Ramayana

Ramayana

Overview

The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 epic
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

. It is ascribed to the Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 sage Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

 and forms an important part of the Hindu canon (), considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.

The name ur nan is a tatpurusha compound of and ("going, up your nan"), translating to "Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

's Journey
".
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The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 epic
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

. It is ascribed to the Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 sage Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

 and forms an important part of the Hindu canon (), considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.

The name ur nan is a tatpurusha compound of and ("going, up your nan"), translating to "Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

's Journey
". The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books () and 500 canto
Canto
The canto is a principal form of division in a long poem, especially the epic. The word comes from Italian, meaning "song" or singing. Famous examples of epic poetry which employ the canto division are Lord Byron's Don Juan, Valmiki's Ramayana , Dante's The Divine Comedy , and Ezra Pound's The...

s (), and tells the story of Rama (an avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

 of the Hindu preserver-God Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

), whose wife Sita
SITA
SITA is a multinational information technology company specialising in providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry...

 is abducted by the demon
Rakshasa
A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion...

 king of Lanka
Lanka
Sri Lanka is the name given in Hindu mythology to the island fortress capital of the legendary king Ravana in the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata...

, Ravana
Ravana
' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

. Thematically, the Ramayana explores human values and the concept of dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

.

Verses in the Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called . The Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Indian life and culture. Like the Mahābhārata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, the Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and devotional elements. The characters Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

, Sita
SITA
SITA is a multinational information technology company specialising in providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry...

, Lakshmana
Lakshmana
Lakshmana was the brother and close companion of Rama, and himself a hero in the famous epic Ramayana...

, Bharata
Bharata (Ramayana)
In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Bharata was the second brother of the main protagonist Rama, and the son of Dasaratha and Kaikeyi. Dasaratha was the Emperor of Ayodhya and belonged to the Suryavansha or Solar Dynasty...

, Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

.

There are other versions of the Ramayana
Versions of Ramayana
Depending on the methods of counting, as many as three hundred versions of the Indian epic poem, the Ramayana, are known to exist. The oldest version is generally recognized to be the Sanskrit version attributed to the sage Valmiki....

, notably Kambaramayana in Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

, the Buddhist (Dasaratha Jataka No. 461) and Jain in India, and also Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n, Philippine, Thai
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Lao
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, Burmese and Malay versions of the tale.

Textuality


Traditionally, the Ramayana is ascribed to Valmiki
Valmiki
Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

, regarded as India's first poet. The Indian tradition is unanimous in its agreement that the poem is the work of a single poet, the sage Valmiki, a contemporary of Rama and a peripheral actor in the drama. The story's original version in Sanskrit is known as Valmiki Ramayana, dating to approximately the 5th to 4th century B.C. While it is often viewed as a primarily devotional text, the Vaishnava
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

 elements appear to be later accretions possibly dating to the 2nd century BC or later. The main body of the narrative lacks statements of Rama's divinity, and identifications of Rama with Vishnu are rare and subdued even in the later parts of the text.

According to Indian tradition, and according to the Ramayana itself, the Ramayana belongs to the genre of itihāsa, like the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

. The definition of itihāsa has varied over time, with one definition being that itihāsa is a narrative of past events (purāvṛtta) which includes teachings on the goals of human life.
According to Hindu tradition, the Ramayana takes place during a period of time known as Treta Yuga
Treta Yuga
Treta Yuga is the second out of four yugas, or ages of mankind, in the religion of Hinduism, and follows the Satya Yuga of perfect morality and precedes the Dvapara Yuga. The most famous events in this yuga were Lord Vishnu's fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations as Vamana, Parashurama and...

.

In its extant form, Valmiki's Ramayana is an epic poem of some 50,000 lines. The text survives in several thousand partial and complete manuscripts, the oldest of which appears to date from the 11th century A.D. The text has several regional renderings, recension
Recension
Recension is the practice of editing or revising a text based on critical analysis. When referring to manuscripts, this may be a revision by another author...

s and subrecensions. Textual scholar Robert P. Goldman differentiates two major regional recensions: the northern (N) and the southern (S). Scholar Romesh Chunder Dutt
Romesh Chunder Dutt
Romesh Chunder Dutt, CIE was an Indian civil servant, economic historian, writer, and translator of Ramayana and Mahabharata.- Formative years :...

 writes that "the Ramayana, like the Mahabharata, is a growth of centuries, but the main story is more distinctly the creation of one mind."

There has been discussion as to whether the first and the last chapters of Valmiki's Ramayana were composed by the original author. Some still believe they are integral parts of the book in spite of some style differences and narrative contradictions between these two chapters and the rest of the book.

Famous retellings include the Ramayanam of Kamban in Tamil (ca. 11th–12th century), the Kotha Ramayana
Kotha Ramayana
Kotha Ramayana is a poem written by the powerful Assamese poet Madhava Kandali during the 14th century and is one of many versions of Ramayana in a regional Indian language other than Valmiki's Ramayana in Sanskrit...

of Madhava Kandali
Madhava Kandali
Kaviraja Madhava Kandali was an Assamese poet of India, notable for the earliest rendering of the Valmiki Ramayana into Assamese verse . His another work is a narrative poem, Devajit on superiority of Krishna over the other avatars of Vishnu...

 in Assamese (ca. 14th century), Shri Rama Panchali or Krittivasi Ramayan
Krittivasi Ramayan
Krittivasi Ramayan or Krittibasi Ramayan or Sri Ram Panchali , composed by 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha, is a translation of the Ramayana into Bengali, which represents the first translation of the Ramayana into any North Indian language other than Sanskrit...

by Krittibas Ojha
Krittibas Ojha
Krittibas Ojha or Kirttibas Ojha was a medieval Bengali poet. His major contribution to Bangla literature and culture was the translation of the great Indian epic Ramayana to Bangla. His work, the Sri Ram Panchali, is popularly known as the Krittivasi Ramayan...

 in Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 (ca. 15th Century), and Ramacharitamanas
Ramacharitamanas
Shri Ramcharitmanas , also spelt Shri Ramcharitamanasa, is an epic poem in Awadhi, composed by the 16th-century Indian poet, Goswami Tulsidas...

by Tulasidas in Awadhi which is an eastern form of Hindi (c. 16th century).

Period


Some cultural evidence (the presence of sati
Sati (practice)
For other uses, see Sati .Satī was a religious funeral practice among some Indian communities in which a recently widowed woman either voluntarily or by use of force and coercion would have immolated herself on her husband’s funeral pyre...

 in the Mahabharata but not in the main body of the Ramayana) suggests that the Ramayana predates the Mahabharata. However, the general cultural background of the Ramayana is one of the post-urbanization period of the eastern part of North India (c. 450 BCE), while the Mahabharata reflects the Kuru areas west of this, from the Rigvedic to the late Vedic period.

By tradition, the text belongs to the Treta Yuga
Treta Yuga
Treta Yuga is the second out of four yugas, or ages of mankind, in the religion of Hinduism, and follows the Satya Yuga of perfect morality and precedes the Dvapara Yuga. The most famous events in this yuga were Lord Vishnu's fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations as Vamana, Parashurama and...

, second of the four eons (yuga) of Hindu chronology
Hindu chronology
Hindu chronology may refer to:*Indian astronomy*Hindu calendar*Yuga - in Hindu philosophy, the name of an "epoch" or "era" within a cycle of four ages...

