In India, Lord Vishnu is worshiped primarily as Avatar, or incarnations, particularly as Rama and Krishna, the principal characters of the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. In both of these wonderful long stories the God takes on human form in order to heal a breach in the order of society, and thus the world in general. In doing so there is an attempt to reestablish the moral code of social conduct and proper relation of mankind to divinity.
In addition, certain collections of tales come to be widely known in popular life, especially from these two great epics. Ramayana tells the story of Rama, the ideal Hindu man and king, whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. There is subsequent hilarious journey of Rama to Lanka to conquer the demon king and recapture Sita.
Both the epics are filled with educative tales, edifying poems, and fables. It is probably through their constant retelling in the villages over centuries that Hinduism is most efficiently disseminated from generation to generation. *
However, India’s beautiful spiritual mythology can constitute a serious obstacle to the Westerner who is developing an interest in Vedanta if he takes this mythology too literally (as many people do). He draws back in amazed disbelief when he discovers that there is no good historical evidence for India’s favourite divine incarnations, Rama and Krishna.
He is further taken aback when he encounters India’s many gods; some beautiful, some strange, and some grotesque! He can be so shocked that he may lose interest in India’s great spiritual tradition before he has investigated it.
Therefore, people with superficial knowledge of Indian mythology may conclude that these epics contain mere fictitious folklore (and superstitions) rather than true religious or spiritual truths.
All the same, without any suggestions to rectify such misconceptions at this stage, I still feel it is worthwhile to read this wonderful story of Rama…