Teachings of Maanas
Raamaayan is not only Itihaas
(history) it teaches us many things --
(1) Relationship between Dharm, Arth, Kaam and Moksh
Human life is consumed in chasing materialism (Artha) and sensual pleasures (Kaam).
Ramayana makes it clear that these two pursuits should never be at the cost of Dharm
(righteousness). In withholding dharma, both Arth and Kaam can be and must be sacrificed.
The ultimate goal of life is Moksh (liberation) and it can be attained only by relinquishing
Arth and Kaam and by strictly following a life of Dharm.
(2) The importance of one man being wedded to only one wife
During Raamaayan period, polygamy was quite prevalent and it was quite an acceptable social norm
for kings to marry many women. Raam's own father Dasharath was wedded to 3 wives (queens) and he
had innumerable concubines at his palace. In a stark contrast to his father, Raam remained wedded
and staunchly loyal to his only wife Seetaa. With this qualification, he held his head high as the
greatest king ever ruled in Bhaarat (India). He set example for future generations of men as to what
constitutes a sterling quality for the respectability of a man in society.
(3) Adherence to truth and the need to honor one's word
When Raam was a young boy, the love and affection his father Dasharath had on him was immense. He
would never like to be separated from his son. But when he had promised to offer whatever help that
the visiting Sage Vishwaamitra asked for and when the sage requested for Raam's help to fight the
demons at the forest, Dasharath was terribly shocked. But still, he agreed to part with Raam, to
honor his promise. Later in time, when his third wife Kaikeyee wanted the throne of Ayodhyaa for her
own son Bharat and wanted Raam to be sent in exile to the forest, it was nothing short of a deathly
blow to Dasharath. But still, he could never use his kingly authority to veto her request, because of
the promise he had made long ago to Kaikeyee, to grant her two boons whenever she chose to ask.
(4) Respecting father's word of honor
Just on the previous night to Raam's crowning ceremony, Kaikeyee made use of her boons not only to deny
Raam his rightful ascend to the kingdom, but also to send him in exile to the forest. Raam, as a Kshatriya
(a person belonging to ruler/ warrior class), had every right to question such an injustice meted out to
him and he was in not really duty-bound to honor his father's unjust promises. But true to his greatness,
Raam, with utter detachment and without even a trace of disappointment reflecting on his face, conceded
to both the demands. For him, "Pitri Vaakya Paripaalanam" (honoring his father's words) was one
of the highest Dharm.
(5) The futility of listening to vicious counseling:
Kaikeyee, an essentially good natured woman, meekly allowed her very loyal maid servant Mantharaa to
brain-wash her into demanding these two atrocious boons from Dasharath. Though she was not enthusiastic
in the beginning, she gradually allowed Mantharaa's venomous words to poison her mind. Did she gain
anything finally by asking these boons? No. She lost her beloved husband Dasharath who died very soon,
because of the shock and the pain of separation from his beloved son Raam. Bharat, Kaikeyee's son, for
whom she obtained the very kingdom, reprimanded her for her atrocious act and he never ever took charge
of the kingdom as a King.
Now see a contrast: Upon hearing the developments, Lakshman, the most beloved brother
of Raam, who was by nature short tempered, like a true Kshatriya, got instantly flared up. He could not
just tolerate the injustice meted out to Raam. He wanted Raam to fight for his rights; he wanted to
proceed and fight with his father and imprison Kaikeyee. But the ever sober Raam, never heeded to his
counsel. He pacified Lakshman with soothing words, pointing out the need for adhering to Dharm. The
effect of Raam's counseling not only pacified Lakshman, but also gave him a steely resolution to relinquish
his own comforts of the palace to accompany Rama to the forest, despite the latter's objections to it.
(6) Not accepting any booty coming in unjust way
Bharat, the son of Kaikeyee, is another sterling character in Ramayana, who just could not tolerate
the very idea of bequeathing the throne that rightfully belong to his elder brother Raam but wrongly
acquired for his sake by his mother. He was full of wrath towards his mother on this issue. He went
to the forest in search of his brother and requested him earnestly to return to the country and take
up its rule. As Raam refused to concede, he took Raam's pair of footwear and carried it on his head;
he placed them on the throne of Ayodhyaa and took care of administration of the country as a
(7) The futility of getting swayed by dubious attractions
Seetaa, in the forest, got madly attracted by a beautiful golden deer. She refused to heed to her
husband's counsel that such a deer could not be a natural one and it could be a demon in disguise.
