Ramayana, one of the greatest epics of 24,000 verses, has widely traveled, transformed, translated, and lived throughout eternity. The epic/poem revolves around the story of Lord Rama, who is said to be the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Composed by Sage Valmiki, Ramayana is referred to as Adi-Kavya (first poem), and sage Valmiki himself is referred to as Adi Kavi (first poet).
Ramayana is best known for the ideal characters, who were the epitome of devotion, and are worshipped till date; such as the ideal son (Lord Rama), ideal wife (Devi Sita), ideal brother (Lakshman and other brothers of Rama), ideal devotee (Lord Hanuman), etc. Apart from the other characters, women in Ramayana are portraited as mentally strong beings who were never left alone by their society and culture. They were either blamed for their beauty, blamed for being abducted, blamed for openly expressing their feelings, or blamed for being themselves.
However, whatever the consequences were, some women stayed by their morale and never get detached from their devotional heart and get past through all ups and downs, which helped them earn respect. With this, here are the important female characters from Ramayana one should know about.
1. Devi Sita
The central female character of Ramayana, Goddess Sita, is said to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and consort of Lord Rama (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Being found under the ground by King Janaka, she is also said to be Bhumi Devi. Sita is the character, who possesses all the great qualities, and with those qualities makes her the great woman.
Devi Sita was a physically vigorous character, she was the one who picked up the Pinaka (Shiva Dhanush) when she was a kid, however, she was more characterized as a lady with emotional and mental strength. She stood like a rock with her husband in the hardest time and never turned her back from facing challenges and problems.
For Sita, to be in exile was not that hardest, but being kidnapped by Lankapati Ravana was what she could have hardly borne. Ravana tried all measures to prevail her in being his consort, yet Devi Sita didn’t lose her hope, she patiently waited for her husband. Her courage, dedication, faith, and purity were also some of the reasons for the victory over Ravana. Despite all those hardships and devotion of Devi Sita, she was doubted by the society and her own husband. Still, Sita calmly undergoes through Agni Parikshya (Fire Ordeal) to prove her loyalty.
That calm personality was how Devi Sita was. She taught the whole world to face hardships while not losing faith. She personified how a human being should be and how they should live their life. We rarely find any other woman like Devi Sita in the real world and in epics. She really was a great woman.
Surpanakha, one of the most important characters of Ramayana, was the one who instigated the battle between Rama and Ravana. Being presented as an ugly woman in Valmiki Ramayana, she actually is said to have the power of changing herself to different physical appearances/forms. Surpanakha was the rakshasa princess and a sister of Ravana, whose husband was killed by her own brother (i.e. Ravana).
Without Surpanakha, Ramayana might not have come into existence, it was her who fell attracted to Lord Rama in the jungle in the first place. She showed some courage, expressed her feelings, and tried seducing Rama. But her demonic behavior and remarks regarding Devi Sita made Lakshmana cut off her nose. Therefore, as a revenge, she forced her brother to start a war with Rama by abducting his beautiful wife.
Some other version of Ramayana says that Surpanakha was actually playing the plot for her brother’s destruction (as avenge for killing her husband), and she was not attracted to Lord Rama. All her acts were part of her conspiracy to kill her brother. Inside her demonic foolish behavior was the genius evil who was all set forth to take revenge. Ravana also being mesmerized by the beauty of Devi Sita forgets all his morale and takes himself in the path of his own demolition.
The Story of Surpanakha teaches us that we should always have devotion, purity, and ethics in life and in the relationship, otherwise one will be led towards their own destruction. One cannot get love with force, hurting others will lead to nothing and one should never pressurize others to stay in their life.
Like Surpanakha, Kaikeyi is another important character from Ramayana, who is held responsible for all the misfortunes that happened in the royal family of Ayodhya (such as exile of Rama and death of King Dasaratha). Except for Lord Rama, everyone in the kingdom despised her. Though the condition made her hatred character, Kaikeyi was not like that from the start.
Kaikeyi was the princess of Kekaya Kingdom before she married King Dasaratha and became his second queen. She was a beauty with masculinity. She was a good warrior who once saved King Dashratha in the war and thus was bestowed with two boons (which Kaikeyi didn’t use in the meantime) by the King. She was the favorite of the King, who used to love Rama more than her own son.
Queen Kaikeyi was happy with Rama being the king of the kingdom, but it was her maid Manthara, who made her change the joyful atmosphere of the palace. Urged by Manthara, Kaikeyi made use of her two boons asking to make Bharata as a king, and to exile Ram for 14 years. This was what Kaikeyi did to make her look evil, but all she did was for the betterment of her son Bharata. And if Kaikeyi had not done this, Ramayana might not have existed either.
What we need to understand is that Kaikeyi was just playing her role in this world to help complete the mission of Lord Vishnu who incarnated as Rama. However, the things that we need to learn from Kaikeyi is to never keep yourself with a bad company. A negative company can erase all the good within us and can poison our thoughts with evil as Manthara did.
An unsung hero of Ramayana, Urmila, was the younger sister of Devi Sita who was married to Lakshman, on the same day of Rama and Sita’s marriage. Princess Urmila was the biological daughter of King Janaka and Queen Sunanya.
Urmila is the character who is not that highlighted in the epic, but she is the one with a great personality, whose sacrifice helped the forefront characters in the successful completion of their journey. Urmila’s sacrifice was so ultimate that it cannot be comparable and even cannot be describable. She was the one at the most disadvantage yet she accepted all that came her way. That’s why she is said to be the great hero of the epic who stayed by the Kingdom in the verse of fulfilling her duties.
Urmila also had wanted to accompany her husband in exile as Sita did, but she was asked to stay back and take care of the people at Ayodhya by her husband. Her first sacrifice was to let her beloved husband go away for 14 years to help him stick with his duty. Her other major sacrifice was to share the sleep of her husband for 14 years. In the course of protecting Rama and Sita, Lakshman refused to sleep and requested Nidari Devi (God of Sleep) to not come for 14 years, and that’s why Urmila agreed to share the sleep of her husband too. She slept for 14 years until her husband returned back to Ayodhya. It was because of Urmila that Lakshman was able to kill Meghnath (son of Ravana). Meghnath had a boon that he could only be killed by the one who had defeated sleep, and it was Lakshman who had conquered sleep as his sleep was shared by his wife.
Urmila was a silent warrior in Ramayana, who helped the central characters win their battle. She teaches us about the actual sacrifice, devotion, dedication, and love.
Mandodari, the beautiful, intelligent, and consort of Ravana was the daughter of Mayasura (the king of Asura) and Hema (Apsara). Her role in the Ramayana was short but very important. She had warned her husband not to abduct Sita, but Ravana had gone mindless with the beauty of Sita and also was all set to start a war, as commanded by his sister Surpanakha.
Despite whatever the personality her husband possesses, whatever mistakes he did, she loved him wholeheartedly. She tried her best to stop her husband from the wrongdoings but it’s the fate that nobody could escape. It is also said that, because of Mandodri’s intervention, Sita was left to stay peacefully in Lanka for such a long time. Because of her husband’s ill intention, she lost both her son and husband. She was a faithful wife who tried her best to make Ravana the better person but she accepted the result as fate, as a cruel destiny that cannot be escaped.
Mandodari teaches us that being on a good path is all about one’s choice. Being from a demon family, she chooses to become Saatvik (pure, natural, energetic, vital, and clean). She is adorned as one of the Panchakanyas, the recital whose name alone can cleanse one’s sin.(Last Updated On: March 10, 2022)