Rama, the perfect avatar of the Supreme Protector Vishnu, is an all-time favorite among Hindu deities. The most popular symbol of chivalry and virtue, Rama - in the words of Swami Vivekananda - is "the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king."
A Real Historical Figure:
The seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Rama is said to have taken birth on earth to annihilate the evil forces of the age. He is widely believed to be an actual historical figure - a "tribal hero of ancient India" - whose exploits form the great Hindu epic of Ramayana or The Romance of Rama, written by the ancient Sanskrit poet Valmiki.
When did Rama Live?:
Hindus believe that Rama lived in the Treta Yug. But according to historians, Rama was not particularly deified until the 11th century AD. Tulsidas' outstanding retelling of the Sanskrit epic into the vernaculars as the 'Ramcharitmanas', greatly enhanced the popularity of Rama as a Hindu god, and gave rise to various devotional groups.
How to Identify Rama:
To many, Rama is hardly different in looks from Lord Vishnu or Krishna. He is most often represented as a standing figure, with an arrow in his right hand, a bow in his left and a quiver on his back. A Rama statue is also usually accompanied by those of his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana, and the legendary monkey attendant Hanuman. He is depicted in princely adornments with a 'tilak' or mark on the forehead, and as having a dark, almost bluish complexion, which shows his affinity with Vishnu and Krishna.
Comparison with Lord Krishna:
Although Rama and Krishna, both incarnations of Vishnu, are almost equally popular among Hindu devotees, Rama is seen as an archetype of righteousness and the most sought-after virtues in life, in contrast to Krishna's dalliances and shenanigans.
Why "Shri" Rama?:
The prefix "Shri" to Rama indicates that Rama is always associated with "Shri" - the essence of four Vedas. Uttering his name ("Ram! Ram!") while greeting a friend, and invoking Rama at the time of death by chanting "Ram Naam Satya Hai!", show his popularity and admiration over Krishna. However, the shrines of Krishna in India slightly outnumber the temples of Rama and his monkey devotee Hanuman.