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Lakshaman (far left) with Rama (centre), Sita (far right) and Hanuman (kneeling) - Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna temple, Watford, England

Lakshmana (Sanskrit: लक्ष्मण, IAST Lakṣmaṇa; Malay: Laksmana; Khmer: Phreah Leak; Thai/Lao: Phra Lak; Burmese: Lakhana); Javanese language: Lesmono) was the brother and close companion of Rama, and himself a hero in the famous epic Ramayana. Within a number of Hindu traditions Lakshmana is considered to be an avatara, in a secondary form to Rama's main appearance. In some Hindu traditions he is worshipped as an avatar of Shesha. The name may also be written Lakshman or Laxman.

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Birth and family

Lakshmana is the twin brother of Shatrughna, born in Ayodhya to Sumitra, the second wife of Dasharatha, king of Kosala. Thus, Rama is the eldest, Bharata is the second, Lakshmana is the third, and Shatrughna is the youngest of the four brothers. Despite being the twin of Shatrughna, Lakshmana is specially attached to Rama, and the duo are inseparable. When Rama marries Sita, Lakshmana married the younger sister of Sita named Urmila.

With Rama

In Puranic scripture Lakshmana is described as the incarnation of Ananta Shesha, the thousand-headed Naga upon whom rests Lord Vishnu in the primordial ocean of milk (Kshirasagara). The Lord of Serpents, Sheshanaga was incarnated to the earth in the form of Lakshmana and during the Dvapara Yuga, he incarnated as Balarama. He is said to be an eternal companion of Vishnu in all incarnations.

Lakshmana is part of the Mariyada Purshottamm, or The Perfect Man personified by Rama, by his unswerving loyalty, love and commitment to his elder brother through times of joy and adversity alike. He is an invincible warrior committed to virtue and the service of his brother. He never covets the throne of Ayodhya, nor hesitates from joining his brother in exile, even though he does not have to.

During the exile

Early in their exile, when Bharata enters the forest with the royal entourage to persuade Rama to return to rule Ayodhya, Lakshmana initially mistakes his intentions; he jumps to the conclusion that the former was approaching with malicious intent. Rama, however, knows of Bharata's love for him and explains to Lakshmana that Bharata would never try to harm them.

Lakshmana serves Rama and Sita reverently during the exile, building them a home in the forest and devotedly standing guard during the night, and accompanying them on tiring journeys and long passages of lonely forest life without complaint or care for himself.


During the exile a incident occurs. Shurp Nakha, sister of ravana gets attracted to rama's beauty and so takes an appearance of an equally beautiful girl and goes towards Rama's hut. There she tries to get Rama married to her but he declines saying that he is vowed to have only one wife. Then she tries Lakshman to get married to her as he is handsome too. He too declines saying that he cannot take care of her as he is a servant to Rama and has duties to fulfill towards his brother. She feels dishonored at the rejection by both the brothers and insults Sita. She then tries to harm Sita and so Lakshman cuts her nose in anger.

Feeling humiliated she goes to Ravana's brothers for help who attack Rama but dies. Then she goes to Ravana and influence him to abduct Sita. She ravishes about Sita's beauty and how she would be worthy for Ravana. He takes it as a challenge and abducts Sita to revenge his sisters humiliation and brothers deaths.

The Lakshmana 'Rekha'

When Sita asks Rama to fetch the magical, golden deer for her, Rama asks Lakshmana to guard Sita and their home, and to take special care since he felt bad omens and sensed danger and evil. The golden deer is in fact the demon Maricha, who must distract Rama and Lakshmana away from the hut so as to allow Ravana to kidnap Sita.

When Rama kills the deer, even as he is dying, Maricha cries out in Rama's own voice, crying for Sita and Lakshmana to help him. Although Lakshmana knows that Rama is invincible and beyond any danger, Sita panics and frantically orders Lakshmana to go to Rama's aid immediately. Unable to disobey the frightened and panicky Sita, and genuinely beginning to fear for Rama's safety, Lakshmana goes out to search for him. He however uses his mystical power to draw the Lakshmana Rekha or Lakshmana's Limit, a perimeter line across the hut that Sita must not cross, and no other being save Lakshmana or Rama may enter uninvited. If any intruder enters, it will be instantly killed.

