Epic scriptures Ramayana and Mahabharata are categorized as Itihasa scriptures. Conventionally, we may consider Itihasa to mean the historical tales, but in Hindu theological narrations, the descriptions are often mixed with mythological and spiritual input47 to make them more forceful in their teaching value. Some have interpreted Itihasa as “Thus we should live.” This rendition imparts a higher moral value to these scriptures.
Rama is believed to be the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to Vaishnavites, He descended on earth around 10,000 years ago to eliminate evil forces. However the historical concept by R.C. Majmudar describes 1950 BCE more likely. The story of Ramayana is the story of Hinduism; it is the true classic of all times. Literally, Ramayana means “the ways of Rama.” Rishi Valmiki first narrated it in twenty-four thousand verses, around 1000 BCE. From that time until today, this great tale of Lord Rama has been repeated in one form or another—a book, poetry, a dance drama called Ram Lila, movie, and a video serial. The Hindi version of Ramayana, Ram Charith Manas, written by Sant Tulsidas in the sixteenth century, and the earlier Tamil version, Kamban, have become equally popular.
Valmiki, who authored this great tale, was himself a dacoit—a highway robber—who reformed to become a devotee of Lord Rama (Ram Bhagat). The legend states that one day the great sage Narada confronted Valmiki and asked if his family, for whom he was committing the robberies, would share the burden of his sins. All the members of his family, including his wife, replied with an emphatic no. Valmiki then was immediately transformed, and he dedicated his life to the mission of writing the Ramayana. Thus, a Hindu would always be reminded that in the end, he would have to bear the consequences of his deeds alone.
Lord Rama would become the role model for appropriate conduct. Hindu society has referred to Lord Rama in the human form as “Maryada Purshotam”, the perfect man, who has remained an inspiration to become an ideal son, brother, husband, and ruler. He epitomized the spiritual virtues of truth, humility, and caring for others. The legend of Shabri describes the major evolutionary step to cut across the caste system. To Hindus, Lord Rama has been a guiding star for every situation and circumstance in life, whenever they are in any difficult and challenging situation.