Hey guys... I know we've been off this topic for a while now, but I came across this blog online which fits in with the topic really well... looking forward to your insights on what the author has to say!! http://prekshaa.blogspot.com/2010/12/rama-and-krishna-comparative-study.html
Rama and Krishna – A comparative study
One of the favorite pastimes of people interested in Indian epics -
Ramayana and Mahabharata, is to compare Rama with Krishna, specially to
take actions performed by Rama and speculate on how Krishna would have
handled the situation. On all delicate situations faced by Rama,
specially where his actions seem unpalatable, Krishna is brought in and a
statement is usually made – If it were Krishna, he wouldn't have let
this happen or he would have done something else and resolved the issue.
This write-up is a small and humble effort in trying to actually see if
there is any veracity to such comparisons.
Rama and Krishna were
two different personalities. Their times, their characters, their
outlook to life, their circumstances were all different. Hence normally
comparison is very difficult. But compare we must do, having set forth
on this endeavor. The methodology used for comparison in here is to set
out the same with respect to various human characteristics / personality
traits. The events in their lives shall be used to substantiate the
comparison. The attributes chosen to compare are taken from the
standpoint of importance in the Indian - Hindu ethical structure. Such
things as miracles, superhuman show of strength, looks and such have
been discounted. The similar traits are analyzed first later moving on
to the differences.
Details from Rama's life are from Valmiki's
Ramayana while that of Krishna are from the Bhaagavata, Padma Puraana
is another highly valued characteristic in Indian ethics. Both Rama and
Krishna proved over and over, time and again, their selfless nature.
gave up his rightful throne and went away to the forests for 14 years.
He could have got control and rule Kishkinda and Lanka, but in both
places, he places their rightful kings in their thrones and moves on.
Such is his selfless nature that upon the completion of 14 years forest
stay, enroute his return journey to Ayodhya, he sends his friend Hanuman
ahead. He asks him to inform Bharata (who is a caretaker king) and see
if there is any feeling of resentment in him. If there was even an iota
of resentment in Bharata at Rama's return, he would have not returned.
The zenith of his selflessness is his highest sacrifice wherein he gives
up his beloved pregnant wife for the sake of his citizens.
life is also one of absolute selflessness. On the slaying of Kamsa, he
thrones Vasudeva as the king. Krishna slays or causes the slaying of
other kings in the course of establishing dharma. In each case, he
installs the rightful heir on the throne and moves on. Throughout his
life Krishna never becomes a king. The importance of this fact is better
perceived when contrasted against the singular role he played in the
Kurukshetra war, a war so great that all kings then ruling were pitted
either on the side of Pandavas or the Kauravas.
On selflessness, both Rama and Krishna stand at par with one another.Equanimity / Balanced thinking
the most difficult situations, Rama keeps his head. When prompted to
rebel, and take over the throne instead of going to the forest, by
Lakshmana (and verily by Dasharatha himself), he refuses. When Lakshmana
grows suspicious of Bharata coming with many men to their forest
dwelling and gets agitated, he calms him down. When Vibheeshana comes in
surrender, he gladly accepts him as a friend instead of killing him as
Of course, there are times when he gets agitated, angry
and suspicious. He first thinks that the bird Jataayu is a monster that
must have kidnapped Sita while it had actually tried its best to save
her. Rama also gets angry at the Ocean since it does not give him way to
go to Lanka. There are times where Rama is seen expressing common human
characteristics like anger, resentment and so on. But his greatness is
that he never acts on those basal tendencies. He always overcomes these
failings to retain his equanimity.
Krishna is also known for his
ability to keep cool always and never lose his thinking to normal human
failings. He is always composed. When Shishupala starts abusing him in
Yudhishtira's Rajasuya yaaga, he doesn't get provoked. He tolerates till
such time that his promise to Shishupaala's mother (of forgiving his
100 sins) holds. He then quickly slays Shishupala with utmost composure.