. Rama is said to have been born in the Treta Yuga to King Daśaratha
Dasaratha
Dasharatha was a king of Ayodhya of the Ikshvaku dynasty whose life story is narrated principally in the Hindu epic Ramayana...

 in the Ikshvaku
Ikshvaku dynasty
The Ikshvaku dynasty, in Puranic literature, was a mythical dynasty founded by Ikshvaku, grandson of Vivasvan or Surya and son of Vaivasvata Manu. This dynasty is also known as . The important personalities belonging to this royal house are Harishchandra, Dilīpa, Sagara, Raghu, Rama and Prasenajit...

 vamsa (clan).

The names of the characters (Rama, Sita, Dasharatha, Janaka, Vasishta, Vishwamitra) are all known in late Vedic literature, older than the Valmiki Ramayana. However, nowhere in the surviving Vedic poetry is there a story similar to the Ramayana of Valmiki. According to the modern academic view, Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, who according to Bala Kanda was incarnated as Rama, first came into prominence with the epics themselves and further during the 'Puranic' period of the later 1st millennium CE. There is also a version of Ramayana, known as Ramopakhyana, found in the epic Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

. This version is depicted as a narration to Yudhishtira.

There is general consensus that books two to six form the oldest portion of the epic while the first book Bala Kanda and the last the Uttara Kanda are later additions. The author or authors of Bala Kanda and Ayodhya Kanda appear to be familiar with the eastern Gangetic basin region of northern India and the Kosala
Kosala
Kosala was an ancient Indian region, corresponding roughly in area with the region of Awadh in present day Uttar Pradesh. According to the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya and the Jaina text, the Bhagavati Sutra, Kosala was one of the Solasa Mahajanapadas in 6th century BCE and its cultural and...

 and Magadha
Magadha
Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas or kingdoms in ancient India. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganga; its first capital was Rajagriha then Pataliputra...

 region during the period of the sixteen janapadas
Janapadas
The Janapadas were the major realms or kingdoms of Vedic India which, by the 6th century BC, evolved into the sixteen classical Mahajanapadas.-Etymology:...

as the geographical and geopolitical data is in keeping with what is known about the region. However, when the story moves to the Aranya Kanda and beyond, it seems to turn abruptly into fantasy with its demon-slaying hero and fantastic creatures. The geography of central and South India is increasingly vaguely described. The knowledge of the location of the island of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 also lacks detail. Basing his assumption on these features, the historian H.D. Sankalia has proposed a date of the 4th century BC for the composition of the text. A. L. Basham, however, is of the opinion that Rama may have been a minor chief who lived in the 8th or the 7th century BC.

Characters


  • Rama
    Rama
    Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

    is the main protagonist of the tale. Portrayed as the seventh avatar of the God Vishnu
    Vishnu
    Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

    , he is the eldest and favorite son of the King of Ayodhya, Dasharatha, and his wife Kausalya
    Kausalya
    Kausalya in the Indian Rāmāyaṇa epic was the eldest of King Daśaratha's three wives and a queen of Ayodhyā, she was the daughter of the King of the Kosala Kingdom. She was the mother of Rama, the king of Ayodhya, upon whom the story of the Ramayana is based....

    . He is portrayed as the epitome of virtue. Dasharatha is forced by Kaikeyi
    Kaikeyi
    Kaikeyi , in the Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa, was the second of King Daśaratha's three wives and a queen of Ayodhyā. She was the mother of Bharata...

    , one of his wives, to command Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile.
  • Sita
    SITA
    SITA is a multinational information technology company specialising in providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry...

    is the beloved wife of Rama and the daughter of king Janaka. Ram went to Janakpurdham, current city of Janakpur, Nepal, and got a chance to marry her by lifting a heavy Bow in a competition organized by King Janaka. The competition was to find the most suitable husband for Sita and many princes from different states competed to win her. Sita is the avatar of Goddess Lakshmi
    Lakshmi
    Lakshmi or Lakumi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity , light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments...

    , the consort of Vishnu. Sita is portrayed as the epitome of female purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and is abducted by Ravana. She is imprisoned on the island of Lanka
    Lanka
    Sri Lanka is the name given in Hindu mythology to the island fortress capital of the legendary king Ravana in the great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata...

     until Rama rescues her by defeating the demon king Ravana. Later, she gives birth to Lava
    Lava (Ramayana)
    Lava or Luv and his twin brother Kusha, were the children of the Lord Rama and his wife Sita, whose story is recounted in the Ramayana. Per that text, he is known as the founder of Lavapuri,that is, the modern day city of Lahore,...

     and Kusha
    Kusha (Ramayana)
    Kusha , in Hindu mythology, was one of the twin sons of Lord Rama and Sita . Born in the Forest after Sita had been banished from Ayodhya, they were educated and trained in military skills and were under the care of Sage Valmiki....

    , the heirs of Rama.
  • Hanuman
    Hanuman
    Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

    is a vanara
    Vanara
    Vānara popularly refers to a group of ape-like humanoids in the Hindu epic Ramayana who were brave and inquisitive by nature. They possessed supernatural powers and could change their shapes...

     belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. He is portrayed as the eleventh avatar of God Shiva
    Shiva
    Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

     (He is also called Rudra) and an ideal bhakta of Rama. He is born as the son of Kesari, a vanara king, and the Goddess Anjana. He plays an important part in locating Sita and in the ensuing battle.
  • Lakshmana
    Lakshmana
    Lakshmana was the brother and close companion of Rama, and himself a hero in the famous epic Ramayana...

    , the younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile with him. He is portrayed as an avatar of the Shesha
    Shesha
    In Hindu tradition, Shesha or Sheshanaag is the king of all nagas, one of the primal beings of creation, and according to the Bhagavata Purana, an Avatar of the Supreme God known as Sankarshan. In the Puranas, Shesha is said to hold all the planets of the Universe on his hoods and to constantly...

    , the nāga
    Naga
    Naga or NAGA may refer to:* Nāga, a group of serpent deities in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.-People:* Nayan / Nayar/Nair people of Kerala Society* Naga people, a diverse ethnic identity in Northeast India...

     associated with the God Vishnu. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama during which he fought the demoness Surpanakha
    Surpanakha
    Surpanakha or Shurpanakha is one of the most important characters in the Ramayana. Indeed, Valmiki comes close to claiming that if there had been no Kaikeyi and no Surpanakha, then there would have been no Ramayana and no war with Ravana...

    . He is forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon Maricha
    Maricha
    Maricha or Mareecha was a rakshasa who played a small but important part in the Indian Ramayana epic. He was thrown into a remote island by the arrow of Lord Rama when he tried to interrupt Sage Vishwamitra's yagna. After that he became very afraid of the very mention of the name Rama...

     into believing that Rama was in trouble. Sita is abducted by Ravana upon him leaving her. He was married to Sita's younger sister Urmila
    Urmila
    In Hindu epic Ramayana, Urmila was the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila and the younger sister of Sita. She was the wife of Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama. They had two sons, Angad and Dharmaketu....

    .
  • Ravana
    Ravana
    ' is the primary antagonist character of the Hindu legend, the Ramayana; who is the great king of Lanka. In the classic text, he is mainly depicted negatively, kidnapping Rama's wife Sita, to claim vengeance on Rama and his brother Lakshmana for having cut off the nose of his sister...

    , a rakshasa
    Rakshasa
    A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion...

    , is the king of Lanka. After performing severe penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the creator-God Brahma
    Brahma
    Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

    : he could henceforth not be killed by Gods, demons, or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king who disturbs the penances of Rishis. Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.
  • Jatayu
    Jatayu
    Jatayu could mean:*Jatayu , the bird in the Hindu epic Ramayana.*Jatayu Airlines, an Indonesian airline company.*Jatayu , a character in the Feluda stories by Satyajit Ray....

