Ram is the protagonist in the Indian epic Ramayan. The seventh incarnation of Vishnu walked the earth not just with the objective of saving the world but also setting an example of righteousness. This Ram Navmi (the festival celebrating the birth of Ram), here are but eight of the many things that Ram’s story leaves us as lessons for life:
1. High expectations from day one:
Ram was born to King Dashrath of the Raghu clan, the rulers of Ayodhya. The clan had a glorious history owing to virtuous kings, their victories and prosperity of the kingdom under able leadership. The Raghus were also known far and wide for honouring their promises at all costs. Being the eldest of four siblings, Ram had to carry forward the heritage and strengthen the reputation of his clan. Not just that, he also at all times had to set an example for this younger brothers.
2. Father’s word is a command:
Ram spent his childhood under the tutelage of Sage Vashisitha who trained him on everything a prince should know. A young Ram returned home with the knowledge of martial arts, administration and the scriptures and was seen by the citizens of Ayodhya as their future king. One day, Sage Vishwamitra asked Dashrath to allow Ram accompany him to his hermitage in the forest to slay demons. Dashrath, though not very comfortable with the idea, let a young Ram go with the sage, instructing him to do whatever the sage asks for. Ram served the sage with utmost dedication, accomplishing all tasks set out for him. While serving the sage, Ram learnt the use of divine weapons from the sage.
3. Soft spoken words conquer all anger:
Sage Vishwamitra led Ram to the Mithila, the land ruled by King Janak. Sita, Janak’s daughter was to marry the man capable of lifting and stringing Lord Shiva’s bow Pinaka. Janak decided so, knowing no ordinary man would be able to move the might bow. He obviously wanted a man of extraordinary power to be Sita’s husband. When all the gathered princes and kings tried and failed, on insistence of Vishwamitra, Ram lifted the bow effortlessly, leaving Janak’s court spellbound. While Ram tried the string the bow, it broke into pieces, creating a loud noise. Hearing the sound, Sage Parshuram, the wielder of the axe and known for his anger, reached the scene. Enraged, he swore to kill the one who broke the bow. As he threatened the court, Ram came forward, paid his respects and submitted himself to Parshuram. Ram told Parshuram that he is ready for any punishment the sage deems fit for him. Soft words had a great affect. Parshuram’s anger subsided. He gifted Ram with his powerful bow and left the court. Ram married Sita, sought blessings of the court and left for Ayodhya.
4. A word is a word, even if it’s not your own:
Ram was about to be crowned as the king of Ayodhya when Kaikai, Ram’s step mother redeemed her boons granted by Dashrath. Kaikai wanted her son Bharat to be the king as her first wish and a fourteen year exile for Ram as her second wish. Devastated seeing the cruelty dealt towards Ram, Dashrath fulfilled both of Kaikai’s wishes with a heavy heart. He himself couldn’t go back on his words. After all, the reputation of the clan was at stake. Dashrath asked Ram to forego the throne and leave Ayodhya for fourteen years. Ram happily fulfilled his father’s wishes, knowing his father was bound by a promise. Ram also did not carry any grudge against Kaikai for orchestrating the events and did not forget to seek her blessings before he left for the forest.
5. Life has its ups and downs, even if you’re a prince:
Ram knew life in the forest wouldn’t be easy and insisted Sita to stay back in Ayodhya and serve his parents while he was away. Sita couldn’t leave Ram alone and joined him. Lakshman, Ram’s devout brother too joined him and the trio set out for the forests. With all luxuries left behind, Ram happily adapted to the life of the forest sleeping on dry grass, eating berries and walking barefoot. Ram spent his years meditating and seeking blessings of sages as he wandered forests. The most difficult time in exile was when Ravan, the kingpin demon abducts Sita, leaving Ram and Lakshman searching for her in the forest.
6. Friendships go beyond status:
Ram’s had the best of friends in a boatman, an ape and a demon – Kevat, Sugreev and Vibhishan respectively. Kevat helped Ram cross the Ganges when heading to the forest. Sugreev and his army of apes help Ram find Sita, cross the might ocean and defeat Ravan. Vibhishan extends all help to Ram in the siege of Lanka – Ravan’s kingdom. Being a prince himself, Ram never let his overpowering status stand between him and his less celebrated friends.
7. Ethics in war, humility in victory:
The war between Ram & Ravan was fierce as expected. In their first duel itself, Ravan insulted Ram, calling him a hermit and a pauper. Ram chose to reply with his arrows and humbled Ravan. Ram could have killed an unarmed Ravan but did not do so. Instead, he asked Ravan to go back to his palace, rest and be back on the battlefield with new weapons. Ravan had not tasted defeat before and Ram’s humility worked as salt on his wounds. Later when Ravan gets killed and Ram emerges victorious*, he does not celebrate or take over Ravan’s kingdom or men. He appoints Vibhishan the king of Lanka and moves on to Ayodhya with his wife and brother.
8. Responsibilities as a leader are above everything else, including self:
On his return to Ayodhya, having stood the test of time, Ram finally took over as the king. Ayodhya celebrated his return by lighting lamps**. The kingdom prospered under Ram’s leadership and the citizens were happy. Ram’s rule was notable for justice, righteousness and virtue. But Ram’s happiness was short lived as the people of Ayodhya questioned Sita’s chastity while she lived in Ravan’s Lanka for months before Ram rescued her. To ensure there is peace and harmony among his citizens, Ram sent Sita into exile, living the rest of his life in solitude. For Ram, his responsibilities as king were far important than his responsibilities as a husband. And peace and prosperity of his subjects was far more important than his own marital happiness.
The story of Ram tells us it’s difficult being Ram in our times! If not all, there are of course a few things we can take from Ram, as lessons for life!
* Ram’s victory over Ravan is celebrated as Vijay Dhashmi or Dusshera; **Ram’s return to Ayodhya is celebrated as Diwali – the festival of lights.