Ramayana

 

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Ramayana in Mudras by Kuchipudi exponents Raja and Radha Reddy

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Ramayana in Mudras by Kuchipudi exponents Raja and Radha Reddy Photographs: Ravi Dhingra

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First appeared in October 2006 issue of Swagat,in-flight magazine of Air India published by Media Transasia India Limited Ravi Dhingra Email: ravifoto@gmail.com

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Dr(s). Raja Radha Reddy, world renowned dancing couple and India's highest civilian award winners for the age old classical dance form 'Kuchipudi'. Perfection, beauty, grace and rigour are few adjectives that can be used to define the legendary dancing duo Raja Radha Reddy. Raja and Radha Reddy’s name has become synonymous with the art of Kuchipudi Classical dance throughout India and abroad. Through their togetherness and unison Raja and Radha Reddy have brought alive the ancient art form of Kuchipudi. It is as if their picturesque stances, perfection of technique and heartfelt expression, is a visual image of how Kuchipudi was envisioned by its creator. This brilliantly gifted dancing couple are the first to be endowed together i.e. individually and simultaneously some of India’s highest civilian recognitions – Padma Bhushan, Padma Shree and the prestigious Sangeet Natak Award by the Government of India. Recently they were awarded doctorates by the University of Hyderabad.

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Valmiki the poet explained to Rama himself: “Owing to the potency of your name, I became a sage, able to view the past, present, and future as one. I did not know your story yet. One day Sage Narada visited me. I asked him, ‘Who is a perfect man—possessing strength, aware of obligations, truthful in an absolute way, firm in the execution of vows, compassionate, learned, attractive, self-possessed, powerful, free from anger and envy but terror-striking when roused?’ Narada answered, ‘Such a combination of qualities in a single person is generally rare, but one such is the very person whose name you have mastered, that is, Rama. He was born in the race of Ikshvahus, son of King Dasaratha....’ ” And Narada narrated the story of Rama. Excerpt from “The Ramayana” by R K Narayan published by Penguin Books

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The story of Lord Rama is both a spellbinding adventure and a work of profound philosophy, offering answers to life’s deepest questions. It tells of a time when Gods and heroes walked amongst us, faced supernatural forces of evil and were guided by powerful mystics and sages. Ramayana is an epic poem that narrates the journey of virtue to annihilate vice. Ram is the hero and ayana,his journey. ! Ramayana is not just the story or a portrait of Rama. It is the entire saga of Rama,the personification of God. It is also the saga of Sita, the consort of Rama. Hence, effectively, Ramayana is the saga of Rama and Sita. The character of Rama personifies values, and the epic is penned in a lucid manner,thereby lending Ramayana core values and practicality. It depicts the beauty of human existence along with the miseries experienced by man.

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Born as the eldest son of Kausalya and Dasharatha,King of Ayodhya, Rama is referred to within Hinduism as Maryada Purushottama, the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. Rama's life and journey is one of adherence to dharma despite harsh tests and obstacles and many pains of life and time. He is pictured as the ideal man and the perfect human. Rama is worshipped for his unending compassion, courage and devotion to religious values and duty.

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When Rama was about 16 years old, sage Vishwamitra came to visit Dasharatha looking for help to fight rakshsas(demons), who were disturbing his Vedic rituals. He asked King Dasharatha to send Rama for protection against two powerful demons called Maareecha and Subaahu. Considering Rama’s age, King Dasharatha became very upset at the sage’s request and refused to send him. Sage Vishwamitra became very angry but was finally pacified by the intervention of Vasishtha. He convinced Dasharatha to send Rama with Vishwamitra, ensuring him that Vishwamitra’s powers and Rama’s own capabilities would make him successful. Finally, Dasharatha agreed, and Rama and Lakshmana were sent with Vishwamitra.

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In their course of travel, Vishwamitra imparted a secret knowledge to the young princes called ‘Bala Atibala Vidya’, the practice of which would always keep them vigorous and full of vitality. Rama also received many weapons, after successfully killing the demoness Tataka on the orders of Sage Vishwamitra.

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Rama travels to the Court of King Janaka along with sage Vishwamitra to participate in the swayamvara of Sita. Rama and Lakshmana came upon a deserted hut. They wondered whom the hut belonged. The hut belonged to the sage, Gautama, and his wife, Ahilya. Ahilya was a very pious woman but when she had seen Indra the first time, she had developed a liking for him. Gautama came to know of her feelings for Indra and in a fit of rage, he cursed Indra to lead the life of a eunuch while Ahilya was cursed to turn into a stone. Vishwamitra knew that Rama could relieve Ahilya of the curse and begged Rama to do so. As Rama entered the ashram his feet touched the stone and it was transformed into a beautiful lady. Ahilya had come back to her own form.

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According to Ramayana, Janaka found Sita(meaning furrow) while ploughing as a part of a yagna and adopted her. Swayamvara in ancient India, was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age. Swayam in Sanskrit means self and vara means bride-groom in this context. When Sita became of marriageable age, the King Janaka decided to have a Swayamvara which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the God Shiva. Whoever could wield the bow and string it, could marry Sita.

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