    , the son of Aruṇa
    Aruna
    In to Hindu mythology and Hindu scriptures, Aruṇá or Aruṇ is a personification of the reddish glow of the rising Sun, which is believed to have spiritual powers...

     and nephew of Garuda
    Garuda
    The Garuda is a large mythical bird or bird-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology.From an Indian perspective, Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila and...

    . A demi-god who has the form of a vulture
    Vulture
    Vulture is the name given to two groups of convergently evolved scavenging birds, the New World Vultures including the well-known Californian and Andean Condors, and the Old World Vultures including the birds which are seen scavenging on carcasses of dead animals on African plains...

     that tries to rescue Sita from Ravana. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them the direction in which Ravana had gone.
  • Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has three queens, Kausalya
    Kausalya
    Kausalya in the Indian Rāmāyaṇa epic was the eldest of King Daśaratha's three wives and a queen of Ayodhyā, she was the daughter of the King of the Kosala Kingdom. She was the mother of Rama, the king of Ayodhya, upon whom the story of the Ramayana is based....

    , Kaikeyi
    Kaikeyi
    Kaikeyi , in the Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa, was the second of King Daśaratha's three wives and a queen of Ayodhyā. She was the mother of Bharata...

     and Sumitra
    Sumitra
    Sumitra in the Indian Ramayana epic, was the third of King Dasaratha's three wives and a queen of Ayodhyā. She was the mother of twins Lakshmana and Shatrughna. She came from the ancient kingdom of Kashi. She was supposed to be the wisest of the wives of Dasaratha. She was the one to first...

    , and three other sons: Bharata
    Bharata (Ramayana)
    In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Bharata was the second brother of the main protagonist Rama, and the son of Dasaratha and Kaikeyi. Dasaratha was the Emperor of Ayodhya and belonged to the Suryavansha or Solar Dynasty...

    , Lakshmana
    Lakshmana
    Lakshmana was the brother and close companion of Rama, and himself a hero in the famous epic Ramayana...

     and Shatrughna
    Shatrughna
    Shatrughna was the youngest brother of Lord Rama in the Hindu epic Ramayana . He is the twin brother of Lakshmana.-Birth and family:...

    . Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favourite queen, forces him to make his son Bharata crown prince and send Rama into exile. Dasharatha dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.
  • Bharata
    Bharata (Ramayana)
    In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Bharata was the second brother of the main protagonist Rama, and the son of Dasaratha and Kaikeyi. Dasaratha was the Emperor of Ayodhya and belonged to the Suryavansha or Solar Dynasty...

    is the son of Dasharatha. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi had forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharatha to die brokenhearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama in the forest. When Rama refuses to return from his exile to assume the throne, Bharata obtains Rama's sandals and places them on the throne as a gesture that Rama is the true king. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as the regent of Rama for the next fourteen years. He was married to Mandavi.
  • Satrughna is the son of Dasharatha and his third wife Queen Sumitra. He is the youngest brother of Rama and also the twin brother of Lakshmana. He was married to Shrutakirti.
  • Sugriva
    Sugriva
    In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Sugriva , also spelled Sugreeva or Sugreev, was the younger brother of Bali, whom he succeeded as ruler of the vanara or monkey kingdom Kishkindha. Ruma was his wife. He was the son of Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun...

    , a vanara king who helped Rama regain Sita from Ravana. He had an agreement with Rama through which Vaali-Sugriva’s brother and king of Kishkindha-would be killed by Rama in exchange for Sugriva’s help in finding Sita. Sugriva ultimately ascends the throne of Kishkindha after the slaying of Vaali and fulfils his promise by putting the Vanara forces at Rama’s disposal
  • Indrajit
    Indrajit
    Indrajit or Meghanatha , a warrior mentioned in the Indian epic Ramayana, was the son of the Lankan king Ravana. The word 'Indrajit' literally means the 'conqueror of Indra '....

    , a son of Ravana who twice defeated Lakshmana in battle before succumbing to him the third time. An adept of the magical arts, he coupled his supreme fighting skills with various stratagems to inflict heavy losses on the Vanara army before his death.
  • Kumbhakarna
    Kumbhakarna
    Kumbhakarna , is a rakshasa and brother of Ravana in the Indian Ramayana epic...

    , a brother of Ravana, famous for his eating and sleeping. He would sleep for months at a time and would be extremely ravenous upon waking up, consuming anything set before him. His monstrous size and loyalty made him an important part of Ravana’s army. During the war, he decimated the Vanara army before Rama cut of his limbs and head.
  • Surpanakha
    Surpanakha
    Surpanakha or Shurpanakha is one of the most important characters in the Ramayana. Indeed, Valmiki comes close to claiming that if there had been no Kaikeyi and no Surpanakha, then there would have been no Ramayana and no war with Ravana...

    , Ravana's demoness sister who fell in love with Rama and had the ability to take any form she wanted.
  • Vibhishana
    Vibhishana
    Vibhishana or Bibhishan is a character in the epic Ramayana. He was the younger brother of the demon Ravana. Though a half-demon himself, Vibhishana was of a noble character and advised Ravana, who kidnapped and abducted Sita, to return her to her husband Rama in an orderly fashion...

    , a younger brother of Ravana. He was against the kidnapping of Sita and joined the forces of Rama when Ravana refused to return her. His intricate knowledge of Lanka was vital in the war and he was crowned king after the fall of Ravana.

Synopsis


The Epic is traditionally divided into several major kāṇḍas or books, that deal chronologically with the major events in the life of Rama—Bāla Kāṇḍa, Ayodhya Kāṇḍa, Araṇya Kāṇḍa, Kishkindha Kāṇḍa, Sundara Kāṇḍa
Sundara Kanda
Sundara Kanda , literally "beautiful episode/book", is the fifth book in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. It depicts the adventures of Hanuman. The original Sundara Kanda is in Sanskrit and was composed by Valmiki, who was the first to scripturally record the Ramayana. Sundara Kanda is the only...

, Yuddha Kāṇḍa, and Uttara Kāṇḍa. The Bala Kanda describes the birth of Rama, his childhood and marriage to Sita. The Ayodhya Kanda describes the preparations for Rama's coronation and his exile into the forest. The third part, Aranya Kanda, describes the forest life of Rama and the kidnapping of Sita by the demon king Ravana. The fourth book, Kishkindha Kanda, describes the meeting of Hanuman with Rama, the destruction of the vanara
Vanara
Vānara popularly refers to a group of ape-like humanoids in the Hindu epic Ramayana who were brave and inquisitive by nature. They possessed supernatural powers and could change their shapes...

 king Vali and the coronation of his younger brother Sugriva to the throne of the kingdom of Kishkindha
Kishkindha
Kishkindha is mythical the monkey kingdom of the Vanara King Sugriva, the younger brother of Vali, in the Indian mythology of Ramayana times...

. The fifth book is Sundara Kanda, which narrates the heroism of Hanuman, his flight to Lanka and meeting with Sita. The sixth book, Yuddha Kanda, describes the battle between Rama's and Ravana's armies. The last book, Uttara Kanda, describes the birth of Lava and Kusha to Sita, their coronation to the throne of Ayodhya, and Rama's final departure from the world.

