Review of Ramayana

January 1, 2020

Title: Ramayana

Author: Krishna Dharma

Publisher: Krishna Dharma

Page Count: 488

Genre: Religious & Spiritual Philosophy

Wendy's Rating:

Book Description

Ramayana must rank as one of the most loved and revered books of all time. A part of India’s ancient Vedas, it is a beautiful story of romance and adventure. It recounts the history of Rama, said be an incarnation of the Godhead, and his divine consort Sita. Filled with magic and mysticism, it entrances the reader and stirs deeply moving emotions. At the same time its profound spiritual messages leave one feeling uplifted and enriched. This is a novelisation of the classic. It contains all the essential narrative of the original Sanskrit poem, but written in a contemporary style. Whilst adhering closely to the original, I have tried to make it as readable as possible, using the techniques of character development and dramatisation to draw the reader into the action. By weaving in other spiritual commentaries on this sacred text, I have also tried to offer the reader the benefit of the wisdom of India’s seers and sages. As I am sure you will discover when your read the book, that wisdom is as relevant in today’s stressful world as it was thousands of years ago, when it was first written. It was my love for this wonderful book which prompted me to write my adaptation, and I hope I have been able to share that love with others. Whether you enjoy it simply as a great adventure story, or you enter deeply into its spiritual meaning, you will surely find it an engaging read. All in all, I would say that this is as authentic and complete a version as you are likely to find outside of scholarly translations, but it is a lot easier to read. If you enjoy this, then you might like to try my novelisation of the Mahabharata, the other great Indian epic, which is also available as an e-book.  Krishna Dharma

Plot Summary

The ancient epic Ramayana is a beautiful Sanskrit story of love and sacrifice, courage and duty and the triumph of good over evil. Originally composed by the sage Valmiki around 500BCE to 100BCE, the story is considered one the greatest literary works of ancient India and has subsequently inspired many diverse regional versions throughout India and South Asia in the form of poetic narrative, art, drama and dance.

The tale centres around Rama, the eldest son of Dasarath, King of Ayodhya, and Sita, daughter of King Janaka of Videha, each of whom are an incarnation of Vishnu and Lakshmi respectively. After Rama wins the princess’s hand in marriage, his stepmother, Kaikeyi – under the coercion of her maid – conspires to depose him and claim the throne for her own son, Bharata, Rama’s half brother.

A past boon promised by King Dasarath forces him to carry out his second wife’s wishes by banishing the newlyweds to the Dandaka forest. Laksmana, Rama’s youngest brother, who is completely devoted to him, accompanies the couple. Bharata, appalled and ashamed by his mother’s treachery, goes into the forest to beg his brother to return. Rama refuses and asks that he rule the kingdom in his place until his fourteen-year period of exile is over. Bharata reluctantly promises to do so, without accepting the crown. The years pass peacefully as Rama, Sita and Laksmana adjust to their simple ascetic life in the forest, during which time Sita is abducted by Ravana, the Demon king of Lanka and imprisoned in his palace gardens.

A heartbroken Rama enlists the help of Sugriva, ruler of the Vanaras, a monkey race created by Lord Brahma to help the prince in his quest to find his beloved wife. Eventually she is found by Hanuman, a monkey man bestowed with godlike powers of strength, size and speed, who informs Rama of her whereabouts, returning with a celestial jewel taken from Sita’s hair as proof. With the help of his army of powerful monkeys and bears, Rama builds a bridge across the ocean to attack Lanka. A long and bloody battle follows between Rama’s allies and the Rakshasas, leading to Ravana’s eventual death and Sita’s rescue. 

Before Rama will accept Sita as his wife, he asks that she prove her purity by undergoing an ordeal of fire. Vindicated by the fire God Agni, the couple are joyfully reunited and return to Ayodhya to be crowned King and Queen, inaugurating a golden age of peace and prosperity – for all but Sita. When she falls pregnant a short time later, gossip begins to circulate, raising speculation about her chastity and devotion to Rama regarding her time living with Ravana in Lanka. Though Rama knows she’s innocent, in order to prevent discord amongst his people he decides to send her away to live in Sage Valmiki’s ashram, where she gives birth to twin boys and brings them up alone. When a grief-stricken Rama is finally reunited with his family many years later, Sita, out of love for her husband, chooses to sacrifice her life to ensure his divine reputation remains untarnished and is swallowed by Mother Earth.

My thoughts

Ramayana is an incredibly moving and spiritual story of tragic love and epic adventure. Unfortunately I did find this retelling a bit of a slog to read, mainly because of the verbose, repetitive writing style and slow pacing. In particular, the climactic battle scenes in Lanka seemed to last an eternity. I couldn’t help but empathise with Sita, who suffered a terrible injustice through no fault of her own. Despite everything she endured to prove her virtue and undying love for Rama, who in return went to extreme lengths to rescue her, was ultimately denied the happiness she deserved. I did, however, love the character of Hanuman. For me, he was the real hero of this ancient epic. 

My rating is based solely on this retelling. The story itself I would give 5*

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