Ramayana is an an ancient tale which reminds us of the childhood stories we have grown up hearing. Hindu Mythology is full of rich sagas and narratives written in mostly Hindi, Sanskrit and Tamil. The most popular ones amongst the thousands scriptures written include Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vedas and Gita.
There are many characters in Ramayana who played a remarkable role but remain hidden in the pages. We all know about Rama, Lakshman, Bharat, Dashrath, Kekeyi, Kaushalya, Sumitra, Manthra, Sita, Ravana, Khumbhkaran, Vibhishan, Sugreev, Hanuman, etc. Here’s a look at some of the lesser known characters and their roles in the ‘Ramayana’.
Kewat was a boatman who had great devotion towards Lord Rama. Once during Rama’s exile he had to cross the river Ganga, for which Kewat was the right person. But Kewat insisted that he will first wash Lord Rama’s feet and then let him step in his boat. He then ferried Rama, Lakshmana and Sita across the river Ganga.
When they reached the bank Lord Rama offered a ring but Kewat refused. Kewat answered “Lord, both of us do the same work. I ferry people from this bank of the Ganges to the other. You ferry people across the ocean of Sansaara (Bhav-sagar), through the journey of life. How can I accept payment from you? Lord! But please, when my time comes, take me across sansaar saagar (the ocean of life). That would be your return to me.”
Shabari was a great devotee of Lord Rama since her childhood days. She was born in a tribal family but later took shelter in Rishi Matang’s ashram and served there with a pure dedicated heart. Rishi Matang during his last days blessed her that one day Lord Rama will himself visit her.
After that she waited for Rama every day, cleaned her cottage, decorated it with flowers and plucked berry fruits to welcome him. One day her wait was over and Lord Rama visited her ashram. It was a moment of great joy for her and she washed his feet with water.
Then she offered berry fruits to him, tasting each berry and gave Rama only the ones which were sweet. Rama happily ate them looking at her honest devotion. He then explained to Lakshmana that being offered with true devotion, nothing could be as valuable as those berries. She reached the highest levels of spirituality which are difficult even for the sages to achieve.
According to Ramayana, Urmila was married to Lakshmana. Rabindranath Tagore has very appropriately classified Urmila as one of the forgotten heroines of Indian literature. Her greatness is as worthy as that of Sita and she also fits in the frame of an ideal wife. She spent 14 years away from her husband understanding the fact that Lakshmana couldn’t stay away from Rama and nor can he take her along with him to the exile.
It is also written that Lakshmana did not sleep for fourteen years. So some versions of the story also say that Goddess of Sleep (Nidra Devi) had asked Lakshmana that someone has to sleep instead of him. When Nidra Devi approached Urmila she agreed to sleep for the next 14 years. It is also said that she was the only person who opposed when Rama decided to send Sita to forest.
Marich was a Demon (Rakshas), son of the Sund and Tadka. Subahu’s brother Marich was also Demon-King Ravan’s uncle. Proud of their powers Marich and Subahu used to distress sages disturbing them in their Havan, Poojan or other holy activities. Lord Rama and Lakshmana swept the two off their feet and in the battle field, Subahu was killed. Later, Marich acquired the form of ‘Golden Deer’ and went to Rama-Sita’s hermitage, lured Lady Sita with its appearance so much that she asked Lord Rama to catch it for her.
Jatayu, king of the vultures and Dasaratha’s friend was a Noble Bird and played a very important role. He fought heroically to save Lady Sita when Ravana was trying to abduct her using ‘Puspak Viman’ in Rama and Lakshmana’s absence. The great ranger of the sky dashed in wrath against Ravana and tried his best to stop him. During the fight Ravana shot off one of his wings, but he still continued to fight with the other one. When his other wing was cut-off, he fell down on earth, wounded. It was through him that Rama came to know about Sita’s kidnapping.
Jambvan the king of bears, a respected, intelligent and experienced character who helped Rama in finding his wife Sita and winning the battle against Ravana. Previously the advisor of Sugreeva, he was an important guide at every step during the Sita’s search mission as well as throughout the battle. Jambvan suggested Hanuman to go to Lanka by crossing the ocean and look for Sita. He also reminded Hanuman of his power by narrating Hanuman’s birth story.
Sampati was Jatayu’s elder brother and played an instrumental role in Sita’s search. Once Sampati and Jatayu flew higher towards the Sun until they realised that it was extremely hot. Sampati shielded his younger brother by protecting him under his wings. That incident burnt his wings and he lived a sad flightless life. When Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman along with the army of monkeys were searching for Sita. Sampati informed them that Sita was in Lanka, which was 100 Yojans away from their location. The army rejoiced at the news and started preparing to march towards Lanka.
Angada was the son of Vanara-Raj (Monkey King) Bali and his wife Tara. He was Sugreeva’s nephew and became his stepson after the death of Bali. He received great respect and loyalty from Vanara-Sena (Monkey Army). Sugreeva assigned him the task of searching for Lady Sita in the southern parts. He was also sent as an envoy to Ravana’s court just before the war to advise Ravana to seek peaceful solution and to return Sita to Rama’s care. Ravana did not agree instead he tried to harm Angada, but so Angada’s strength that no one from Lanka (including Ravana) could even move his feet from his place. During the Rama-Ravana Yudh (Battle), Angada headed the monkey army. He fought ferociously during the Battle and killed many Rakshas including Ravana’s commander Akampan.
Nala and Neela are Vanaras (monkeys) who are credited the construction and engineering of the Rama Setu from Rameswaram in India to Lanka (modern-day Sri Lanka), so that the Rama’s Sena (Army) could cross the river and reach on Lanka to rescue Sita. Nala had exceptional architectural skills being the son of Vishwakarma – the architect of Gods and many versions of Ramayana credit the construction of the bridge solely to him. But Ramcharitra Manas credits both the brothers for the architecting and building the bridge with help of Vanara Sena.
Garuda is regarded as the king of birds in many Hindu Mythological Epics including Ramayana and is also known to be
Ramayana has many noble yet hidden characters and if every single character was described in detail then the book would had been endless. The deeper we dig, the more we get to know.
You would also like to read about Barbakika: the untold story of the warrior who could finish Mahabharata in 30 seconds!
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