Dashavatara the 10 incarnations of Vishnu – Part VII : Shri Rama Avatar
Rama (राम) is the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, and a king of Ayodhya. Rama is also the protagonist of the Hindu epic Ramayana, which narrates his supremacy. Rama is one of the many popular figures and deities in Hinduism, specifically Vaishnavism and Vaishnava religious scriptures in South and Southeast Asia. Along with Krishna, Rama is considered to be one of the most important avatars of Vishnu. In a few Rama-centric sects, he is considered the Supreme Being, rather than an avatar.
Rama was the eldst son of Kausalya and Dasharatha, king of Ayodhya, Rama is referred to within Hinduism as Maryada Purushottama, literally the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. His wife Sita is considered by Hindus to be an avatar of Lakshmi and the embodiment of perfect womanhood.
Rama’s life and journey is one of adherence to dharma despite harsh tests and obstacles and many pains of life and time. He is pictured as the ideal man and the perfect human. For the sake of his father’s honour, Ram abandons his claim to Ayodhaya’s throne to serve an exile of fourteen years in the forest. His wife Sita and brother Lakshmana decide to join him, and all three spend the fourteen years in exile together. While in exile, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the Rakshasa monarch of Lanka. After a long and arduous search, Rama fights a colossal war against Ravana’s armies. In a war of powerful and magical beings, greatly destructive weaponry and battles, Rama slays Ravana in battle and liberates his wife. Having completed his exile, Rama returns to be crowned king in Ayodhya and eventually becomes emperor, rules with happiness, peace, duty, prosperity and justice a period known as Ram Rajya.
The Ramayana speaks of how the earth goddess Bhudevi, came to the creator-god Brahma begging to be rescued from evil kings who were plundering her resources and destroying life through bloody wars and evil conduct. The deva (gods) also came to Brahma fearful of the rule of Ravana, the ten-headed rakshasa emperor of Lanka. Ravana had overpowered the devas and now ruled the heavens, the earth and the netherworlds. Although a powerful and noble monarch, he was also arrogant, destructive and a patron of evil doers. He had boons that gave him immense strength and was invulnerable to all living and celestial beings, except man and animals.
Brahma, Bhumidevi and the gods worshipped Vishnu, the Preserver, for deliverance from Ravana’s tyrannical rule. Vishnu promised to kill Ravana by incarnating as a man the eldest son of Kosala’s king Dasharatha. Goddess Lakshmi took birth as Sita in order to accompany her consort Vishnu and was found by king Janaka of Mithila while he was ploughing a field. Vishnu’s eternal companion, the Shesha is said to have incarnated as Lakshmana to stay at his Lord’s side on earth. Throughout his life, no one, except a few select sages (among which are included Vasishta, Sharabhanga, Agastya and Vishwamitra) know of his destiny. Rama is continually revered by the many sages he encounters through his life, but only the most learned and exalted know of his true identity. At the end of the war between Rama and Ravana, just as Sita passes her Agni pariskha, Brahma, Indra and the gods, the celestial sages and Shiva appear out of the sky. They affirm Sita’s purity and ask him to end this terrible test. Thanking the avatar for delivering the universe from the grips of evil, they reveal Rama’s divine identity upon the culmination of his mission.
Another legend narrates that Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vishnu, were cursed by the Four Kumaras to be born on earth three lives; Vishnu took avatars each time to free them of their earthy existence. They as born as Ravana and his brother Kumbhakarna, who are both killed by Rama.
Also read: Some facts about Lord Rama
Initial days of Rama:
Sage Vishwamitra takes the two princes, Rama and Lakshmana, to his ashram, as he needs Rama’s help in slaying several Rakshasas that have been harassing him and several other sages living in the area. Rama’s first encounter is with a Rakshasi named Taataka, who is a celestial nymph cursed to take the form of a demoness. Vishwamitra explains that she has polluted much of the habitat where the sages reside and there will not be any contentment until she is destroyed. Rama has some reservations about killing a woman, but since Taataka poses such a big threat to the Rishis and he is expected to follow their word, he fights with Taataka and kills her with an arrow. After her death, the surrounding forest becomes greener and cleaner.
