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When to the end the tale was brought,
Rose in the sage's mind the thought;
Now who throughout this earth will go,
And tell it forth that all may know?
The Ramayana is an ancient Narrative Poem and epic written by Ancient India's first poet Valmiki.
The epic begins in the city of Ayodhya, where its leader, Dasaratha, is despairing about his lack of an heir. After he performs a fire sacrifice, though, his three wives bear sons. When Rama, his favorite son, turns sixteen, the sage Vishwamitra requests for help in taking down the demons. Rama is chosen, and his younger brother Lakshmana chooses to go along with him. In other news, King Janaka of a neighboring kingdom despairs that nobody can do the Engagement Challenge he put to anybody wanting to marry his beautiful daughter Sita, as many suitors have tried and failed to even lift the bow of Shiva (he had ordered it to be strung). Rama, naturally, manages to actually break the bow, and marriages are arranged left and right between the two kingdoms. Rama ends up marrying Sita, and the characters reside in peace for a while.
Well, a little more than a decade, anyway. Dasaratha, having grown old, is about to hand over his position to Rama. However, Kaikeyi convinces him to grant The Promise he had promised her years ago. She then asks for the exile of Rama for fourteen years and the coronation of her son Bharata. Dasaratha reluctantly does so, but he dies of heartbreak not long after. Lakshmana tags along. Meanwhile, Bharata finds Rama in the forest and declares that the throne is rightfully the latter's. When Rama refuses to return, Bharata accepts, but threatens to kill himself if he doesn't return.
Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita eventually settle into life in exile. Surpanakha, a sister of the demon king Ravana, is entranced by the brothers' good looks and tries to seduce them. Ever faithful, Rama and Lakshmana deny her advances, and the latter ends up cutting her nose. When Ravana hears of this, he's of course pissed, and orders the shapeshifting demon Maricha to turn into a golden deer. Sita is entranced by the dear, and asks Rama to capture it for her. He reluctantly leaves her in Lakshmana's guard, but when Sita hears his cries of help, she convinces Lakshmana to go after him. And of course, it was all a distraction, as Ravana ends up kidnapping Sita when he leaves, bringing her to the island city of Lanka, separated from the mainland by a giant ocean, and tries to force her to marry him.
The rest of the epic describes the Roaring Rampage of Rescue Rama goes on, as they meet Hanuman, greatest of the monkey heroes, Trickster archetype, and son of a wind god, who helps them search for Sita when Sugriva, his leader, is returned to the throne of Kishkinda. Hanuman goes to Sita but she denies, saying that only Rama can rescue her. He is captured by Ravana's forces, but Ravana's righteous brother Vibheeshana convinces Ravana not to kill him and instead burn his tail. Hanuman then burns down the entire city.
What follows is Rama and company attacking Lanka by building a giant bridge. A lengthy battle then happens, in which Ravana is defeated. Sita is returned to Rama, but he doubts her chastity. She then goes through the Agni Parishka, where she steps into a fire to prove that she did not sleep with Ravana. The fire does not burn her, she is declared innocent, and the party returns to Ayodhya where they rule peacefully.
The Ramayana is a testament to the belief that good will always triumph over evil. Its characters are also what Indians believed to be "ideal" - ie. Rama is the perfect man, Sita is the perfect wife, etc. It has been adapted countless amount of times and has been reproduced in India, Indonesia and parts of South East Asia. It is subject to tons of Alternative Character Interpretation and Sadly Mythtaken. It also bears a lot of similarities with The Odyssey.
Tropes in Ramayana include:
- Abduction Is Love: Averted; Ravana kidnaps Sita, wanting her for himself, but she refuses every one of his advances and remains faithful to her husband.
- Achilles Heel: Ravana's belly button.
- Action Girl - Kaikeyi as a princess when she rescued King Dasaratha as a charioteer when he was injured. Dasaratha was so impressed that he married her and promised her to give anything she asks for. This bites him in the ass later on.
- An Aesop - One has to be good to one's parents. Parents should not begrudge their children. One should be careful not to shoot humans while hunting. An exception to family loyalty: if your brother is pursuing a disastrous course of action that will destroy one's kingdom (Vibeeshna)
- Annoying Arrows - Like all Hindu Mythology, all battles just LOVE this trope.
- Rama's Weapon of Mass Destruction is his own special arrow, which can be charged with enough power to destroy everything in the universe, and no enemy can stop it. He never really uses it except to threaten. But just the sheer havoc it wreaks by just putting it on the bow shows just a sample of what it can do.
- Anything That Moves - Ravana's proclivity for hitting on anything that moves and kidnapping the wives of his enemies as well as trying to rape the daughters of sages like Vedavati, never mind kidnapping Sita comes to bite him.
