History

HIST 242: SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST ASIA, ANCIENT TO 1500

Essay on the Ramayana

Please respond to ONE of the questions below in an essay of approximately THREE TO FOUR typed
pages (12-point font, double-spaced).  Focus on answering the question.  DO NOT narrate the story.
Provide page numbers from the Ramayana text when quoting directly and when referring to specific
events/episodes in the story. If you use material/information from your textbook, please cite page
numbers for that as well. In short, you need to acknowledge and cite any and all sources you used
or consulted in writing your essay. Failure to do so counts as plagiarism. Please refer to the syllabus
for the plagiarism policy. Also, please provide the full bibliographic citation of your sources at the end.
A. The concept of dharma or righteous conduct is central to Hinduism. Begin your essay with a brief
definition of dharma. Then, using specific instances of moral dilemmas or conundrums that the
characters encounter in the Ramayana, analyze how the characters fulfill (or do not fulfill) their dharma.
B. The Ramayana underscores the ideal of Hindu womanhood through characters that both conform to
and deviate from this ideal. Analyze why Sita (and also Kausalya) is considered the ideal woman and
why Kaikeyi and Soorpanaka are considered deviant.
C. The Ramayana firmly establishes the concept of karma and the inescapable consequences of one’s
actions. Illustrate this theme by examining the role of karma in the lives of the characters and the
unfolding of events in the epic.
D. Rama is considered the ideal ruler – one who ruled as a trustee of society. During India’s struggle for
freedom from British colonial rule in the twentieth century, M. K. Gandhi often spoke of the
establishment of Ram Raj (Rama’s rule) in free India. Analyze the political ideas in The Ramayana as
they pertain to the qualities of a good ruler and the goals of battles and wars. What relevance, if any,
might they have for India’s struggle for freedom from colonial rule and for the establishment of a
democratic government In India?
Major Characters
Dasaratha: Emperor of Kosala with Ayodhya as its capital.
Kausalya: Wife of Dasaratha and mother of Rama.
Kaikeyi: Wife of Dasaratha and mother of Bharatha.
Rama: Son of Dasaratha and Kausalya and hero of The Ramayana.
Bharatha: Son of Dasaratha and Kaikeyi and reluctant ruler of Kosala.
Lakshmana: Son of Dasaratha and Sumithra and faithful brother to Rama.
Kooni: Kaikeyi’s maid whose suggestions forward the plot.
Sita: Foster-daughter of King Janaka and heroine of The Ramayana.
Hanuman: Monkey-god who is the greatest devotee of Rama.
Ravana: Ruler of Lanka, identified with Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.
Soorpanaka: Sister of Ravana, spurned by Rama.

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