For over two thousand years, Ramayana has been deeply influencing moral compass of generations of Indians. It would be simplistic to treat it either as only a religious text, or simply an epic. Valmiki Ramayana is an ornate poem, par excellence, answering to all the requirements of a Maha Kavya. Valmiki aimed at depicting the life of a perfect man, the picture of an ideal character, and in Rama, we get a model to follow in different situations - Rama exemplifies duty and self-sacrifice, compassion and perfection. Ramayana illustrates right conduct, individual and social, and in this epic, everywhere stress on the importance of moral value also distinctions between and simultaneous commitments to various Dharmas (duties), Desh Dharma, Lok Dharma, Kal Dharma, Nij Dharma.

Dharma was then the chief factor that shaped man's life. It was recognized that the development of a complete personality could only come about through a commitment to Dharma, that is civic duties, studies and renunciation. Ramayana shows the figure of Rama towering above all ascetics, who have embarked upon severe disciplines, and honoured by these very ascetics as the special manifestation of the Lord for the protection of Dharma. We are brought face to face with a series of difficult, baffling and tragic situations and shown how Rama and other principal characters react to them and ultimately overcome them without swerving in the least from the highest principles of spiritual life laid down in the scriptures. Inner perfection resulting virtuous action, which overcomes evil and transforms the evil-doer, is the main theme. Divine gifts when used for one's own selfish gains, hidden motives and activities, run counter to Dharma. Ravana, for example, had all advantages of Brahman decent and Vedic studies. He himself, his son Meganada, and his brother Kumbhakarna underwent the hardest austerities for obtaining divine favour, andthey got it much more speedily than many Rishis. Yet, when they had so secured these divine boons, they employed their enhanced powers for the oppression of the virtuous, instead of betterment of the world. The extraordinary prowess, which divine Grace conferred on them, were made to serve questionable ends and not to further the cause of Dharma. Hence Rama is depicted as destroying the Rakshasas.

Ramayana also highlights the relationship between brothers, the sanctity and possibilities of married life, the many sided nature of sacrifice, the scope and importance of education, the share of public in State Affairs (as depicted in Uttarakanda), prosperity of the Kingdom, military equipment, chivalry, and above all, the story of the practioners of Dharma from within the Rakshasas, i.e. Vibhishana, from the Vanaras, i.e. Hanumat.

Valmiki has upheld the ideal of Dharma, which enables its votaries, irrespective of their vocation or status in society to enjoy inner perfection and freedom while dedicating their virtues for the welfare of others. If this ideal, exemplified by Valmiki in the activities of his characters is grasped and put into practice in the present day, all the creeds may survive the present crisis, work side by side without the feeling of hostility and will make people intelligent, efficient and self-sacrificing enough to solve the problems of families, the country and even the world as a whole.

Jaswant Singh

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