Bala Kanda


Dasharatha was the king of Ayodhya. He had three queens and they are Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. He was childless for a long time and, anxious to produce an heir, he performs a fire sacrifice known as Putra-Kameshti Yagya. As a consequence, Rama is first born to Kausalya, Bharata is born to Kaikeyi, and Sumitra gives birth to two son named Lakshmana and Shatrughna. These sons are endowed, to various degrees, with the essence of the God Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

; Vishnu had opted to be born into mortality in order to combat the demon Ravana, who was oppressing the Gods, and who could only be destroyed by a mortal. The boys are reared as the princes of the realm, receiving instructions from the scriptures and in warfare. When Rama is 16 years old, the sage Vishwamitra comes to the court of Dasharatha in search of help against demons, who were disturbing sacrificial rites. He chooses Rama, who is followed by Lakshmana, his constant companion throughout the story. Rama and Lakshmana receive instructions and supernatural weapons from Vishwamitra, and proceed to destroy the demons.

Janaka
Janaka
Janaka or Raja Janaka were the kings of Videha Kingdom. Their capital was Mithila, which is believed to be present day Janakpur, Nepal...

 was the king of Mithila
Mithila
Mithila was a city in Ancient India, the capital of the Videha Kingdom. The name Mithila is also commonly used to refer to the Videha Kingdom itself, as well as to the modern-day territories that fall within the ancient boundaries of Videha...

. One day, a female child was found in the field by the king in the deep furrow dug by his plough. Overwhelmed with joy, the king regarded the child as a "miraculous gift of God". The child was named Sita, the Sanskrit word for furrow. Sita grew up to be a girl of unparalleled beauty and charm. When Sita was of marriageable age, the king decided to have a swayamvara
Swayamvara
Swayamvara , in ancient India, was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age. Swayam in Sanskrit means self and vara means choice or desire ....

which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the God Shiva: whoever could wield the bow could marry Sita. The sage Vishwamitra attends the swayamvara with Rama and Lakshmana. Only Rama wields the bow and breaks it. Marriages are arranged between the sons of Dasharatha and daughters, nieces of Janaka. The weddings are celebrated with great festivity at Mithila and the marriage party returns to Ayodhya.

Ayodhya Kanda


After Rama and Sita have been married for twelve years, Dasharatha who had grown old expresses his desire to crown Rama, to which the Kosala assembly and his subjects express their support. On the eve of the great event, Kaikeyi—her jealousy aroused by Manthara
Manthara
Manthara , in the Hindu epic Ramayana, is a servant who convinced Kaikeyi that the throne of Ayodhya belonged to her son Bharata and that Rama should be exiled from the kingdom....

, a wicked maidservant—claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her. Kaikeyi demands Rama to be exiled into wilderness for fourteen years, while the succession passes to her son Bharata. The heartbroken king, constrained by his rigid devotion to his given word, accedes to Kaikeyi's demands. Rama accepts his father's reluctant decree with absolute submission and calm self-control which characterizes him throughout the story. He is joined by Sita and Lakshmana. When he asks Sita not to follow him, she says, "the forest where you dwell is Ayodhya for me and Ayodhya without you is a veritable hell for me." After Rama's departure, king Dasharatha, unable to bear the grief, passes away. Meanwhile, Bharata who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns about the events in Ayodhya. Bharata refuses to profit from his mother's wicked scheming and visits Rama in the forest. He requests Rama to return and rule. But Rama, determined to carry out his father's orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile. However, Bharata carries Rama's sandals, and keeps them on the throne, while he rules as Rama's regent.

Aranya Kanda



Rama, Sita and Lakshmana journeyed southward along the banks of river Godavari, where they built cottages and lived off the land. At the Panchavati forest they are visited by a rakshasa
Rakshasa
A Rakshasa or alternatively rakshas, is a race of mythological humanoid beings or unrighteous spirit in Hindu and Buddhist religion...

woman, Surpanakha
Surpanakha
Surpanakha or Shurpanakha is one of the most important characters in the Ramayana. Indeed, Valmiki comes close to claiming that if there had been no Kaikeyi and no Surpanakha, then there would have been no Ramayana and no war with Ravana...

, the sister of Ravana. She attempts to seduce the brothers and, failing in this, attempts to kill Sita. Lakshmana stops her by cutting off her nose and ears. Hearing of this, her demon brother, Khara
Khara (Ramayana)
Khara was a man-eating rakshasa in the Indian Ramayana epic. He was a younger brother of Ravana, and was killed by Rama when he attacked Rama after Shurpanakha's humiliation.-References:...

, organizes an attack against the princes. Rama annihilates Khara and his demons.

When news of these events reaches Ravana, he resolves to destroy Rama by capturing Sita with the aid of the rakshasa Maricha
Maricha
Maricha or Mareecha was a rakshasa who played a small but important part in the Indian Ramayana epic. He was thrown into a remote island by the arrow of Lord Rama when he tried to interrupt Sage Vishwamitra's yagna. After that he became very afraid of the very mention of the name Rama...

. Maricha, assuming the form of a golden deer, captivates Sita's attention. Entranced by the beauty of the deer, Sita pleads with Rama to capture it. Rama, aware that this is the play of the demons, is unable to dissuade Sita from her desire and chases the deer into the forest, leaving Sita under Lakshmana's guard. After some time Sita hears Rama calling out to her; afraid for his life she insists that Lakshmana rush to his aid. Lakshmana tries to assure her that Rama is invincible, and that it is best if he continues to follow Rama's orders to protect her. On the verge of hysterics Sita insists that it is not she but Rama who needs Lakshmana's help. He obeys her wish but stipulates that she is not to leave the cottage or entertain any strangers. Finally with the coast clear, Ravana appears in the guise of an ascetic requesting Sita's hospitality. Unaware of the devious plan of her guest, Sita is then forcibly carried away by the evil Ravana.

Jatayu
Jatayu
Jatayu could mean:*Jatayu , the bird in the Hindu epic Ramayana.*Jatayu Airlines, an Indonesian airline company.*Jatayu , a character in the Feluda stories by Satyajit Ray....

, a vulture, tries to rescue Sita, but is mortally wounded. At Lanka, Sita is kept under the heavy guard of rakshasis. Ravana demands Sita marry him, but Sita, eternally devoted to Rama, refuses. Rama and Lakshmana learn about Sita's abduction from Jatayu, and immediately set out to save her. During their search, they meet the demon Kabandha
Kabandha
In Hindu mythology, Kabandha is a Rakshasa who is killed and freed from a curse by the god Rama – an Avatar of Vishnu – and his brother Lakshmana...

 and the ascetic Shabari
Shabari
Shabari is an elderly woman ascetic in the Hindu epic Ramayana. According to the Ramayana, she was an ardently devoted woman who received Rama's darshan and blessing due to her Bhakti to Him.- Story :...

, who direct them towards Sugriva and Hanuman.

Kishkindha Kanda




The Kishkindha Kanda is set in the monkey citadel Kishkindha
Kishkindha
Kishkindha is mythical the monkey kingdom of the Vanara King Sugriva, the younger brother of Vali, in the Indian mythology of Ramayana times...

. Rama and Lakshmana meet Hanuman, the greatest of monkey heroes and an adherent of Sugriva
Sugriva
In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Sugriva , also spelled Sugreeva or Sugreev, was the younger brother of Bali, whom he succeeded as ruler of the vanara or monkey kingdom Kishkindha. Ruma was his wife. He was the son of Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun...

