahasa .  He misbehaved with Vedavathi who swore that she would take birth again only to destroy him. He fought with many kings  and this brought him to Ayodhya where again  he  fought with King Anaranya of the Ikshwaku dynasty. Before dying,  the king proclaimed that  Sri Rama  of his dynasty would destroy him. Taking up Narada’s challenge, he laid siege on Yamaloka. There was no end to his evil ways as he went about challenging, killing,  fighting and reveling in his victories. It was however left to Sri Rama, Lakshmana and the vanara warriors to bring about Ravana’s end as well as the end of many other rakshasas.

DASHARATHA

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Dasharatha , Ajamaharaja and Indumathi’s son, was better known as Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi’s husband and Sri Rama’s father, the king of Ayodhya. He ruled for 60,000 years, was a courageous kshatriya and had mastered the Vedas and other branches of knowledge. His rule had a spiritual base and he was advised by sage Vashista and sage Vamadeva.  As he had no children, he performed two yajnas after which his three queens gave birth to Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Shatrughna. Reminding him of the two boons that were due to her from the king, Kaikeyi demanded that her son be made the king of Ayodhya against the popular choice of Rama. Later, when Viswamitra asked him to send Rama to help him in the conduct of a yajna, he was hesitant and even scared because it involved his young son. He was in constant turmoil after he was forced to keep his word to Kaikeyi. He could not tolerate life after the departure of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita to the forest  and hence passed away. When Rama killed the wicked Ravana, Dasharatha appeared in the sky and blessed Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. He was a rajarshi who was endowed with good qualities. However, he suffered because of his  small weakness, that is,  sometimes doing things without thinking .

VIBHISHANA

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 Vibhishana was Ravana’s youngest brother, endowed with great learning and very unlike his brothers and sister. In spite of being born in the rakshasa clan , he stood by dharma and Brahma  granted him  immortality and the ability to wield the brahmastra.  He married Shaileesha’s daughter Sarama. Observing that Ravana’s evil ways were only growing, he tried his best to put some sense into him. Being a clever statesman, he warded off Ravana’s attempt to kill Hanuman who had come as Rama’s messenger. Later when Hanuman went about burning Lanka, it was Sita and Vibhishana who remained unhurt. Vibhishana again requested Ravana to return Sita to SriRama and make peace with him. When nothing could change Ravana’s mind, he gave up everything including his wife and children and left Lanka. He pledged himself in support of Sri Rama. Everyone in Rama’s army doubted his intentions but it was Hanuman who rightly advised Rama to take in Vibhishana as he believed that his  intentions were genuine. He helped Rama with constructive suggestions, gave him timely advice and warning, and was able to recognize Ravana’s spies who had mingled with the vanaras.  He invited Indrajit’s wrath when the latter saw him guiding Lakshmana. In the end, when Ravana lay dead on the battlefield, Vibhishana was overcome with grief. He was torn between his duty in performing his brother’s last rites and denying it on the grounds that Ravana had indulged in sinful acts.  It was Rama who convinced him to go ahead with it in order to send his brother to heaven. Sri Rama then asked Lakshmana to crown Vibhishana king of Lanka.

VALI- SUGREEVA

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Vali and Sugreeva were born to a vanara maiden as a boon from Indra and Suryadeva respectively. Vali was crowned the king of Kishkinda. As a result of a number of boons he became invincible. When Ravana challenged his might, he simply carried the demon under his arm and smashed  him down thus humiliating him. Ravana had to bow down to him and seek his friendship. There ensued a battle between Vali and  Dundhubi, who came in the form of a wild buffalo. Vali destroyed him completely and hurled him in the sky. In doing so, the blood from the dying animal defiled Sage Matanga’s ashram due to which the sage cursed Vali and the vanaras saying that whoever came near his ashram would fall down dead. Mayavi, Dundubhi’s brother,  retreated into a cave after challenging Vali. Vali followed him in leaving Sugreeva guarding the mouth of the cave . Poor Sugreeva who had been sworn not to enter the cave stood guard for more than a year after which he heard the loud scream of the rakshasa and then saw blood streaming out. Thinking that Vali had been killed, he shut the mouth of the cave with a boulder  with the intention of preventing further damage at the hands of the  demon. However, Vali returned , accused Sugreeva of usurping his place by deceit and banished him from Kishkinda.  Sugreeva later on forged friendship with Rama and Lakshmana, killed Vali and helped Rama get back Sita after commanding an army himself at the  battle of Lanka. On his deathbed, Vali heard Rama speak about dharma and made peace with Sugreeva. He asked him to take over the responsibility of the kingdom, his son Angada and his wife Tara.  Sugreeva repented for bringing about his brother’s end, performed his last rites and helped him reach heaven. When Rama decided that it was time for him to get back to vaikunta, the purpose of his incarnation being over, Sugreeva was among  those who accompanied him.

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