Similarly, his encounters with Jarasandha, Duryodhana and others are
perfectly balanced from his side. His actions are clean executions of
his purposeful decisions.
Krishna also, at times gets angry in
face of adharma / injustice. He is not always the cool and fun making
person. In the Kurukshetra war, when he sees Arjuna not fighting to his
best against a belligerent Bhishma, Krishna gets angry and almost takes
up his weapon, against his earlier vow not to bear weapons in the war.
Krishna's actions are never influenced by anger, resentment, jealousy
and other such basal tendencies.
On equanimity and balanced thinking, Rama and Krishna are on par.Humility
as per the ancient Indian ethical structure, is an important
characteristic of a great leader. We shall now see how Rama and Krishna
fare in this attribute.
Rama never shows arrogance in spite of
his immense strength. His meeting with Shabari and his unhesitating
acceptance of the fruits that she had first tasted, is an excellent
example of this. He is humble, yet firm, never weak. In many instances,
such as upon slaying of Vaali and installing Sugreeva and Angada as the
king and prince (respectively) of Kishkinda, any mortal would have shown
arrogance, but not Rama. His humility shines through as a sterling
quality, specially in one so great in strength, valor and power.
too is always grounded in reality. There are numerous examples of his
humility – be it his meeting with Kuchela, be it his partaking the
leftovers on his visit to the Pandavas' forest abode or his preference
to be with Vidura rather than the royal hospitality offered by
Both Rama and Krishna are strong yet humble. Their
humility doesn't arise from weakness, but from an understanding of human
relationships and the value they place on it. As regards this
attribute, both Rama and Krishna are on par.Human Relations
An important aspect of a leader is the way he relates to other people that he comes in contact with.
exemplifies the perfection of managing relationships, as we understand
them today. In his role as a son, he is willing to go to any length to
save the honor of his father. As a brother, he is the guiding force for
his younger brothers, earning their respect and respecting them. As a
husband he is loving, caring and loyal. As a friend, he is an embodiment
of friendship as seen in his friendship with Hanuman, Sugreeva,
Vibheeshana and so on. Even as an enemy, he is perfect – he gives
Raavana several chances to correct the mistakes. He doesn't resort to
unfair means in war. Most importantly, as a king, he treats his subjects
as his children and has their welfare as a foremost concern. Each one
of his relationships is memorable, even the shorter relationships – such
as with a dying Jataayu or the old Shabari. Hence, we see that from the
perspectives of all those who related with Rama, he must have seemed
perfect. The unfortunate event of renunciation of his wife Sita was a
compulsion**. Even then, though he physically separated from her, he was
always one with her memory as seen in episodes such as when he uses her
image made in gold as a dharma-patni (wife) while performing religious
Krishna, as in everything else, is a master in human
relationships. His relationships with Raadha and the Gopis is a matter
of everlasting enjoyment for his devotees. It is said that thousands of
Gopis all felt that Krishna was fully and completely with them at the
same time. Such was his effect. Krishna's loving relationship with the
Pandavas, his special friendship and camaraderie with Arjuna, his loving
friendship with Kuchela and Vidura, his tolerance of the Kauravas, are
all examples of his keen sense for human relations. Krishna, as an
enemy, is perfect too. He uses force only as a last resort and there are
always options open for his enemies to correct their mistakes.
unlike Rama, has to deal with many people who have their own vagaries /
idiosyncrasies. By his perfect understanding of their characteristics,
he manages them and at times manipulates them. Examples of such are
Satyabhaama (his wife who is perennially jealous and possessive of him);
Balarama (his brother who is kind of stubborn); Bhishma (an honourable
man who is fighting on the side of unrighteousness / adharma);
Duryodhana (who is arrogant); etc. On the other hand, the people that
Rama has to deal with are more in terms of black and white. Also, the
events of Ramayana are not as complex in terms of human interplays as
Rama's relations with others are fully based on
the strength of his own character. His dealings are always
straightforward and so are the characters he has to deal with. Krishna
understands and utilizes to the full, the strengths and weaknesses of
people he has to deal with. The events and characters that Krishna has
to deal with cover a much wider spectrum between white and black and
thus provide a wider canvas for showcasing his awesome relationship
emotional quotient, love and attachment to near and dear reflect a
persons approach to life. As such this is an important human attribute
and hence may be used as a measure of comparison.