- Artistic License
- Author Avatar - Valmiki appears as himself in the end of the Ramayana (or at least the extended version anyway).
- Badass Adorable - Rama's sons Lava and Kusha. They're sweet kids and superb singers, but in a fight, no one other than Rama can defeat them. As for the rest, it's just one Curb Stomp Battle after another.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished
- Be Careful What You Wish For - Big Bad Ravana wishes to not be defeated by any God, making only an exception for humans since he thinks humans don't amount to much. Of course, the human Rama defeats him.
- Berserk Button - When Ravana shoots down Lakshmana, Rama takes his fighting Up to Eleven and to say the least, that's the end of Ravana's good day.
- Beware the Nice Ones - There are only 3 (justified) occasions where Rama loses his temper, and when he does, the whole universe must urgently find a way to appease him, and fast!
- Being Good Sucks - Rama's life is full of it because of his insistence on being good.
- Big Badass Bird of Prey: Jatayu and Sampaati.
- Burn the Witch - Hanuman wrecked the Ashoka Garden in Lanka, Ravana's kingdom when he went to Sita as a messenger. Unhappy, Ravan ordered his tail to be burned. This ends badly when Hanuman uses his burning tail to burn down the entire city of Lanka.
- Cain and Abel - Ramayana has tons of brothers seemingly at odds. In the story of brothers Vali and Sugreeva, Vali suspects Sugreeva of plotting to take over his throne, exiles him and takes his wife for himself. Later, Sugreeva meets with Rama and Laxman who decide to help him kill Vali. Subverted in the case of Rama and his younger brother Bharata in that Bharata did not want to rule the Kingdom and ruled it only as a surrogate during Rama's exile.
- Also played straight in the tale of Big Bad Ravana and his younger brother Vibheeshana. Vibheeshana allies himself with Rama and against his brother. When Lanka is defeated and Ravana is killed, Vibheeshana is crowned emperor.
- Conspicuous Consumption
- Cool Airship - Pushpaka Vimana.
- Death by Despair - Dasaratha died of a broken heart.
- Disk One Nuke - Ok...This isn't a game, but Rama gains the weapons of the gods early on in the story, before he barely faced any enemies.
- Downer Ending - Depending on the version followed. If the later additions to the story are taken to account, one has to consider that Sita being cast out of Ayodhya when she was pregnant with twins to Valmiki the author's hermitage, her asking Mother Earth to swallow her up when Rama asked for her to come back a second time, Rama's death as he committed suicide by drowning in the Sarayu and their twins being brought up without their parents to be a very very downer ending
- Double Standard - Rama doubts Sita's chastity even though Sita was kidnapped against her will by the Demon King Ravana and did not do anything with him. She proves her chastity through the Agni Pariksha where she sat on a funeral pyre. The fire did not burn her, vouching for her chastity.
- In the extended adaptation whose chapters are of a more recent visage, Sita's chastity is mocked by a washerman in Ayodhya who verbally abused his wife. For that, Rama exiles her to the forest and away from the Kingdom of Ayodhya.
- The Dragon - Indrajit, the son of Ravana. He is stated to be stronger than his father.
- Easily Forgiven - Rama is willing to completely forgive Ravana if he surrenders (which he doesn't), but after Ravana is killed, Rama never maintains any more grudge against him whatsoever.
- Engagement Challenge - Rama won over Sita's hand when he strung the bow of Shiva when many others were not even able to lift it.
- Everything Is Better With Monkeys - Rama and Laxman defeat the whole fearsome demon army of Ravan with a ragtag army of monkeys. Real Badass Monkeys in fact. Especially Trickster Hanuman.
- Everything Is Worse With Bears - Averted. Jambavan is very intelligent and capable as a bear.
- Evil Overlord - Ravana
- Faking the Dead- Ravana shoves Rama's dead head at Sita's feet to convince her that he is dead. Of course, Rama is not dead and the head is fake but it does reduce Sita to tears.
- Fidelity Test - The Agni Pariksha
- For Massive Damage: Ravana's belly button.
- Friend to All Living Things - Sita. An exception would be the golden deer, who is actually a demon in disguise.
- Gentle Giant - Kumbhakarna
- Gilded Cage - Although technically a prisoner, Sita is kept in a beautiful palace for a year, with servants and everything.
- Good Hair, Evil Hair - Suparnaka's copper hair is used to describe her more puerile character. Sita by contrast is decribed as having long black hair.
- Happily Married - Subverted with the later additions to the story. Played straight in the original.
- Heel Face Turn - Ravan's brother.
- Heir Club for Men - The beginning of the story.
