Lord Rama, The Valiant King
by Manorama Dasa
In the age known as Treta Yuga, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna appeared as the avatar Rama, the valiant king, setting the standard for heroism, morality, and good government. The story of Rama is told in the epic Ramayana. Here's a summary.
Lord Rama appeared in the dynasty of the Sun god, as the son of King Dasharatha and Queen Kaushalya of Ayodha. He was heir to the throne of greater India and had three younger brothers, Bharata, the son of Rama's stepmother Kaikeyi, and the twins Lakshman and Shatrughna. Under the tutelage of His guru Vishvamitra, Rama studied martial arts and defeated many demons. In a contest of heroes to win the hand of the beautiful Princess Sita, Rama was victorious. He lifted, strung and broke the mighty bow of Lord Shiva, which other contestants could not even move. Princess Sita gladly accepted Rama as her husband and there was a magnificent wedding. All was well in Ayodhya and Rama was about to be crowned king upon his father's retirement, when...
A jealous hunchback maidservant named Mantara convinced her mistress, Queen Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favorite wife and Rama's stepmother, to make good on a promise the king had given her years earlier. It so had come to pass that Kaikeyi had rescued the injured king from a battlefield and nursed him back to health. At that time, Dasharatha had promised Kaikeyi a boon: anything she asked, he would oblige. Mantara convinced Kaikeyi that now, on the eve of Rama's coronation, was the time to cash in on that promise. Ask the king to exile Rama to the forest for fourteen years and elect her son Bharata to the throne instead.
King Dasharatha was beside himself and heart-broken. He pleaded with Kaikeyi, but the selfish queen would not budge. The king, duty-bound, had to fulfill her demands. Rama accepted the order of His father and moved to the forest, along with His younger brother Lakshman, and wife Sita. The citizens of Ayodhya were dumbfounded. They felt as if the lights of their hearts had been extinguished. Soon thereafter, King Dasharatha passed away from grief. Kaikeyi and Mantara, needless to say, became objects of contentment. Kaikeyi's son Bharata refused to accept the throne and decided to wait out the 14-year exile until his beloved elder brother's return. At Rama's request, however, he governed Ayodhya in His absence, installing Rama's shoes on the throne.
During their stay in the forest, Rama, Sita and Lakshman had many adventures and encountered many demons. Once, a she-demon tried to woo the handsome Rama and assault the pretty Sita. When the attack became physical, Lord Rama quickly intervened and cut off her nose and ears. She was Shurpanakha, sister of the evil demon King Ravana. Hearing of his sister's mutilation, Ravana prepared to seek revenge. He sent a magical golden deer to tempt Sita, who asked Rama to catch it for her. Ravana took advantage of Rama's absence and kidnapped Sita. When the brothers discovered that Sita was missing, they searched for her throughout the forest. Eventually they came upon an old eagle named Jatayu, who informed them that Ravana was the culprit.
Rama and Lakshman journeyed south towards Lanka, Ravana's capital. Along the way, they befriended Sugriva and Hanuman, leaders of the monkey armies. With their help, Rama and Lakshman constructed a bridge across the ocean from India's southernmost tip to the island of Lanka, and attacked Ravana and the demon soldiers. At the end of a ferocious battle, Rama personally killed the ten-headed demon Ravana.
The Lord rescued Sita and carried her in a flower airplane back to their capital city Ayodhya, where the couple were joyfully received by all and enthroned as king and queen. That joyful day is still celebrated to this day as Diwali, the festival of lights.
The sacred text Srimad-Bhagavatam describes that, as ruler of the world, Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, performed sacrifices, gave charity to the saintly people (brahmanas), and enlightened them from within the cores of their hearts. During His reign everyone was religious and happy. The forests, rivers, mountains and seas favorably supplied the necessities of life for all beings. All bodily and mental suffering, disease, old age, bereavement, lamentation, distress, fear and fatigue were absent. There was even no death for those who did not want it.
Lord Rama taught the world by the example of His life. He took a vow to accept only one wife. He was dutiful, honorable, charitable and virtuous.
(Adapted from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 9, Chapters 10-11.)
Ways to Celebrate Lord Rama's Appearance Day
Devotees of Krishna celebrate the appearance day of His avatar, Lord Rama, by fasting until sunset and increasing their hearing and chanting about the Lord's pastimes. You can read the pastimes in the pages of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 9, Chapters 10-11. You can chant the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra while meditating on the holy name of Rama.
Great saints explain that the name of the Lord is non-different from the Lord, and that by chanting His name we can associate with Him and keep His company. By uttering His name we invoke His presence.
So think of Rama. Read about Rama. Hear about Rama. Chant Rama's name. Cook a vegetarian dinner in Rama's honor, offer it to Him with love, and invite friends over to eat the sanctified food (prasadam).