Rāma (Sanskrit: राम), also known as Rāmacandra, is a major deity of Hinduism. He is the 7th Avatār of the god Viṣṇu, one of his most popular incarnations along with Kṛṣṇa.
In Rāma-centric traditions of Hinduism, he is considered the Supreme Being.
Rāma was born to Kauśalyā and Daśaratha in Ayodhyā, the ruler of the Kingdom of Kośala. His siblings included Lakṣmaṇa, Bhārata, and Śatrughna. He married Sītā.
Though born in a royal family, his life is described in the Hindu texts as one challenged by unexpected changes such as an exile into impoverished and difficult circumstances, ethical questions and moral dilemmas:
Of all their travails, the most notable is the kidnapping of Sītā by demon-king Rāvaṇa, followed by the determined and epic efforts of Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa to liberate her and destroy the evil Rāvaṇa.
The entire life story of Rāma, Sītā and their companions allegorically discusses duties, rights and social responsibilities of an individual. It illustrates dharma and dharmic living through model characters.
Rāma is especially important to Vaiṣṇavism. He is the central figure of the ancient Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa, a text historically popular in the South Asian and Southeast Asian cultures.
His ancient legends have attracted Bhāṣya (commentaries) and extensive secondary literature and inspired performance arts.
Two such texts, for example, are the Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa – a spiritual and theological treatise considered foundational by Rāmānandī monasteries, and the Rāmacaritamānasa – a popular treatise that inspires thousands of Rāmlīlā festival performances during autumn every year in India.
Rāma legends are also found in the texts of Jainism and Buddhism, though he is sometimes called Padma in these texts, and their details vary significantly from the Hindu versions.
2. Etymology and nomenclature
Rāma is a Vedic Sanskrit word with 2 contextual meanings:
In one context as found in Atharva Veda, as stated by Monier Monier-Williams, means "dark, dark-coloured, black" and is related to the term Rātri which means night.
In another context as found in other Vedic texts, the word means "pleasing, delightful, charming, beautiful, lovely".
The word is sometimes used as a suffix in different Indian languages and religions, such as Pāli in Buddhist texts, where Rāma adds the sense of "pleasing to the mind, lovely" to the composite word.
Rāma as a first name appears in the Vedic literature, associated with 2 patronymic names – Mārgaveya and Aupatasvīnī – representing different individuals.
A 3rd individual named Rāma Jāmadagnya is the purported author of hymn 10.110 of the Ṛg Veda in the Hindu tradition.
The word Rāma appears in ancient literature in reverential terms for 3 individuals:
1) Paraśu-rāma was the 6th Avatār of Viṣṇu. He is linked to the Rāma Jāmadagnya of the Ṛg Veda fame.
2) Rāma-candra, as the 7th Avatār of Viṣṇu and of the ancient Rāmāyaṇa fame.
3) Bala-rāma, also called Halāyudha, as the elder brother of Kṛṣṇa both of whom appear in the legends of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The name Rāma appears repeatedly in Hindu texts, for many different scholars and kings in mythical stories.
The word also appears in ancient Upanishads and Āraṇyaka layer of Vedic literature, as well as music and other post-Vedic literature, but in qualifying context of something or someone who is "charming, beautiful, lovely" or "darkness, night".
The Viṣṇu avatār named Rāma is also known by other names:
1) Rāmacandra (beautiful, lovely moon), or
2) Daśarathī (son of Daśaratha), or
3) Rāghava (descendant of Raghu, solar dynasty in Hindu cosmology).
In the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, Rāma is the 394th name of Viṣṇu.
In some Advaita Vedanta inspired texts Rāma connotes the metaphysical concept of Supreme Brahman who is the eternally blissful spiritual Self (Ātman, soul) in whom yogis delight non-dualistically.
Rāma was born on the 9th day of the lunar month Chaitra (March–April), a day celebrated across India as Rāma Navamī. This coincides with one of the 4 Navarātrī on the Hindu calendar, in the spring season, namely the Vasanta Navarātrī.
The ancient epic Rāmāyaṇa states in the Balā Khaṇḍa that Rāma and his brothers were born to Kauśalyā and Daśaratha in Ayodhyā, a city on the banks of Sarayū River.
The Jain versions of the Rāmāyaṇa, such as the Padmacariya (literally deeds of Padma) by Vimalasūri, also mention the details of the early life of Rāma. The Jain texts are dated variously, but generally pre-500 CE, most likely sometime within the 1-5 centuries of the Common Era. Daśaratha was the king of Kośala, and a part of the Solar Dynasty of Ikṣvāku.
