Sri Ram
Rama Of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu, two have been immortalised in the greatest epic tales of India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The seventh incarnation of Vishnu, who is the hero of the Ramayana, is called Ramachandra. He was born into the royal family of Ayodhya, a kingdom situated on the banks of the river Sharayu in Uttar Pradesh. Rama is considered to be the Maryada Purushottama an epithet meaning 'the ideal among men' and the embodiment of moral righteousness. Rama is known for his great bow and quiver of arrows and was a warrior of extraordinary merit. Eldest of the four sons of King Dasharatha, he was revered by both his family and his subjects. The Ramayana was written long before the Christian era, by the great sage Valmiki. It records the life of this deity in great detail. A powerful warrior, a ruler who loved truth and justice, Rama killed the king of Lanka, the ten-headed demon Ravana, who abducted his beautiful wife Sita. Sita, an incarnation of Lakshmi, was the daughter of the earth and has been portrayed as the ideal of Indian womanhood because of her gentleness, loyalty to her husband, purity and powerful character. Even today, a pious couple are addressed as Rama and Sita and any country which is governed on the ideals of democracy, is referred to as Ramrajya or the kingdom of Lord Rama. The monkey army, which helped Rama to annihilate Lanka, was lead by Hanuman who is the most loyal devotee of Rama. He helped Rama build a bridge across from the southern tip of India into Lanka. Rama, his brother Lakshmana, his wife Sita, along with Hanuman and his vehicle Garuda are often portrayed together. They are collectively called Rampanchayatan. The Ramayana as an epic has influenced the culture of India for centuries. The impact of this deity is so deep on the minds and hearts of people that the story of his life and the veneration of his qualities have spread to several other Asian countries which were touched by Indian culture. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Korea are some of the countries which have been influenced by his personality and life. In most icons, Rama is portrayed holding a bow and has a peaceful, strong countenance. His specific attribute, symbolised by the bow, is quiet strength. He is always associated with mercy, gentleness, loyalty and fidelity. His character, based on a compassionate nature and total power, created the ideal of manhood in Indian culture. Being associated with an unblemished life, full of love and courage, he has never degrated into a cult figure. The Ramayana, which has several versions, tells the story of his life in ballads, folksongs, poetry and prose. These are sung by followers of Hinduism as well as Jainism. Buddhists believe him to be an ideal of equanimity as the hero of Dasharatha Jataka. Scholars accept that the Ramayana, first written before 350 BC., has been influenced by Greeks, Scythians and could have acquired its final form by 300 AD. Many temples of Rama exist in India. Famous ones are located in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh; Nasik, Maharashtra and Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu.