From Ramayana to Odyssey
Recently I read an English translation of Ramayana with the self same
enthusiasm as a Sri Lankan child would have read a Russian fairy tale.
What struck me most was that Indian epics such as Ramayana, share
spectacular affinities with the background and events of Greece
recounted by Homer in his epics. The English translation was by R.C.
Explicit throughout the stories of Ramayana is the general idea that
both western and eastern cultures that evolved apart are of the same
pedigree. In Ramayana, Valmiki speaks of an age which is much more
off-lying from the point where recorded history begins. Valmiki's
Ramayana is an epic which roughly contains 24,000 stanzas in the most
Ramayana illustrates the glories of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, the
Kingdom of Kosala on the banks of river Gogra. The epic's continuing
pre-eminence among everything for Indians both in the past and present
goes unquestioned. It appears as though the whole spirit of Indians has
created the epic although it was actually penned by one person.
In short, Ramayana has offered a surprising cultural solidarity for
several dozens of nations in the Indian subcontinent.
When speaking about the origin of Ramayana, opinion varies on when it
was written. Much evidence, however underpins the impression that
Ramayana has been composed somewhere between 900 BC and 600 BC.
Valmiki, like Homer, describes a period of time which is entirely
different from the period and background he lives. Some critics argue
that epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata have been written on stories
possessed by Indo-Aryans by the time they were setting in India.
During the era the epics (Mahabharatha and Ramayana) were written,
women possessed a dignified position in the society.
When she attained marriageable age, she was allowed to make her
option of the partner among those summoned from different parts of the
country. She garlanded the selected man accompanied by pseudo duels and
The costliest and the most stately festival was 'Ashwameda Yaga'
which was held for several months in celebration of a king's coronation.
In the heat of the festival, priests sacrificed horses to please god
Indra, the god of the royalty. The old gods had been replaced by new
gods such as Hanuman, Ganesha and Siva. Average people accompanied the
ruler in decisive battles and there were plenty of slaves for the
service of the affluent.
In Ramayana, we meet weapon makers, soldiers, goldsmiths, tavern
keepers, tailors and actors.
The synopsis of Ramayana
Ramayana's influence on subsequent Indian thought and literature was
In the same way, Homer's Illiad and Odyssey provided much for the
posterior Greek dramas and Greek thought. Indian poets and playwrights
drew immensely from Ramayana and Mahabharatha.
In the course of a conspiracy hatched by jealous queen 'Kaikei',
Prince Rama of the kingdom of Ayodhya is expelled. The queen's initial
plan is to bring her own son Bharatha to kingship. Prince Rama leaves
the palace with his beloved wife Sita and Prince Lakshmana and lives in
the jungle. Valmiki illustrates Rama's exploits and heroism in the
jungle and how Rama battles with 'Rakshas' (the jungle dwellers).
Ultimately Ravana, the chief of the jungle dwellers tactfully removes
Rama from his jungle home and abducts Sita to Sri Lanka. Rama,
accompanied by Hanuman the general of apes and Lakshmana, pursue Ravana
in his flight to Lanka. Hanuman builds a type of massive bridge across
the sea with boulders and Ravana is killed in the fierce battle that
ensures. After testing Sita's chastity by fire, Rama takes Sita back to
Ayodhya and coronation of Rama in the kingdom takes place amidst
We see that legends of Ramayana have been woven around true events at
the time when Indo-Europeans were crossing the valleys of river Ganges.
Ramayana describes a period of time which was extremely similar to the
period which Homer of Greece described. On the other hand, Homer
composed his epic 'Odyssey' to illustrate the life and heroic battles by
Odysseus, the hero, who ultimately wins his beloved Penelope,
identically enough, Ramayana eulogises Rama's feats in his attempt to
save Sita in captivity.
In Odyssey, Homer represents battles, heroic deeds and events which
bear clear resemblance to those illustrated by Valmiki in Ramayana. A
hero named Odysseus who comes for the battle of Troy from the country of
Ithaca, is imprisoned by a marine mermaid in an island on his return
journey. All Greeks believe that Odysseus must have died on his return
from the battle.
But his beloved girl Penelope earnestly believes that he is alive and
totally unaware of his imprisonment, waits for him for years.
Gods are in favour of this imprisonment because the hero Odysseus
blinded the chief of the one-eyed giants in their island. Later, the
Gods entreat Calypsio the marine mermaid to release Odysseus and he
returns to his country after numerous hardships and adventures.
His beloved Penelope is being troubled by suitors (Princes) in
Odysseus absence but she stays vehement in her rejection. Ultimately the
hero (Odysseus) kills the Princes and recovers the kingdom. (Here
Penelope has been constantly supported by Telemachus her son).
In Odyssey, the hero is supported by his son, Coronos and gods just
as Rama is strengthened by Hanuman and Lakshmana in Ramayana. Like
Penelope in Homer's work, Sita, perfect in chastity, expects Rama always
beside her and regards him as her sole protector and lover. When Rama is
expelled into the jungle, she passionately exclaims.
A married woman is always by her husband's side and regards him more
important than house work... As any objects is accompanied by its
shadow, so is the woman to her beloved husband... So please allow me to
find him in the agreeable jungle and enjoy his warmth and love which are
far more dignified than luxuries in this palace..."
This Mahabharata and Ramayana bear perfect affinities with Homer's
Illiad and Odyssey probably composed at the same period of time.
Just as Indians adore these epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana,
Greaks highly respect the Homeric epics which continue to inspire them
with strong cultural sense.
The basic reason behind this noticeable similarity is that the first
Aryans, before they dispersed to Europe and Asia, had a common culture,
and spoke a common language (Indo-European language).
They might have had a rich oral literature which provided material
for the subsequent epics such as Illiad, Odyssey, Ramayana and
Mahabharatha etc. Certain similarities among Latin, Sanskrit, Greak,
German, English, and Persian languages associat them with a common,
'first language. How Ramayana and Mahabharatha came to be identical in
some aspects with Homer's epics is shrouded in mystery of history.