Sita however, out of compulsion of religious duty and compassion for a poor brahmin, who is actually the disguised Ravana, crosses the line to give him alms. Thus Ravana is safely able to seize Sita.

The Lakshmana Rekha has become a metaphor in situations where a certain limit must not be transgressed by human beings in any circumstance whatsoever.

Ramacharitamanas, the wildly popular North Indian rendering of story of Rama, does not feature the Lakshmana Rekha story in the Aranya Kanda. Neither does the original, the Valmiki Ramayana. However in Lanka Kanda of the Ramcharitmanas, (35.1) Mandodari rebukes Ravana on his boisterous claims of valour by hinting that his claim of strength and valour is shallow for he could not even cross a small line drawn by Shri Rama's younger brother Lakshmana.

Prowess in war

Lakshmana is considered a powerful warrior nearly equal to Rama. Like Rama, he was a Maharathi able to battle 60,000 warriors at once. In the war against Ravana and his Lankan army of rakshasas, Lakshmana slays thousands of powerful demons such as Atikaya and Prahasta, Ravana's chief commanders, and his son Indrajit. With Rama, he also slays Kumbhakarna, the great giant Rakshasa.

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Injury and revival

During the battle to rescue Sita, Lakshmana is grievously injured by a mystical weapon fired by Indrajit,which was gifted to him by goddess Nikumbala, rendering him unconscious and approaching death. When the Divine sage Narad Muni questions Lord Vishnu as to why he is not concerned that his own celestial couch, his most beloved devotee, is mortally wounded, Lord Shiva answers his question. He says as follows: "My Dear Narad! Lord Shesha has the ability to absorb both nectar and poison and that he cannot be injured by this weapon. But, because he did nor wish to show disrespect to this weapon of the Mother Goddess, he allowed himself to be mortally wounded."

Rama and the others are shocked and in sorrow, when the army's physician explains that only with the special herb sanjivani that grows on the Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayan ranges can Lakshmana be revived and brought back to life.

Hanuman, the mighty vanara follower of Rama, flies all the way across the length of Bharat to reach the mountain in the Himalayan ranges. Unable to find the magical herb, and knowing there was no time to waste, Hanuman uses his incredible might to lift the entire mountain and bring it to Lanka, the scene of the battle. The magical herb is retrieved and Lakshmana is revived.

Killing of Indrajit

Later in the battle, Lakshmana fights and kills Indrajit,By the help of hunuman on his shoulders. It is said that in order to help him in battle against Indrajit, he was given many divine astras and shastras by Gandharv Raj Kuber. His killing of Indrajit was considered to be an important turning point of the war, as the latter was almost invincible, having overpowered Indra, the King of Heaven himself. Indrajit's sheer physical prowess was further illustrated through Lakshamana's use of unorthodox means to kill him.

Legacy

Lakshmana is revered for his absolute devotion to Rama. His performance of his duties as a younger brother is considered to be a sacrifice and superiority of character as such duties are especially hard to do in adverse conditions. Lakshmana's life symbolizes the duties of a man to his elders and superiors, and how greatly valued is seflessness in a man's character.

While he is generally considered to be rather short-tempered when compared to Rama, Lakshmana is also considered an important element of Mariyada Purushottama, displaying great courage and presence of mind when Rama becomes distraught, angry and desperate over the loss of Sita — in an uncharacteristic display of desperation, a furious and almost hopeless Rama, not knowing of Sita's fate or whereabouts, is suddenly about to fire a weapon capable of bringing vast devastation of life; Lakshmana stops Rama, calms him down, explains to him that the world is not responsible for their separation from Sita, and consoles and encourages his righteous brother, while giving him support and strength to keep looking for her.

When Sita's jewels were given back by Sugriva to Rama, Rama lamented Sita's absence, remembering the jewels she used to wear. Lakshamana then gave Sita's toe-ring to Rama in order to aid his grief. What was implied is that he has never looked beyond the toe of Sita. As a great respect to the discipline followed by Lakshmana, the great Tamil poet Kamban made the statement on his character that "a great person never looks desiringly upon another's wife."

See also

Notes

External links


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