The Mahabharat and The Ramayan are India’s two greatest epics. Both are celebrated as the victory of good over evil. The good versus evil story is as old as civilization itself. But, what sets these two epics apart is the absence of absolute and outright evil figures. In both these epics, the antagonists suffer from the vices that are found in each and every person – jealousy, arrogance, greed, lust, vanity etc. The antagonists Ravan and Duryodhan are more tragic than despicable.
In the Ramayan, Ravan is a highly learned and fearless Brahmin. He is a just and generous king for his people. Ravan had every right to wage war against Ram for Lakshman’s humiliation of his sister Srupanakha after she proposed to Ram. However, Ravan’s deceitful abduction of Ram’s wife Sita and attempted seduction was a cowardly and despicable act, an act of adharma. The figures of Meghnath, his son and Kumbhkaran,his brother are the most fascinating. Kumbhkaran was believed to be a noble warrior who chided Ravan for his cowardly action of abducting Sita but ultimately sided with Ravan out of loyalty. Similar is the case of Meghnath, a fierce warrior who chose loyalty over everything else. While, both of them chose loyalty and sided with adharma, they are respected and venerated for the same. While Vibhishan, who forsake loyalty and sided with Ram and dharma is synonymous with treachery.Vibhishan’s name died with him but Indrajit’s name has lived till now.
The Mahabharat too deals with the conflict within man. The principal antagonist Duryodhan is jealous of his cousins. He cheats them out of their kingdom and humiliates them and their wife. There is no doubt that he’s in the wrong but still figures like Dronacharya, Bhishmapitama, Kripacharya and Karna support Duryadhan out of loyalty to him either as a King or as a friend.
So, the question I ask myself is what is a man to do ? If he forsakes loyalty and sides with dharma, he is damned like Vibhishan. If he chooses loyalty over dharma, he faces the same fate as Karna and Bhishma. Which is the right path ?