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Divinity of Rama in Ramayana

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Divinity of Rama in Ramayana

The Ramayana is as old and mysterious a poem just as the controversial divinity of Rama, the protagonist. The question of whether Rama is a divine being or just a ‘written-about' here has been lingering in the minds of many scholars, especially Western Scholars, for so long a time and still remains satisfactorily answered. Many attempts have gone into critically examining the Ramayana, the first and without any doubt most important Indian poem. Many scholars have marshaled a host of interpretation on interpolations that to some extent explain the doubts that Rama's divinity was not part of the original poem but rather later additions.

Using Homeric analysis some scholars posit that a given passage can be dropped or added to an original piece of art in this case the Ramayana.Therefore the sections of the Ramayana presenting Rama as a divine here were later interpolations. They support the view that Rama is a divine incarnation was not an original part of the poem but a later addition. It is argued that the deification of Rama is was a slow process of euhumerisation whereby a “Semi-hero” of past historic and heroic scene reincarnates through and local divinity into a demigod status, only later on to achieve deity[1]. On the contrary, however, Rama is presented as a ‘thorough human'. This is the opinion held by Western scholars. The reason is that about a quarter of vulgate did not form the original “valmiki” poem from which all our versions come[2].

The divinity of Rama is to be addressed from the higher ‘criticism' because even so, arguments that challenge his divinity have been fronted party because of the enormity of doubt. For example books II - VI according to Ruben, a Western scholar, were all later insertions to the original work. On the contrary Rama is assumed to be reincarnation of Vishnu, through a heroic epic. However, some scholars argue that Rama's divinity is not to be judged with accordance to the later additions to the Ramayana but be judged from the entire perspective of Ramayana[3].

Rama's interview with his dead father ‘Dasaratha' is a divine capacity. Rama, ‘the heart of the gods, and their deepest secret' is presented as divine being or so. Because, how then can he talk to his dead father as if the dead father was still alive, and wishes him well and ‘a long life'. This is more than just human. It's the logic of divinity meaning the human embodiment of divinity. Rama was a great ruler, with the features expected of a husband. Indian traditions and culture view the easy accommodation of a ‘divine being' into an ‘ideal human'. If Rama was an ideal man as postulated, it was only possible he became the ‘divine savior'.[4]

From books II - VI, Rama is presented as a hero who challenges evil. A human figure to defeat superhuman adversity probably, Rama has the divine power to be able to do just that[5]. From such happenings the Ramayana is laden with the mystery of Rama's nature. It makes no logic that Rama; a human being can destroy Ravana supers natural being because indeed the two cannot be linked, not unless there is a divine force to bond the two diversities.There are some explicit statements from Ramayana that present Rama's as a King with more than human powers. Surpanakha for example presents Rama to her brother Khara as “the image of the king of gandharras[6]. Sita refers to Rama as having divine powers. It becomes evidently clear that Rama indeed has divine powers and is not only a human King figure but rather a godly one too. There are direct statements from Ramayana that express the superhuman nature of Rama. He receives those words from Laksmana in the third book when Rama was getting ready to destroy the Worlds in a fit of rage over the demise of site[7].

The Ramayana narrative excludes gods and categorically so, similarly, it debars men implicitly just like the Greek epic of Achilles. In both, we encounter the ‘heroic paradox'. Just as Achilles superhuman character in the epithelia cited above, Rama qualifies to the same caliber of socio-religious stature of divine beings. And reaching the Ramayana, it enables us to transform it to the mythic level of struggle between divinity and humanity, evil and good. So then, transforming the character of the antagonist to envision the ability of the hero to engage formidable and vast unearthly powers of the foe is true of Rama.[8] In the Indian cultural history, evil is not presented a psychosocial problem of human life but is rather presented as a mythic problem. Note that the demonic issue does not constitute itself as plainly a human issue and cannot be devised in human terms because the human expresses itself only as in opposition to demonic. And the struggle against demonic evil is as such lying wholly beyond the sphere of human participation[9]. Evil is terrestrial, and in this universe, the extermination of evil is only divine. Rama was banished and excluded from taking kingship. However, according to Ayodhyakanda, Bharadvaja, a prophet tells Bharata that he should not fault Kaikayi because Rama's banishment will turn out to be a great blessing (Pollock 512).

