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The Role of Dharma in R.k. Narayan’s Ramayana

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The Ramayana is a significant text found in the Hindu religion, which presents Rama as an ideal human being. Rama’s journey through life is used as a model for how to live. According to R. K. Narayan’s version of The Ramayana, humans should fulfill their dharma, and encourage others to do the same. Following one’s dharma will show humans what they should do, what they should avoid doing, and how they should respond to adverse situations they encounter in life.

R. K. Narayan’s The Ramayana, details several accounts of Rama following his dharma and living a good life because of it. Rama first fulfills his role as a good son when he obeys his father’s command of traveling with, and protecting, Sage Viswamithra. His obedience is rewarded when his true power is awakened on their journey. This takes place in chapter 1. He later fulfills his role as a good son again, when he honors his father’s word and leaves Ayodhya to live in the forests for 14 years. His father begged Rama not to leave, but Rama’s stepmother, Kaikeyi, reminded him “It is your duty to help your father fulfill his promise. Otherwise he will be damning himself in this and other worlds. You owe him a duty as his son”. After hearing this, Rama kept his father’s word and left immediately to live in the forests with his wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshmana. This episode was detailed in chapter 3. By leaving Ayodhya, Rama was able to learn from the saints and eventually rid the world of evil forces.

Rama fulfilled not only his role as a good son, but also his role of a good husband. One example of Rama fulfilling his role as a good husband was depicted in chapter 7 of R. K. Narayan’s The Ramayana, when Sugreeva asked Rama to join him in the capital. Rama replied, “I have lost my wife; and I should not be said to be enjoying the luxuries of a palace, when perhaps she is undergoing untold suffering somewhere”. Rama did not stop trying to save his wife, Sita, until he accomplished his goal and rescued her from Ravana in chapter 12.

As one should honor their dharma, one must also be careful to not violate any part of their dharma. Some characters in R. K. Narayan’s The Ramayana that violated their dharma are Soorpanaka and Ravana. Soorpanaka violated her dharma of sister to Ravana when she deceived him and manipulated him into taking Sita so that she could have access to Rama’s affection in chapter 5. Although her brother did steal Sita away, Soorpanaka did not win the favor of Rama and only accomplished in pushing Ravana to violate his own dharma. Ravana violated his dharma of faithful husband when he stole Sita, a married woman, and ignored his own wife in chapter 5. By taking Sita and refusing to return her to Rama, Ravana brought about his own destruction, which came to pass in chapter 12.

As characters violated their dharma in R. K. Narayan’s The Ramayana, Rama was faced with many adverse situations. When faced with these challenges, Rama was humble and fulfilled his dharma to the best of his ability. Rama helped others, remained faithful and loyal, was forgiving, and did not harm others unless he had no other choice. When the relative of his enemy, Vibishana, sought asylum with him in chapter 10, Rama said, “Whatever may happen later, it is our first duty to protect”. When Rama welcomed Vibishana, he helped Rama win the battle against Ravana by disclosing to Rama information about Ravana’s troops and weapons. When Rama won the battle against Ravana, he was able to rescue his wife, Sita.

In conclusion, according to R. K. Narayan’s The Ramayana, Rama followed his dharma and lived an ideal life. Consequently, one can assume that following dharma is the only way for humans to also live an ideal life.

References

  • Narayan, R. K. Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic. Penguin, 2006.

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