Known to be the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama is one of the most popular Hindu gods and he stands as the symbol of Maryada Purushottam, which means the perfect man. Just like other avatars of Vishnu, Lord Rama took his birth on earth to destroy the evil of the age, which was generally Ravana. Swami Vivekananda says, “Rama is the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king.” Rather than being known as a mythical figure, Rama is known as the historical figure who is the tribal hero of ancient India, the one whose stories formed the grand epic Ramayana or “The Romance of Rama”. It has been postulated by Hindus that Rama lived during the Treta Yuga. Rama stands popular among various devotional groups, and much has to do with Tulsidas’ version of the epic “Ramayana”.
The Maryada Purushottam
Shri Rama stands as the symbol of many good virtues. He is known to be kind, affectionate, empathetic and considerate of feelings of people around him. He has been labeled as noble, generous, fearless, simple and free from flamboyance. People consider him the ultimate son that goes unequaled with every possible good quality that one can think of. He never lied. He was always respectful towards his teachers and elders. He was brilliant at everything he did. He was eloquent and flexible to change himself according to the circumstances. He was loved by all, and he was considered to be the king that all the people loved. He was brave and had outstanding transcendental qualities. Even with everything he had, he always was a simple person, and his simplicity influenced a lot of people around him. And people around him did indeed like his self-sacrifice and renunciation for the greater good.
The Ultimate question – why is he called the Maryada Purushottam?
When Rama returned from Lanka to Ayodhya in the aftermath of the great war with Ravana, he was coroneted as the king of Ayodhya. He established great feedback system during his reign where people could constantly give feedback about his rule, about what was going right and wrong. At times, the feedbacks could be very disturbing to Rama, and most of these negative feedbacks were based on Sita. They kept on going about how Sita could not be accepted as a queen after staying with Ravana. At first, Rama tried to ignore it, but as the dissatisfaction grew, the need to address it became more so apparent.
Rama is not labeled as the “Maryada Purushottam” just to show respect to him. He respected his citizens and those talks. He thus declared that Sita needed to pass the Agni Pariksha to be accepted back as the queen and his wife. Lakshman opposed it strongly. However, Rama insisted Agni Pariksha was the only way that she could be accepted back. Sita accepted this proposal, and when she completed it, Rama accepted her back as his wife and the queen of Ayodhya.
It was not that Rama doubted Sita. Instead, he wanted to address the people and to show them that he was devoted to them as their king. It was in his dharma to put people before him as their king. All of that was an act of sacrifice.
Never in his life did Rama treat his wife badly. Sita knew that he did for the people. Both of them formed the perfect couple, something that’s harmonious to each other that they understood the thought of each other without even speaking a work. Perhaps, their harmonious nature is why people still put their images on wedding cards. Anywhere Rama temple you go, you won’t find it without his consort Sita beside him. It is also said that when you say Sri Rama, ‘Sri’ actually signifies Sita. The custom that no one should walk in between any couple was actually started in respect of Sita-Rama. When Hanuman visited Lanka to see Sita, he saw her crying at the Ashokavana. She says that Ravana is already dead by the tears of Sita and that it was only a formality that Rama came to Lanka to kill Ravana. Valmiki writes about the story of Ramayana (The Journey of Rama), but at the end, he calls it “Sitaya charitam mahath” – the great story of Sita.
Dharma and Rama
Sita constantly adheres to the fact that her husband completely is in harmony with dharma. When Rama broke the Shiva’s bow, he didn’t immediately accept her hand, which Sita says proudly to others in the story. He says that it should be King Dasaratha who should decide his bride. He broke the bow to follow the orders of Guru Sage Vishwamitra, who was following the orders of his father.
There’s another story that shows the love of Rama for his wife. When Rama was sent to the forest for 14 years because of the cosmic play of the gods, he was happy to spend his life in the forest with his brother Laxman and his wife Sita. The gods wanted Ravana to be killed, but Rama never wanted to leave his family. He didn’t want to go on and wage war on Ravana. Seeing this, the gods got very angry. The King of Gods Indra sent his son Kakasura in his crow form to irritate Rama. But Rama was so patient that it didn’t bother him. But when the crow attacked Sita when they were sleeping, the crow removed the chunk of flesh from Sita’s breast. Sita didn’t even flinch or cry because she thought it would disturb Rama’s sleep. However, the drop of blood fell on the face of Rama and it woke him up. He saw what happened, and on rage, he picked up the blade of grass nearby, invoked Brahmastra into and shoots the crow. The Brahmastra kept on chasing the crow. You can think how Brahmastra vs crow would turn out to be. The crow went to the gods for protection, but they couldn’t offer him any. So Brahma advises the crow to seek protection from Rama and Sita themselves if he wanted to live. He does so and thus he lives.
With this event, the Gods understood that Rama would get angry only if Sita suffered due to someone, and decided that they would use this as a mechanism to wage the war on Ravana. That’s how the whole abduction story and the heroics of the story followed.
Rama never doubted the virtuousness of Sita when the war was over. In fact, he goes to her and asks her she is free to choose the king she desires. He never wanted Sita to jump into the fire. She was free to choose and she says that if she is virtuous, then the fire can save her from any harm. It did and the story continues its happy journey.
And so Rama has been named as the “Maryada Purushottam” ever since.