Page:History of India Vol 1.djvu/157

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117
THE SPIRIT OF THE RAMAYANA

briefly told. In the Ramayana we miss the fiery valour and the proud self-assertion of the Kshatriyas of the Mahabharata, and the subordination of the people to the priestly caste is more complete. Janaka himself is not described as the proud assertor of Kshatriya learning and dignity that he was, but as a humble servant of priests, and Rama himself, the hero of the epic, though he encounters and defeats a Brahman warrior, Parasurama, does so with many apologies and due submission! The story of Parasurama probably conceals a great historic truth. He is said to have fought against the Kshatriyas and exterminated the caste; and then he was conquered by the Kshatriya Rama, the hero of the epic. It would seem that this story indicates the real rivalry and hostilities between the priestly and warrior castes, indications of which we have found in a literary form in the Upanishads.

For the rest, one feels on reading the Ramayana that the real heroic age of India had passed, and that centuries of residence in the valley of the Ganges had produced an enervating effect on the Aryans. We miss the heroic, if somewhat rude and sturdy, manners and incidents which mark the Mahabharata. We miss characters distinguished by real valour and battles fought with real obstinacy and determination. We miss men of flesh and blood, of pride and determination, like Karna and Duryodhana and Bhima; and the best-developed characters in the Ramayana are women like the proud and scheming Kaikeyi or the gentle and ever suffering Sita.