emotional quotient is very high and derived from his love towards his
parents, brothers, wife, friends and his subjects. Rama stays attached
to his family and their memories when they are no longer with him. He
emotionally remembers his father, Dasharatha, many times over several
years. When Sita is kidnapped, he pines for her. After renouncing Sita,
he keeps a golden sculpture of her resemblance with him for all rituals.
When Lakshmana dies, Rama follows quickly. He gets nostalgic and
reminisces the good times. He stays connected, directly or in fond
memory, with his ancestors, family, friends, subjects.
approach is much different than Rama. Krishna derives his high emotional
quotient from detachment. While fully enjoying the company of his
parents, wives, brother and friends, he is absolutely detached from them
all. When he leaves Gokula to kill Kamsa, he never returns. All his
attachments of his childhood – his adopted parents Yashoda and
Nandagopa, his love Raadha and the Gopis, his friends are all coolly
detached. The rest of his life is disconnected from his past. He just
moves on. His relationship with others are similar. He indirectly causes
the destruction of his clan who had regressed and become rather
useless. His strongest attachments were probably the Pandavas for whom
he had great affection.
This is probably the most important
difference between the two. Krishna's life is a perfect example of his
teachings in the Gita, of the characteristics of a Sthitha Prajna. For
Krishna life is in the moment, while for Rama, his entire life is the
or following dharma is an important attribute, specially in heroes and
role models, since it is an essential characteristic for human society
Rama, throughout his life, was faced with many
difficult situations, as if to test how he would react to the situation.
He reacted with utmost righteousness in each case, so much so, they set
the standards of ethical behavior. Be it when he leaves Ayodhya for the
forest, when Bharata entreats him to return to Ayodhya or when he
realizes that the citizens of Ayodhya are unhappy with Sita's chastity.
His stand in every situation is a shining example of what a person must
do to follow the right path / dharma, irrespective of the cost to
Rama established dharma by living it in the face of
travails. Rama's approach was to live by dharma and sort out the adharma
/ unrighteousness when encountered with a problem. When the sage
Vishwaamitra asked for his help, he accompanied him to the forests where
he slayed Khara, Dhooshana and other raakshasas who were troubling the
sages and their rituals. When Raavana kidnapped his Sita, he went after
and killed him. The opportunities for establishment of dharma, thus
presented themselves to Rama in the form of problems.
life was probably not as personally testing as was Rama's, in terms of
the situations he had to face. Though he was born in captivity, his
childhood and youth was spent in fun and frolic. His later life was
filled with task after task of establishing righteousness or dharma.
All of the important events of his life such as the killing of Kamsa,
Shishupala, Jarasandha, the Kauravas, were done either directly by him
or were motivated and mentored by him for the purpose of establishing
dharma. His advice to Arjuna, the Bhagavad Gita, is verily a treatise on
dharma. In his own life he never compromised on righteous behaviour.
The right things to be done were never postponed nor ignored.
established dharma by destroying adharma / unrighteousness. He was more
pro-active in going after adharma. For instance, Krishna and his
brother Balarama, both had the exact same upbringing and environment.