, the banished pretender to the throne of Kishkindha. Rama befriends Sugriva and helps him by killing his elder brother Vali
Vali (Ramayana)
In the Hindu epic Ramayana, the vanara Vali , also known as Bali , , , Yuan: Bari, , Lao: Palichan) was king of Kishkindha, a son of Indra and the elder brother of Sugriva...

 thus regaining the kingdom of Kiskindha, in exchange for helping Rama to recover Sita. However Sugriva soon forgets his promise and spends his time in debauchery. The clever monkey Queen, Tara
Tara (ramayana)
In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Tara is the Queen of Kishkindha and wife of the monkey King Vali. After being widowed, she becomes the Queen of Sugriva, Vali's brother. Tara's intelligence, presence of mind, courage, and devotion to her husband is praised...

, calmly intervenes to prevent an enraged Lakshmana from destroying the monkey citadel. She then eloquently convinces Sugriva to honor his pledge. Sugriva then sends search parties to the four corners of the earth, only to return without success from north, east and west. The southern search party under the leadership of Angad and Hanuman learns from a vulture named Sampati
Sampati
In Hindu theology, Sampati was one of the two sons of Aruṇa and was the brother of Jatayu...

 that Sita was taken to Lanka.

Sundara Kanda



The Sundara Kanda forms the heart of Valmiki's Ramayana and consists of a detailed, vivid account of Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

's adventures. After learning about Sita, Hanuman assumes
Shapeshifting
Shapeshifting is a common theme in mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. It is also found in epic poems, science fiction literature, fantasy literature, children's literature, Shakespearean comedy, ballet, film, television, comics, and video games...

 a gargantuan form and makes a colossal leap across the ocean to Lanka. Here, Hanuman explores the demon's city and spies on Ravana. He locates Sita in Ashoka grove, who is wooed and threatened by Ravana and his rakshasis to marry Ravana. He reassures her, giving Rama's signet ring as a sign of good faith. He offers to carry Sita back to Rama, however she refuses, reluctant to allow herself to be touched by a male other than her husband. She says that Rama himself must come and avenge the insult of her abduction.

Hanuman then wreaks havoc in Lanka by destroying trees and buildings, and killing Ravana's warriors. He allows himself to be captured and produced before Ravana. He gives a bold lecture to Ravana to release Sita. He is condemned and his tail is set on fire, but he escapes his bonds and, leaping from roof to roof, sets fire to Ravana's citadel and makes the giant leap back from the island. The joyous search party returns to Kishkindha with the news.

Yuddha Kanda



This book describes the battle between the forces of Rama and Ravana. Having received Hanuman's report on Sita, Rama and Lakshmana proceed with their allies towards the shore of the southern sea. There they are joined by Ravana's renegade brother Vibhishana
Vibhishana
Vibhishana or Bibhishan is a character in the epic Ramayana. He was the younger brother of the demon Ravana. Though a half-demon himself, Vibhishana was of a noble character and advised Ravana, who kidnapped and abducted Sita, to return her to her husband Rama in an orderly fashion...

. The monkeys named "Nal" and "Neel" construct a floating bridge (known as Rama Setu
Rama's Bridge
Adam's Bridge , also known as Rama's Bridge or Rama Setu , is a chain of limestone shoals, between Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka...

) across the ocean, and the princes and their army cross over to Lanka. A lengthy battle ensues and Rama kills Ravana. Rama then installs Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka.

On meeting Sita, Rama asks her to undergo agni Pariksha (test of fire) to prove her purity, since she had stayed at the demon's palace. When Sita plunges into the sacrificial fire, Agni
Agni
Agni is a Hindu deity, one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire and the acceptor of sacrifices. The sacrifices made to Agni go to the deities because Agni is a messenger from and to the other gods...

 the lord of fire raises Sita, unharmed, to the throne, attesting to her purity. The episode of agni pariksha varies in the versions of Ramayana by Valmiki and Tulsidas
Tulsidas
Tulsidas , was a Hindu poet-saint, reformer and philosopher renowned for his devotion for the god Rama...

. The above version is from Valmiki Ramayana. In Tulsidas
Tulsidas
Tulsidas , was a Hindu poet-saint, reformer and philosopher renowned for his devotion for the god Rama...

's Ramacharitamanas
Ramacharitamanas
Shri Ramcharitmanas , also spelt Shri Ramcharitamanasa, is an epic poem in Awadhi, composed by the 16th-century Indian poet, Goswami Tulsidas...

 Sita was under the protection of Agni
Agni
Agni is a Hindu deity, one of the most important of the Vedic gods. He is the god of fire and the acceptor of sacrifices. The sacrifices made to Agni go to the deities because Agni is a messenger from and to the other gods...

 so it was necessary to bring her out before reuniting with Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

. At the expiration of his term of exile, Rama returns to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana, where the coronation is performed. This is the beginning of Ram Rajya, which implies an ideal state with good morals.

Uttara Kanda



The Uttara Kanda is regarded to be a later addition to the original story by Valmiki. and concerns the final years of Rama, Sita, and Rama's brothers. After being crowned king, many years passed pleasantly with Sita. However, despite the agni pariksha (fire ordeal) of Sita, rumors about her purity are spreading among the populace of Ayodhya. Rama yields to public opinion and banishes Sita to the forest, where sage Valmiki provides shelter in his ashrama (hermitage). Here she gives birth to twin boys, Lava and Kusha, who became pupils of Valmiki and are brought up in ignorance of their identity.

Valmiki composes the Ramayana and teaches Lava and Kusha to sing it. Later, Rama holds a ceremony during Ashwamedha yagna, which the sage Valmiki, with Lava and Kusha, attends. Lava and Kusha sing the Ramayana in the presence of Rama and his vast audience. When Lava and Kusha recite about Sita's exile, Rama becomes grievous, and Valmiki produces Sita. Sita calls upon the Earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opens, she vanishes into it. Rama then learns that Lava and Kusha are his children. Later a messenger from the Gods appears and informs Rama that the mission of his incarnation was over. Rama returns to his celestial abode.

Influence on culture and art



One of the most important literary works of ancient India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

. The story ushered in the tradition of the next thousand years of massive-scale works in the rich diction of regal courts and Brahminical temples. It has also inspired much secondary literature in various languages, notably the Kambaramayanam
Kambaramayanam
Ramavataram , popularly referred to as Kamba Ramayanam , is a Tamil epic that was written by Kamban during the 12th century. Based on Valmiki's Ramayana in Sanskrit, the story describes the life of King Rama of Ayodhya...

 by the Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

 poet Kambar of the 13th century, the Telugu-language Molla
Molla (poetess)
Atukuri Molla was a famous Telugu poetess who authored the Telugu-language Ramayana. She was popularly known as Molla or Mollamamba.-Biography:...

 Ramayana, 14th century Kannada poet Narahari's Torave Ramayan, and 15th century Bengali
Bengali people
The Bengali people are an ethnic community native to the historic region of Bengal in South Asia. They speak Bengali , which is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী...

 poet Krittibas Ojha
Krittibas Ojha
Krittibas Ojha or Kirttibas Ojha was a medieval Bengali poet. His major contribution to Bangla literature and culture was the translation of the great Indian epic Ramayana to Bangla. His work, the Sri Ram Panchali, is popularly known as the Krittivasi Ramayan...

's Krittivasi Ramayan
Krittivasi Ramayan
Krittivasi Ramayan or Krittibasi Ramayan or Sri Ram Panchali , composed by 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha, is a translation of the Ramayana into Bengali, which represents the first translation of the Ramayana into any North Indian language other than Sanskrit...

