Moral Dilemma in the Ramayana

Updated December 27, 2021

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Moral Dilemma in the Ramayana essay

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Ramayana is a very famous Indian Epic written in about 500 B.C. It is a long narrative poem of 24000 Verses of Sanskrit (An ancient Indian language) and is ascribed to the sage Valmiki, who is regarded as the Adi Kavi.Ramayana is the story of the king Rama, who is actually an Avatar (Incarnation) of the Lord Vishnu. In Ramayana, we come across different instances of moral dilemma, where the characters come across certain situations where they face conflict and seems to be wandering as regarding what to do in such situations.

There are various occasions in the Ramayana where the various characters at various points of time seem to deviate from the path of Satya i.e., they violate the principle of truthfulness. As during Satyug truthfulness was one of the pillars of people’s ethics and code of conduct. So, in this paper on moral dilemma on truthfulness, we will analyze various situations presented in the epic where various characters at different stages of their life face conflict regarding following the path of the Satya which was one of the pillars of people’s code of conduct during satyug. We would justify why these situations are a moral dilemma and also try to present our solutions to these moral dilemmas with proper justifications according to the given situations.


Literatures are thought to be the reflections of life. As life offers us peculiar situations of moral dilemma, so does literature. It is interesting to note, in the Indian epic, the Ramayana, a number of instances of the moral dilemma have been presented. In this paper, we have discussed various situations presented in the epic where the character’s deviate from the path of the “Satya”, we would study these situations and try to present the most viable solution by analyzing the situation and would try to present the justifications for the actions taken by the character in the presented situation.

‘Going there … do not inform you him of Rama having gone into exile or of his father having demised or of the … destruction of the scious of Raghu as a result of these incidents’This occasion when the principle of truthfulness is violated by the spiritual Guru of the royal family, Vasisthta.It refers to the Ayodhya Kanda.When Dasaratha’s thoughtless promise to Kaikeyi that Rama had to go to exile . As a result of which he cannot bear this pain. He became unconscious frequently and finally died of heart attack.

At these adverse events Rama’s brother Bharata and Satrughna were far away from Ayodhya. They were in Kekaya, an ancient place in north-western Punjab—between Gandhara and the Beas river. Vasistha sent his messengers to call them back to Ayodhya but ordered the messengers not to inform or give any sign of these difficult events that had happened at Ayodhya. He ordered the messengers not to inform them about the exile of their brother Rama to the forest for fourteen years and the untimely death of their father Dasaratha.

Analysis of the Dilemma

Thus, in this incident hiding the truth results in the moral dilemma of Vasistha’s order to the messenger. With respect to Vasistha, this event is a dilemma for himself as the truth-telling of their father’s Dasaratha and his brother Rama’s exile in such a short interval of time. As the two serious news which came so suddenly as they are not mentally prepared for it. It could result in the degradation of their mind and body which was not suitable at that point in time as after Rama and Laxman,he has the right to the kingdom.

This incident tests the truthfulness and loyalty of the messenger. Truthfulness to their master and loyalty to the spiritual Guru. This is a dilemma as the messenger can not follow both the moral values simultaneously. Vasistha’s instruction to the messengers can also be justified on the ground of Manu’s verdict regarding truth. According to Manu “Let him say what is true, let him say what is pleasing, let him utter no disagreeable truth and let him utter no agreeable falsehood: that is the eternal law.” In Jainism also the truth is sunrta, the truth that can cause harm to someone is forbidden in Jaina ethics. Thus, the messenger did the right thing as it is rightful to the kingdom of Ayodhya.

“What means can I have for acquiring correct knowledge about the ogres, who are capable of changing their form at will? You alone ought to know who he is and what he is about. Indeed a serpent alone has true knowledge about the movement of a serpent: there is no doubt about it. I too am exceedingly frightened and do not know at all who he really is. Of course, I believe him to be an ogre able to change his form at will, arrived here. ”This occasion when the goddess Sita, wife of the mighty Lord Rama, violates the principle of Truthfulness.

It refers to the Sundara Kanda when Hanumana came to meet Sita in Dandakarnaya. Ravana, the lord of the Rakshasas, abducted Sita and kept her in the garden of Asoka, where Hanuman manages to meet Sita. After a long conversation and assurance, Hanumana won the confidence of Sita. Then she became extremely happy to get to know that Rama had sent him. Hanumana and Sita had a long and pleasant conversation. Hanumana told her that how indifferent Rama had become in grief due to her absence. He consoled Sita that her sorrows would be over very soon; as heroic Rama would be carrying her back to Ayodhya after slaying Ravana with his brood. His words of assurance comforted tearful Sita a lot.

After taking leave from Sita Hanumana thought that his main object for coming to the kingdom of Ravana had been accomplished. Now, if he can ascertain the power of the enemy, then the mission would be complete in every respect. So, He decided to destroy Asoka garden; since this would drive Ravana enraged and consequently he would appear on the scene with his army. Then Hanumana would fight against them and after destroying them he would go back to Kiskindha. With this thought, he began to break down the Asoka woods in anger and knocked down the trees violently.

The demonesses who had been asleep woke up and found quite fearful and formidable Hanumana sitting upon the garden gate. The panic-stricken demonesses enquired of Sita about this monkey. In reply, Sita did not disclose his real identity and told them that it was not possible for her to know the motives of the demons since they were capable of assuming different forms at will. The above-cited verses show the reply of Sita to the demoness of the Lanka.

This is thus an occasion where Sita faces a moral dilemma and decides to lie. She has to give up the principle of truthfulness for some other consideration, this can be some utilitarian consideration and this can also be her preferring the principle of non-violence or ahimsa to the principle of truthfulness. From a utilitarian standpoint, her consideration might be such that if Hanumana can manage to fly away from the kingdom of Ravana he will be able to carry the whole information to Rama and Sita will be rescued by Rama without any delay. From the principle of ahimsa Sita might have anticipated that if Ravana comes to know that Hanumana is a messenger of Rama, he can become more violent to Hanumana than he would be otherwise. Hence by uttering the lie, she might have tried to save Hanumana from severe violence of Ravana. Thus Sita adopted a pragmatic standard of truth, as she thought that if she adhered to the truth that would cause danger to Hanumana’s life.  This is a case where falsehood is more preferable to the truth. These are the cases where falsehood becomes the truth.


In conclusion, we should not always follow a “formalistic” approach to make any judgment. In these situations, Sita and Valmiki did not get trapped into the formalism of moral principles. They did not take resort to any support from authority; instead, they used their reason (and, finer sensitivity also) and came up with the best possible alternative to save the given situation. Conscience became their best guide in these circumstances, the highest standard of truth has been violated by different characters in order to realize some larger good. In Ramayana, Valmiki advocates a kind of ethics that determines the rightness or wrongness of an act on the ground of ‘goodness’ and ‘utility’. “For the sake of ‘rightness’, ‘goodness’ and ‘utility’ should not be sacrificed, but, on the other hand, it would be proper if ‘rightness’ is sacrificed for the sake of ‘goodness’ or ‘utility’.


  1. https://books.google.co.in/books/about/The_R%C3%A1m%C3%A1yan_of_V%C3%A1lm%C3%ADki.html?id=-9coAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
  2. https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/160633/6/06_chapter%202.com
  3. https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/manu.htm
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