kiskiKAHANI (the Ramayana Project)

300 Ramayanas and Counting . . .
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Dharmic dilemmas in the Ramayana

Posted on by Imran

John Stavrellis talks about the idea of dharma in the Ramayana. The ideal figures of Rama and Sita are focal points of dharma in the storyline of the Ramayana.  In the actions they take, as well as in their interactions with others throughout the epic, a surprisingly forthright, warts-and-all representation of dharma emerges, as characters agonize over it, struggle to uphold it, call it into doubt, use it to bargain, or make a farce of it.  One of the qualities which shows Rama and Sita to be ideal figures as man and woman is their ability to arrive at the best possible answers to the dharmic puzzles they face in situations of adversity.  However, even they do not always get it right.  Sometimes, they require each other’s help, or the help of the indefatigable Lakshmana.  At other times, however, errors are made with disastrous consequences.  As we will see, even the following of dharma itself, when overly rigid, can have baneful side effects.  In this way, through the figures of Rama and Sita, readers of the Ramayana catch a glimpse of the fraught relationship between dharma, fate, the gods, and human action. Rama often has to weigh various categories of dharma against each other in solving ethical dilemmas.  The dharma of a son, a husband, and a Kshatriya must be brought into line with a more expansive and encompassing “eternal dharma” which is at once more fundamental but nevertheless presents … Continue reading

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