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This article is about a Hindu god and king of ancient India, for other meanings see Rama (disambiguation).

Rama is a Hindu god, said to be the avatar of the Lord Vishnu (The Preserver). There is debate as to whether he was a real or mythical king in ancient India; his life and heroic deeds are related in the Hindu Sanskrit epic the Ramayana. A great devotional work on him, an epic poem on the scale of Milton's Paradise Lost, is the Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, which builds on the Hindu bhakti movements of devotion and love of God.

The spelling and pronunciation Rama follows the original Sanskrit; it continues to be followed in several modern languages of India. In modern Indian vernaculars, however, it is now pronounced 'Ram'.

Rama was of the family Suryavansha (trans. Sun Dynasty, surya=sun, vansha=dynasty). The Guru of the Suryavansha elders was Vashista, the guru of Rama and his brother Lakshmana was Vishwamitra.

Astronomical data in the Ramayana has been interpreted to suggest that his reign would have been at approximately 2015 BC. It is known that the Ramayana was written before the other great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, whose tradition of oral transmission is accepted to have been around 1000 BCE (the writing coming much later). Thus, the Ramayana came into literary existence anywhere from around 1500 BCE to more conservative estimates of 500 BCE. It is not accepted by most scholars as a historical guide to Rama, and is rather a great literary work and piece of devotional and philosophical literature revered by devout Hindus.

In Hinduism, Rama is regarded as the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu and worshipped together with his companion Hanuman, the monkey-god who assists him in the epic narrative of the Ramayana.

He is the Prince of Ayodhya and is banished to a forest by his stepmother. While in exile, his wife, Sita, is kidnapped by Ravana, King of the Rakshas on Lanka (cur: Sri Lanka). Rama, along with Hanuman, rescued her, killed Ravana and becomes King of Ayodhya.

Rama also killed Vali, the monkey-King of Kishkindhya. He is protected during his adventures by Agastya, and also rescued Ahalya after she was turned to stone by her husband for having an affair with Indra.

Lord Rama is seen as an ideal of Dharma and noble virtues. Unaware of his own divinity, he is worshipped as intensely in view of his love of Sita, his wife.

Rama in the Eyes of Gandhi and Hindutva

While Rama is an active part of Hindu worship, his determination to uphold justice and duty, essentially the embodiment of Dharma, has been seen as a powerful source of inspiration for more militant groups of fundamentalist Hindus, labeled today as Hindutva. This is, however, a marginal group, and it does not represent the greater adoration of Rama by most Hindus, exemplified by Mahatma Gandhi. Upon realizing that his moment of passing had come, Gandhi ended his life with the valedictory prayer to God, "Hey Ram!" It is notable that both militant Hindutva and the egalitarian passive resistant Gandhian notions find the ultimate Godhead to be the same. It is telling how completely different perspectives of the same figure, religion or philosophy can both find justification in the same divine personality.

Hinduism | Dashavatara
Matsya | Kurma | Varaha | Narasimha | Vamana | Parashurama | Rama | Krishna | Balarama/Buddha | Kalki

Hinduism | Hindu mythology
Deities: Brahma | Vishnu | Shiva | Rama | Krishna | Ganesha | Indra | Gayatri | Lakshmi | Sarasvati
Texts: Ramayana | Mahabharata