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Rama

Jai Shree Ram

Lord Rama is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, preserver of the Universe. Rama is the symbol of courtesy and virtue, a man of values and morals. Ramachandra is also known as Maryada Purushottama, literally the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. Lord Rama is considered to have taken birth on earth to fight all the evil spirits that were dwelling in this world during that period. The saints were troubled by the demons and they were not allowed to perform the religious rites.

Rama took birth on earth to set an example to the people of how an ideal man should be. He was an ideal son and husband and a very truthful and brave king. He was a very caring and father like figure to his brothers.

He is most often represented as a standing figure, holding a bow and arrow on his hands and a quiver on his back, indicating his readiness to destroy evils. He is also called “Shri Rama” to indicate that he is associated with the essence of four Vedas. More commonly he is pictured with his wife Sita, brother Lakshman and devotee Hanuman who is sitting near Lord Rama’s feet.

Lord Rama, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, is “the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king”. Lord Rama story has been narrated in the great Hindu epic of Ramayana, written by the ancient Sanskrit poet Valmiki. The term ‘Ramayana’, literally means “the march (ayana) of Rama” in search of human values. Ramayana teaches us the values of ideology, devotion, duty, relationships, dharma and karma.

According to the Hindus belief, Rama lived in the Treta Yug. Although historians are of the conviction that Rama was not particularly deified until the 11th century AD. Lord Rama day of appearance is known as Rama-navami. Ramnavami falls on the 9th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra (March-April).

The Ramayana speaks of how the Goddess Earth, came to the Lord Creator, Brahma begging to be rescued from evil kings. The Devas also came to Brahma scared of Ravana, the ten-headed rakshasa emperor of Lanka. He had immense strength and was powerful to all living beings, except man and animals.

Brahma, Goddess Earth and the Devas prayed Vishnu, the Preserver, for releasing them from Ravana’s rule. At this, Vishnu promised them that he will kill Ravana by incarnating as a man – the eldest son of king Dasaratha. His eternal companion, Lakshmi took birth as Sita and was found by king Janaka of Mithila while he was ploughing a field. Vishnu’s eternal companion, the Ananta Sesha incarnated as Lakshmana to stay at his side.

Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya was performing the Putrakama Yagna in order to obtain offspring by pleasing the gods. As a result, he was given the sacred payasa (pudding) by Agnideva to share among his wives: Kousalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. On the night of the ninth day after Amavasya, Rama was born in the city of Ayodhya, which is the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala. He is the eldest brother to Bharata, son of Kaikeyi, and the twin sons of Sumitra, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Rama is also referred to as Aryaputra (son of an Aryan). Rama and his brothers are trained by Rishi Vasishta in the Vedas, religion, philosophy and the sciences.

When Rama was sixteen years old, he and Lakshmana were taken by Vishwamitra to the forests, with the purpose of killing rakshasas. Rama and Lakshmana were taught the advanced military arts and given the knowledge of all celestial weapons by Vishwamitra. Rama proceeds to slay Tadaka, a cursed yaksha demoness. Rama refuses to kill the demoness saying it is sinful to kill a woman. Vishwamitra explains that evil has no gender. On this, Rama kills Tadaka and liberates the yaksha soul and helped the Brahmins, animals and travelers. Vishwamitra’s main reason to bring them was to conduct his yagna without any interruption from two evil demons, Maricha and Subahu. Rama and Lakshmana surrounded the area of the yagna, and when the two demons appeared, Rama shoots an arrow that carries Maricha across the lands and into the ocean, but does not kill him. Rama and his brother then proceed to kill Subahu and accompanying demons.

Sage Vishwamitra takes the two princes, Rama and Lakshmana, to the Swayamvara ceremony for Sita. ‘Swayamvara’ was organized by her father Janaka to identify a suitable bridegroom for her lovely daughter. Princes from various kingdoms are invited and challenge to string the bow of Shiva, and shoot an arrow with it. Only the mighty Rama could lift the bow, string it and even break it into two halves. This leads Sita to garland Rama as her husband.

After Rama weds Sita, Rishi Parashurama Bhargava came from the mountains. Parashurama is the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is responsible for killing all the emperors and kings 21 times. He was amazed and angry by knowing that someone could break the bow of Shiva. He brought with him the bow of Vishnu, and challenged Rama to string it, and fight a battle with him. Rama bowed to Parashurama, took the bow of Vishnu, stringed it, placed an arrow. At this, Parashurama realized that Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu. Then he bowed to Rama, and promised to leave the world of men.

