The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are two spiritual guides, intrinsic to the Hindu way of life. From a secular point of view, these are literary gems whose value cannot be underplayed. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are both earliest forms of the epic poem and are both the basis of valuable teachings that Hindus live by even today. But they are more than just these superficial similarities between these two holy Hindu texts. Knowing more about these similarities’ sheds further light on the importance of these texts and the combined spiritual lessons one can learn from these sacred poems. Read further to know more.
Notable Hindu Sages Wrote Both Texts
While the Ramayana is accredited to Valmiki, the son of the Brahmin Prachetasa, and disciple of Sage Narada, Valmiki later became one of the greatest among Hindu ascetics. The Mahabharata was written by Vyasa, who is said to be an expansion of God Vishnu, reborn as the son of the sage Parashara, author of the Vishnu Purana.
Themes of Dharma in Both Texts
Themes of Dharma define both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These texts form the foundation stones for Dharma tenets that are important to the Hindu way of life. In the Ramayana, Lord Rama, the central protagonist, the prince of Ayodhya, values Dharma much. Lord Rama gives up his claim to the throne of Ayodhya, to obey his father, who wishes for Bharat (Rama’s younger brother) to ascend the throne. It is the emphasis on the Dharma that leads Rama and his brother Lakshman into exile.
In much the same way, the Mahabharata tells the epic tale of Yudhishthira and his conflict with his cousin Duryodhana. Yudhishthira is the hero of the Mahabharata, while Duryodhana is the prime villain. Their Dharma broadly defines their roles. Yudhishthira lives by his Dharma, while Duryodhana abandons any sense of Dharma for greed and arrogance.
Both Holy Texts Emphasize on the Disastrous Results of Adharma
Both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, emphasize on the unwanted outcomes of Adharma. Ravana, the nemesis of Lord Rama, has a defined role as the villain of the Ramayana. His status as the wicked demon king of Lanka, is determined mostly by his Adharma, indicated by his intentional abduction of Sita. In much the same way, Duryodhana is defined by his greed for power and his arrogance. In both cases, the Adharma of Ravana and Duryodhana lead to their tragic ends.
Themes of Karma in both Texts
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are replete with themes of Karma, which shed light on the good and bad actions of the characters in these two epic poems and the consequences of their actions. It is interesting to note that they acknowledge that bad Karma, and it’s unfortunate consequences are not just limited to the villains in these epic tales. Lord Rama chases a golden deer in Ramayana, who was the demon Maricha enlisted by Ravana to lure Rama away from the Sita. The result is Sita’s separation from her consort.
In the Mahabharata, Yudhishthira’s disastrous Karma, and its equally devastating consequences, is indicated by his willingness to stake the lives of his brothers and his wife while gambling. Even the heroes in the epics are not spared the ill effects of bad Karma, an essential lesson for everyone, irrespective of religious affiliations.
Both Authors Played a Significant Role in the Epics they Wrote.
In the case of both epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the authors played a significant role. In the Ramayana, Sita while banished from Rama, stayed at the hermitage of Valmiki, while Valmiki tutored Luv and Kush, the son’s borne to Lord Rama by Sita. In the Mahabharata, Veda Vyasa was the grandfather of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. He lived long after the Pandavas and the Kauravas’ deaths and thus was able to chronicle their epic history.
Vishnu is a Central Figure in both Epics
It is fair to say that God Vishnu, ‘The Preserver’, is the thread that ties both epics. In the Ramayana, God Vishnu in the avatar of Lord Rama is the prime protagonist. He is an example of Karma and Dharma; he is ‘The Preserver’ of the Kingdom of Ayodhya. He is the ideal son, the loving brother, the brave and courageous husband. In the Mahabharata, Lord Vishnu, appears in the avatar of Shri Krishna. Once again, he plays the role of the ‘Great Preserver.’ He establishes the supreme rule of Yudhishthira in Indraprastha; he guided the Pandavas in the many challenges they faced.
The Battle of Good Versus Evil
Both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are battle epics. However, both of these holy texts are so much more than just war stories. Both poems are a battle of good versus evil; both emphasize that God Vishnu, ‘The Preserver’, is present in many avatars when humankind faces a challenge from evil forces. Both epics emphasize the ultimate victory of good over evil. No matter how long it takes, ultimately, Dharma is rewarded, and Adharma is punished, and there is no running away from the consequences of Karma.
Both Emphasize on the Challenges of Exile
In both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the exile of the prime protagonists, the heroes, is a common theme. The lessons we learn from the expulsion of Lord Rama or the Pandavas are the same. Exile is a period of trial and testing for the heroes in both epics. As a result of Dharma and good Karma, the heroes in both poems can emerge victorious from exile, and claim their true destiny.
Sita and Draupadi’s Origin Stories
In a metaphorical and literal way, there are striking similarities between the origin stories Draupadi and Sita. In the Ramayana, the earth is split, and Sita emerges, when King Janakyaploughed the earth, to perform a Yagna. Similarly, Draupadi appeared out of the sacrificial fire, when King Drupada performed a Yagna. Both Draupadi and Sita were known for their loyalty and purity, a significant indication of the fact that the gifts from the gods are always right and pure.
The Role of a Guru
The Ramayana and Mahabharata emphasize on the role of a guru and the importance of learning to overcome adversity. The lessons Lord Rama learned from his guru, Viswamitra, ensured that he emerged victorious from exile. In the same way, Drona set the Pandavas up for success on the battlefield with his lessons in archery.
In conclusion, it is quite apparent that every similarity in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata has a lesson to teach us, irrespective of the religions we follow. These great epics are sources of invaluable spiritual and philosophical learning, and for greater emphasis, these great epics often repeat the same lessons.