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Ramayana, Epic of Rama, Prince of India

An Abbreviated Translation of the Indian Classic, the Ramayana by Romesh Chundar Dutt in 2,000 verses

Epilogue by the

Epilogue by the Translator - 166 together. And these descriptions, essentially of Hindu life, are yet so true to nature that they apply to all races and nations. There is something indescribably touching and tender in the description of the love of Rama for his subjects and the loyalty of his people towards Rama, – that loyalty which has ever been a part of the Hindu character in every age – “As a father to his children to his loving men he came, Blessed our homes and maids and matrons till our infants lisped his name, For our humble woes and troubles Rama hath the ready tear, To our humble tales of suffering Rama lends his willing ear!” Deeper than this was Rama’s duty towards his father and his father’s fondness for Rama; and the portion of the Epic which narrates the dark scheme by which the prince was at last torn from the heart and home of his dying father is one of the most powerful and pathetic passages in Indian literature. The step-mother of Rama, won by the virtues and the kindliness of the prince, regards his proposed coronation with pride and pleasure, but her old nurse creeps into her confidence like a creeping serpent, and envenoms her heart with the poison of her own wickedness. She arouses the [186] slumbering jealousy of a woman and awakens the alarms of a mother, till – “Like a slow deadly poison worked the ancient nurse’s tears, And a wife’s undying impulse mingled with a mother’s fears!” The nurse’s dark insinuations work on the mind of the queen till she becomes a desperate woman, resolved to maintain her own influence on her husband, and to see her own son on the throne. The determination of the young queen tells with terrible effect on the weakness and vacillation of the feeble old monarch, and Rama is banished at last. And the scene closes with a pathetic story in which the monarch recounts his misdeed of past years, accepts his present suffering as the fruit of that misdeed, and dies in agony for his banished son. The inner workings of the human heart and of human motives, the dark intrigue of a scheming dependant, the awakening jealousy and alarm of a wife and a mother, the determination of a woman and an imperious queen, and the feebleness and despair and death of a fond old father and husband, have never been more vividly described. Shakespeare himself has not depicted the workings of stormy passions in the human heart more graphically or more vividly, with greater truth or with more terrible power. It is truth and power in the depicting of such scenes, and not in the delineation of warriors and warlike incidents, that the Ramayana excels, It is in the delineation of domestic incidents, domestic affections and domestic jealousies, which are appreciated by the prince and the peasant alike, that the Ramayana bases its appeal to the hearts of the million in India. And beyond all this, the

Epilogue by the Translator - 167 righteous devotion of Rama, and the faithfulness and womanly love of Sita, run like two threads of gold through the whole fabric of the Epic, and ennoble and sanctify the work in the eyes of Hindus. Rama and Sita are the Hindu ideals of a Perfect Man and a Perfect Woman; their truth under trials and temptations, their endurance under privations, and their devotion to duty under all vicissitudes of fortune, form the Hindu ideal of a Perfect Life. [187] In this respect the Ramayana gives us a true picture of Hindu faith and righteous life as Dante’s “Divine Comedy” gives us a picture of the faith and belief of the Middle Ages in Europe. Our own ideals in the present day may not be the ideals of the tenth century before Christ or the fourteenth century after Christ; but mankind will not willingly let die those great creation, of the past which shadow forth the ideals and beliefs of interesting periods in the progress of human civilisation. Sorrow and suffering, trial and endurance, are a part of the Hindu ideal of a Perfect Life of righteousness. Rama suffers for fourteen years in exile, and is chastened by privations and misfortunes, before he ascends the throne of his father. In a humble way this course of training was passed through by every pious Hindu of the ancient times. Every Aryan boy in India was taken away from his parents at an early age, and lived the hard life of an anchorite under his teacher for twelve or twenty-four or thirty-six years, before he entered the married life and settled down as a householder. Every Aryan boy assumed the rough garment and the staff and girdle of a student, lived as a mendicant and begged his food from door to door, attended on his preceptor as a menial, and thus trained himself in endurance and suffering as well as in the traditional learning of the age, before he became a householder. The pious Hindu saw in Rama’s life the ideal of a true Hindu life, the success and the triumph which follow upon endurance and faith and devotion to duty. It is the truth and endurance of Rama under sufferings and privations which impart the deepest lessons to the Hindu character, and is the highest ideal of a Hindu righteous life. The ancient ideal may seem to us far-fetched in these days, but we can never fully comprehend the great moral Epic of the Hindus unless we endeavour to study fully and clearly its relations to old Hindu ideas and old Hindu life. And if trial and endurance are a part of a Hindu’s ideal of a man’s life, devotion and self-abnegation are still more essentially a part of his ideal of a woman’s life. Sita holds a place in the hearts of women in India which no other creation of a poet’s imagination holds among any other nation on earth. There is not a Hindu [188] woman whose earliest and tenderest recollections do not cling round the story of Sita’s sufferings and Sita’s faithfulness, told in the nursery, taught in the family circle, remembered and cherished through life. Sita’s adventures in a desolate forest and in a hostile prison only represent in an exaggerated form the humbler trials of a woman’s life; and Sita’s endurance and faithfulness teach her devotion to duty in all trials and troubles of life, “For,” said Sita: –

Mahabharata, Epic of the Bharatas