Guide The Story of Rama:A Mythological Novel

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A story incorporated into the Mahabharata became known as the Bhagavad Gita the Lord's Song , shortened by many to the Gita. The Bhagavad Gita became Hinduism's most popular scripture and into modern times it would be read by many for daily reference — a work that Mahatma Gandhi would describe as an infallible guide to conduct. In the Bhagavad Gita , Vishnu acquired a new incarnation: Krishna. Krishna was originally a non-Aryan god in northwestern India. In the old Mahabharata he was a secondary hero, a god who had appeared in human form.

The Gita is an account of the origins, course and aftermath of a great war between royalty. In it a dialogue takes place between a prince, Arjuna, and the charioteer alongside him as the two ride into battle at the head of Arjuna's army. The charioteer is Krishna in disguise. Arjuna sees that his opponents ahead of him are his relatives. He drops his bow and announces that he will not give the signal to begin the battle. He asks whether power is so important that he should fight his own kinsmen, and he states that the pain of killing his kinsmen would be too much for him, that it would be better for him to die than to kill just for power and its glory.

Krishna is like the god of war of former times: Indira. Krishna gives Arjuna a formula for accepting deaths in war, a Hindu version close to the claim that those who die in battle will go to paradise. He tells Arjuna that bodies are not really people, that people are souls and that when the body is killed the soul lives on, that the soul is never born and never dies.

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According to Krishna, if one dies in battle he goes to heaven, or if he conquers he enjoys the earth. So, according to Krishna, one should go into battle with "a firm resolve.

Krishna reminds Arjuna that he is a warrior and that to turn from battle is to reject his karma, in other words, his duty or place in life. He makes the irrefutable argument, an argument that leaves no room for questioning one's own intentionality: that Arjuna should make war because it is his destiny to do so. He states that it is best to fulfill one's destiny with detachment because detachment leads to liberation and allows one to see the irrelevance of one's own work.

To give weight to his argument, Krishna reveals to Arjuna that he is not just his charioteer, not just another military man who talks like he is divine but that he is the god Krishna — a claim that Arjuna accepts. Some readers of the Bhagavad Gita interpret this to mean that Arjuna does not need to step from his chariot to find God and that humanity does not need to search for the divine: that God is with a person and for a person.

Arjuna expresses his support for family values, and he is a defender of tradition. He complains of lawlessness corrupting women, and when women are corrupted, he says, a mixing of caste ensues. Krishna became the most loved of the Hindu gods, a god viewed as a teacher, a personal god much like Yahweh, a god who not only believes in war but a god of love who gives those who worshiped him a gift of grace. A loving god could be found here and there in the old Vedic hymns of the Aryans, but this new focus on a loving god and the satisfaction it brought to the people of India was a challenge to Hindu priests, for it offered salvation without the need for ritual sacrifices.

In the Bhagavad Gita , Krishna says: "Give me your heart. Love me and worship me always.

Bow to me only, and you will find me. This I promise.

What happens when you reimagine an epic for the 21st century?

According to Krishna, as expressed in the Gita , one could accumulate possessions and not lose blessedness so long as one remained indifferent about success and failure. Hanuman brings back the whole mountain. Lakshman is saved. Sita proves her innocence by walking through fire, the flames turn to flowers.

AI Sita: Sita as a Nanite Cloud

The band go home, crossing the whole of India. As they walk people leave lamps on their doorsteps to light the path. This is still celebrated today as Divali.

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Ravana, King of the Demons, with 10 heads and 20 arms, watches Sita in the forest and falls in love with her. Ravana gets his evil servant, Maricha, to disguise himself as a golden deer and tempt Rama and Lakshman away from Sita. Lakshman draws a circle in the dust around Sita to protect her and tells her not to step out of the circle. Ravana disguises himself as an old beggar man and begs Sita for food and drink.

Sita takes pity on him and steps out of the circle. The beggar man becomes Ravana. Ravana catches Sita in his arms and pulls her into his magic flying chariot, Pushpak, which is like an aeroplane, but is powered by thought. Ravana is a very clever King and the inventor of many things, among them the aeroplane. Sita cries for help and throws her necklace to the ground, in the hope that Rama might save her.

They meet Sugreeva the Monkey King. He agrees that the Monkeys will join the search and the Monkey Hanuman will be General and lead the band. They search for Lanka the Demon Kingdom and eventually come to the blue sea, nothing but blue water. Hanuman has his father's energy and swiftness, power and strength. When Hanuman was a child he thought the sun was a ripe fruit and tried to jump up and catch it.

He jumped so high he nearly got burned, but the Sun was impressed and gave Hanuman the gift of immortality as a reward for his courage and cleverness. Rama gives Hanuman his ring, to give to Sita. Hanuman prays to his father and jumps.

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The Ramayana: A Modern Retelling

Hanuman's leap is the subject of many paintings. Hanuman leaps over the ocean, escaping several devouring demons that he meets on the way. Hanuman shrinks to the size of a mouse and runs through Lanka, looking for Sita. He finds her sitting under a tree crying. Hanuman climbs the tree, drops Rama's ring into her lap, and tells her Rama will come and save her. But some Demons catch Hanuman, squeeze him tight, and carry him to Ravana. Ravana and the Demons decide to set fire to Hanuman's tail. They wrap his tail in strips of cotton and soak the cotton in oil.

As the Demons begin to wrap cotton round Hanuman's tail, Hanuman makes his tail grow longer and longer and longer. The subject of many paintings. The Demons run out of cotton and oil. They set light to his tail anyway.

But Hanuman shrinks back to the size of a mouse, his tail shrinks too, and Hanuman escapes, setting Ravana's throne alight, and leaving a trail of flames throughout Lanka. Hanuman dips his tail in the sea, and leaps back to Rama, Lakshman, the Bears. The band decide they must build a bridge to Lanka.

The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki's Ancient Epic by Linda Egenes

There are many, many versions of how they do this. So you might come across several different stories, and comparing the different versions is fascinating. All versions involve magic of some kind: the monkey's throw rock into the water, the rocks float, making the shape of Rama's name in the water; the Ocean God helps the rocks float; a golden mermaid queen who lives at the bottom of the sea helps the bridge to be built; the fish carry the rocks on their backs A battle ensues between Ravana's demon army and Rama's animal army.

Lakshman is so badly wounded in the battle it seems that he will die before sunrise. In some versions of the story many Monkeys and Bears are wounded too. The Monkeys and Bears decide that Hanuman must leap to the Himalayas and bring back the healing herb from the Medicine Mountain to save Lakshman's life. So Hanuman leaps over the ocean, and across the whole of India, to the Himalayas. When he arrives at first he can't find the Medicine Mountain.

When he finds it at last, it is covered with herbs and he doesn't know which is the magic healing herb. So Hanuman wraps his arms around the whole mountain, pulls it out of the ground, lifts it up onto the palm of his hand and flies with it back to Lanka. Hanuman carrying the mountain is reproduced again and again in all forms of art. On the way the sun begins to rise and Hanuman captures it under his arm so that he can arrive back before sunrise in time to save Lakshman.

The healing herb is picked and given to Lakshman.

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Lakshman is healed and filled with energy. Or the whole animal army is renewed. Rama and Ravana fight, using magic weapons, called astras. Then Rama and Ravana fight in hand to hand combat, Rama cuts off one of Ravana's heads. It falls to the ground, but instantly another head grows back in its place.

Rama cuts again, a second head falls but another head grows in its place. Ravana seems to be indestructible.