, as well as the 16th century Awadhi version, Ramacharitamanas
Ramacharitamanas
Shri Ramcharitmanas , also spelt Shri Ramcharitamanasa, is an epic poem in Awadhi, composed by the 16th-century Indian poet, Goswami Tulsidas...

, written by Tulsidas
Tulsidas
Tulsidas , was a Hindu poet-saint, reformer and philosopher renowned for his devotion for the god Rama...

.

The Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during the 8th century and was represented in literature, temple architecture, dance and theatre. Today, dramatic enactments of the story of Ramayana, known as Ramlila
Ramlila
Ramlila is a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Lord Ram, ending up in ten day battle between Lord Ram and Ravan, as described in the Hindu religious epic, the Ramayana...

, take place all across India and in many places across the globe within the Indian diaspora.

Variant versions



As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the Ramayana survive. In particular, the Ramayana related in North India differs in important respects from that preserved in South India and the rest of South-East Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the Ramayana in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

, Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Malaysia, Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, and Maldives
Maldivian Folklore
Maldive Mythology or Maldive Folklore is the body of myths, tales and anecdotes belonging to the oral tradition of Maldivians. Even though some of the Maldivian myths were already mentioned briefly by British commissioner in Ceylon HCP Bell towards the end of the 19th century, their study and...

. Father Kamil Bulke, author of Ramakatha, has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana.

India


The 7th century CE "Bhatti's Poem" of is a Sanskrit retelling of the epic that simultaneously illustrates the grammatical examples for 's as well as the major figures of speech and the Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

 language.

There are diverse regional versions of the Ramayana written by various authors in India. Some of them differ significantly from each other. During the 12th century AD, Kamban
Kambar
Kambar was a medieval Tamil poet and the author of the Tamil Ramayanam known as Kambaramayanam, the Tamil version of Ramayana. Kambar also authored other literary works in Tamil such as Erezhupathu,Silaiezhupathu, Kangai Puranam and Sarasvati Anthati.-Life:Kambar belonged to the Ochchan or Occhan...

 wrote Ramavataram, known popularly as Kambaramayanam
Kambaramayanam
Ramavataram , popularly referred to as Kamba Ramayanam , is a Tamil epic that was written by Kamban during the 12th century. Based on Valmiki's Ramayana in Sanskrit, the story describes the life of King Rama of Ayodhya...

 in Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

. Valmiki's Ramayana inspired the Sri Ramacharit Manas by Tulasidas in 1576, an epic Awadhi (a dialect of Hindi) version with a slant more grounded in a different realm of Hindu literature, that of bhakti
Bhakti
In Hinduism Bhakti is religious devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the divine.Within monotheistic Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God, a concept expressed in Hindu theology as Svayam Bhagavan.Bhakti can be used of either...

. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of India, popularly known as Tulsi-krita Ramayana. Gujarati
Gujarati people
Gujarati people , or Gujaratis are an ethnic group that is traditionally Gujarati-speaking and can trace their ancestry to the state of Gujarat in western India...

 poet Premanand wrote a version of Ramayana in the 17th century. Other versions include a Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 version by Krittivas in the 14th century, in Oriya
Oriya language
Oriya , officially Odia from November, 2011, is an Indian language, belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is mainly spoken in the Indian states of Orissa and West Bengal...

 by Balarama Das in the 16th century, in Marathi
Marathi language
Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

 by Sridhara in the 18th century, a Telugu version by Ranganatha in the 15th century, a Torave Ramayana in Kannada by the 16th century poet Narahari and in the 20th century Rashtrakavi Kuvempu
Kuvempu
Kuppali Venkatappagowda Puttappa was a Kannada writer and poet, widely regarded as the greatest poet of 20th century Kannada literature. He is the first among eight recipients of Jnanpith Award for Kannada. Puttappa wrote all his literary works using the pen name Kuvempu...

's Sri Ramayana Darshnam, Kotha Ramayana in Assamese
Assamese language
Assamese is the easternmost Indo-Aryan language. It is used mainly in the state of Assam in North-East India. It is also the official language of Assam. It is also spoken in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and other northeast Indian states. Nagamese, an Assamese-based Creole language is widely used in...

 by the 14th century poet Madhava Kandali
Madhava Kandali
Kaviraja Madhava Kandali was an Assamese poet of India, notable for the earliest rendering of the Valmiki Ramayana into Assamese verse . His another work is a narrative poem, Devajit on superiority of Krishna over the other avatars of Vishnu...

 and Adhyathma Ramayanam Kilippattu
Adhyathmaramayanam
Adhyathmaramayanam is the Malayalam version of Ramayana written by Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan in the early 17th Century. It is considered to be a classic of Malayalam literature...

, a Malayalam version by Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan
Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan
Thunjathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan was an Indian poet from around the 16th century, known as the father of the Malayalam language — the principal language of the Indian state of Kerala, spoken by 36 million people in the world...

 in the 16th century.

There is a sub-plot to Ramayana, prevalent in some parts of India, relating the adventures of Ahi Ravana
Ahiravan
In the Ramayana Ahiravan , brother of Ravana, was a rakshasa who secretly carried away Rama and his brother Lakshmana to the nether-world, consulted his friends and decided to sacrifice the life of the two divine brothers at the altar of his chosen deity, goddess Mahamaya...

 and Mahi Ravana, the evil brother of Ravana, which enhances the role of Hanuman in the story. Hanuman rescues Rama and Lakshmana after they are kidnapped by the Ahi-mahi Ravana at the behest of Ravana and held prisoner in a subterranean cave, to be sacrificed to the Goddess Kali
Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

.

Mappillapattu
Mappila Songs
Mappila Paattu or Mappila Song is a folklore Muslim song genre rendered to lyrics in colloquial Mappila dialect of Malayalam laced with Arabic, by the Mappilas of Malabar. Mappila songs have a distinct cultural identity, while at the same time, remain closely linked to the cultural practices of...

—a genre of song popular among the Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s belonging to Kerala
Kerala
or Keralam is an Indian state located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. It was created on 1 November 1956 by the States Reorganisation Act by combining various Malayalam speaking regions....

 and Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep , formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala...

—has incorporated some episodes from the Ramayana into its songs. These songs, known as Mappila Ramayana, have been handed down from one generation to the next orally. In Mappila Ramayana, the story of the Ramayana has been changed into that of a sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

, and there are no major changes in the names of characters except for that of Rama which is `Laman' in many places. The language and the imagery projected in the Mappilapattu are in accordance with the social fabric of the earlier Muslim community.

Buddhist version


In the Buddhist variant of Ramayana, Dasaratha was the king of Benares and not Ayodhya. According to Romila Thapar: "Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were the siblings born to the first wife of Dasaratha. To protect his children from his second wife, the king sent the three in exile to the Himalayas. Twelve years later,the trio came back to the kingdom with Rama and Sita ruling as consorts. The abduction of Sita did not find a place in this version."

Jain version



Jain version of Ramayana can be found in the various Jain agamas
Jain Agamas
Agamas are canonical texts of Jainism based on Mahavira’s teachings. Mahavira’s preaching were orally compiled by his disciples into various Sutras which were collectively called Jain canonical or Agamic literature. Traditionally these sutras were orally passed on from teachers to the disciples...

 like Padmapurana (story of Padma or Rama), Hemacandra’s Trisastisalakapurusa Caritra (hagiography of 63 illustrious persons), Sanghadasa’s Vasudevahindi and Uttarapurana by Gunabhadara. According to Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology
Jain cosmology is the description of the shape and functioning of the physical and metaphysical Universe and its constituents according to Jainism, which includes the canonical Jain texts, commentaries and the writings of the Jain philosopher-monks...

