The world’s very first epic, Ramayana, is a recollection of the life of Rama, who, as he lived and ruled, went through turmoils that most people on earth would scarce be able to imagine and yet, stayed rooted in Dharma.
Can you imagine being born into a princely family, yet having to live in the forest and fend yourself and your young wife from the dangers therein? Can one imagine having his wife kidnapped and left with no clue on where she might be? Can anybody imagine requiring an army but having none and, therefore, having to seek the friendship and help of another king’s army? Can one imagine having to convince the army to fight the much feared Ravana? Can someone imagine having to go through yet another separation from one’s wife – knowing well that she was carrying your child – just in order to fulfill the duty of the ruler? Can anyone feel the pain one would get when you realise that you almost killed your very own children?
Now, having gone through any one of the above pains, how many would unflinchingly uphold dhaarma?
The questions posed by many: What right did Rama have to send his wife away? Why did he suspect her? Is it not because she was a woman that he treated her like that?
There is nothing overly hidden in analysing Rama’s life. The only thing required would be a perspective from the point of dharma.
Rama as a Boy: At this stage, though a prince, he was aware that he was under the care and guidance of his parents and teachers and took every conscious care possible to fulfill his duties as a son and student and excelled as one. He was responsible solely for his own self.
Rama as a Young Man and Heir Apparent: He was a prince and not coronated yet. His faith in his parents was unflinching. He did not dispute his father’s weak decision to send him away to the forest for fourteen years nor Kaikeyi’s adharmik demand to make Bharata the king. As a prince, was still responsible solely for his own self.
(The alternate would have been to usurp the kingdom and banish King Dasaratha, Queen Kaikeyi and her son Bharata.)
Rama as the Husband:
Rama was unable to dissuade Seeta from accompanying him to the forest. He was aware of the many dangers of the forest which Seeta might not be able to fend herself from and took every precaution to keep her safe. Her well-being was his sole focus during the entire stay in the forest. When she went missing, he was heart-broken and dejected beyond consolation. Only the tranquil Lakshmana could step in and guide him forward into the next stage of action. As the husband, he was responsible for his wife more than anything else.
(The alternate would have been to justify that something of the sort was waiting to happen in the forest. With no spies nor people to support, there was not way to find Seeta.)
Rama as the Warrior: The one who had carried away Seeta was none other than the all-powerful and much feared Ravana. Rama had faced Ravana’s people earlier and was aware of his immense strength. Rama knew that Ravana was a Siva bhakta. He was now in a situation where he, as an individual with personal reasons, was pitted against the enormous Ravana and his magnificent army. It was not two kingdoms at war over some dispute or conquest.
Rama was extremely fortunate to earn the friendship as well as the army support from Sugriva. Even so, he took care to send emissaries of peace to Ravana requesting the return of Seeta in order to avoid war. But when this did not happen, war was declared and by the end of it, much blood had been spilt to get back Seeta.
At this point, it must be told that those who talk against war must stay away from talking about Seeta’s honour in the same breath.
Once Ravana was killed, Rama crowned Ravana’s brother, Vibhishana, king of Lanka. He had stood against Ravana for not returning Seeta to Rama. Vibhishana’s dhaarmik rule gave the land the name ‘Sri Lanka’.
As a warrior, Rama was responsible for the good of the citizens of Lanka and their future more than anything else.
(The prosperous and beautiful kingdom was all Rama’s or Sugriva’s to take over. Yet, this was not how it turned out as Rama stayed with his core purpose of getting Seeta back.
Rama was much aware that Ravana coveted Seeta. Yet, not an inkling of doubt crossed his mind about her chastity of thought and deed. We must point out that even if Ravana had forced himself on her, it is SEETA’S chastity we are talking about.
Some versions talk about Rama asking Seeta to walk through fire to prove herself but many scholars have pointed out that the original Valmiki Ramayana has been corrupted at a later time to suit the social fabric at that time. There are many instances that are in Ramayana which show that women were well respected and were free to pursue fields of their own choice and were not subservient to men.)
Rama as the King: Rama was crowned the king of Ayodhya as Bharata had refused to sit on the throne. Now his primary duty was that of the king. He knew that a king’s family must never take priority over his responsibilities as the king. When the washerman questions her purity, Rama decided to send his expectant wife to live in Valmiki’s asrama!
As a king, he was responsible for the good of his own subjects and their future.
(As an alternate, Rama could have kept Seeta beside him – which was a matter of honour for the king – despite the washerman’s public accusation, but it would tantamount to corruption. The king being he Highest Justice of the land, cannot use law and issue decrees in his own favour and look justified by any account. Just as the king ensures that justice reaches his subjects, he was subjected to their judgement as the king.)
Rama as the Father: At the end of the Aswamedha yagna, Rama came face to face with his yet-to-be-introduced twin sons, Lava and Kusha. He learnt from them that they were his own sons, brought up by Seeta and all the others in Valmiki’s asrama. Seeta had lovingly taught them the story of their wonderful father and they were full of pride for Rama without even recognising him! Seeta could not accompany him but he took his sons with him to take over the kingdom.
(As a king, it was Rama’s duty to ensure that there was an heir to the throne so that the kingdom remained well-ruled and safe. He could have married again to ensure this, but he could accept none other than Seeta as his wife. By divine intervention, he was united with his sons who later took over the kingdom.)
None of Rama’s actions was for his OWN HAPPINESS OF BETTERMENT. As a Son, as a Prince, as a Husband, as a King, as a Father – at none of these junctures did he do even a SINGLE ACT that showed his attachment to people and things and positions for his own SELFISH ends. He set the tone and tenor for Dharma like none other has.