Ramayana & Mahabharata – What is the Difference Between Both?

Similarity or difference between one of the most celebrated epics in Hinduism i.e. Ramayana & Mahabharata always intrigued me since I came across both. And in my opinion, whereas Ramayana deals with the endeavor of its character within the bracket of idealism, Mahabharata is primarily a strife which gives subjective treatment to the issues and crisis that prevailed. Also, both the protagonists and antagonists in these enlightening epics had its own set of principles and rules. Though both the epic concludes with the emplacement of Dharma (righteousness) finally, but the approach has been the function of Yug (ages) in which it took place.

They have many things in common too, but the article here will moreover talk about the prominent difference.

Ramayana vs Mahabharata
Ramayana and Mahabharata – The Difference in Characters

To explain more of the subject, I’d like to pick up central character of both the epics and will explain them in sharp contrast with each other. As far as greatness and tyranny of any human being is concerned, it is basically governed by two virtues – their own principles & adherence to the social rules. And the balance between the two defines one’s persona and identity. Let me explain them with the help of illustration above where Ramayana and Mahabharata diagonally intertwines each other & the line of difference :

Ramayana – Principles AND Rules

High on Principles & High on Rules – Rama

No wonder why is he referred as Maryada Purushottam. The principles he caressed, the rules he observed & the values he meant. Under all circumstances, he followed all the positive aspects & abstracts with aplomb by the means of sacrifices and righteousness without nudging from the path of Dharma.

Low on Principles & Low on Rules – Ravana

A self proclaimed alpha male who never came under the purview of any law of the land (thus, all rules were broken). With jungle rules like your-wife-my-wife, he nearly broke all the barriers of human civilization. Though a Brahmin by lineage, Ravana never bothered to confine himself to any decent principles and kept on manipulating existing ones.

Mahabharata – Principles OR Rules

High on Principles but Low on Rules – Krishna

Leela Purushottam – the one who never compromised with his principles and merits. Though he kept on bending or breaking the rules – but only for the sake of others. Takes and talks about the Dharma in humanly divine perspective what we today know as Bhagavad Gita. A kingmaker who deceptively beats the foe in their own game.

Low on Principles but High on Rules – Duryodhana

A wicked figure of the epic who never pronounced any principles but followed all the rules – literally. And when it comes to social rules, following its word than spirit within may spell disaster. While Draupadi being disrobed, he logically put all the learned stalwarts at moral dilemma. And it was rule vs need of the hour which needed to be looked upon when a royal woman’s modesty was on stake. Duryodhana complied with the rule, but never cared for the spirit of it as an autocratic individual with Dharma not being upheld.

So in the nutshell, Ramayana and Mahabharata as a colligated scripture tells us more about the change in the way atrocities are dealt with in accordance with time (and situation). Whereas in Ramayana, both the virtues are either held or laid altogether (Rama & Ravana). But in Mahabharata, the individuals (Krishna & Duryodhana) makes a single choice out of two – Principles or Rules. So if Ramayana is deeply concerned with ‘both’ , Mahabharata deals with ‘either’ – and that is the major difference.

While looking out for articles and sources about the epics, I stumbled upon this video of Devdutt Pattanaik (an eminent mythologist). The illustration  has been inspired by the same.


  1. Ddivyaa Kumar Jun 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I always used to say something in a light or humorous way….God came on earth in on era/yug as Ram and set up some rules/Maryada then the era/yug changed he realized…the rules or principals I had set as Ram are not going to be practical/possible or work so he decided to come as Krishna and changed the rules…the ways…though for same cause…Dharm…

    In Ramayan sacrifice for your own was set up as Ram then on other side was Ravan…Kumbhakarn determined no your own is own right or wrong…Vibhishan took different approach wrong is wrong may it be your own let them go.

    As Krishna God set one rule…wrong is wrong may it be your own and that was started with his Mama (uncle) Kans…he killed him where as Mama Kans had done which is happening pretty much to date…for thrown and own self arrested his own father…unfortunately now the approach of Kans is adopted much and Krishna’s approach is mistranslated….people say Krishna also made Yudhisthir to lie, he cheated Duryodhan but they forget that was for good cause, to protect Dharm…

    Bhishma Pitamah when on arrow-bed, asked Krishna what was his sin, why was he punished and the answer was even watching when sin/crime is committed and not doing anything about is also a crime and equally a sin. This is happening now everywhere.

    No set definition of Paap and Punya….you kill someone it’s murder….you kill someone to protect a girl who is being raped…is punya…

    1. Sathish Jan 23, 2013 at 5:07 am


      In Ramayana Rama a avatar meets Parasu Ram another avatar.

      In Mahabharath Krishna avatar born with Bulram another Avatar
      Any idea why 2 avatars in each Avatars

      1. Nishant Jun 10, 2016 at 8:49 am

        Actually Balram was not an avtar or vishnu
        Though he was the avtar of seshnaag as in time or ram lakshman was the seshnaag avtaar

  2. Ratul Kislaya Jun 23, 2012 at 6:03 am

    All definitions of God does match with aliens of a superior race who came to earth a long time back and removed a lesser specie of dominant nature (dinosaurs) and allowed humans to evolve

    You have tones of logical explanations in ancient alien theory that rationalizes what happened in time …

  3. dhruv Aug 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Dude. You just copied Devdutt Pattanaik’s analysis from Busienss sutra. Ripoff!!! Not cool 🙂

    1. Amit Aug 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks buddy ! But you perhaps missed the citation which mentions his name at the end of article which I have interpreted in my own way.

      1. dhuv Aug 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm

        yeah. take back my comment.
        btw read jaya by mr. pattanaik to get further understanding of mahabharat. great book!!

        1. Amit Aug 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm

          That’s one of the Top 10 pick of mine from my personal library of all Mahabharata books published so far.

  4. Anuradha Goyal Jun 30, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    D you realize geographically Ramayana story is based on North South axis and Mahabharata on East West axis

    1. Aamit Wraj Jun 30, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Noticed it right ! But I also see northern influence in Mahabharata. Gandhar bestowing two central characters – Gandhari & Shakuni. And if taking geography in shades of black & white, what you pointed may be merged into west !

    2. Wyomesh May 21, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      and that’s why some Historians believe that Mahabharta happend earlier than Ramayana. But only this evidence is sufficient? I think No.


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