What does the role of the monkeys add to the epic?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Vanara monkeys display the ideal of what a soldier should be.  The Ramayana is a work that I feel is mostly anti- war.  It is a statement of how war can be avoided if individuals pay attention to the law of dharma.  Yet, within war, there can be forces that represent dharma to the goal at hand.  These would be the monkey army that Lord Rama inspires to help him find Devi Sita.  The monkeys themselves demonstrate absolute loyalty to Lord Rama.  When confronted with the reality that there is no way to cross from India into Lanka, Hanuman designs a bridge made of stones that are laid into place by the other monkeys.  They represent the best qualities of soldiers, following the orders that their commanders lay down for them and adhering to a military form of dharma.  They are shown to represent some of the qualities of human beings that are not desirable, reflecting how soldiers are.  Yet, the overall condition of the monkeys and their purpose in the text is to show how in a state of being where war is evident, one can still follow dharma and still adhere to the structure that defines consciousness and being in the world.