Previously Bharata had refused to consent to Rama's wishes to become king. The destructions following the death of the king of Ayodhya forced all seers into a committee that spoke to Bharata about the destruction of Ravana. The Ramayana clearly spells out the rather superhuman nature of Rama; both in its original form and even with the added chapters to it. The entire narration is bent on giving Rama a divine appearance. Rama is documented to have seen the wise lad himself, the lord of gods, his body luminous of fire or the sun. Rama witnessed this apparition on his way to the ashram of the sage of Sarabhanga[10].

This passage where Rama sees the lord of the gods can be adequately defended from the conventional interpretation. At the defeat of Ravana, Rama's father appears and the conversation that ensued proves further that Rama was supreme among men. The excerpt vividly portrays Rama as a human -semi-god with the ability to combat evil even for the other gods. In the Ramayana, the boon's particulars were that Ravana would not be destroyed or slain by anything be it gods, danavas, gandharvas pisacas birds or even serpents. Ravana though is greedy and wanted the ultimate power of immortality, Ravana's destruction by Rama as such was a work of the gods to avenge the abusive character of Ravana. The connection between the gods and Rama is imminent enough to account for Rama's divinity[11].

Looking back at the birth of Rama, in the Balakanda, it comes near to explaining and declaring Rama's birth plus that of his three brothers as borne by divine intervention; their births as incarnations of Vishnu. This part of the Balakanda is nearer to the older pattern than the second part of Uttarakanda, where the prevailing attitude is that Rama is divine. However later on, the attitude of dedication and complete self-surrender to Rama re-establishes Rama as an incarnation of Vishnu. However, the lack of the term Avatara is less surprising in the general sense of which it can be used to describe the four brothers as ‘embodied Avataras' as it were of dharma, Artha and Kama together with Moksa. Probably the growth of the story's popularly influenced religious convictions to all because, as early as the Uttarakanda Rama's story was widespread, wide enough to evoke a religious following[12].

Maybe to point out a little behind the mind thought could Rama's following have a cultish aspect? Maybe later on one can cite the incident where the crow that tormented Sita takes refuge in Rama, himself, from his arrow. This incident though later on accommodated as usual points at the inclinations towards divinity of Rama. The Ramayana does not give evidence of the existence cult before the 12th century. However, there should be no denying that one could have been there. The question of why the crow rested with Rama poses a question of whether righteous inclination is an all time right or a compromised right. But rather emphasizing Rama's righteousness, one would follow the network of Rama's following and its amazing how divine Rama is conceived to have been. Rama is readily tolerable in the Buddhist tradition, as a Bodhisattva. In Jainism Rama is accepted as one of the greatest figures[13].

It is true that the popularity of Ramayana precipitates the widespread controversy on the divinity of Rama in the story and the controversy on whether his divinity is an inclusion in the poem. Despite the opposing western perspectives Rama is understood widely as one who is righteous, dharmajua, and grateful, truthful and resolute. There are indications from his virtues, which point to the fact that Rama was more than human. The attributes of Rama to challenge evil complete the Ramayana story so that it points at the essence of the divinity of Rama from the onset. Therefore Rama is divine and his divinity is not an inclusion in the Ramayana.

Work cited

Brockington, Joseph. Righteous Rama: the evolution of an epic, London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1985

Datta, Amaresh. The Encyclopedia of Indian Literature (Volume One (A To Devo), New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 2006

Pollock, Sheldon. The divine king in the Indian epic. Journal of the American oriental society. Vol.104 (3) 1984; 505-528

Sharma, Ramashraya. Socio-Political Study of the Valmiki Ramayana, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi: Banarsidass Publishers, 1986

[1] Brockington 214

[2] Pollock 516

[3] Datta 83

[4] Pollock 519

[5] Datta 80

[6] Brockington 198

[7] Brockington 317

[8] Pollock 509

[9] Brockington 200

[10] Brockington 310

[11] Sharma 185

[12] Sharma 190

[13] Sharma 192


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