22 Apr Ramayana, the story for all times and age groups
If someone would ask me to choose the one Vedic story that I like the most, I would say it is Ramayana. It has been my favorite story since I went to India as a teenage girl, not knowing anything about Vaishnava’s philosophy yet. The messages of righteousness, high moral values, justice, devotion, and sacrifice are masterfully woven into the story of Rama and Sita and Their Divine pastimes. Even though we live in an “iron age” from where the dharmic principles of behavior of Ramayana heroes are almost impossible to comprehend, still the people feel a vibrating, alive attraction to this story through the centuries until today. It is a literary masterpiece that speaks a universal language, addressing the core needs of mankind at all times and circumstances.
Ramayana is an indispensable reading in raising children in the spirit of devotion to God, and children are naturally attracted to it. We can begin narrating it from early childhood and work on it until late adolescence. The story contains a true richness of topics to cover.
In our homeschool, we come back to Ramayana twice a year: in autumn for Diwali and in spring for Rama Navami. The things we have done about Ramayana include:
Reading a story aloud (it usually takes a few days)
Reciting poems with gestures (the poems that I compose)
Playing the story with paper puppets
Building a miniature bridge from India to Lanka with stones and wooden sticks
Drawing some scenes from the story and coloring the printed images
Making an altar for Sita-Rama-Lakshman-Hanuman and offering Them incense sticks and flowers
Cooking for the festival
Singing Sita-Ram bhajans
As the children grow I have been adding (and planning) some more:
Writing exercises: writing about the story, practicing cursive writing, and writing the names of Rama and Sita for decoration.
Reading exercises: read confused sentences and arrange them in chronological order.
Art and craft: making paper theatre and cardboard dioramas, making various play scenes (Kishkinda, bridge over the ocean, forest) out of clay, play dough, or wax.
The topics from Ramayana for teaching children
I have brainstormed a list of possible topics to cover in teaching children that would help me in planning my homeschool unit about Ramayana, that I want to share with you today:
Sacred king or rajarishi – the qualities, duties, and responsibilities of kings and leaders.
The power of promise – why is important to fulfill our promises.
Mother Earth – Sita is a daughter of Mother Earth – learning to respect nature, the gifts of nature, growing our food organically, ecology, and recycling, relief (rock mountains – Kishkinda, an island in the ocean – Lanka)
Simple forest life – Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana were living a simple life in the forest during the exile – the importance of forests, types of forest, forest orientation and survival tips, forest food, forest plants and animals, forest shelters, sages living in the forest
Demons and demoniac nature – demoniac qualities and behaviors
Monkeys with special powers, Vanaras, helped and served Lord Rama in His search for Sita – types, qualities, and habitats of monkeys
Bridge-building – types of bridges, use of bridges, haw to make a bridge, improvising a bridge-building
Warriors and weapons – Vedic rules of warfare, Vedic weapons, why there is a need for war, Kshatriyas’ responsibilities, modern wars and weapons (for older children)
Obedience to husband, elders, and authorities – Vedic view of duties and responsibilities of different roles within society
Women protection – this is a sensitive subject today, but this story opens the door to discuss it with older children on some basic level of talking about qualities of shyness, faithfulness, chastity in women and why they are important, how to respect the women, women as a representative of Lakshmi Devi
Dharma – it is a complex topic, but we can begin to explain the concept of dharma to older children like rules of behavior, acting according to one’s qualities and responsibilities, acting according to the scriptures, and consequences of not following them
Devotion to God grants ultimate victory – why Ravana was defeated, why Vanaras were victorious
Hanuman, the perfect servitor of the Lord – stories about Hanuman
Treta yuga – the story dates from the time of Treta yuga – qualities of different yugas or time circles, time calculation in a big and a small scale
The list is not complete, there are numerous side topics that we can extract from this timeless story. I wrote down some of the most prominent. I hope you will get some inspiration, ideas, and practical guidance from it!
All glories to Sita-Rama-Lakshman-Hanuman!