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The Rama Epic Characters: Rama

The Hindu deity Rama, approx. 1400-1500. India, Karnataka state, former kingdom of Vijayanagara. Granite and iron. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S53+.

The Hindu deity Rama, approx. 1400-1500. India, Karnataka state, former kingdom of Vijayanagara. Granite and iron. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S53+.

Shadow puppet of Rama, from the Thai version of the Ramayana, 1900-1950. Thailand. Painted perforated leather with wooden handle. Gift of the Randall Museum Friends, 2010.534.

Shadow puppet of Rama, from the Thai version of the Ramayana, 1900-1950. Thailand. Painted perforated leather with wooden handle. Gift of the Randall Museum Friends, 2010.534.

Rama kills the demon warrior Makaraksha in combat, approx. 1790. India; Himachal Pradesh state, former kingdom of Guler. Opaque watercolors on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of Margaret Polak, 1992.95. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

Rama kills the demon warrior Makaraksha in combat, approx. 1790. India; Himachal Pradesh state, former kingdom of Guler. Opaque watercolors on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of Margaret Polak, 1992.95. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

The Hindu deity Rama, approx. 1400-1500. India, Karnataka state, former kingdom of Vijayanagara. Granite and iron. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S53+.
Shadow puppet of Rama, from the Thai version of the Ramayana, 1900-1950. Thailand. Painted perforated leather with wooden handle. Gift of the Randall Museum Friends, 2010.534.
Rama kills the demon warrior Makaraksha in combat, approx. 1790. India; Himachal Pradesh state, former kingdom of Guler. Opaque watercolors on paper. Asian Art Museum, Gift of Margaret Polak, 1992.95. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.

Rama, The Hero

Brave and righteous prince; a god, and incarnation of the god Vishnu

Rama, the main character of the epic, is brave, virtuous, and handsome—an ideal prince, and later king. His rectitude, patience, selflessness, obedience to elders, and determination to uphold the approved social order have made him a model for generations of men in India and beyond.

In addition, Rama is an incarnation of the great god Vishnu, who, when the world is threatened by evil and chaos, descends to set things right. For some Hindus, Rama (often together with Sita) is the Supreme Deity.

HIS STRENGTH:

Rama’s great strength is seen, for example, when he rids a forest of demons, bends a great bow that no one else has even been  able to lift, and kills thousands of attackers single-handed.

his patience and selflessness: Rama’s father intends for Rama to be crown prince and heir to the throne, but his plans  are thwarted by court intrigues. The old king is forced by circumstances to send Rama into a fourteen-year exile and to designate another heir in his place. Rama accepts his father’s decision, and his own fate, without protest.

HIS ADHERANCE TO DUTY: 

Rama is sometimes faced with a conflict between his own wishes and his duty. For instance, when he has conquered the demon-king Ravana and set his wife Sita free from her captivity he does not welcome her back but questions her faithfulness and harshly dismisses her. He does this because his  duty as a ruler requires him to protect  his own reputation and pay attention to uncertainty about Sita’s faithfulness. If  Sita proves her purity (as she does), then  the people will be reassured and he will  be able to accept her back in honor. While Rama is widely revered, some of  his actions, such as his questioning and rejecting Sita, have long caused discomfort and have generated debate up to today.

HIS REIGN:

When Rama eventually becomes king  he establishes a golden age that lasts for thousands of years. Under his divine rule discord, illness, and crime disappear and  the well-being and prosperity of all are assured. Numerous kings in Indian and Southeast Asian history used Rama’s example, his name, and his symbols to  fortify their own rule.

 

 

 

 

 

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