King Dasaratha announces to Ayodhya that he plans to crown Rama, the Yuvaraja. Everyone is very happy after listening to the news except the wicked maid-servant Manthara who then spoils the mind of queen Kaikeyi. Manthara poisoned Kaikeyi’s mind by making her fear about the future of her son Bharata, that Rama will ill-treat Bharata after he gains power. Kaikeyi uses the two boons given by the king when she saved the life of the king in a battle long back. Kaikeyi asked the king to fulfil the two boons, 1st will be that Bharata gets the crown and 2nd will be that Rama goes for a forest exile of 14 years. Dasaratha was shocked because he loved and adored Rama. He refuses to fulfil her 2nd boon. When Rama came to know the truth he considered his duty to fulfil his father’s words. Sita and Lakshama also joined Rama in his exile. The king’s court and the people are outraged at this turn of events.

Rama goes to the forest and lived a life of meditative retreat in the deep woods. Dasaratha was not able to take the pain of separation from Rama, his heart was broken and he died.

When Rama was exiled, Bharata was absent, upon his return, he learned all the events. He was angry to know that he should take the throne and that his mother has done all this for him. He accuses his mother, and informs the Rajya that he will go the forest and bring Rama back and will fulfill the term of 14 years in exile instead of him.

Bharata goes to meet Rama in the forest and pleads him to return to the capital. Rama declines to break his vow given to his dead father. Bharata is compelled to go back to Ayodhya with his sandals, which he places on the throne as the symbol of Rama’s continuing monarchy.

During the forest exile, many rakshasas were killed. One day, Sita got abducted by the demon king Ravana, the ten-headed ruler of Lanka. Rama and Lakshmana begin their search for Sita. After searching for her in various directions they came across an injured eagle named Jatayu. Jatayu informed them that a rakshasa was flying away with Sita towards the south. He told them that he tried to save Sita from the rakshasa, but due to his age and the rakshasa’s power, had been defeated. With this, Jatayu dies in Rama’s arms.

Rama and Lakshama continue their search for Sita in the south and they came across Sugriva. Sugriva was very horrified by his brother Vali, King of Kishkindha and was hiding from him in the mountains. Rama promises to kill Vali and free Sugriva of the terror. Rama kills Vali and makes Sugriva the king of Kishkindha. In return, Sugriva promises to help Rama trace Sita.

After getting crowned, Sugriva involves himself in the luxuries and pleasures of kingdom. Rama fears that Sugriva has forgotten his promise; Lakshmana goes to Kishkindha to remind him of his promise. Lakshmana kicks down the city gate and threatens to destroy Sugriva. At this Tara, Vali’s wife intervened and pacified Lakshmana and scolds Sugriva for not fulfilling his promise. Sugriva realizes his mistake and appoints his army into sub groups and send them into different directions in search of Sita.

Hanuman exerts himself greatly over the search for Sita. He is the first to discover that Sita was taken to Lanka. After reaching Lanka he saw Sita is held captive in the island and Ravana is trying to persuade her to marry him. He met Sit and gave her the message of Rama. After meeting Sita, he was captured and was taken in front of Ravana. He gave Rama’s message to Ravana to immediately release Sita. Ravana got his tail burned; he flees and sets Lanka on fire. Hanuman returned to Rama and narrated everything and Rama with his army reached the ocean.

When Rama reached the ocean, Vibheeshana, Ravana’s youngest brother comes to join him. He loved his elder brother and Lanka; he tried to convince his brother to return Sita to Rama. He believed that Ravana’s ill-deeds and arrogance will cause the destruction of Lanka. Vibheeshana refused to accept the evil deeds of Ravana and leaves Lanka to join Rama.

Faced with the dilemma of how to cross the ocean, Rama performs a tapasya, fasting and meditating for three days and three nights to Sagara, the Lord of Oceans. Sagara does not respond, and Rama on the fourth morning, pointed the brahmastra towards the ocean. At this, Sagara arises out of the oceans. He bows to Rama, and begs for pardon. Since lord Rama had to use the weapon, he suggests Rama to re-direct the weapon at a demonic race that lives in the heart of the ocean. Sagara suggests to Rama to construct a bridge with the help of Nala and Nil and he himself will help in constructing the bridge across to Lanka.

After crossing the ocean, Rama and his army reached Lanka, Rama sent Angad, son of Vali, to offer Ravana a final chance to make peace, by immediately returning Sita and apologizing to both Rama and Sita, but Ravana refuses. Thus the war started between Rama and Ravana.

In the war, Rama and his army kills hundreds of thousands of soldiers and the most powerful rakshasa, including Prahasta, Atikaya, Kumbhakarna, Ravana’s brother. Rama defeated Ravana in the first encounter, by destroying his chariot and weapons, and severely injuring him. Next day, Rama was put to a deep sleep with Lakshmana by the nagapash of Indrajit, but they recover when Hanuman obtains the magical medicine according to Vibheesana’s advice.