Krishna, in comparison to Balarama, accomplished a lot by action
oriented intervention into problem areas. This can be found in several
cases mentioned above as also in his active intervention in the
Hence, though Rama and Krishna both had
righteousness / dharma as their core value, they differed in their
approach. While Rama established dharma by setting a model for
generations to come, by living his life by dharma, Krishna sought out
adharma, destroyed it and established dharma.Strategic and Tactical approach
is an important attribute for comparison, since here again there is a
marked difference, especially in perception, between our two heroes.
is not specially known for his strategic or tactical thinking or
decisions. At every critical juncture, he chooses the decision based on
dharma (ethics and righteousness). However, most of his decisions – to
align with Hanuman, Sugreeva and his monkey warriors, Vibheeshana, all
do seem strategic. He seemingly commits some tactical errors such as
letting go of Raavana first time in war when he is in a position to kill
him. However, it is difficult to say that these were errors since
eventually he does manage to kill him. His decision of renunciation of
Sita is widely believed to be a lack of strategic or tactical thinking,
but this thinking is incorrect since he had no other options and no
amount of strategizing would have resolved the problem **.
is believed to be a master strategist and tactician. This is because of
the various events in his life such as the stage managed kidnapping of
his sister Subhadra by his friend Arjuna, the slaying of Jaraasandha,
numerous events during the Kurukshetra war - killing of Jayadratha; his
advice to Ghatotkacha when he is getting killed (to grow and fall on the
enemy soldiers); his plan to field Shikhandi against Bhishma, his
bringing about the end of Drona by inspiring Yudhishtira to tell a white
lie; the killing of Karna when he is weaponless and has lost the memory
to invoke powerful weapons; his advice to Bheema resulting in the
eventual death of Duryodhana; all these are the high points of his
strategic and tactical thinking.
These various events give an
incomplete model of Krishna to a casual observer as cunning and
manipulative person who would do anything to gain victory. It is not so.
All those who are killed by strategy were invincible in one way or the
other and had some weakness that had to be exploited to ensure that the
ends of justice are met. In all these cases, strategy was inevitable.
Moreover, Rama's slaying of Vaali was similar to many of Krishna's
strategies / tactics.
In light of these many incidents, there are
many who believe that Krishna would have found some way to work, if he
were in the position of Rama while abandoning Sita. They say that he
would manage the subjects somehow and ensure that there were a better
ending to the story. But on a little analysis, we can figure that it
would not be the case. Both Rama and Krishna stand firm for dharma. The
situation that was a dharma sankata (an ethical dilemma) for Rama would
have been the same if it was Krishna in his place. This is shown by the
incident in Krishna's own life - the case of the Shyamantaka Gem that
belonged to his friend Satraajit. Satraajit's brother wears it while
going for a hunt and loses it when he is killed by a lion. The lion
takes the gem which is further won by Jaambavantha the bear. Krishna
goes to great lengths, going in search of the gem and fights with
Jaambavantha for 21 days to get back the gem. Here again Krishna bows to
the perception of citizens that he may have had a hand in the gem being
lost. This one incident suggests that Krishna, in Rama's position,
would have acted in the same way.Conclusion
comparison between Rama and Krishna is kind of unfair to both since
their situations, characters and times were all different. The Ramayana
and Mahabharata are vastly different. Hence the comparison may seem
dubious. However, since such comparative statements keep coming up
amongst interested people, such an analytical exercise becomes
While Rama is more on a human level, Krishna is in
the divine plane. While Rama appeals at a personal level, Krishna
appeals at a higher, structural plane. The way of life for an ideal
Hindu family is modeled after Rama's life and not as Krishna's. This is
because ordinary mortals can reasonably aim to live their lives as Rama
lived his (discounting the feats of strength and valor). Krishna's way
of life is to view with awe and not something that can be followed and
Since the Mahabharata has a much wider canvas and
colors as compared to Ramayana, Krishna's character at times is
perceived wrongly as someone who doesn't care about the means as long as
the end is justified (as compared to Rama who is perceived as caring
about the means as much as the ends). This perception, is highly unfair
to Krishna. Both Rama and Krishna are equal followers and upholders of
dharma. Though perceived as opposite poles in characteristics, their
core values are the same.