His mother's name Kauśalyā literally implies that she was from Kośala.
The kingdom of Kośala is also mentioned in Buddhist and Jaina texts, as one of the 16 Mahā Janapadas of ancient India, and as an important centre of pilgrimage for Jains and Buddhists.
4. Youth, family and friends
Rāma had 3 brothers, according to the Balā Khaṇḍa section of the Rāmāyaṇa:
These were Lakṣmaṇa, Bhārata and Śatrughna. The extant manuscripts of the text describe their education and training as young princes, but this is brief.
Rāma is portrayed as a polite, self-controlled, virtuous youth always ready to help others. His education included the Vedas, the Vedāngas as well as the martial arts.
The years when Rāma grew up are described in much greater detail by later Hindu texts, such as the Rāmavalī by Tulsīdās:
The template is similar to those found for Kṛṣṇa, but in the poems of Tulsīdās, Rāma is milder and reserved introvert, rather than the prank-playing extrovert personality of Kṛṣṇa.
The Rāmāyaṇa mentions an archery contest organised by King Janaka, where Sītā and Rāma meet. Rāma wins the contest, whereby Janaka agrees to the marriage of Sītā and Rāma.
Sītā moves with Rāma to his father Daśaratha's capital. Sītā introduces Rāma's brothers to her sister and her two cousins, and they all get married.
While Rāma and his brothers were away, Kaikeyī, the mother of Bhārata and the 2nd wife of King Daśaratha, reminds the king that he had promised long ago to comply with one thing she asks, anything. Daśaratha remembers and agrees to do so:
- She demands that Rāma be exiled for 14 years to Daṇḍaka forest.
Daśaratha grieves at her request.
Her son Bhārata and other family members become upset at her demand.
Rāma states that his father should keep his word, adds that he does not crave for earthly or heavenly material pleasures; neither seeks power nor anything else.
He talks about his decision with his wife and tells everyone that time passes quickly.
Sītā leaves with him to live in the forest;
the brother Lakṣmaṇa joins them in their exile as the caring close brother.
5. Exile and war
Rāma heads outside the Kośala kingdom crosses Yamuna River and initially stays at Chitrakūta, on the banks of river Mandākinī, in the hermitage of sage Vāsiṣṭha:
This place is believed in the Hindu tradition to be the same as Chitrakoot on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The region has numerous Rāma temples and is an important Vaiṣṇava pilgrimage site.
The texts describe nearby hermitages of Vedic rishis (sages) such as Atri, and that Rāma roamed through forests, lived a humble simple life, provided protection and relief to ascetics in the forest being harassed and persecuted by demons, as they stayed at different ashrams.
After 10 years of wandering and struggles, Rāma arrives at Pañcavaṭī, on the banks of river Godāvarī:
This region had numerous demons (rākṣasas). One day, a female demon called Śūrpaṇakhā saw Rāma, became enamoured of him, and tried to seduce him. Rāma refused her.
Śūrpaṇakhā retaliated by threatening Sītā.
Lakṣmaṇa, the younger brother protective of his family, in turn retaliated by cutting off the nose and ears of Śūrpaṇakhā.
The cycle of violence escalated, ultimately reaching demon king Rāvaṇa, who was the brother of Śūrpaṇakhā:
Rāvaṇa comes to Pañcavaṭī to take revenge on behalf of his family, sees Sītā, gets attracted, and kidnaps Sītā to his kingdom of Lanka (believed to be modern Śrī Lanka).
Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa discover the kidnapping, worry about Sītā's safety, despair at the loss and their lack of resources to take on Rāvaṇa. Their struggles now reach new heights.
They travel south, meet Sugrīva, commander of an Army of Monkeys, and attract dedicated commanders such as Hanumān who is a minister of Sugrīva.
Meanwhile, Rāvaṇa harasses Sītā and tries to make her into a concubine. Sītā refuses him. Rāvaṇa is enraged.
Rāma ultimately reaches Lanka, fights in a War that has many ups and downs, but ultimately Rāma prevails, kills Rāvaṇa and forces of evil, and rescues his wife Sītā. They return to Ayodhyā.
6. Post-war rule and death
The return of Rāma to Ayodhyā is celebrated with his coronation. It is called Rāma Paṭṭābhiṣeka and his rule itself as Rāma Rājya described to be a just and fair rule.
