Learning & Development

Sep 08, 2022 10 min read

Lessons from Ramayana

Ms Gunjan Jain has nearly a decade of experience of working in Human Resource in various facets of HR including compensation management, policy formulation, presidential directives, industrial Relations, HRIS, HR audit etc.
Mr. Awadhesh Kumar Mishra holds a Post Graduate Diploma degree in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations (PM&IR) from XISS, Ranchi. He has a versatile career of 20 years in Human Resource with multi-domain exposure that includes Policy formulation, HR Operations, IR & Disciplinary matters, Contract Labour regulation etc.


Finally, it was the time of war. The army of monkeys, bears under the leadership of Bhagwan Ram had crossed the mighty ocean and were at the door-steps of ‘Lanka’. Jamvant, the astute leader then suggested the way ahead and requested Bhagwan Ram to send Angad as a messenger to make a last effort to avert the war. Accordingly, Angad went to the durbar of Ravana and asked Ravana to surrender before Bhagwan Ram. The episode narrated by Goswami Tulsi Das in Ramcharitmanas is narrated as below:

Ravana started to insult Sri Rama and offered Angad to join him stating that his father Vali, was his friend. Angada however rejected Ravana's advances. Experiencing Ravana's arrogance, Angad got really angry and put his foot on the floor and challenged that if anyone can lift his foot, he on behalf of Bhagwan Ram commits that his entire army will go back without fighting. All present in the sabha tried but they could not lift the foot of Angad and went back to their seats disappointingly.

At last, when everyone else failed, Ravana himself got up to lift the foot of Angad and when he was about to touch the foot, Angad himself moved his leg and said to Ravana that he should not touch his feet as it will be of no use for him, instead he should go and touch the feet of Bhagwan Ram which will fetch him the forgiveness from Bhagwan Ram. Ravana hearing all this got severely embarrassed and came back to his sinhasan and sat dejected/humiliated/embarrased.

The above episode throws some very important insights into life/management lessons/leadership traits/behaviour. Some we could identify are explained below:

Delegating tasks with a freedom to act – Empowering others: Imagine the level of trust Bhagwan Ram had on Angad and the level of empowerment Angad displayed when he committed to Ravana that if someone could lift his feet, Bhagwan Ram would concede defeat and return without Mata Sita.

Leadership is about empowering others as a result of your presence whenever you're in front of them and also creating the conditions where people can be empowered even when you're not there. Joseph Juran (one of the early quality gurus) defined empowerment as “conferring the right to make decisions and take action.” 

The most successful leaders infact, are the ones that are totally focused on the success of their team. Lets read a few examples:

J.R.D. worked through empowerment and was a master delegator. He created stalwarts like Sumant Moolgaokar, Russi Mody, Ajit Kerkar and Darbari Seth. He operated through empowering people.

In his comments about empowering employees by helping them find their own solutions, Jagdish Khattar, the former managing director of the automaker Maruti Udyog, echoes a sentiment common among Indian leaders: “Throw issues to them, let them examine and come back to you with solutions. I have done it again and again….85% of their solution would be what you have in mind. Let them go back with the impression that 100% of the solution is theirs. The implementation would be quick and smooth, and they will feel very proud of it, but it serves your purpose.”

2. The mentally tough survive/thrive: There is a famous saying . Indeed, battle is fought in the mind of generals. War for ‘Lanka’ was lost that day only as Ravana lost the battle in mind as he sat dejected on his sinhasan.

So being mentally tough is very important which one can easily relate in the contemporary cricket where before start of the tournament or series respective country’s media, players as well as ex-players resort to break the mental shield of the opposition. "Mental disintegration" was a term made popular by former Australia captain Steve Waugh and his men. Thus, be it life or a professional career, mental toughness, the ability not to accept defeat in mind carries a person far.

Further, during the recent Russia’s Ukrainian Invasion, we have witnessed how Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky emerged as a mentally tough and courageous wartime leader, perfectly meeting the nation’s needs for firm leadership. Despite world leaders’ numerous urgings, he has refused to leave Ukraine, both before and after the start of the Russian invasion. He remained in Kyiv, despite anticipated assassination attempts, and has day after day served as a model of resistance to the personal and national existential threat. His act of mental toughness inspired Ukrainians to unite around him and defend Ukraine.

3. Define your limits by being mindful of your enemy’s strength: The narration also throws an interesting episode as to why Angad took his legs back when Ravana approached him to lift his foot. Possibly, inside he knew that Ravana has the might and 

  1. force to lift his foot. Thus, he cleverly retreated himself and while retreating turned his possible defeat into a winning proposition.

In 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Massive and bitter fighting continued and lasted into the winter of 1942-1943. On 19 November 1942, the Soviet Red Army launched a massive attack against the Germans called Operation Uranus. The Germans lacked ammunition, food, fuel and everything else except extreme courage in the face of overwhelming odds.  When the Soviets encircled the German 6th Army under the command of Field Marshall von Paulus, he was ordered by German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler to fight and die in place, and no retreat or surrender was authorized.  The decision to forbid a retreat led to the loss of 300,000 German and Axis troops killed and captured, losses the Germans could not very well sustain, making the blunder of not allowing a retreat at Stalingrad one of the pivotal points of World War II in Europe.

So, knowing one’s limit and playing on the same is equally important. Remember what Sun Tzu in his famous book The Art of War has quoted

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”


[1]. https://rohitdhir.com/delegation-in-ramayana-mythology-management/

[2]. https://myhbp.org/hmm12/content/leading_people/how_will_you_lead.html#o14

[3]. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/zelensky-versus-putin-personality-factor-russias-war-ukraine




Share this post

Comments (0)

No Comments yet..

Leave your thought here