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Symbolisms in the Ramayana
Chapter One

When a symbolic interpretation is attributed to a character, one is saying that the characters constantly display the qualities attributed to them.

Dasaratha was the king of Ayodhya. It is through the character of this great truthful king that the narration of the Ramayana takes off. Hence King Dasaratha is the very roots of the tree that is the Ramayana.

We have already seen earlier that Hindus prescribe three different paths to purify one’s personality and to link oneself with the unquenchable Bliss that we may call God.

King Dasaratha had three queens.

KAUSHALYA

King Dasaratha’s eldest queen Kaushalya had a strong intellectual bent with a power to reflect and introspect. There is a unique serenity about her that comes through her character. One may therefore believe that Queen Kaushalya is a traveler on the spiritual Journey through the path of knowledge.

KAIKEYI

The second queen of King Dasaratha, Queen Kaikeyi is the most controversial of the three queens. She is vibrant, in fact activity itself; hence one might say that she was predominantly a Karma Yogi or a follower of the Path of Action.

If one is not careful to follow the tenets laid down for those who are followers of the above path, there is a possibility that one may be led astray. As the story of the Ramayana unfolds one will see that Kaikeyi lost her direction because of the influence of bad counsel.

SUMITRA

King Dasaratha’s third queen was Queen Sumitra. Queen Sumitra is seen as a character always serving, always giving of herself with love. One does not hear her ever complaining despite the unfair blows life sometimes inflicts upon her.

Hence one can safely assume that her path was that of devotion and love.

The kingdom of Ayodhya was fulfilled in every way but one. It had no heir to the throne. King Dasaratha therefore performed a great sacrificial prayer, which proved fruitful. A bowl of milk materialised as a result of the great sacrifice.

THE MILK OR KHEER

The milk is symbolic of God’s Grace.

According to Hindu philosophy, one has to put one’s efforts into any activity in order to achieve one’s desire. The human being can only perform and pray. The grace finally descends from God.

Half the portion of the milk was given to the eldest queen - Kaushalya. She gave birth to Rama. Rama means, one who delights all. Since Kaushalya stands for knowledge, Rama is symbolic of Wisdom or Gyan.

{Gyan means not only wisdom. Gyan is an experience; an ultimate state of being where one knows, without any doubt, that one is an integral part of the Infinite.

Gyan is the knowledge that we human beings owe our existence to God, our Father, and in spirit we are One.

Gyan marks the end of the struggle of man’s journey towards perfection.}

Kaikeyi was given a quarter portion of the blessed milk. Kaikeyi, who stands for activity in life, gave birth to Bharata. ‘Bharata’ means one who would come to have great administrative skill. Bharata symbolically stands for ‘Dharma’.

{Dharma, according to Hindu philosophy, Dharma comprises all the duties that an individual should perform depending upon his position in life and upon which act or role he may be playing for the moment. Hence a person’s dharma towards his family is different from his dharma towards his profession, society, nation, etc.

A soldier’s dharma differs from a doctor’s. A doctor’s duty is to give life whereas a soldier’s may be to take it.

Where dharma is present, there is social harmony; where it is absent, discord and misery.}

Dharma is that which promotes common well-being even though it may appear in a dishonorable clothing.

One-eighth of the portion of the milk was given two times to Sumitra. She had two sons Lakshmana and Shatrughna.

The name Lakshmana means one who is endow­ed with all marks of auspiciousness.

Shatrughna means the destroyer of all enemies.

Both these brothers inherited the qualities of compassion and service from their mother.

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