, every half time cycle has nine sets of Balarama
Balarama
Balarama , also known as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Halayudha, is the elder brother of the divine being, Krishna in Hinduism. Within Vaishnavism Hindu traditions Balarama is worshipped as an Avatar of Vishnu, and he is also listed as such in the Bhagavata Purana...

, Vasudeva
Vasudeva
In Hindu itihasa , Vasudeva is the father of Krishna, the son of Shoorsen, of the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties. His sister Kunti was married to Pandu. He was a partial incarnation of Rishi Kashyap....

 and Prativasudeva. Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana are the eighth Baladeva, Vasudeva, and Prativasudeva respectively. Padmanabh Jaini
Padmanabh Jaini
Prof. Dr. Padmanabh Shrivarma Jaini is a India born scholar of Jainism and Buddhism, currently living in Berkeley, USA. He was born in a Digambar family, however he is equally familiar with both the Digambara and Svetambara forms of Jainism...

 notes that, unlike in the Hindu Puranas, the names Baladeva and Vasudeva are not restricted to Balarama and Krishna in Jain puranas. Instead they serve as names of two distinct class of mighty brothers, who appear nine times in each half time cycle and jointly rule the half the earth as half-chakravartin
Chakravartin
Chakravartin , is a term used in Indian religions for an ideal universal ruler, who rules ethically and benevolently over the entire world. Such a ruler's reign is called sarvabhauma. It is a bahuvrīhi, literally meaning "whose wheels are moving", in the sense of "whose chariot is rolling...

s. Jaini traces the origin of this list of brothers to the Jinacharitra (lives of the Jinas) by Acharya Bhadrabahu
Acharya Bhadrabahu
Acharya Bhadrabahu was a Jain monk. He is more famously known as a spiritual teacher of Chandragupta Maurya and author of several texts related to Jainism, including some of the most important works, Upsargahara Stotra and Kalpasutra....

 (3–4th century BCE).

In the Jain epic of Ramayana, it is Lakshmana who ultimately kills Ravana and not Rama as told in the Hindu version. In the end, Rama who lead an upright life renounces his kingdom, becomes a Jain monk and attains moksha
Moksa (Jainism)
' or Mokkha means liberation, salvation or emancipation of soul. It is a blissful state of existence of a soul, completely free from the karmic bondage, free from samsara, the cycle of birth and death. A liberated soul is said to have attained its true and pristine nature of infinite bliss,...

. On the other hand, Lakshmana and Ravana go to hell
Naraka (Jainism)
Naraka नरक is the name given to realm of existence in Jain cosmology having great suffering. Naraka is usually translated into English as "hell" or "purgatory". However, a Naraka differs from the hells of Abrahamic religions as souls are not sent to Naraka as the result of a divine judgment and...

. However, it is predicted that ultimately they both will be reborn as upright persons and attain liberation in their future births. According to Jain texts, Ravana will be the future Tirthankara (omniscient teacher) of Jainism.

The Jain versions has some variations from Valmiki's Ramayana. Dasharatha, the king of Saketa had four queens: Aparajita, Sumitra, Suprabha and Kaikeyi. These four queens had four sons. Aparajita's son was Padma, and he became known by the name of Rama. Sumitra's son was Narayana: he became to be known by another name, Lakshmana. Kaikeyi's son was Bharata and Suprabha's son was Shatrughna. Furthermore, not much was thought of Rama's fidelity to Sita. According to Jain version, Rama had four chief-queens: Maithili, Prabhavati, Ratinibha, and Sridama. Furthermore, Sita takes renunciation as a Jain ascetic after Rama abandons her and is reborn in Heaven. Rama, after Lakshmana's death, also renounces his kingdom and becomes a Jain monk. Ultimately, he attains Kevala Jnana
Kevala Jnana
In Jainism, ' or ' , "Perfect or Absolute Knowledge", is the highest form of knowledge that a soul can attain. A person who has attained is called a Kevalin, which is synonymous with Jina "victor" and Arihant "the worthy one"...

 omniscience and finally liberation. Rama predicts that Ravana and Lakshmana, who were in fourth hell
Naraka (Jainism)
Naraka नरक is the name given to realm of existence in Jain cosmology having great suffering. Naraka is usually translated into English as "hell" or "purgatory". However, a Naraka differs from the hells of Abrahamic religions as souls are not sent to Naraka as the result of a divine judgment and...

, will attain liberation in their future births. Accordingly, Ravana is the future Tirthankara of next half ascending time cycle and Sita will be his Ganadhara
Ganadhara
In Jainism, a Ganadhara "Troupe leader" is a primary disciple of a Tirthankara. All twenty-four Tirthankaras had ganadharas, but the number varied....

.

In Nepal


Two versions of Ramayana are present in Nepal. One is written by Siddhidas Mahaju
Siddhidas Mahaju
Siddhidas Mahaju is one of the greatest writers in Nepal Bhasa literature. He is considered as the greatest poet in the language. He translated Ramayana to Nepal Bhasa. He is one of the four main people involved in Nepal Bhasa renaissance.-Influences:He influenced every single poet and writer...

 in Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa is one of the major languages of Nepal, and is also spoken in India, particularly in Sikkim where it is one of the 11 official languages. Nepal Bhasa is the mother tongue of about 3% of the people in Nepal . It is spoken mainly by the Newars, who chiefly inhabit the towns of the...

. The other one is written by Bhanubhakta Acharya
Bhanubhakta Acharya
Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Acharya was a Nepali poet who translated the Ramayana from Sanskrit to Nepali. He was born in 1814 in Chundi Ramgha in the district of Tanahu, and was educated at home by his grandfather, Shri Krishna Acharya...

. The Nepal Bhasa version by Siddhidas Mahaju marks a great point in the renaissance of Nepal Bhasa
Nepal Bhasa renaissance
Nepal Bhasa renaissance was the movement to revive and modernize the Nepal Bhasa language during the period 1908 to 1940. The movement was spontaneous and not orchestrated...

, whereas Bhanubhakta Acharya's version is the first epic of Nepali.

Southeast Asian versions


Many other Asian cultures have adapted the Ramayana, resulting in other national epic
National epic
A national epic is an epic poem or a literary work of epic scope which seeks or is believed to capture and express the essence or spirit of a particular nation; not necessarily a nation-state, but at least an ethnic or linguistic group with aspirations to independence or autonomy...

s. In Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Kakawin Ramayana is an old Javanese
Javanese language
Javanese language is the language of the Javanese people from the central and eastern parts of the island of Java, in Indonesia. In addition, there are also some pockets of Javanese speakers in the northern coast of western Java...

 rendering; Yogesvara Ramayana is attributed to the scribe Yogesvara circa 9th century CE, who was employed in the court of the Medang in Central Java
Central Java
Central Java is a province of Indonesia. The administrative capital is Semarang. It is one of six provinces on the island of Java.This province is the province of high Human Development in Indonesia and its Points Development Index countries is equivalent to Lebanon. The province of Central Java...

