Ramayan and Mahabharath... two epic tales that, while sharing some basic similarities, are overall as different from each other as night and day. Both are tales of valor and courage. In both epics, a war is fought between good and evil to settle matters.... and in both epics, the reason for the war is a woman. In both tales, the ultimate goal was to establish dharma and order. Also, in both epics, Hanuman and Parashuram are present. And there ends the similarities.... at least the important ones anyway.
And now come the differences between the two, and boy are there many! Ramayan preaches idealism whereas Mahabharath preaches realism. Ramayan is a straightforward story with a beginning, middle and end. Mahabharath, on the other hand, has many side stories. But the main difference is that Ramayan also has very straightforward heroes and villains whereas Mahabharath has a lot more shades of gray between the different characters. The differences between the two epics are best reflected in the main characters of the two different epics -- Ram and Krishna. Ram is simple; Krishna is complex. Ram is straightforward; Krishna is manipulative. Ram always follows the rules; Krishna, on the other hand, bent the rules as needed for the situation.
Now, everything I stated so far are all well known facts. However, when I'm with friends and/or when discussions come up about the two epics, people completely lose sight of these very well-known facts! There are also many who openly vilify Krishna online. For example, one guy labels Krishna as "the real villain" of Mahabharath; another woman goes on to say that Krishna actually became a murderer of humanity because of all the trickery that he did. Similarly, many others denounce the Pandavas as cowards for screwing over good people like Karna, Bhishma and Drona in order to win the war.
Come on, people!! Get off your high horses for one minute and buy yourselves some goddamn perspective! Krishna did what he had to do; no one said he was perfect. But he was a clever and resourceful guy who got things done at the crucial moment without being directly involved. And really, that's what was needed for those situations... and that's also what you need in today's real world. That was the whole point that Mahabharat was trying to convey in the first place! So, he bent a few rules..... big freakin' deal!! He got the job done, didn't he?!?! In the same fashion, the Pandavas also did what they had to do to win the war -- some people like Bhishma and Drona are so unstoppable that you have to cheat to get them out of the way. Krishna and the Pandavas came up with some dirty tricks to accomplish this goal. Yep, at many times, they beat the Kauravas at their own game -- good for them! They did what was necessary -- like the saying goes, all is fair in love and war! So stop whining that they didn't do it by following the straight and narrow path like Lord Ram did and give our Pandavas and Lord Krishna the credit they deserve!
Ohh, but what's the difference between Krishna and Shakuni then?! And since Pandavas also used trickery, how does that make them any better than the Kauravas?!, some of you may be wondering. The answer is quite simple -- selfishness. Yep, it's as simple as that -- Shakuni and the Kauravas fought for their own selfish gains while Krishna and the Pandavas fought for the greater good. It's not the way you fight, but what you fight for that's important!
Quite honestly, I find Krishna to be a better hero than Ram. Ram was an ideal man, an exemplary being in character and practically perfect in every way, just like Mary Poppins! But the problem with him is that he tried too damn hard to please everyone!! He went to the forest just to please that selfish bitch Kaikeyi... he sent Sita to the forest to please his whiny subjects... and pretty much followed the rules down to the letter like a good mama's boy. But, beyond that, there's not much more to him, and that makes him somewhat uninteresting.
Krishna, on the other hand, didn't confine himself to such rules and tradition -- he simply did what he had to do; for him the ends justified the means. He invented clever ways to steal butter for himself & his friends. He used clever means to beat that weasel Shakuni & those damn Kaurava bastards. Could Ram do it with his straightforward method?! No way in hell! Only a clever khiladi like Krishna could out-fox sly cowards like Shakuni, Dhushasan or Duryodhan. Krishna never worried about pleasing anyone, just on fulfilling Dharma by whatever means necessary. But, as it turns out, he ended up being a more popular character than Ram anyway... especially with the ladies! ;-)
Well, I could go on and on about this topic, but then this post would become an epic by itself! It was merely meant to be a generic light-weight treatment of the whole subject of realism vs idealism.
So, in conclusion, remember my friends.... an ideal is a nice thing to aspire for, but we live in a real world, so let's all get real.... not ideal! :-)