The Ramayana: Its Relevance in Modern India and What Our Society Can Learn from It

Pujit Siddhant

Nov 08 2023

<div style=' background:#FFFFFF;color:#000000;font-family:Verdana;width:auto;padding:5px;max-height:100%;'><span><p>Diwali, is celebrated on the 15th day of the Kartik month according to the Hindu calendar. It marks the joyous return of Lord Ram, along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman, to Ayodhya after a 14-year exile. According to the Ramayana, when he returned, Ram was welcomed home with diyas and fireworks which were lighted throughout the kingdom since it was a new moon day in the month of Kartik season and it was dark all around.&nbsp; The Ramayana continues to influence the contemporary Indian society and beyond. Its narrative, characters, and lessons are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>At the heart of the Ramayana stands Sita, the beloved consort of Lord Rama, a symbol often invoked in discussions about the ideal woman. A character that is far from one-dimensional. For many, Sita embodies the quintessential woman - chaste, devoted, and obedient to her husband. She accompanies Rama into exile and endures abduction by the demon king Ravana with unfaltering loyalty.&nbsp;</p><span></div><div style=' background:#FFFFFF;color:#000000;font-family:Verdana;width:auto;padding:5px;max-height:100%;'><span><p class="OutlineElement Ltr SCXW247662314 BCX0" style="margin-bottom: 0px; user-select: text; -webkit-user-drag: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; overflow: visible; cursor: text; clear: both; position: relative; direction: ltr;"><p class="Paragraph SCXW247662314 BCX0" paraid="337281102" paraeid="{9067458e-9bcd-445f-a9d3-79292d41d74a}{101}" style="margin-bottom: 0px; user-select: text; -webkit-user-drag: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent; overflow-wrap: break-word; vertical-align: baseline; font-kerning: none; background-color: transparent;"><span style="font-variant-ligatures: none; white-space-collapse: preserve;">However, Sita's character goes beyond mere devotion. Her story is one of strength, courage, and empowerment. Sita's journey commences with a Swayamvar, an ancient custom where a bride selects her husband. King Janaka, Sita's father, sets an extraordinary challenge - the famous "Haradhanu" (heavy bow) test. To win Sita's hand in marriage, a suitor must lift this colossal bow. The competition symbolizes the search for the most suitable partner, and many princes from various kingdoms compete. This episode illustrates that Sita was not merely an obedient follower but an empowered woman, who had a say in choosing her partner, even if the test was formidable. Sita's marriage to Rama stands as an exemplary union, reinforcing the idea of monogamy over polygamy. It is a demonstration of the one-woman, one-man concept that prevails throughout the epic, shaping societal norms. This commitment to monogamy challenges polygamous tendencies that have crept into society over the ages.</span><span style="color: windowtext; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;, &quot;Times New Roman_EmbeddedFont&quot;, &quot;Times New Roman_MSFontService&quot;, serif; font-size: 14pt; white-space-collapse: preserve; background-color: transparent;">&nbsp;</span><br></p></p><span></div><div style=' background:#FFFFFF;color:#000000;font-family:Verdana;width:auto;padding:5px;max-height:100%;'><span><p>Widow marriage is another crucial facet of the Ramayana, reflecting a progressive society. The tales of queens such as Indumati, mother of King Dasaratha, and Queen Kekayi, the mother of Bharata, choosing their life partners through Svayamvar offer a fresh perspective. Tara, the widow of the monkey king Bali, who later married Sugriva. Mandodari, the main wife of Ravana, was married to Vibhishana after her husband's demise. These narratives break free from conventions and validate a widow's right to remarry, a significant issue in societal discussions. The episode involving the golden deer, which allured Sita's heart and lead to her abduction, shows her human vulnerabilities. Despite this, her love for Rama and her commitment to her principles shine through. While Sita was held captive in Ravana’s Ashoka Vatika (one of the most beautiful gardens ever designed on earth) , Ravana attempted to win her over with riches and luxuries. However, Sita, steadfastly declined these tempting offers. Her heart longed for Rama to rescue her from the clutches of the demon king. One of the most poignant episodes in the Ramayana is her interaction with Hanuman when he arrived in Lanka. Hanuman, eager to facilitate an immediate reunion with Rama, suggested that Sita could ride on his back to escape. However, Sita, demonstrating her incredible strength of character, turned down this offer.&nbsp; Her trust in Rama's ability to rescue her was unwavering. She was determined to regain her freedom with honor and dignity. She chose to patiently await Rama's arrival rather than fleeing from Lanka. Her intention was not to escape like a thief but to be rescued by her beloved husband.&nbsp;</p><span></div><div style=' background:#FFFFFF;color:#000000;font-family:Verdana;width:auto;padding:5px;max-height:100%;'><span><p>The pinnacle of her resilience comes when she undergoes the "Agni Pariksha" (trial by fire) to prove her purity. This act is not submission but a choice made out of her own strength, revealing her remarkable character. The Ramayana also dealt with issues relevant to modern society - separation, divorce, and single parenthood. Sita, in her unofficial role as a single mother, played a pivotal role in raising her children. Her commitment to respect their father, Rama, despite their separation, is a valuable lesson for contemporary society. Sita did not teach her children hate and vengeance, a lesson worth noting in a world where custody battles and parental conflicts often affect children deeply. Her role as a mother, although separated from her husband, was one of strength, love, and balance.&nbsp;</p><p>The Ramayana's relevance in the present age lies in its exploration of complex relationships, the strength of character, and the ability to navigate challenges with grace and dignity. Sita's story, as depicted in the epic, offers a unique perspective on empowerment and women's roles. Society can learn from her journey as it confronts evolving norms and relationships. Through the wisdom of the Ramayana, the celebration of Diwali not only signifies the victory of good over evil but also the triumph of social justice and empowerment. This timeless epic continues to shape and reshape the thinking of an entire culture and inspires individuals to overcome adversity with courage and grace.&nbsp;</p><span></div>

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