Ramayana and the Illiad

Yogesh Tekwani Professor November 22, 2011 Second Writing Assignment Ramayana and the Iliad are two important literature pieces from Greece and India, both plays are set in time when Gods were known to make appearance on normal basis. The plays are main characters are Achilles and Ram, Achilles is a demi god and Ram is an incarnation of God Vishnu. In the Iliad, Achilles is an arrogant warrior who goes to war to claim glory and fame. In the Ramayana, Ram is a prince who is exiled to the forest. So what is the nature of injustice to the hero in these epics?
What customs/values inform the heroes’ responses to this injustice? How do differences in customs/values inform differences in Greek and Hindu literature? What do arete and dharma mean in these cultures? What roles do the gods play in these heroes’ predicaments? The Iliad starts off with sacking of a Trojan’s allied town and two maidens are taken as prized possession from the town, one for Achilles and one for Agamemnon. During a plague, Agamemnon is asked to return his prize and in anger asks Achilles to give him his prize.
In anger Achilles draws sword toward Agamemnon’s men and is about to slay when Athena appears to control his anger. Achilles stops fighting for Agamemnon and tells his mother to ask Zeus for revenge on Agamemnon’s army. The Ramayana starts off with Ram, who was the prince of Ayodhya was on his way to get crowned to become a king. Ram who is known for his kind nature is asked by his mother in law to go the forest and live there for 14 years because she wanted her own son to be crowned king. Ram without hesitation accepts the decision and heads to the forest with his wife and his brother.

In these two epics we can compare the customs/values that each individual have learned and how they use those customs/values towards their injustice. In the Iliad, when Achilles is told to give up his price, he angrily points his sword at Agamemnon and is ready to kill anyone who touches his prize. Achilles’s is shown as a self-centered arrogant warrior who cannot accept authority and must use his sword to prove his point. Achilles reactions on this situation is based on his understanding that he a demi god who can easily kill many men and that e only went to war to claim glory. Achilles response though is shown normal in Greek tradition because if injustice is done to anyone, they can easily kill the person to regain justice. In the Ramayana, Ram who is shown as a noble prince who was brought up loving his parents and brothers, he is taught to always respect his elders and never question authority. Ram is told to exile in the forest for 14 years by his step mother; Ram does not question the injustice and accepts his fate. Ram is shown as the purest of men and one who respects his elders does not question authority.
Ram is shown as person who lives life without jealousy and glory is not a part of it. When comparing Achilles and Ram, Achilles is shown as a person who questions authority and does not respect his elders whereas Ram is a person who accepts authority and respects his elders. So how do these the differences in custom/values inform differences in Greek and Hindu Culture? The Hindu culture is more about purity and how a person gains that trait. In Hinduism a person must try to live life with no greed, selfishness and arrogance.
A person must completely put all of their faith in the hands of God, as they are trying to gain wisdom and purity for their soles. The Gods play a big part in Hindu cultures because it is through worshipping them that you can be pure, the life that you live now is nothing but an illusion and true life can only be gained by living this illusion as pure as you can. The Greek culture is a little similar to Hindu culture when it comes to looking at the Gods for answers and help but, those are the only similarity between the two.
The Greek culture is not based on an illusion and does not mention purity of souls to claim a higher standard in life. Greek culture is shown as more of a violent culture where the Gods themselves partake in these actions. The Greek culture also has more involvement from gods when it comes to living a daily life. The customs/values for the Greek culture were based on pride, glory and power because that how the gods motivated the people. In Hindu culture, purity is the only gain and is motivated through a better after life. Dharma also plays a big part in Hindu culture, as it is through dharma a person can become pure.
Dharma’s true meaning is personal duties, when a person is born they are given dharma that they must follow to achieve next life. It is never told what your dharma is but it is claimed that you can achieve through doing the right things in life and once you achieve it you will realize it yourself. It can be more than personal duties too, it can also be your calling in life or what you are meant to do even are after you complete your personal duties in life. Through dharma can you only achieve personal satisfaction or even enlightenment that even glory cannot provide.
In the Greek Culture, arete is a little similar to dharma because it is also what a person is trying to achieve in their lifetime. Arete is more of excellence of sort that a person is trying to gain through self-improvement. Arete can be excellence in anything a person desires, it is not a self-duty or a calling like dharma. In the Ancient Greek though arete was more of inner strength and courage that one would try to gain in a battle. For example, Hector’s achieved arete when he battled to protected his homeland, his actions were based on his duty to protect his homeland. What roles do gods play in these heroes’ predicament?
In the Iliad the gods are more involved and favor sides, Achilles who was a demi god has a god for a mother and she had already told him his fate. During the battle for troy when Achilles was going to slay Agamemnon, Achilles is visited by Athena to check his anger because that can alter the fate of the battle. In the Ramayana, gods never visited Ram when it came to him making a decision, it is only when he going to destroy heave that they visit him. The fate of Ram and Achilles is also predetermined in these epics, Achilles was meant to go to Troy and gain glory through its defeat.
Ram’s fate was a little different though because in the Ramayana, Ram himself is an incarnation of Vishnu and he was born to kill Ravana. Both the warriors are gods in these epics but Ram in the Ramayana does not know that he is one. In both the Iliad and the Ramayana, there are injustice done to the heroes of the epic and it is through this injustice it is that these heroes gain glory and happiness. In the Ramayana, Ram is prince who is banished to the forest for 14 years and it is through this injustice that he recognizes his fate and kills Ravana.
Ram is shown as a pure man in this epic and not an arrogant warrior who questions authority and disrespects his elder, Ram’s response to his injustice is not extreme and his acceptance of his fate his is not based on him wanting glory. In the Iliad, Achilles is shown as an arrogant warrior who detests authority and his reaction to his injustice is shown as him drawing his sword towards Agamemnon. The meaning of dharma and arete is also different in these two cultures, dharma is a sort of purity a person is trying to achieve through self-responsibility and purity whereas arete is an excellence a person is trying to achieve abilities.
The Gods in these epics play a major part because they are the controlling forces and their choices can alter the ending of each of these epics, in the Iliad if Achilles would have killed Agamemnon and not been stopped by Athena than the epic would have ended differently. In the Ramayana if Ram had questioned the authority for his injustice than the epic would be different. In the Ramayana virtue is shown through Ram’s eyes as being as pure as he can be and a happy life can be lived with nothingness. In the Iliad, virtue is shown through Achilles’s eyes gaining glory in the most toughest of wars and life without glory is incomplete.

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