It is believed by many that when Rāma returned people celebrated their happiness with fireworks, and the festival of Diwali is connected with Rāma's return.
Upon Rāma's accession as king, rumours emerge that Sītā may have gone willingly when she was with Rāvaṇa; Sītā protests that her capture was forced.
Rāma responds to public gossip by renouncing his wife, and asking her to undergo a test before Agni (fire). She does, and passes the test.
Rāma and Sītā live happily together in Ayodhyā, have twin sons named Luv and Kush, in the Rāmāyaṇa and other major texts.
However, in some revisions, the story is different and tragic, with Sītā dying of sorrow for her husband not trusting her, making Sītā a moral heroine and leaving the reader with moral questions about Rāma:
In these revisions, the death of Sītā leads Rāma to drown himself. Through death, he joins her in afterlife. Rāma dying by drowning himself is found in the Myanmar version of Rāma's life story called Thiri Rāma.
The historicity of Rāma, and when he lived in case he indeed reflected a real individual, is a disputed subject with wide variation among authors:
In some Hindu texts, Rāma is stated to have lived in the Tretā Yuga or Dvāpara Yuga that their authors estimate existed before about 5,000 BCE.
A few other researchers place Rāma to have more plausibly lived around 1250 BCE, based on regal lists of Kuru and Vṛṣṇi leaders which if given more realistic reign lengths would place Bhārata and Satwata, contemporaries of Rāma, around that period.
The composition of Rāma's epic story, the Rāmāyaṇa, in its current form is usually dated between 7th - 4th century BCE.
According to some researchers of the Rāmāyaṇa, the original text was likely composed and transmitted orally in more ancient times, and modern scholars have suggested various centuries in the 1st millennium BCE.
Lord Rāma got fed up with asking a non-responding Varuṇa (God of the oceans) to help him and took up the Brahmāstra.
Rāma iconography shares elements of Viṣṇu Avatārs, but has several distinctive elements:
It never has more than 2 hands, he holds (or has nearby) a Bāṇa (arrow) in his right hand, while he holds the dhanus (bow) in his left.
The most recommended icon for him is that he be shown standing in Tribhaṅga pose (thrice bent "S" shape). He is shown black, blue or dark colour, typically wearing reddish colour clothes.
If his wife and brother are a part of the iconography, Lakṣmaṇa is on his left side while Sītā always on the right of Rāma, both of golden-yellow complexion.
9. Philosophy and symbolism
Rāma's life story is imbued with symbolism:
The life of Rāma as told in the Indian texts is a masterpiece that offers a framework to represent, conceptualise and comprehend the world and the nature of life.
Rāma's life is more complex than the Ancient Greek & Roman battle between the good and the evil, where there is a clear distinction between immortal powerful gods or heroes and mortal struggling humans:
In the Indian traditions, particularly Rāma, the story is about a divine human, a mortal god, incorporating both into the exemplar who transcends both humans and gods.
Responding to evil
A superior being does not render evil for evil,
this is the maxim one should observe;
the ornament of virtuous persons is their conduct.
A noble soul will ever exercise compassion
even towards those who enjoy injuring others.
—Rāmāyaṇa 6.115, Vālmīki
As a person, Rāma personifies the characteristics of an Ideal Person (puruṣottama):
He had within him all the desirable virtues that any individual would seek to aspire, and he fulfils all his moral obligations. Rāma is considered a Maryādā Puruṣottama or the best of upholders of Dharma.
The Books 2, 6 and 7 of Rāmāyaṇa are notable for ethical studies. The views of Rāma combine reason with emotions to create a complete Saint.
Rāma's life combines the ethics with the aesthetics of living:
The story of Rāma and people in his life raises questions such as "is it appropriate to use evil to respond to evil?", and then provides a spectrum of views within the framework of Indian beliefs such as on karma and dharma.
Rāma's life and comments emphasise that one must pursue and live life fully, that all 3 life aims are equally important:
1) Virtue (dharma),
2) Desires (kāma), and
3) Legitimate acquisition of wealth (artha).
Rāma also adds, such as in section 4.38 of the Rāmāyaṇa that one must also introspect and never neglect what one's proper duties, appropriate responsibilities, true interests, and legitimate pleasures are.
10. Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa
Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa is a late medieval Sanskrit text extolling the spiritualism in the story of Rāmāyaṇa:
It is embedded in the latter portion of Brahmānda Purāṇa, and constitutes about a 1/3rd of it. The text philosophically attempts to reconcile Bhakti in god Rāma and Śaktism with Advaita Vedanta, over 65 chapters and 4,500 verses.
The text represents Rāma as the Brahman (metaphysical reality), mapping all attributes and aspects of Rāma to abstract virtues and spiritual ideals.
Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa transposes Rāmāyaṇa into symbolism of self-study of one's own soul, with metaphors described in Advaita terminology.
The text is notable because it influenced the popular Rāmacaritamānasa by Tulsīdās, and inspired the most popular version of Nepali Rāmāyaṇa by Bhānubhakta Āchārya.
The Rāmāyaṇa is a Sanskrit text, while Rāmacaritamānasa retells the Rāmāyaṇa in a vernacular dialect of Hindi language, commonly understood in northern India.
Rāmacaritamānasa was composed in the 16th century by Tulsīdās:
The popular text is notable for synthesising the epic story in a Bhakti movement framework, wherein the original legends and ideas morph in an expression of spiritual bhakti (devotional love) for a personal God.
Tulsīdās was inspired by Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa, where Rāma and other characters of the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa along with their attributes (saguṇa narrative) were transposed into spiritual terms and abstract rendering of an Ātman (soul, self, Brahman) without attributes (Nirguṇa reality).
Rāma's life story in the Rāmacaritamānasa combines mythology, philosophy, and religious beliefs into a story of life, a code of ethics, a treatise on universal human values.
It debates in its dialogues the human dilemmas, the ideal standards of behaviour, duties to those one loves, and mutual responsibilities.
It inspires the audience to view their own lives from a spiritual plane, encouraging the virtuous to keep going, and comforting those oppressed with a healing balm.
The Rāmacaritamānasa is notable for being the Rāma-based play commonly performed every year in autumn, during the weeklong performance arts festival of Rāmlīlā.
The "staging of the Rāmāyaṇa based on the Rāmacaritamānasa" was inscribed in 2008 by UNESCO as one of the Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity.
12. Other texts
Other important historic Hindu texts on Rāma include Bhūśuṇḍī Rāmāyaṇa, Prasanna Rāghava, and Rāmavalī by Tulsīdās.
The Sanskrit poem Bhaṭṭikāvya of Bhaṭṭi, who lived in Gujarat in the 7th century CE, is a retelling of the epic that simultaneously illustrates the grammatical examples for Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as the major figures of speech and the Prākṛta language.
Another historically and chronologically important text is Raghuvaṁśa authored by Kālidāsa. Its story confirms many details of the Rāmāyaṇa, but has novel and different elements:
It mentions that Ayodhyā was not the capital in the time of Rāma's son named Kuśa, but that he later returned to it and made it the capital again.
This text is notable because the poetry in the text is exquisite and called a Mahākāvya in the Indian tradition, and has attracted many scholarly commentaries.
It is also significant because Kālidāsa has been dated to between the 4-5th century CE, suggesting that the Rāmāyaṇa legend was well established by the time of Kālidāsa.
The Mahābhārata has a summary of the Rāmāyaṇa.
The Jainism tradition has extensive literature of Rāma as well, but generally refers to him as Padma, such as in the Paumacariya by Vimalasūri.
Rāma and Sītā legend is mentioned in the Jātaka tales of Buddhism, as Daśaratha Jātaka (Tale no. 461), but with slightly different spellings such as Lakkhana for Lakṣmaṇa and Rāma-paṇḍita for Rāma.
The chapter 4 of Viṣṇu Purāṇa, chapter 112 of Padma Purāṇa, chapter 143 of Garuda Purāṇa and chapters 5 through 11 of Agṇi Purāṇa also summarise the life story of Rāma.
Additionally, the Rāma story is included in the Vana Parva of the Mahābhārata, which has been a part of evidence that the Rāmāyaṇa is likely more ancient, and it was summarised in the Mahābhārata epic in ancient times.
Rāma's story has had a major socio-cultural and inspirational influence across South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Very few works of literature produced in any place at any time have been as popular, influential, imitated and successful as the great and ancient Sanskrit epic poem, the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa.
Their influence has ranged from being a framework for personal introspection to cultural festivals and community entertainment. His life stories have inspired painting, film, sculpture, puppet shows, shadow plays, novels, poems, TV serials and plays.