- I Gave My Word - King Dasarath when asked to enact The Promise.
- Improbable Aiming Skills - Rama is easily the greatest archer in all of Hindu Mythology. To put it this way, as a kid training in archery, he once practices a shot where he knocks of a woman's nose ring with one arrow and a second arrow mid-flight deflects it to go into her nose again exactly through the holes. Without hurting her. Training mind you. Even Arjuna of the Mahabharata doesn't quite match him there.
- Not to mention a complete shield of arrows he makes to stop demons from polluting a fire sacrifice. He also sends a demon flying hundreds of miles out to sea with a single shot.
- Or single-handedly defeating 14000 demons and two of Ravana's Dragons, whom even the Gods couldn't beat.
- Dasharatha as well. He gets his name because he's capable of fighting enemies surrounding him in ten directions, including up and down. How can we fail to mention his skill of hitting the target dead on only by hearing the noise it makes?
- Love At First Sight - Sita sees Rama from the verandah and immediately falls in love with him.
- Meaningful Name - Sita means "furrow". Janaka, her adopted father found her when he tilled a farmland in a box. Also Indrajit means "the one who defeated Indra", his original name is Meghanada.
- Multishot - In battles, Rama is constantly shooting several arrows at once. Up to a thousand fit on his string.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain - Ravana's idea to set fire to Hanuman's tail not only allows him to escape, but in the process he burns down the entire city of Lanka, and now the heroes have all the info they need to fight Ravana. Not to mention that his attempts to stop Hanuman resulted in the deaths of 2 of his sons, several commanders and a good chunk of his army.
- Noble Demon: Ravana's brother Vibhishana is one, both figuratively and literally. He makes a Heel Face Turn and joins Rama.
- One-Winged Angel - The first in history! After being decapitated by Rama, Ravana becomes a monster with ten heads and several arms, his 'true form'
- Only the Chosen May Wield - To win Sita's hand in marriage, Rama must lift Shiva's bow, which no other man can (including Ravana) can even lift.
- Our Giants Are Bigger - Kumbakarna, and how!
- Papa Wolf - Vayu was so angry when Indra injured Hanuman that he refused to leave a cave where he hospitalized his son. It shouldn't have been a problem except that Vayu is the personification of air and even breathing became impossible when he stopped moving.
- Power Limiter - Hanuman was cursed since child for his mischievous deed. It's mild curse that made him forgot of the extent of his power. The wise bear Jambavan later remind Hanuman of the time he tried to eat the sun and automatically lift this curse.
- The Promise - Dasaratha made a promise to his favorite wife Kaikeyi that he would give her anything she asked for. She asked for the exile of his favorite son Rama for 14 years, and he eventually dies of despair.
- Rage Against the Heavens - Ravana and his demon crews wage war against AND defeat the gods. That's when Meghanada became Indrajit...
- Roaring Rampage of Rescue: What Rama embarks on when Sita is kidnapped.
- Shapeshifting Lover - Suparnaka. Subverted in that both Rama and Laxmana see through it and refuse her advances.
- So Beautiful It's a Curse - Sita was beautiful and thus kidnapped by Ravana.
- Spell My Name with an "S": There's a lot of different translations of the names, the most common being the "a"s at the end (Ravana/Ravan) and the "i"/"e" thing (Sita/Seeta).
- Undying Loyalty - Hanuman is legendary amongst Hindus as the living incarnation of loyalty. Pretty much all his deeds (and there are MANY) are, beyond anything else, shows of devotion and love to Rama. In fact, Hanuman declared that, as long as Rama's name was known and people were devoted to him, he'd stay on Earth. So yes, Hanuman became immortal because of how devoted he is to Rama. Let that sink in.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting - Suparnaka and Maricha. And Ravana.
- Warrior Prince: Rama
- Wicked Cultured - Ravana is supposed to be one of these.
- Wicked Stepmother - Rama, his brother Laxman and his wife were exiled from their Kingdom for 14 years because Kaikeyi, his stepmother wanted her son Bharat to be king. Subverted in that she was actually portrayed as being like Rama's own mother, being magnanimous and kind and absolutely overjoyed when she learned that Dasarath, the King wanted to crown Rama as the Crown Prince. But unfortunately, her evil maid stepped in to do the brainwashing.
- Woman Scorned - Suparnaka. Also Sita in some versions.
- World's Strongest Man - Kumbarkarna
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Arguably, Sita.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Rama.
- You Have Waited Long Enough - Sita. Subverted in that she had to undergo a test by fire to prove her chastity. Plus, in other adaptations, even that is not enough and she is cast out in the forest after which, she becomes the Woman Scorned and asks Mother Earth to swallow her up when Rama comes apologizing.