Both Rama and Krishna are similar in
most human characteristics as well as their adherence to the four
purushaarthas of Dharma (ethics and righteousness), Artha (wealth),
Kaama (desire) and Moksha (liberation) - specially that artha and kaama
are to be pursued within the framework of dharma.
While we read
Krishna's sayings in the Bhagavad Gita of detachment and equanimity in
the evening of our lives, we faithfully live our lives imitating Rama.
** Please read this article
for a more detailed analysis of Rama's abandonment of Sita.
Important Events in Rama's life
The important events (memorable, turning points, high points, etc) in Rama's life were ::
Childhood. Rama's childhood was marked by his kinship and leadership with his brothers
Going to the forest with Vishwamitra to protect the sages from rAkshasas
The achievement of not only lifting but breaking the Shiva Dhanush (Shiva's bow) in Janaka's court and winning Sita for a bride
Renunciation of the kingdom just before coronation when he learnt that his father's honour depended on him (Rama).
to the forest with bare minimum belongings to the great disappointment
of his citizens and family. His sobering advice to Lakshmana, Sita,
Rendezvous with Bharata who was
intent on taking / sending back Rama to Ayodhya. His refusal to go back
and his convincing of Bharata
Happy life spent with Sita and Lakshmana in the forest for nearly 13 years
Chasing of the magic deer and the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana. His sorrow on losing his beloved.
with Jatayu, its death and his performing its last rites with as much
shraddhA (faith, conviction, sincerity) as if it were his father.
Meeting with Hanuman and Sugreeva
Killing of Vaali to aid Sugreeva's fight for justice
Search for Sita
Leading the monkey army towards Lanka.
Meeting with Vibheeshana (brother of Raavana). Building of the bridge to Lanka.
Winning the war with Raavana, his warriors and his army. Coronation of Vibheeshana as king of Lanka
Sita's agni parIksha (test by the fire)
Tentativeness in returning to Ayodhya; return and Coronation as king
Renunciation of Sita based on citizen's perception of her chastity. Leading a lonely life
Accidental meeting and union with his twin sons. Parting of Sita to her mother's womb (into the earth)
Eventual niryANa (departure) from the earth followed by many of his citizens
Events in Krishna's life
Birth in captivity. Removed to a safe haven.
Killing of many rAkshasas even as a baby
Childhood fun and pranks – specially directed towards women in the community
Loving relationship with Radha
Killing of the tyrant uncle – Kamsa
Coronation of grandfather as the king
Kidnapping and subsequent marriage with Rukmini
on him regarding the loss of the Shyamantaka diamond. His efforts to
clear his name. Fighting with Jambavanta. Wedding with Jambavati
Wedding with Satyabhama
Killing of Narakasura and marriage with the 16 thousand women held captive by Naraka.
Many wars with Jarasandha. Eventual eviction of all citizens to a newly built city – Dwaraka
Attending the rAjasUya yAga performed by Yudhishtira.
Planned assassination of Jarasandha by Bhima in a fight.
Beheading Shishupala after prolonged tolerance of his abuse.
Friendship with the Pandavas, specially Arjuna.
Staged kidnapping of his sister Satyabhama by his friend Arjuna. His influence in the valor of his later born nephew Abhimanyu.
Saving Draupadi's honour, by magic when she was being disrobed by the Kaurava Dushshasana
Sympathy and empathy towards the Pandavas for their unfortunate forest stay. Anger towards the unjust Kauravas
Mediation efforts on behalf of Pandavas
many important turns of the Kurukshetra war where he played a
singularly influencing role :: Advice to Arjuna in the form of Bhagavad
Gita, Killing of Bhishma, Drona, Jayadratha, Karna, protecting Arjuna in
many instances, even at the cost of others like Ghatotkacha (Bhima's
son from Hidimbe)
His overseeing of the demise of his clan
His own eventual departure from earth