An important Hindu deity and, along with Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu. Rama is best known as the hero of the great Sanskrit epic Ramayana, although he appears in the Mahabharatha as well. The Ramayana provides the common understanding of Rama's attributes. He is depicted there as the ideal man, the model for right conduct, reason, and for such qualities as loyalty and leadership.
His chief consort is Sita, and the two are commonly held to be the ideal husband and wife. Along with Krishna, Rama was the focus of the bhakti, or devotional, cults that became common in Hinduism from the sixth century onwards. His popularity spread with the emergence of translations of the Ramayana into vernacular languages such as Hindi and Tamil in the following centuries, with some Hindu sects claiming that he was the supreme god.
Rama is most popular in northern India, where the town of Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh state, is held to be his birthplace. In 1992 Hindu fundamentalists destroyed an Islamic mosque thought to have been built on the site of his birthplace, inciting riots in many parts of India. Meanwhile, his name in the form of Ram, Ram is a common expression, even a greeting, among many Hindus.
In art, Rama is generally depicted with blue skin, like Vishnu and Krishna, holding a bow and arrow. Common images show scenes derived from the Ramayana, with Sita accompanying Rama along with Hanuman, the monkey-god.