It is her incessant pestering to acquire the deer to be her play-mate that forced Raam to go behind
it. It paved the way for her getting separated from him and she got forcibly abducted by Raavan, the
(8) The importance of being watchful about one's utterances
When Raam killed the demon Maricha who came disguised as the golden deer, the demon called out
"Lakshman! Seetaa!" in Raam's mimicked voice and died. Seetaa, upon hearing it, urged
Lakshman, who was standing guard to her, to go and help Raam, who seemed to be in trouble.
Lakshman's patient counseling against it could not convince her. In a fit of rage without any
control of her words, she accused Lakshman of nurturing an evil idea of having an illicit relationship
with her in the absence of Rama. Lakshman, shell shocked by hearing such an abominable accusation,
had to leave immediately, leaving her alone. Raavan utilized this opportunity to abduct her. Some
interpreters of Raamaayan would say that Seetaa was forced to prove her chastity by the test of fire
by Raam (after she was freed from the clutches of Raavan) only because of her intemperate and terrible
accusation against the saintly and devout Lakshman.
(9) The importance of fighting atrocity against woman
Jataayu, the aged and once powerful bird, who noticed Raavan abducting Seetaa forcefully and
flying with her in his vehicle towards his country Lankaa, fought valiantly to obstruct Raavan
and release Seetaa, but could not succeed in its effort. The bird sacrificed its very life on
such a noble effort. Before breathing its last, Jataayu managed to convey this news to Raam, who,
moved to tears by the gallantry of the old bird. He did its last rites and funeral, as though he
was not the son of a bird.
(10) Divine love transcends all barriers of caste and creed
The lowly fisherman Guha Nishaad, who was full of devotion to Raam, who helped Raam, Lakshman
and Seetaa to cross the river Ganges in a boat, was accepted as a brother by the King Raam.
Likewise, Shabaree, an old hunter woman of low caste, became a staunch devotee of Raam, just
by hearing about Raam's greatness. When Raam was wandering the forests in search of Seetaa,
Raam happened to visit Shabaree's hut and the old lady, overwhelmed with love for Rama reportedly
offered to him fruits after nibbling each a bit to make sure that she did not offer sour fruits
to her beloved Rama. Raam treated Shabaree as though she was his own mother and showered his grace
(11) The importance of humility as a great virtue
Hanumaan, the minister of the estranged Vaanar King Sugreev was one of the greatest characters of
Raamaayan. Hanumaan was physically very powerful, was a great diplomat, was very erudite in spoken
words and was full of wisdom. Yet his humility was unsurpassed. The moment he met Raam, he was bowled
over by Raam's divinity and charm and he committed himself to be the life-long servant of Raam. The
great feats he did in the service of Raam subsequently were unparalleled and the humility he displayed
despite his greatness was unfathomable.
(12) The greatness of true friendship
Raam befriended the estranged Vaanar King Sugreev (who's brother Baali forcefully took Sugreev's wife
and also denied his share of Vaanar kingdom) with a mutual promise of help - Raam to eliminate the
immensely powerful Baali and Sugreev in turn to help Raam to seek and locate Seetaa and wage war
against Raavana to retrieve Seetaa. Both did a commendable job in honoring their words.
(13) Showing mercy even to the enemy
Raavan's younger brother Vibheeshan was an extremely righteous person who was bold enough to warn
and advice Raavan against his act of immorality in abducting the wife of another person to satisfying
his carnal desires. When the furious Raavan showed the doors to his brother, Vibheeshan came to Raam
and surrendered to Him. Despite reservations from Sugreev and others, Raam accepted Vibheeshan into
his fold. On the first fiery combat between Raam and Raavan, Raam destroyed all the weapons and armor
of Raavan; Raavan stood on the war field, unprotected. Raam, who could have easily killed Raavan at
that moment, in one of the greatest acts of graciousness, asked Raavan to retire for the day and return
to the war field the next day, fully re-armed, as it was against Dharm to kill an un-armed person.
(14) The need for the highest standards in a King
After annihilating Raavan and freeing Seetaa from confinement, Raam did one of the most controversial
and often criticized demand by asking Seetaa to jump into the fire to prove her chastity. Seetaa did
it and came out unscathed. Raam took her into his loving fold once again. But later, when he became
King of Ayodhyaa, he came to know of a washer man talking ill of Raam for having accepted his wife
Seetaa who had stayed in the confinement of his enemy for months. Raam, whose love for Seetaa was
unfathomable, took the most painful decision of relinquishing her, just because he had to maintain
a very high order of personal probity as the ruler of Ayodhyaa.
One can go on discussing any more number of lessons of morality and Dharm by reading Raamaayan in
depth. It is no wonder that Raamaayan as a source book of a wonderful story for the children and
elders alike, as a wondrous piece of literature and as a source book of guidance on righteous
living has stood the tests of time. It continues to inspire millions of people cutting across
religion and linguistic barriers across the globe.