14. Rāma Navamī
Rāma Navamī is a spring festival that celebrates the birthday of Rāma:
The festival is a part of the Spring Navarātrī, and falls on the 9th day of the bright half of Chaitra month in the traditional Hindu calendar. This typically occurs in the Gregorian months of March or April every year.
The day is marked by recital of Rāma legends in temples, or reading of Rāma stories at home.
Some Vaiṣṇava Hindus visit a temple, others pray within their home, and some participate in a Bhajan or Kīrtana with music as a part of Pūjā and Ārati.
The community organises charitable events and volunteer meals. The festival is an occasion for moral reflection for many Hindus. Some mark this day by Vrata (fasting) or a visit to a river for a dip.
The important celebrations on this day take place at Ayodhyā, Sītāmarhi, Janakpur (Nepal), Bhadrachalam, Kodaṇḍarāma Temple, Vontimitta and Rāmeśvaram.
Rathayātrās, the chariot processions, also known as Śobhā yātrās of Rāma, Sītā, his brother Lakṣmaṇa and Hanumān, are taken out at several places.
In Ayodhyā, many take a dip in the sacred river Sarayū and then visit the Rāma temple.
Rāma Navamī day also marks the end of the 9-day spring festival celebrated in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh called Vasanthothsavam (Festival of Spring), which starts with Ugādi.
Some highlights of this day are Kalyāṇam (ceremonial wedding performed by temple priests) at Bhadrachalam on the banks of the river Godāvarī in Bhadradri Kothagudem district of Telangana, preparing and sharing Panakam which is a sweet drink prepared with jaggery and pepper, a procession and Rāma temple decorations.
15. Rāmlīlā and Dussehra
Rāma's life is remembered and celebrated every year with dramatic plays and fireworks in autumn. This is called Rāmlīlā, and the play follows Rāmāyaṇa or more commonly the Rāmacaritamānasa.
It is observed through thousands of Rāma-related performance arts and dance events, that are staged during the festival of Navarātrī in India.
After the enactment of the legendary War between Good and Evil, the Rāmlīlā celebrations climax in the Dussehra (Dāsara, Vijayadaśamī) night festivities where the giant grotesque effigies of Evil such as of demon Rāvaṇa are burnt, typically with fireworks.
The Rāmlīlā festivities were declared by UNESCO as one of the "Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity" in 2008.
Rāmlīlā is particularly notable in historically important Hindu cities of Ayodhyā, Vārāṇasī, Vrindāvan, Almora, Satna and Madhubani – cities in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The epic and its dramatic play migrated into Southeast Asia in the 1st millennium CE, and Rāmāyaṇa based Rāmlīlā is a part of performance arts culture of Indonesia, particularly the Hindu society of Bali, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand.
In some parts of India, Rāma's return to Ayodhyā and his coronation is the main reason for celebrating Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights.
Just like Vijayadaśamī, Diwali is celebrated by different communities across India to commemorate different events in addition to Rāma's return to Ayodhyā:
For example, many communities celebrate one day of Diwali to celebrate the Victory of Kṛṣṇa over the demon Narakāsura.
17. Hindu arts in Southeast Asia
Rāma's life story, both in the written form of Sanskrit Rāmāyaṇa and the oral tradition arrived in Southeast Asia in the 1st millennium CE.
Rāma was one of many ideas and cultural themes adopted, others being the Buddha, the Śiva and host of other Brāhmaṇic and Buddhist ideas and stories.
In particular, the influence of Rāma and other cultural ideas grew in Java, Bali, Malaya, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
The Rāmāyaṇa was translated from Sanskrit into old Javanese around 860 CE, while the performance arts culture most likely developed from the oral tradition inspired by the Tamil and Bengali versions of Rāma-based dance and plays.
The earliest evidence of these performance arts are from 243 CE according to Chinese records.
Other than the celebration of Rāma's life with dance and music, Hindu temples built in Southeast Asia such as the Prambanan near Yogyakarta (Java), and at the Penataran near Blitar (East Java), show extensive reliefs depicting Rāma's life. The story of Rāma's life has been popular in Southeast Asia.
In the 14th century, the Ayutthaya Kingdom and its capital Ayutthaya was named after the Hindu holy city of Ayodhyā, with the official religion of the state being Theravada Buddhism.
