Ramayana Creates The Perfect
If the Mahabharata seems to be about normal flawed human beings with
their insecurities and jealousies, the Ramayana is about Utopian ideals
and lofty principles. Ramayana creates the perfect: the virtuous elder
brother, the obedient, ever-devoted younger brothers and the
self-sacrificing, ever-loving wife. All those who appear to be flawed in
some way like Dhashratha, the father of lord Rama, Keikeyi, the
step-mother, and above all Ravana the villain seem to have been
put in the story only as examples of how-not-to-be and to enhance the
goodness of the principle characters.
The Legendary Tale
The central plot of the Ramayana is quite simple. The king of Ayodhya,
Dhashratha's heir apparent is Rama, the righteous man, respectful son,
brave warrior, loving brother and doting husband. His brothers, Bharata,
Lakshmana and Shatrughana, were from the various other queens of the
king. The king's favorite consort is Keikeyi, Bharat's mother.
Things begin to swiftly fall from ideal when Keikeyi is instigated by
her lady-in-waiting to ask Dhashratha to make her son Bharata the
heir-apparent instead. She convinces the king to send Rama to
vanvaas (exile) for 14 years. The king tries to reason with her
to no avail and in the end has to give in.
Rama, being the model son, obeys his father's wish without question.
However, Sita being the ideal wife and Lakshmana, being the ideal
younger brother, insist on following Rama to exile. When they are gone,
Bharata returns home to find his brother gone and when he comes to know
of what has gone on behind his back, he chastises his mother and refuses
to accept the kingdom. He insists on following his brother to exile too
and living in ascetic conditions. Then Lord Rama himself has to step in
and talk him out of this for someone has to rule the kingdom.
Bharata then agrees to rule on his brother behalf.
In the forests, Rama and his entourage go through several interesting
experiences and insights. Disaster strikes as late as their last year in
exile. In the shape of Ravana. Actually Ravana pretty much leaves them
to their devices, until Shurpanakha his sister gets enamored by Rama.
She tries to seduce him; however Rama rejects her and indeed gets so
impatient doing this that he cuts off her nose.
Stung by this, Ravana decides to take revenge and abducts Sita. Now
starts the trouble.
Rama, of course, decides to get his wife back. He organizes a force and
attacks the capital of Ravana, called the golden Lanka. Ravana is talked
about as a brave, powerful and very wise king whose only flaw was
vanity, which of course does him in, in the end. In the fierce war which
ensues, Ravana is defeated and killed, along with his brothers and son.
Sita returns to the fold. and then they all come back happily to
Ayodhya, where Rama takes over as king again.
Good Always Wins Over Evil
By the way, the festival of Diwali
celebrates the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya.