One of the most misunderstood characters in our Indian mythology is Ram. Who is Ram? The eldest and the most dutiful son of Dashrath, who was the heir to the throne of Ayodhya. Due to the evil scheming of his step mother, who wanted the throne for her own son, Ram was sent to the jungle for 14 years. For fourteen years, Ram traversed the jungle along with his wife Sita and his younger brother Lakshman. In this time his wife was abducted by the Rakshasa king Ravan and Ram fought a war with him to get his wife back. Ravan was killed in this battle and his kingdom was handed over to his youngest brother Vibhishan. When ram returned to Ayodhya after 14 years with his wife, his subjects started casting aspersions at Sita’s character as she had been abducted and was at the mercy of king Ravan. Thus after a test of her purity and her character Ram was compelled to leave a pregnant Sita in the forest, even though she was proven to be pure!!!
What I have narrated above is a very short and maybe a biased version of the epic Ramayana as I see it. I believe as a person grows in age, his perception towards a lot of things which have been constants in his life, change. He starts to see things differently.
Ram is perceived to be a god in our country. He is one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. In my own mind, I see Ram as a man who is trying to stand right by whatever his beliefs are. He is called the “Maryada Purushottam”, which literally translates to “the best amongst men who knows his boundaries and respects them”. when I was younger I saw him as a very cruel person who left his wife and couldn’t protect her just because somebody had raised questions about her character. What my young mind failed to see at that point was that Ram was supposed to protect his subjects as a king too. It was one of his supreme dharma’s or sacred duties. If the subjects could not trust him with their beliefs and their insecurities, and in case he was unable to take care of their insecurities, the kingdom that he had left for 14 years, would have become weaker than what it was when he inherited it.
Ram surely could not keep Sita with him due to the social pressure, but he made sure that she was safe and under the care of an ascetic whom he trusted. Unlike the king of those times and Indian gods too, Ram chose to remain faithful to his wife. He never married and never entered into any alliance with any other woman. He even performed a sacred ceremony with a gold statue of his wife kept by his side. Such ceremonies are considered inauspicious if performed without a spouse. Such was his devotion to Sita. Ram was also a very dutiful son. Ram’s stepmother had made his father promise that Ram would go to the forest. He could have refused to go the forest as he was not bound by the promise he father had made, but Ram chose to honour the words of his father as was expected from a future king and a duty bound son.
I have no intentions of portraying Ram as infallible. He had his own flaws. What I do believe is that he had a choice between Ram as a husband and Ram as a king, and he chose to be a king rather than a husband. This choice may not have been a prudent one, but it was what he thought was best at the time. That is what i admire, to make a tough choice and then to stick by it, because it makes sense for greater good.
He might not be one of the most colourful characters of our mythology but he was one of the strongest. He is one of the foremost examples of my belief that the test of true strength is not how much a person can make the other suffer but it lies in enduring and braving the odds to emerge victorious.
From Ram I have learnt that to maintain a position of responsibility one has to sacrifice one’s own wants and attain a level of patience. To inspire the trust of people you want to live with, you have to first repose your trust in them, even if it is to your personal detriment.
Ram teaches us to be multi-dimensional; to develop humility. If only we all could try to adopt even one dimension of his character, the world would be a better place.