The great epic of India
Like the Odyssey, the Ramayana narrates the adventures of a mythical warrior prince, Rama, who wanders from North India to Ceylon in search of his lost kingdom. Like the Iliad, it describes his battles and adventures to recover a queen, Sita, his very soul.
In parallel with “Mahabarata”, “Ramayana” constitutes one of the two traditional epics of India. The fact that it has been appealing to people for thousands of years, can be undoubtedly attributed to the strong element of adventure. At the heart of the Ramayana is the constant battle of Good versus Evil. Its heroes fight those who have disrespected the dharma, the reflection of divine law upon society. Magic is interestingly interwoven in the narrative, while the cooperation between humans and animals adds a mythical dimension to the epic.
The Ramayana has had an immense impact on the culture in India. It has shaped the values of its society, by passing on the standards of righteousness to next generations. For many centuries it has been an indispensable pillar of education. The characters of the epic are exemplary, heroes of everyday life whose life serves as a model for Indian people. He who in times of crisis bases his action on the model of Rama is sure that he is doing the right thing, and that he will have the general acceptance of his fellow human beings
The “Ramayana” remains to this day an integral part of the Indian tradition. Children are named after its heroes and raised with its stories and tales. Regardless of whether it is staged in its entirety or in fragments, the epic is included in theatrical performances or religious rituals in all places associated with Hinduism: India, Thailand or Indonesia. The ordeals Rama and Sita have to go through are but aspects of the hardship every human being suffers in life.
Historically, the epic refers to the traditions of two ancient powerful peoples: the inhabitants of Ayondhya and those of Mithila in Northern India, where the families of Rama and Sita, respectively , reigned. governed by the families of Rama and Sita, respectively.
Scholars, who accept the fact of their existence in the years between 1,200 and 1,000 B.C., find that the culture in these areas at that time was considerably superior to that in other parts of India.
Nineteenth-century German historians believed that Rama’s victory at the head of an alliance of north and middle Indian armies over the troops of the Raxasha, the inhabitants of present-day Ceylon, illustrated the dominance of the Aryan tribes over the more primitive cultures of southern India.
The mystical analysis of the Ramayana relates to man’s constant struggle against his lower nature and the demonic temptations that disturb his relationship with the forces of the Sacred. Rama conquers the temptations one by one and completes his triumph by defeating Ravana, the demon of the flesh. Thus he regains Sita, his soul, and also conquers the right of kingship over the ancestral kingdom of Ayodhya.
The lyrics of Valmiki, the alleged author of the epic, keep with their great poetic power the balance between the two interpretations, the mystical and the historical, thus keeping the interest of both the viewers who see the Ramayana as an adventure and those who interpret it as a major religious work.