An Insight to Heroism: The Ramayana
The Ramayana according to Valmiki tells a tale of a Hero and its tricksters, as well as leads the reader through the various obstacles that take place along their journey to prove themselves worthy of the throne. In this case, Rama is the hero as he portrays himself to be not only brave and noble but also pure in every way a King should be. Challenges arise that allow him options to consider, and only he can decide upon what he feels most comfortable with doing.
With that being said, Rama proves to the people of Ayodhya that he is fit to be King, and will be able to continue his father’s legacy with what the people have come to expect in the kingdom of Kosala. Rama’s journey throughout is a key example of Joseph Campbell’s “Monomyth” idea, being that of the departure, initiation, and return of the hero himself: The Call to Adventure, Supernatural Aid, 1st Crossing of the Threshold, the Road of Trials, the Axis/Apotheosis, the Ultimate Boon, Refusal of the Return, and the 2nd Crossing of the Threshold.
To begin with, “The Call to Adventure is, as the name implies, an adventure within itself. The character is called off to explore an unknown area and is expected to survive that journey while enhancing one’s sthemselfwith the knowledge and experience that comes with it. In this instance, Rama was called to adventure numerous times, however the most predominant of those adventures would be when he was exiled from his Kingdom.
Kaikeyi, Bharata’s mother, was the source behind the exile, as well as her own being anointed heir-apparent. Given the unfortunate circumstance, however, “Rama was not a bit perturbed and replied that he was only too happy to carry out his father’s promise to her” (pg. 246). With this being said, “Campbell helps show that the adventure of the hero involves coming to terms with many conflicting feelings.” (pg.185) Those feelings, in particular, demonstrate his maturity and bravery as these events unfold in his life. As his exile was underway, supernatural aid assisted Rama as Sita, his wife, and Lakshmana, one of the brothers, insisted on accompanying him on his journey. The supernatural aid, or in this case aids, are there to beep his company, seeing that he is venturing off into the unknown outside of his Kingdom, and does not necessarily know what to expect. With these two by his side, he essentially has a purpose to keep going, and possibly find a new meaning in life being that his throne had been taken from him.
The 1st Crossing of the Threshold is the point at which the three of them have finally crossed over to the unknown area, and have left the Kingdom itself behind them. Straight ahead is a world filled with obstacles and challenges, and maybe even a little bit of hospitality from those he never personally met before, such as sage Agastya, who “gave Rama a celestial bow, two inexhaustible quivers and a sword.” (pg. 247) In continuation of their journey, the trio inevitably dealt with “The Road of Trials”, which can be seen as a series of tests or challenges the character must take on. An example of this would be when the point in which the trio was attacked by an army of fourteen thousand, but was fortunately single-handedly vanquished by Rama himself, displaying of course that same bravery he bestows. (pg. 248) As they continue, the Apotheosis then takes place where Rama himself finally feels “all-powerful” and “god-like”. This occurs during the epic battle between himself and Ravana, due to the kidnapping of Sita previously, and allows Rama to finally get a sense of the person he has always been from the start. With this, the Ultimate Boon simply demonstrates that Rama has achieved his goal; the goal of which was to protect Sita and return safely.
Furthermore, “Refusal of Return” takes place several times throughout, in which Rama refuses to return to the Kingdom as he understands his father’s promise, and only wishes to fulfill it, especially after his recent passing. Rama demonstrates faithfulness as a righteous King as he follows through with that promise and chooses not to return for quite some time. However, eventually, the trio themselves make way for Ayodhya, and the “2nd Crossing of the Threshold”, or put simply – the “Return Threshold” takes place as Rama is finally crowned King of Kosala, whilst also announcing Bharata his loyal heir-apparent.
In conclusion, Rama is the perfect example of a Hero as he displays many qualities a Hero should possess without a doubt. Not once did he turn to another to seek help or advice, nor did he ever make a noticeable mistake during his journey in the Forest. However, one could also side with Bharata as the Hero of this Epic, as Bharata is the one who remained faithful to Ayodhya in times of hardship. But even so, Bharata had no previous intentions of the ruling, nor was he interested at that time, and insisted that Rama fulfill the duties his father set out for him to do.
With Bharata’s true intentions in mind, Rama refused and fled from the Kingdom as he was instructed to do, and Bharata took over as temporary King until his return.
All in all, Joseph Campbell is one of the very few highly intelligent beings that understand the meanings behind events that take place. His idea of the Monomyth is simply that a Hero departs on a journey, deals with challenges out of the ordinary which alter the hero’s perception of the world as well as enhance their knowledge and understanding of their surroundings, and later returns home with that experience that will ultimately change their thinking and way of living eternally. That being said, Mr. Campbell simply believes that each myth that has ever been developed is essentially the same in the way in which they are structurally formatted, which would explain why the story is considered a “Myth”, or “Epic”. Although the two epics may never be the sahowhich the Hero is defined a Hero is accomplished by ultimately showcasing how their abilities (strength, etc) are revealed. One way Joseph Campbell explains this is by simply stating that “we can learn to know and come to terms with the greater horizon of our deeper and wiser, inward self … through a dialogue conducted with these inward forces through our dreams and a study of myths”. (pg. 15, Myths to Live By) While the context is different here, it still essentially has the same meaning. As Rama dives deeper into his journey, his true self comes to fruition as the reader acknowledges the many skills that accompany him throughout his daily life. In the same manner, they become more noticeable when necessary, and in return show his inner-Heroism.