Comparison of Ram and Odysseus

Updated on February 27, 2020

An epic can be described as a lengthy poem relating heroic deeds and significant events. Homer’s Odyssey and Valmiki’s Ramayana, both ancient epics, are the products of oral tradition employing an array of literary devices; The Odyssey dated around 8th to 6th B.C.E. and The Ramayana proximately 5th century B.C.E. Comparing other epics from these civilizations, there seems to be a similarity with their order. The Ramayana and the Odyssey were both preceded by tales of war (The Mahabharata and The Iliad respectively), whereas they themselves focus on the journey of their main character; Odysseus of The Odyssey and Rāma in The Ramayana.

The Odyssey conveys Odysseus’s wanderings after the Trojan War. Making his way back to Ithaca after the fierce battle, he is marooned on Calypso’s Island while his house is plagued by suitors after Penelope’s hand, thinking that Odysseus has perished on his homeward journey. By the grace of the Gods, Odysseus escapes from Calypso’s clutches, however, faces the wrath of Poseidon and other obstacles before he finally returns to Ithaca. The Ramayana tells the story of Rāma, prince of Ayodhya who has been exiled to the Dandaka forest for 14 years, and the subsequent challenges which he faces, the most notable being the abduction of his wife, Sita, by Ravana and his quest to regain her freedom. Thus, both epics depict one man’s journey, ultimately, to their respective wives; Rāma to Sita and Odysseus to Penelope.

In an initial comparison of both epics, it’s interesting to see that their titles hold some sort of similarity. The Ramayana literally means, The Journey of Rāma, while The Odyssey, according to Merriam Webster, has come to refer to a long adventurous voyage. Thus, even by their titles, we get the impression that the reader will be accompanying the protagonist on some sort of expedition, be it physical, mental or spiritual.

Since the situations of Rāma and Odysseus are similar, we can roughly compare their reactions to like circumstances. Rāma and Odysseus were of noble lineage. Rāma hailed from the Kingdom of Kosala and was Prince of Ayodhya while Odysseus was the ruler of island kingdom, Ithaca, thus the reader has specific expectations of both characters given their social upbringing. Rāma was of the Kshatriya[1] class, usually comprising of kings and warriors, where duty and honor would supersede all other values. Similarly, Odysseus conforms to his kingly duties, showing courage by fighting in the Trojan War.

Additionally, The Ramayana is considered to be a main contributor to Hindu mythology. Rāma himself is God, who was incarnated as the son of Dasharath to destroy the evil Ravana; hence, Rāma exudes righteousness and displays good moral values. Throughout the entire epic, Rama exhibits exemplary behavior, with the exception of a few lapses in judgment, which some think to be intentional to ensure the destruction of Ravana. These lapses include his unquestionable attitude towards Sita, especially concerning the golden deer; he blindly acted to fulfill her request to capture such a rare animal, as stated in R.K. Narayan’s translation of The Ramayana. It also exaggerates his love for her and the lengths to which he would willingly go. Another moment, at which Rāma’s judgment can be questioned, is his treatment of Sita after her rescue. Rāma describes her virtue to be in doubt, and her presence “as unbearable…as a bright lamp to a man afflicted with a disease of the eye” (Damrosch 644). It should be remembered though, that on his return to Ayodhya, Sita was under the scrutiny of the citizens after the kidnapping ordeal of Ravana. Rāma, even though he was sure about Sita’s innocence, was forced to make it a public spectacle so that no one would doubt her, thus the ‘trial by fire’ that Sita was made to endure.

In the case of Odysseus, who was not of a divine origin, was however, aided by the Gods of Ancient Greece. We see at the beginning of Book 5 of The Odyssey, Athena presenting Odysseus’s case to the pantheon, “Athena began, recalling Odysseus to their thoughts, the goddess deeply moved by the man’s long ordeal, held captive still in the nymph Calypso’s house…” (Damrosch 248). When compared to Rāma, Odysseus was witty and cunning. Even when Calypso, after Zeus’s orders via Hermes, offered Odysseus freedom, Odysseus immediately thought that there was some sort of trickery involved. Odysseus replied to Calypso’s proposition, “ Passage home? Never, surely you’re plotting something else goddess, urging me- in a raft- to cross the ocean’s mighty gulfs…” (Damrosch 253). Odysseus’s reaction to his impending freedom gives the reader a glance into his thoughts. His mind is filled with suspicion, why wouldn’t it be, as his mind is also filled with intentions of trickery.

Another aspect of comparison is their interaction with other people. The heroes’ interactions with their individual families are important to their specific characters. Rāma’s purpose for the majority of the epic is the rescue of his wife, Sita, from the clutches of Ravana. Odysseus is also on a journey where returning to his home and to his wife, Penelope is his main goal. In essence, Penelope and Sita are the portraits of an ideal wife. Penelope refused to marry or lie with any of the suitors in Odysseus’s absence, and waited patiently for the return of her husband. Sita, as well, kidnapped by Ravana, refused his advances and all the luxuries which he promised and confined herself to the Asoka grove. Penelope and Sita showed what ideal wives they were with their actions and gestures. One important point to note is that even though Rāma can be described as the ideal husband, it would be difficult to place Odysseus in the same category. Even though Odysseus pined for Penelope, he still had relations with Calypso, even after being promised freedom, stated in Damrosch, “And now, withdrawing into the cavern’s deep recesses, long in each other’s arms they lost themselves in love” (254). Odysseus’s infidelity seems to convey a double standard- his wife is faithful, eagerly awaiting his return home while he knowingly commits adultery.

In conclusion, when comparing Rāma and Odysseus, even though their situations can be easily superimposed, their characters a different in many respects. Rāma is the embodiment of dharma, perfectly illustrating what the ideal husband, son and brother should be. Odysseus on the other hand, has many flaws, his cunning being most prominent. Excluding the fact that the cultural identities associated with both heroes are extremely different, nonetheless, Rāma is considered to be the ideal man, one who has mastered emotions, and a model that others should try to emulate. Odysseus, on the other hand, is a character who seems much more realistic. He displays uncontrolled emotions which the layman can associate with. He may not have been an exemplary figure like Rāma, yet his cunning and wit are celebrated, if not immortalized, while his infidelities are downplayed. Thus, from it all, it seems that you don’t have to be the perfect man to get the lady in the end!

Works Cited

  • Damrosch, David and David L. Pike. “The Odyssey.” The Longman Anthology of World
  • Literature. Pearson Education. 2008.
  • Damrosch, David and David L. Pike. “The Ramayana.” The Longman Anthology of
  • World Literature. Pearson Education. 2008.
  • Narayan, R.K. “The Ramayana. A Shortened Modernn Prose Version of the Indian Epic.
  • Penguin Classics. 2006

[1] One of the four varnas or classes in Hindu society.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)