The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are epic poems in the Hindu religion that are popular among people for their entertainment, philosophical, and moral lessons. The tales in the two epic poems have been passed from one generation to another across different cultures in India and South Asia. Both poems have offered and continue to offer valuable lessons and points of reference in matters relating to conduct, statecraft, family, and societal values. Notably, the two poems do not prescribe particular human conduct. Instead, they tell stories that provide examples for the audience to consider, reflect, and apply according to the contexts of their lives. For example, most of the interesting and memorable tales in the poems involve warfare. An examination of the factors provoking the wars in these poems and the manner in which these wars are resolved reveals the likely objectives of the two poems. It appears that these two poems guide the audiences on the ways of conduct during war and peace, and the ways of propagating love, virtue, and justice during times of conflict. At the same time, the notable villains in the poems are characteristically greedy, lustful, and covetous. This essay briefly examines the two poems with a view of proving the significance of each poem in the Hindu religion. Imperatively, the independent analysis of each poem considers the subtle differences in the contents of the poems.
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This poem, purportedly composed between 300BC and 300AD, is renowned as the longest epic in the world literature. The original versions contained approximately 100, 000 2-line stanzas although the modern versions have approximately 89,000 2-line stanzas. The literal greatness of the Mahabharata in terms of length is evidenced by the fact that it surpasses Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, two of the world’s most popular contemporary tales, by eight times. In addition, the Mahabharata is three times as long as the Bible, which is regarded as the best-selling book in the world. Imperatively, the main story of the Mahabharata is composed of only 4000 lines. The rest of the lines in the poem are myths and teachings that give the story many perspectives and interpretations.
The poem contains 18 books that narrate the 18-day war among 18 armies that are recounted in the first nine books. The poem commences with the background information on the events leading to the wars. For example, books 1 to 5 are the opening of the poem, the court, the forest, Virata’s Kingdom, accomplishment. The tales about the war are contained in books 6 to 10, while the virtues of peace and honor are contained in books 11 to book 18. Vyasa is the narrator of the poem and purportedly the father of Pandu and Dhritarashtra.
The poem’s storyline can be described as follows. The whole story explains how the world of Kali Yoga came into existence and the factors leading to the deterioration of the world. The Mahabharata revolves around the battle between the first cousins. In this case, the Pandavas are the five sons of Pandu. Yudhishthira, the King, is the eldest son followed by Bhima, renowned for his strength as a warrior. The third-born son of Pandu is Arjuna and he is the companion of Krishna in addition to being the greatest warrior. Sahadeva and Nakula are the twins of Pandu that make up the five brothers. The successes of the sons of Pandu provoke envy in the sons of Dhritarashtra, Pandu’s brother. Dhritarashtra’s son, Duryodhana, resents the Pandavas so much that he tricks his cousin, Yudhishthira, into a game of dice. Yudhishthira loses the game of dice to the extent of gambling himself and loses the right to Kingship. For this reason, the Kaurava brothers assume leadership of the kingdom and force the Pandavas into exile. The Pandavas, however, reclaim their kingdom by battling their cousins with the support of Krishna. Although the Pandavas reclaim the kingdom and kill Duryodhana, the violence introduced to the world during the battle changes the world forever. In this case, the experiences of the war imply that victories come at a great price.
This poem revolves around Shri Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya. Rama is the eldest son of King Dasharatha. The king has three wives, with each wife except the third one having a son. Rama is the son of the first wife. The other son is Bharata, who is from the king’s second wife. The third wife of the king bears Lakshmana and Shatrughna, who are twins. Rama’s reputable bravery, wisdom, and duty are rewarded by Janaka, the King of Mithila, who hands her daughter, Sita, to Rama as a wife. King Dasharatha’s second and favorite wife, Kaikeyi, conspires against Rama as the rightful heir to the kingdom by giving the position to her son, Bharata. As a result, Rama, his wife, and Lakshmana go into a fourteen-years exile into the forest where they live simple lives. Meanwhile, Bharata is hesitant to rule as the king and seeks Rama in the attempts of persuading him to reclaim his rightful position as the king. However, Rama refuses. The continued stay of Rama and Sita in the forest offers an opportunity for the demon king Ravana to abduct Sita.
The abduction of Sita motivates Rama, with the help of Lakshmana and Hanuman, the mighty monkey-general, to wage war against king Ravana. The Rama-led army defeats the armies of Ravana and leads to the death of king Ravana. After the battle and a fourteen-years long exile, Rama and Sita are welcomed back as the rulers of Ayodhya. The royal couple gives birth to two sons – Kush and Luv. However, Sita’s chastity during her captivity as king Ravana’s hostage is in doubt. For this reason, Queen Sita has to prove her purity by being tried by fire. However, Queen Sita invokes Mother Earth to embrace her back.
In conclusion, the two poem stories in the Hindu religion are characteristically similar in their themes. For instance, both of the poems celebrate the eventual triumph of good over evil. In Mahabharata, the envious cousins of the Pandavas conspire to overthrow the Pandavas and assume the leadership of the Kingdom. In this case, the poem highlights the intrigues and power struggles surrounding power and the right to rule. Families betray each other over power. At the same time, the battles that result in the attempts of the Pandavas to reclaim their rightful position highlight the compromises that have to be made even if they appear cruel. For example, Arjuna is hesitant to fight his cousins in the field of battle. However, Krishna reminds him that it is inevitable unless he wants to die. The poems also highlight the need of individuals to follow the right path when confronted with dilemmas. The heroes of both poems choose different paths but all of the paths afford them the chance to return to their former positions. The poems teach adherents of Hindi about the value of virtue. This virtue is called dharma in Hindi and denotes the ability of an individual to follow both the good and bad path according to situations. In this case, Rama in the Ramayana follows the good path while Duryodhana in the Mahabharata follows the bad path. People will continue loving these poems due to their simplicity in highlighting the virtues of life.