Thai kings, continuing into the contemporary era, have been called Rāma, a name inspired by Rāma of Rāmakien – the local version of Sanskrit Rāmāyaṇa:
For example, King Chulalongkorn (1853-1910) is also known as Rāma V, while King Vajiralongkorn who succeeded to the throne in 2016 is called Rāma X.
In Jainism, the earliest known version of Rāma story is variously dated from the 1-5th century CE. This Jaina text credited to Vimalasūri shows no signs of distinction between Digambara-Śvetāṁbara (sects of Jainism), and is in a combination of Marathi and Śūrasena languages. These features suggest that this text has ancient roots.
Rāma is described to have lived long before the 22nd Jain Tīrthaṅkara called Neminātha. In the Jain tradition, Neminātha is believed to have been born 84,000 years before the 9th-century BCE Pārśvanātha.
Jain texts tell a very different version of the Rāma legend than the Hindu texts such as by Vālmīki:
According to the Jain version, Lakṣmaṇa is the one who kills Rāvaṇa.
Rāma, after all his participation in the rescue of Sītā and preparation for war, he actually does not kill, thus remains a non-violent person.
The Rāma of Jainism has numerous wives as does Lakṣmaṇa, unlike the virtue of monogamy given to Rāma in the Hindu texts.
Towards the end of his life, Rāma becomes a Jaina Monk then successfully attains Siddha followed by Mokṣa. His first wife Sītā becomes a Jaina Nun at the end of the story.
In the Jain version, Lakṣmaṇa and Rāvaṇa both go to the hell of Jain cosmology, because Rāvaṇa killed many, while Lakṣmaṇa killed Rāvaṇa to stop Rāvaṇa's violence.
The Daśaratha Jātaka (Tale no. 461) provides a version of the Rāma story. It calls Rāma as Rāma-paṇḍita.
At the end of this Daśaratha Jātaka discourse, the Buddhist text declares that the Buddha in his prior rebirth was Rāma:
The Master having ended this discourse, declared the Truths, and identified the Birth (...):
'At that time, the king Suddhodana was king Daśaratha, Mahāmāyā was the mother, Rahula's mother was Sītā, Ānanda was Bhārata, and I myself was Rāma-Paṇḍita.
— Jātaka Tale No. 461
While the Buddhist Jātaka texts co-opt Rāma and make him an incarnation of Buddha in a previous life, the Hindu texts co-opt the Buddha and make him an avatar of Viṣṇu.
The Jātaka literature of Buddhism is generally dated to be from the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BCE, based on the carvings in caves and Buddhist monuments such as the Barhut Stūpa:
The 2nd-century BCE stone relief carvings on Barhut Stūpa, as told in the Daśaratha Jātaka, is the earliest known non-textual evidence of Rāma story being prevalent in ancient India.
Rāma is mentioned as one of 24 divine incarnations of Viṣṇu in the Chaubis Avtar, a composition in Dāsam Granth traditionally and historically attributed to Guru Gobind Singh. The discussion of Rāma and Kṛṣṇa avatārs is the most extensive in this section of the secondary Sikh scripture.
21. Worship and temples
Rāma is a revered Vaiṣṇava deity, one who is worshipped privately at home or in temples.
He was a part of the Bhakti movement focus, particularly because of efforts of 14th century North Indian poet-saint Rāmānanda who created the Rāmānandī Saṁpradāya, a Sannyāsi community.
This community has grown to become the largest Hindu monastic community in modern times.
This Rāma-inspired movement has championed social reforms, accepting members without discriminating anyone by gender, class, caste or religion since the time of Rāmānanda who accepted Muslims wishing to leave Islam.
Traditional scholarship holds that his disciples included later Bhakti movement poet-saints such as Kabīr, Ravidas, Bhagat Pipa and others.
Temples dedicated to Rāma are found all over India and in places where Indian migrant communities have resided:
In most temples, the iconography of Rāma is accompanied by that of his wife Sītā and brother Lakṣmaṇa. In some instances, Hanumān is also included either near them or in the temple premises.
Hindu temples dedicated to Rāma were built by early 5th century, according to copper plate inscription evidence, but these have not survived.
The oldest surviving Rāma temple is near Raipur (Chhattisgarh), called the Rajīva-locana temple at Rajim near the Mahanadi river:
It is in a temple complex dedicated to Viṣṇu and dates back to the 7th-century with some restoration work done around 1145 CE based on epigraphic evidence.
The temple remains important to Rāma devotees in the contemporary times, with devotees and monks gathering there on dates such as Rāma Navamī.