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Fulfilling Dharma in The Ramayana by R. K. Narayan

Fulfilling Dharma in The Ramayana by R. K. Narayan The Ramayana by R. K. Narayan is the abridged modern prose edition of the grand Sanskrit epic written by Valmiki. As one of the greatest narratives ever composed, the original Ramayana tells a tale of adventure, mysticism, love and patriotism in the canvas of the Hindu philosophy. Not withered by time, the epic has maintained its relevance in today’s world. The moral constructs presented in the epic are illustrated through real situations the characters find themselves in.

These situations demand judgmental skills on the characters’ part and more importantly, the power to make choices. The governing force of the epic concerns how the characters make choices at critical junctures in their lives. Generally one of the two choices is the correct one with regard to moral sanctity, and the other is not. Since R. K. Narayan only recreates the original text, he does not seek to introduce any new ideology in his book The Ramayana. The ancient Hindu paragons of Dharma and Karma are interpreted from simplistic viewpoints.

Dharma or the right action at the right moment once again refers back to the principle of choices. Karma, on the other hand, constitutes of the principle of deeds and their aftermaths known as Moksha. This article is going to carefully scrutinize certain situations that are explanatory of how Rama and Sita accomplish their Dharma in The Ramayana. To elaborate furthermore on the ideals of Dharma, it might be noted that this Hindu religious orientation involves a hierarchy of values in terms of right actions.

Karma typically refers to deeds performed in the spirit of love and universal brotherhood in the perpetual cycle of order. However, neither of these two conceptual embodiments is applicable in all situations alike, nor is it held in equally compounding beliefs in the Hindu mythology. (Ramtake, p. xiv) In The Ramayana, R. K. Narayan asserts the unquestionable value of taking right actions or making right choices at pivotal moments. Rest of this article is going to cite three instances where the outcomes could have been different had different decisions been taken.

Temptation of owning a beautiful being from the wilderness proves to be the undoing of Sita. The first situation concerns Sita’s abduction by Mareecha, one of Ravana’s ministers. Assuming the form of a golden deer, Mareecha was loitering just outside the cottage of Rama and Sita. The marvelous appearance of Mareecha instantly drew Sita’s attention and she asked Rama, “There is an animal at our gate with a body of shining gold, and its legs are set with precious stones. It’s a dazzling creature. Please catch it for me” (Narayan, p. 96-97)

It never occurred to her that such a wonder of nature should be left on its own in the wild habitat so that other creatures could appreciate its sparkling beauty and grace. As per the principles of Dharma, at every crossroad we are given two choices, the first one being ethical and the second unethical. It’s our decision regarding which path to follow that makes all the difference in terms of the outcome. Sita did not opt for the moral choice and consequently she had to suffer. The next choice made by Rama was to please his wife by going after the deer.

Sita’s persuasion was preferred to Lakshmana’s words of caution as Rama promises to his wife, “Yes, of course you shall have it. Where is it? ” (Narayan, p. 97) It is obvious from the situation that Rama goes against his contemplative and intelligent disposition to sate his wife. Characteristically he is portrayed by Valmiki as an individual having a well-defined understanding of Dharma and Karma, of good and bad. Yet he got ensnared in the trap laid by Ravana. Again, the ideal of Karma is beautifully illustrated through the choice made by Sita. She wanted to keep the golden deer as her pet.

In other words, she desired to keep it under her authority. As luck would have it, it was Sita who came under captivity. The next pick was the most significant one as far as the unfolding of The Ramayana is concerned. It could have radically altered the outcome of the epic, or to put it differently, there would have been no epic at all. Before leaving the cottage to capture Mareecha, Rama asks Lakshmana’s not to leave Sita alone. After a while when Mareecha impersonates Rama’s voice to draw Lakshmana out of the cottage, Sita became restless in fear of her husband’s safety and pleaded Lakshmana to go and save his brother’s life.

But Lakshmana stuck to reason knowing very well that it was a deliberate ploy by Mareecha. His sagacity was based on logic that did not involve basic human emotion of love and care. He assured a visibly distraught Sita, “No harm can befall Rama. Be assured of it. One who has vanquished all demons in this world will not be harmed by a mere animal, if indeed, as you think, it is an animal. It was an asura, now finished off, and the cry was false and assumed, aimed precisely at you. ” (Narayan, p. 98)

But it failed to calm Sita down and she kept on insisting by emotionally weakening Lakshmana, “Yet you, who were born and bred with him and attached yourself to him through everything—you stand here unmoved and unaffected by his cry for help. If you don’t want to save him, there is nothing more I can do, nor anyone I could turn to for support. The only thing left will be for me to build a fire and throw myself into it. ” (Narayan, p. 99) This act on Sita’s part wages an internal tussle between his duty of looking after Sita and that of assisting his brother.

Lack of judgment and decisive action at the right moment can be attributed as the primal factor that determined the eventual outcome of The Ramayana. Since Sita was involved in all the three situations cited above, the consequences of Karma are best illustrated in Sita’s life. The irony of fate was such that Sita, in order to prove her love for Rama almost went to the extent of emotionally blackmailing Lakshmana, threatening him that she would commit suicide by making a fire and jumping into it should he refuse to comply with her command, had to do the same thing in the end just to prove her loyalty for Rama.

So the thesis question pertaining to how Sita and Rama attained their Dharma is only answerable through critical circumstances in the course of the epic. Reference Narayan, R. K. , & Kampar. (1993). The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic : (suggested by the Tamil Version of Kamban). London: Penguin Classics. Ramtake, S. R. (1998). R. K. Narayan and His Social Perspective. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors.

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