Killing Maricha and Subahu:
Vishwamitra presents Rama with several astras and sastras (divine weapons) that will be of use to him in the future, and Rama masters the knowledge of all the weapons and their uses. Vishwamitra then tells Rama and Lakshmana that soon, he along with some of his disciples, will perform a yagna for seven days and nights that will be of great benefit to the world, and the two princes must keep close watch for the two sons of Taadaka, Mareecha and Subahu, who will try to defile the yagna at all costs. The princes therefore keep a strong vigil for all of the days, and on the seventh day they spot Maricha and Subahu coming with a whole host of Raakshasas ready to pour bones and blood into the fire. Rama points his bow at the two, and with one arrow kills Subahu, and with the other arrow flings Mareecha thousands of miles away into the ocean. Rama deals with the rest of the demons. The yagna is completed successfully.
Sage Vishwamitra then takes the two princes to the Swayamvara a wedding ceremony for Sita. The challenge is to string the bow of Shiva and shoot an arrow from it. This task is considered impossible for any ordinary king or living being, as this is the personal weapon of Shiva, more powerful, holy and of divine creation than conceivable. While attempting to string the bow, Rama breaks it in two. This feat of strength spreads his fame across the worlds and seals his marriage to Sita, celebrated as Vivaha Panchami.
14 years exile:
King Dasaratha announces to Ayodhya that he plans to crown Rama, his eldest child the Yuvaraja (crown prince). While the news is welcomed by everyone in the kingdom, the mind of queen Kaikeyi is poisoned by her wicked maid-servant, Manthara. Kaikeyi, who is initially pleased for Rama, is made to fear for the safety and future of her son Bharata. Fearing that Rama would ignore or possibly victimize his younger brother for the sake of power, Kaikeyi demands that Dasaratha banish Rama to a forest exile for fourteen years, and that Bharata be crowned in Rama’s place.
Rama being Maryada Purshottam, agreed to this and he leaves for 14 years exile. Lakshmana and Sita accompanied him.
Ravana kidnapped Sita:
Many pastimes took place while Lord Rama lived in the forest; however, nothing compared to when the Rakshasa king Ravana kidnapped His dear wife Sita Devi, whom He loved with all His heart. Laksman and Rama looked everywhere for Sita but could not find her. Rama thought of her constantly and His mind was distracted by grief due to her separation. He could not eat and hardly slept.
While searching for Sita, Rama and Laksman saved the life of Sugriva, a great monkey king who was being hunted by his demoniac brother Vali. After that, Lord Rama enlisted Sugriva along with his mighty monkey general Hanuman and all the monkey tribes, in the search for His missing Sita.
With building a bridge over the sea, Rama with his vanaar sena crossed the sea to reach Lanka. There was a fierced battle between Rama and the Demon King Ravana. The brutal battle went on for many days and nights. At one point Rama and Laksman were paralyzed by Ravana’s son Indrajit’s poisonous arrows. Hanuman was dispatched to retrieve a special herb to heal them, but when he flew to the Himalaya Mountains he found that the herbs had hidden themselves from view. Undeterred, Hanuman lifted the whole mountaintop into the sky and carried it to the battlefield. There the herbs were discovered and administered to Rama and Laksman, who recovered miraculously from all their wounds. Shortly thereafter, Ravana himself entered the battle and was defeated by Lord Rama.
Finally Sita Devi was released and great celebrations followed. However, to prove her chastity, Sita Devi entered into fire. Agni Dev, the god of fire himself, carried Sita Devi from within the fire back to Lord Rama, proclaiming to everyone her purity and chastity. Now the fourteen years of exile had ended and they all returned to Ayodyha, where Lord Rama ruled for many, many years.
Rama as per Darwin’s Theory of Evolution: