The Ramayana

Characters

Ikshvaku dynasty

  • Dasharatha is king of Ayodhya and father of Rama. He has three queens, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, and three other sons: Bharata, and twins Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favourite queen, forces him to make their son Bharata crown prince and send Rama into exile. Dasharatha dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.
  • Rama is the main protagonist of the tale. Portrayed as the seventh avatar of god Vishnu, he is the eldest and favourite son of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya and his Chief Queen, Kausalya. He is portrayed as the epitome of virtue. Dasharatha is forced by Kaikeyi to command Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile. Rama kills the evil demon Ravana, who abducted his wife Sita, and later returns to Ayodhya to form an ideal state.
  • Sita is another of the tale's protagonists. She is a daughter of Mother Earth, adopted by King Janaka, and Rama's beloved wife. Rama went to Mithila and got a chance to marry her by breaking the Shiv Dhanush (bow) while trying to tie a knot to it in a competition organized by King Janaka of Mithila in Dhanusa. The competition was to find the most suitable husband for Sita and many princes from different states competed to win her. Sita is the avatara of goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu. Sita is portrayed as the epitome of female purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and is abducted by the demon king Ravana. She is imprisoned on the island of Lanka, until Rama rescues her by defeating Ravana. Later, she gives birth to twin boys Luv and Kusha.
  • Bharata is the son of Dasharatha and Queen Kaikeyi. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi has forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharatha to die brokenhearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama in the forest. When Rama refuses to return from his exile to assume the throne, Bharata obtains Rama's sandals and places them on the throne as a gesture that Rama is the true king. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as the regent of Rama for the next fourteen years, staying outside the city of Ayodhya. He was married to Mandavi.
  • Lakshmana is a younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile with him. He is the son of King Dasharatha and Queen Sumitra and twin of Shatrughna. Lakshmana is portrayed as an avatar of Shesha, the nāga associated with the god Vishnu. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama, during which time he fights the demoness Surpanakha. He is forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon Maricha into believing that Rama was in trouble. Sita is abducted by Ravana upon his leaving her. He was married to Sita's younger sister Urmila.
  • Shatrughna is a son of Dasharatha and his second wife Queen Sumitra. He is the youngest brother of Rama and also the twin brother of Lakshmana. He was married to Shrutakirti.

Allies of Rama

Vanara
  • Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. He is an ideal bhakta of Rama. He is born as son of Kesari, a Vanara king in Sumeru region and the goddess Añjanā. He plays an important part in locating Sita and in the ensuing battle. He is believed to live until our modern world.
  • Sugriva, a vanara king who helped Rama regain Sita from Ravana. He had an agreement with Rama through which Vali – Sugriva's brother and king of Kishkindha – would be killed by Rama in exchange for Sugriva's help in finding Sita. Sugriva ultimately ascends the throne of Kishkindha after the slaying of Vali and fulfills his promise by putting the Vanara forces at Rama's disposal.
  • Angada is a vanara who helped Rama find his wife Sita and fight her abductor, Ravana, in Ramayana. He was son of Vali and Tara and nephew of Sugriva. Angada and Tara are instrumental in reconciling Rama and his brother, Lakshmana, with Sugriva after Sugriva fails to fulfill his promise to help Rama find and rescue his wife. Together they are able to convince Sugriva to honour his pledge to Rama instead of spending his time carousing and drinking.
Riksha
  • Jambavan/Jamvanta is known as Riksharaj (King of the Rikshas). Rikshas are bears. In the epic Ramayana, Jambavantha helped Rama find his wife Sita and fight her abductor, Ravana. It is he who makes Hanuman realize his immense capabilities and encourages him to fly across the ocean to search for Sita in Lanka.
Griddha
  • Jatayu, son of Aruṇa and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the form of a vulture that tries to rescue Sita from Ravana. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old, Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the direction in which Ravana had gone.
  • Sampati, son of Aruna, brother of Jatayu. Sampati's role proved to be instrumental in the search for Sita.
Rakshasa
  • Vibhishana, youngest brother of Ravana. He was against the abduction of Sita and joined the forces of Rama when Ravana refused to return her. His intricate knowledge of Lanka was vital in the war and he was crowned king after the fall of Ravana.

Foes of Rama

Rakshasas
  • Ravana, a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. He was son of a sage named Vishrava and daitya princess Kaikesi. After performing severe penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the creator-god Brahma: he could henceforth not be killed by gods, demons, or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king who disturbs the penances of rishis. Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.
  • Indrajit or Meghnadha, the eldest son of Ravana who twice defeated Rama and Lakshmana in battle, before succumbing to Lakshmana. An adept of the magical arts, he coupled his supreme fighting skills with various stratagems to inflict heavy losses on Vanara army before his death.
  • Kumbhakarna, brother of Ravana, famous for his eating and sleeping. He would sleep for months at a time and would be extremely ravenous upon waking up, consuming anything set before him. His monstrous size and loyalty made him an important part of Ravana's army. During the war he decimated the Vanara army before Rama cut off his limbs and head.
  • Surpanakha, Ravana's demoness sister who fell in love with Rama and had the magical power to take any form she wanted.
Vanara
  • Vali, was king of Kishkindha, husband of Tara, a son of Indra, elder brother of Sugriva and father of Angada. Vali was famous for the boon that he had received, according to which anyone who fought him in single-combat lost half his strength to Vali, thereby making Vali invulnerable to any enemy. He was killed by Lord Rama, an Avatar of Vishnu.

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