250 word summary

“Rama, devoted as he was to dharma, spoke: ‘Among our ancestors were renowned kings who earned fame and heaven by doing their father’s bidding. Mother, I am but following

their noble example’” (695)

– ™ Author ™ Time/Date of Composition ™ Contextual Information ™ Form ™ Major Themes


– Author

™ Valmiki à not much is known about him, except for what he says in his poetry – Was an ascetic, or

person who practices self-denial in order to develop spiritual discipline

–  Invented the sloka, a type of verse

(Valmiki from Wikipedia)

– ™ Probably composed around 550 BCE

– Gilgamesh: ~1200 BCE (standard version by Sin-leqi- unninni)

– The Iliad: ~ 800 BCE ™ Expanded upon by other authors and composers for

the next 500-600 years

Time & Date of Composition

– ™ Crash Course Hinduism: Vishnu ™ Crash Course Hinduism: Dharma


– Context

™ Vishnu, meaning “the pervader” in Sanskrit

™ Vishnu is the second god of the Hindu triumvirate – Brahman – creator of

the universe – Vishnu – preserver

and protector of the universe

– Shiva – the destroyer (Vishnu from the Brooklyn Museum)

– Context

™ Vishnu often appears in avatar form –  An avatar is the “human

or animal form of a Hindu god on Earth” (“Avatar” from Merriam-Webster)

–  Two of Vishnu’s most famous avatars are Rama from The Ramayana and Krishna from The Mahabharata

(Vishnu from Wikipedia)

– ™ Vishnu is portrayed as a blue-skinned man with four

arms. He always carry items representing different aspects of himself – The conch – The chakra – The lotus flower – The mace (“Vishnu” from BBC)


– ™ Dharma means “duty, virtue, morality” and

“religion” –  It is a universal law that “upholds the universe and

society” and “gives humans the opportunity to act virtuously” (“Hindu Concepts” from the BBC)

™ Everyone has different dharma “according to their age, gender, and social position” (“Hindu Concepts” from the BBC) – Example: the dharma of a woman is different than the

dharma of a child, or the dharma of a warrior


– Context

™  Rama is an example of someone who loyally performs his dharma: as son, as prince, and as husband

™  But.. You could also argue that Sita, Laksmana, and Hanuman perform their dharma too. Sita is the “perfect wife,” Laksmana the “perfect brother” or vassal, and Hanuman is a loyal follower

™  Who(m) do you think is the “hero” of The Ramayana?

(Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana from Wikipedia)

– ™ The dharma of different social classes or castes is different ™  In hierarchical order:

–  Brahmans – intellectuals and priestly class –  Kshatriya – nobles or warriors –  Vaishyas – commoners or merchants –  Shudras – workers

™ The lowest class, called “the untouchables,” were considered impure à the caste system has been officially abolished, but it is still practiced in some rural parts of India nonetheless

™ The caste system is fixed; intermarriage is very rare


– ™ The Ramayana was first composed orally “using a

large repertoire of formulaic expressions” ™ The Ramayana is divided into seven books called

kandas – The kandas are subdivided into sections called sargas

™  Each sarga contains about twenty to fifty couplets ™ There are a total of 24,000 couplets in The Ramayana

– About 1.5X the length of The Iliad and The Odyssey combined.


– ™ The Ramayana is composed in lines called sloka, meaning

“song” in Sanskrit –  Unrhymed metrical verse; usually a couplet –  Used in Indian epic verse; often called “epic couplets” –  Example of a rhyming couplet:

“Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow That I shall say good night till it be morrow.” (from Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2)

–  Example of an unrhymed couplet: “The man bent over his guitar, A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.” (from “The Man with the Blue Guitar” by Wallace Stevens)


– ™ Dharma à probably the most important theme ™ Loyalty ™ Virtue ™ What else do you think might constitute a theme?