When Lakshmana is struck down and near death, Hanuman flies to the Himalayas to fetch the sanjeevani medicinal herbs, bringing the entire mountain to Lanka so that no time is lost in saving Lakshmana.

On the last day of the battle, Rama and Ravana compete fiercely, inflicting severe injuries on one another with the most powerful weapons that could destroy the universe. After a long battle, Rama beheaded Ravana’s central head, but another head arises in its place. Rama again beheaded it, only to find another growing in its place. This cycle continued. Vibheeshana, seeing this, tells Rama that Ravana had obtained amrita, the nectar of immortality, from the gods. Though he could not consume it, he stored a vessel of it in his stomach. This amrita was causing his heads to regenerate as soon as they were cut off. Rama invokes the most powerful weapon, the Brahmastra. Rama fires the great arrow that enters Ravana’s chest/stomach and destroys the store of amrita, finally killing him. After killing Ravana, Vibheeshana was crowned the king of Lanka. At the end of the war, Rama worships Brahma, who restores life to the millions of fallen Vanaras.

Sita was brought to Rama, but Rama asks Sita to give Agni Pariksha. On Rama’s consent Lakshmana builds a pyre for Sita. Sita walked into the flames, but was completely unharmed. Rama told Sita that he never doubted her purity, but since she was there in Lanka for 1 year, this Agni Pariksha was compulsory so that people accepts and honors her as a queen, since Agni would destroy the impure and sinful, but not touch the pure and innocent.

Another version of this, used in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan, was that Rama had known Sita was going to be abducted by Ravana ahead of time. So, he entrusted her to Agni Dev, or the God of Fire. Rama did this so that he, who in reality was Vishnu, could kill Ravana. Sita, in turn, left behind a “shadow”, or twin-like version of herself behind. The “shadow” Sita had been abducted by Ravana. Therefore, the lila of Agni Pariksha was to retrieve the genuine Sita from the temporary care of Agni Dev. Rama explains this to Lakshmana before the “Pariksha” is done.

With the end of the war, Rama’s exile of 14 years also got completed and he returned to his kingdom, Ayodha on the Pushpaka Vimana. His mothers, brothers and the people joyously welcome him.

According to Ramayana, Diwali celebrates the return of Rama, from his 14-year exile with Sita and Lakshman. The people of Ayodhya lighted the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and fireworks to celebrate the return of their king. Great celebrations were held and everyone was happy for Rama to be the King of Ayodhya. This celebration took place on the night of the new moon of Ashwin (October-November). From that day onwards; people celebrate this occasion as the most delightful festival. Even today Diwali celebration means -happiness, fireworks and sweets. Thus the festival of diwali is an honour of Rama’s victory over Ravana.

Rama like other Indian kings went undercover every night to hear the pleas of his subjects and have a common man’s perspective of his rule. Unfortunately, Sita’s stay in Lanka comes under scrutiny. People started talking about her purity and considered her unfit as a Queen. At this, Rama banishes his wife Sita, even as she is pregnant, asking Lakshmana to deliver her safely to an ashram, considering it to be a duty of a king to hear what people say.

Sita went to Valmiki’s ashram, located in a forest on the banks of River Tamsa. She gave birth to twin sons, Kush and Luv. Thee twins were educated and trained in military skills.

Rama performs the holy Ashwamedha sacrifice, purifying and establishing religion across earth. The horse of Ashvamedha got off the track, Rama sent Hanuman to retrieve the horse. Rama’s sons Luv and Kush had captured the horse. After seeing Luv and Kush, Hanuman understood that they are the son’s of Rama and got himself captured. There Rama got worried and sent his brothers to look for the horse. Rama’s brothers started attacking Luv and Kush. Luv and Kush defeated them all. Then Rama himself went looking for the horse. He started attacking Luv and Kush not knowing they were his children. The sage Valmiki then came in between and asked Luv Kush to return the horse to the king.

When Devi Sita came to knew that Luv and Kush had defeated Ayodhya’s forces, she revealed their/her identity. After knowing the identity, Luv and Kush went to Ayodha and sang Ramayana in front of everyone telling them that they are Rama’s son. King Rama asked for witness. Sita came to Ayodha and witnessed the acceptance of her children by Rama, after which she invokes Bhumidevi, Goddess Mother Earth to take her back into the earth.

Rama reigned for eleven thousand years – an era of perfect happiness, peace, prosperity and justice. There are no natural disasters, diseases, ailments or ill-fortune of any nature for any living being. There are no sins committed in the world by any of his people. His reign was known as Rama Rajya.