Ramayana is one of the most significant works of Indian literature, alongside
the Mahabharata, and also very significant in Hinduism. The epic poem was the
work of Maharishi Valmiki, who wrote it in Sanskrit. While the exact year it
was written is unknown, many scholars believe that it was likely not written any
earlier than 300 BCE. Not much is also known about Valmiki himself. However, it
is believed that he may have been a thief who was named Ratnakara. He then
evolved into a sage and become known as Valmiki, the poet who is renowned for
his epic work creating the Ramayana.
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epic tells the story of Prince Rama. In fact, the title Ramayana itself
translates to “Rama’s journey”.
begins with the birth of the god Rama in the kingdom of Ayodha in Kosala. Rama
grows up in the guidance of the sage Vishvamitra. Later on, Rama participates
in a bridegroom tournament, where he wins the hand of Sita. Sita, the daughter
of King Janaka, then becomes the wife of Rama.
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marrying Sita, Rama’s stepmother, Kaikeyi, evilly schemes and convinces King
Dasharatha, Rama’s father, to exile the couple from the kingdom. Rama is then
forced to abandon his position as the heir to his father’s kingdom and is banished
from Ayodha. Rama, Sita, and Rama’s favorite stepbrother, Lakshmana, leave and
find refuge in the forest where they spend the next fourteen years in exile.
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Ramayana narrates their long time away, exiled in the forest, facing many
adventures and misadventures. While in the forest, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana,
who is the wicked king of Lanka. Ravana takes Sita and brings her to his
kingdom. War ensues and Rama, together with Lakshmana, make their way to follow
and rescue Sita. Meanwhile, Sita staunchly rejects all of Ravana’s attentions,
remaining true and faithful to Rama.
Lakshmana establish an alliance with Sugriva, who is the king of the monkeys.
With the support from Sugriva, his army of monkeys, and Vibhishana, who is
Ravana’s very own brother, they breach Lanka to rescue Sita. Rama defeats
Ravana, killing him and successfully saving Sita. However, doubt is cast on
Sita’s faithfulness to Rama. Sita then subjects herself to an ordeal by fire to
prove her devotion to Rama.
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Sita are eventually able to make their way back to Ayodha, where the people
welcome them with joy and celebration. Rama is then crowned the rightful king
of Ayodha. However, the people of Ayodha still doubt Sita’s chastity and
whether she remained faithful to Rama while she was kidnapped. Upon learning of
his people’s doubt, Rama sends Sita to the forest. Back in the forest, Sita
comes across Valmiki, the very author of Ramayana who is also a character in
the tale. At Valmiki’s forest sanctuary, Sita gives birth to two boys, who are
Rama’s sons. Rama, Sita and their children are finally reunited when the two
sons come of age.
the centuries, this legendary story has been retold countless of times and in
numerous languages. In fact, there are also different religious adaptations of
the story with Buddhist, Sikh and Jain versions. In its present form, the
Ramayana has twenty-four thousand verses that is divided into seven books. It
is one of the longest ancient epics in world literature. While it is a
narrative of past events, classifying it in the itihasa genre, it includes universal teachings about human life. It
emphasizes, in particular, the importance of virtue. It is no surprise that the
Ramayana has had a large influence, not only on Hindu life and culture, but in
Indian and Asian culture as a whole.
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