. It has 2774 stanza
Stanza
In poetry, a stanza is a unit within a larger poem. In modern poetry, the term is often equivalent with strophe; in popular vocal music, a stanza is typically referred to as a "verse"...

s in manipravala style, a mixture of Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 and Archaic prose Javanese language. The most influential version of the Ramayana is the Ravanavadham of Bhatti, popularly known as Bhattikavya. The Javanese Ramayana differs markedly from the original Hindu prototype. The 9th century Javanese Kakawin Ramayana has become the reference of Ramayana in the neighboring island of Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

. The bas reliefs of Ramayana and Krishnayana scenes is carved on balustrades wall of 9th century Prambanan
Prambanan
Prambanan is a ninth century Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator , the Sustainer and the Destroyer...

 temples in Yogyakarta. In Indonesia, Ramayana has been integrated into local culture especially those of Javanese, Balinese
Balinese people
The Balinese population of 3.0 million live mostly on the island of Bali, making up 89% of the island's population. There are also significant populations on the island of Lombok, and in the eastern-most regions of Java The Balinese population of 3.0 million (1.5% of Indonesia's population) live...

 and Sundanese
Sundanese people
The Sundanese are an ethnic group native to the western part of the Indonesian island of Java. They number approximately 31 million, and are the second most populous of all the nation's ethncities. The Sundanese are predominantly Muslim...

, and has become the source of moral and spiritual guidance as well as aesthetic expression and also entertainment. Cultural performances such as Wayang
Wayang
Wayang is a Javanese word for theatre . When the term is used to refer to kinds of puppet theatre, sometimes the puppet itself is referred to as wayang...

 shadow puppet and traditional dances often took their story from Ramayana. In Bali as well as in Java, the dances based on the episode of Ramayana often performed in temples such as Prambanan
Prambanan
Prambanan is a ninth century Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator , the Sustainer and the Destroyer...

 in Java and Pura
Pura (Balinese temple)
A pura is a Balinese Hindu temple. and the place of worship for the adherents of Balinese Hinduism in Indonesia. Most of the puras are found on the island of Bali, as Hinduism is the predominant religion in the island; however many puras exist in other parts of Indonesia where there are significant...

 in Bali.

Phra Lak Phra Lam
Phra Lak Phra Lam
Phra Lak Phra Lam is the national epic of the Lao people, and is adapted from Valmiki's Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Similar to some Malay versions of the Hikayat Seri Rama, the epic has lost the association with Hinduism and is instead considered a Jataka Story, a previous lifetime of the Buddha...

is a Lao language
Lao language
Lao or Laotian is a tonal language of the Tai–Kadai language family. It is the official language of Laos, and also spoken in the northeast of Thailand, where it is usually referred to as the Isan language. Being the primary language of the Lao people, Lao is also an important second language for...

 version, whose title comes from Lakshmana and Rama. The story of Lakshmana and Rama is told as the previous life of the Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

. In Hikayat Seri Rama
Hikayat Seri Rama
Hikayat Seri Rama is the Malay literary adaptation of the Hindu Ramayana epic. The main story remains the same as the original Sanskrit version but some aspects of it were slightly modified to a local context such as the spelling and pronunciation of names...

of Malaysia, Dasharatha is the great-grandson of the Prophet Adam
Adam
Adam is a figure in the Book of Genesis. According to the creation myth of Abrahamic religions, he is the first human. In the Genesis creation narratives, he was created by Yahweh-Elohim , and the first woman, Eve was formed from his rib...

. Ravana receives boons from Allah
Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

 instead of Brahma. In many Malay language
Malay language
Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the official language of Malaysia , Indonesia , Brunei and Singapore...

 versions, Lakshmana is given greater importance than Rama, whose character is considered somewhat weak.


The Cambodian version of Ramayana, the Reamker
Reamker
Reamker is a Cambodian epic poem, based on the Sanskrit's Ramayana epic. The name means "Glory of Rama". It adapts the Hindu ideas to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the world. More than just a reordering of the epic tale, the Reamker is a mainstay of the royal ballet's...

, is the most famous story of Khmer Literature since the Funan era. It adapts the Hindu concepts to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the world. The Reamker has several differences from the original Ramayana, including scenes not included in the original and emphasis on Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

 and Sovanna Maccha
Sovanna Maccha
Suvannamaccha , Sovann Maccha ; Suphanna Matcha , is a daughter of Ravana that appears in the Cambodian and Thai versions of the Ramayana....

, a retelling which influences the Thai and Lao versions. Reamker in Cambodia is not confined to the realm of literature but extends to all Cambodian art forms, such as sculpture, Khmer classical dance
Khmer classical dance
The Royal Ballet of Cambodia is a form of performing arts established in the royal courts of Cambodia for the purpose of entertainment as well as ceremonial propitiation...

, theatre
Theatre of Cambodia
Theatre of Cambodia known as Lakhon is composed of many different genres. There are three main categories: classical, folk, and modern. Many forms of theatre in Cambodia incorporates dance movement into performances and are referred to as dance dramas....

 known as Lakhorn Luang (the foundation of the royal ballet), poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 and the mural and bas reliefs seen at the Silver Pagoda and Angkor wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu,...

.

Thailand's popular national epic Ramakien
Ramakien
The Ramakian is Thailand's national epic, derived from the Hindu epic Ramayana....

(Thai: รามเกียรติ์, from Sanskrit rāmakīrti, "Glory of Rama") is derived from the Hindu epic. In Ramakien, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Mandodari (Thotsakan and Montho). Vibhisana (Phiphek), the astrologer brother of Ravana, predicts calamity from the horoscope of Sita. Ravana has her thrown into the water, who, later, is picked by Janaka (Chanok). While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style. It has an expanded role for Hanuman and he is portrayed as a lascivious character. Ramakien can be seen in an elaborate illustration at Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew
The Wat Phra Kaew is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. It is a "potent religio-political symbol and the palladium of Thai society". It is located in the historic centre of Bangkok , within the precincts of the Grand Palace.The main building is the central ubosoth, which...

 in Bangkok.

Other Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n adaptations include Ramakavaca of Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

 (Indonesia), Maharadya Lawana and Darangen of Mindanao
Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. The other two are Luzon and the Visayas. The island of Mindanao is called The...

 (Philippines), and the Yama Zatdaw
Yama Zatdaw
Yama Zatdaw , unofficially Myanmar's national epic, is the Burmese version of the Ramayana. There are nine known pieces of the Yama Zatdaw in Myanmar...

of Myanmar
Myanmar
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

.

Theological significance



Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is one of most popular deities worshipped in the Hindu religion. Each year, many devout pilgrims trace his journey through India and Nepal, halting at each of the holy sites along the way. The poem is not seen as just a literary monument, but serves as an integral part of Hinduism, and is held in such reverence that the mere reading or hearing of it, or certain passages of it, is believed by Hindus to free them from sin and bless the reader or listener.

According to Hindu tradition, Rama is an incarnation (Avatar
Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

) of the God Vishnu. The main purpose of this incarnation is to demonstrate the righteous path (dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

) for all living creatures on earth.

Arshia Sattar
Arshia Sattar
Arshia Sattar is an Indian translator, facilitator, author, and director. Arshia Sattar obtained her PhD in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1990. Her abridged translations of the epic Sanskrit texts, Kathasaritsagara and Valmiki's Ramayana have both been...

 states that the central theme of the Ramayana, as well as the Mahabharata, is respectively Ram's and Krishna's hidden divinity and its progressive revelation.

Further reading


Original text
  • GRETIL etext (input by Muneo Tokunaga)
  • रामायण (Devanagari
    Devanagari
    Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

     version on Wikisource
    Wikisource
    Wikisource is an online digital library of free content textual sources on a wiki, operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Its aims are to host all forms of free text, in many languages, and translations. Originally conceived as an archive to store useful or important historical texts, it has...

    )


Translations

External links




Translations


http://sanskrit.uohyd.ernet.in/scl//sankshepa_ramayanam/index.html e-version of Sankshepa Ramayana providing Hindi and English translation with grammatical information.

Other