||The Ramayana (Sanskrit: रामायण, Rāmāyana,) is an ancient
Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an
important part of the Hindu canon. The Ramayana is one of the two
great epics of India, the other being the Mahabharata. It depicts
the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the
ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.
The name Ramayana is a tatpurusha compound of Rāma and ayana
("going, advancing"), translating to "Rama's Journey". The Ramayana
consists of 24,000 verses in seven books (kāndas) and 500 cantos (sargas),and
tells the story of Rama (an incarnation of the Hindu preserver-God
Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king of Lanka,
Ravana. Thematically, the epic explores the tenets of human
existence and the concept of dharma.
Verses in the Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called
anustubh. The epic was an important influence on later Sanskrit
poetry and Indian life and culture, particularly through its
establishment of the shloka meter. Like its epic cousin the
Mahābhārata, the Ramayana is not just an ordinary story: it contains
the teachings of ancient Hindu sages and presents them in narrative
allegory with philosophical and the devotional elements
interspersed. The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman
and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of
There are other versions of the Ramayana, notably Buddhist (Dasaratha
Jataka No. 461) and Jain in India, and also Indonesian, Thai, Lao,
Burmese and Malay versions of the tale.
Traditionally, the Ramayana is ascribed to Valmiki, 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 epic
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
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 Hindu tradition, the Ramayana takes place during a
period of time known as Treta Yuga.
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,
recensions and subrecensions. Textual scholar Robert P. Goldman
differentiates two major regional recensions: the northern (N) and
the southern (S). Scholar Romesh Chunder Dutt 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 speculation as to whether the first and the last
chapters of Valmiki's Ramayana were written by the original author.
Raghunathan writes that many experts 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), Shri Rama Panchali or Krittivasi Ramayan by
Krittibas Ojha in Bengali (ca. 15th Century), and Ramacharitamanas
by Tulasidas in Awadhi which is a dialect of Hindi (c. 16th
Some cultural evidence (the presence of sati 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
By tradition, the epic belongs to the Treta Yuga, second of the four
eons (yuga) of Hindu chronology. Rama is said to have been born in
the Treta Yuga to King Daśaratha in the Ikshvaku vamsa (clan).
The names of the characters (Rama, Sita, Dasharatha, Janaka,
Vasishta, Vishwamitra) are all known in Vedic literature such as the
Brahmanas which are older than the Valmiki Ramayana. However,
nowhere in the surviving Vedic poetry is a story similar to the
Ramayana of Valmiki. According to the modern academic view, Brahma,
one of the main characters of Ramayana, and Vishnu, who according to
Bala Kanda was incarnated as Rama, are not Vedic deities, and come
first 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. 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 and Magadha
region during the period of the sixteen janapadas 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 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.
Rama seated with Sita, fanned by Lakshmana, while Hanuman pays his
* Rama is the hero of the tale. Portrayed as the seventh incarnation
of the God Vishnu, he is the eldest and favorite son of the King of
Ayodhya, Dasharatha, and his wife Kausalya. He is portrayed as the
epitome of virtue. Dasharatha is forced by Kaikeyi, one of his
wives, to command Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for
fourteen years and go into exile.
* Sita is the beloved wife of Rama and the daughter of king Janaka.
She is the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, 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 until Rama rescues her by
defeating the demon king Ravana. Later, she gives birth to Lava and
Kusha, the heirs of Rama.
* Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. He is
portrayed as an incarnation of the God Vayu (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, the younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile
with him. He is portrayed as an incarnation of the Shesha, the nāga
associated with the God Vishnu. He spends his time protecting Sita
and Rama during which he fought the demoness Surpanakha. He is
forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon Maricha 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.
* Ravana, a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. After performing severe
penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the
creator-God Brahma: 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.
A short family tree of king Dasharatha.
* Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has
three queens, Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi, and three other sons:
Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. 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 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.
* Shatrughna 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.
The poem is traditionally divided into several major kandas or
books, that deal chronologically with the major events in the life
of Rama—Bala kanda, Ayodhya Kanda, Aranya Kanda, Kishkinda Kanda,
Sundara Kanda, Yuddha Kanda, and Uttara Kanda. 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, Kishkinda Kanda, describes the meeting of
Hanuman with Rama, the destruction of the vanara king Vali and the
coronation of his younger brother Sugriva to the throne of the
kingdom of Kishkindha. 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.
The birth of the four sons of Dasharatha
Dasharatha was the king of Kosala, the capital of which was the city
of Ayodhya. He had three queens: Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumithra. He
was childless for a long time and, anxious to produce an heir, he
performs a fire sacrifice known as Putra-Kameshti Yagna. As a
consequence, Rama is first born to Kausalya, Bharata is born to
Kaikeyi, and Sumitra gives birth to twins named Lakshmana and
Shatrughna. These sons are endowed, to various degrees, with the
essence of the God Vishnu; 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
Janaka was the king of Mithila. One day, a female child was found in
the field by the king in the deep furrow dug by this 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 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.
Bharata Asks for Rama's paduka-footwear
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, 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.
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 woman,
Surpanakha, 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, 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,
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
Jatayu, 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 and the ascetic Shabari, who direct
them towards Sugriva and Hanuman.
A stone bas relief at Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicts the
combat between Vali and Sugriva (middle). To the right, Rama fires
his bow. To the left, Vali lies dying.
The Kishkindha Kanda is set in the monkey citadel Kishkindha. Rama
and Lakshmana meet Hanuman, the greatest of monkey heroes and an
adherent of Sugriva, the banished pretender to the throne of
Kishkindha. Rama befriends Sugriva and helps him by killing his
elder brother Vali 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, 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 that Sita was taken to Lanka.
Ravana is meeting Sita at Ashokavana. Hanuman is seen on
The Sundara Kanda forms the heart of Valmiki's Ramayana and
consists of a detailed, vivid account of Hanuman's adventures. After
learning about Sita, Hanuman assumes 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.
The War of Lanka by Sahibdin.It depicts monkey army of the
protagonist Rama (top left, blue figure) fighting the demon-king of
the king of Lanka, Ravana in order to save Rama's kidnapped wife
Sita. The painting depicts multiple events in the battle against the
three-headed demon general Trisiras, in bottom left - Trisiras is
beheaded by the monkey-companion of Rama - Hanuman.
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. The monkeys
named "Naal" and "Neel" construct a floating bridge (known as Rama
Setu) 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 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. The above version is from
Valmiki Ramayana. In Tulsidas's Ramacharitamanas Sita was under the
protection of Agni so it was necessary to bring her out before
reuniting with Rama. 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 means an
ideal state with good morals. It is a place where all religions,
creed and castes can live together in harmony and work towards
progress together. Ram Rajya is the ultimate state of a true
democracy where through unity one gains strength and protects the
other as humanity is the greatest essence above all. Gambling,
drinking and hunting were commonly condemned in Ram Rajya.
Sita in the Hermitage of Valmiki
The Uttara Kanda 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
the 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. The
Uttara Kanda is regarded to be a later addition to the original
story by Valmiki.