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The Ramayana Literature

Though there are many Ramayanas, the one penned by Valmiki is said to be the earliest. It was written in the Treta Yoga, aound 4400 B.C. The text as available to us now consists of 24,253 verses and is divided into seven kandas or Books. Each kanda is subdivided into sargas or chapters (total number of sargas being 647) and these comprise shlokas or verses. Though the work is almost entirely in the shloka or the anustubh metre, bigger metres like indravajra or upendravajra have also been employed.


The seven kandas in Valmiki Ramayana are:


  1. Balakanda
  2. Ayodhyakanda
  3. Aranyakanda
  4. Kiskindhakanda
  5. Sundarakanda
  6. Yuddhakanda
  7. Uttarakanda


Three pathas or recensions of the Valmiki Ramayana have been discovered so far: the Daksinatya (southern), the Gaudiya (Bengali) and the Vayavya (north-western).


There are some well-known commentaries on the Valmiki Ramayana in Sanskrit. They are:


>> Tilaka or Ramabhirami by Nagoji Bhatta

>> Siromani by Sivasahaya

>> Bhusana by Govindaraja

>> Tattvadipa, by Mahesvara Tirtha

>> Ramanujiyavyakhya, by Kandala Ramanuja

>> Vivekatilaka by Varadaraja

>> Dharmakutavyakhya by Tryambakaraja

>> Ramayana-kuta-vyakhya by Ramananda Tirtha


Most of these commentaries have been printed and are available on this website.


A ceremonial recitation of the Ramayana, especially during the Ramanavami (in April) and the Navaratri (during September-October) celebrations, is believed to confer great religious merit.


Other Ramayanas


The influence of the Ramayana of Valmiki has been so powerful and deep that quite a few other Ramayanas have come into existence in course of time, thereby enriching our Ramayana literature. Of these, mention must be made of the Adhyatma Ramayana (4200 verses) considered to be a part of the Brahmanda Purana. Cast in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati, the Adhyatma Ramayana is a highly devotional piece of work and contains quite a few philosophical discourses including the well known Ramagita.


The /book/details/ananda-ramayana-attributed-to-great-sage-valmiki-sanskrit-text-english-translation-and-introduction-two-volumes-IDF389/">Ananda Ramayana (12,000 verses), is another popular work. It is also in the form of a dialogue, first between Parvati and Shiva, and later between Ramadasa and his disciple Visnudasa. This work contains a number of stories popular even now, such as those of Gokarna, the famous pilgrimage centre in Karnataka and the of the raksasa brothers Ahiravana and Mahiravana of the nether world who tried to help Ravana.


Then there are some other Ramayanas, also in Sanskrit, like the Adbhuta Ramayana (1355 verses) the Yogavasistha Ramayana (32,000 verses), the Tattvasangraha Ramayana and the Sangraha Ramayana.


Other Indian languages also have been enriched by the Ramayanas based on Valmiki’s Ramayana or its adaptations. The most famous is Ramacaritamanasa of Tulasidas (in Hindi) the Ramayana of Kamba (in Tamil), the Ramayan of Krttivasa (in Bengali), the Ramacaritam and the Kannassa Ramayanam of Ceraman and Kannassa (in Malayalam), the Ramavatar of Guru Govind Singh (in Punjabi), the Ranganatha Ramayana (in Telugu), the Ramacaritra of Girdhar (in Gujarati), the Saptakanda Ramayana of Sarala Das (in Oriya), the Ramayana of Madhava Kandali (in Assamese) the Torave Ramayana of Narahari (in Kannada) are some of the more well-known Ramayanas in the vernaculars.


Ramayanas outside India


The story of Rama, either in its original form as de depicted by Valmiki in his Ramayana, or in a metamorphosed form, has travelled widely outside India. The following list of works – by no means exhaustive – gives an idea of this movement:


>> Ramayana Kakawin (Javanese)

>> Hikayat Seri Rama (Malaysian)

>> Ramakien (Thai)

>> Pha Lak Pha Lam and Khvay Thuaraphi (Laos)

>> Hobutsushu (Japanese)

>> Ramasvamedha (Nepali)

>> Janakiharana (Sinhalese)


FAQs


Q1. What is the main purpose of Ramayana?


Ramayana brings to the fore the major precepts of Hindu Dharma and appeals to the readers the importance of character and righteous conduct for the order and regularity of the world. At the same, one may discern in it hidden symbolism and implicit teaching. The epic also exerted great influence upon Hindu art, architecture, literature, dance and drama, apart from serving as major conduits for the dissemination of popular religious themes and moral precepts to the public. It is deeply interwoven into the sociocultural history of India.


Q2. What are some interesting facts about the story of Ramayana?


The original Ramayana was written by sage Valmiki during Treta Yuga in the Sanskrit language. Sage Valmiki is considered to be a contemporary of Lord Ram. At no place in Valmiki Ramayana, Valmiki ever mentioned that Ram is a God. He is just a mortal human character in his story. In fact, even before Ramayana, it was named “Sitayas Charitam Mahat” wherein the story was meant to be central to Sita. However, in order to make people see an ideal person who sticks to Dharma so that they can emulate him despite all adversities, it was called “Ramayana”.


Q3. What are the 7 parts of Ramayana?

 

The Hindu Epic Ramayana is divided into seven kandas (books) which deals with the major events in the life of Lord Rama. Ramayana was penned by Sage Valmiki and is written in a 32-syllable meter called “Anustubh”.

 

The 7 Kandas of epic Ramayana are:


I. Bala Kanda :  Bala Kand begins with the story of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya, performing Putrakameshti Yagna - a fire sacrifice for attaining a child.


II. Ayodhya Kanda :  Ayodhya Kand of Ramayana narrates the arrangements for the coronation of Lord Rama and his exile into the forest for 14 years for the sake of his father's honour.


III. Aranya Kanda :  In Aranya Kand, Sage Valmiki tells the story of Lord Ram’s life in the forest and the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.


IV. Kishkindha Kanda :  Kishkindha Kand narrates the story of Lord Ram and Hanuman. The story of vanara King Vali (also known as Bali) and Sugriva of the kingdom of Kishkindha also features in this kanda.


V. Sundara Kanda :  Sundara Kand depicts the story of the Hindu Monkey God Hanuman and his travel to Lanka in search of Sita.


VI. Yuddha Kanda :  Yuddha Kand narrates the battle of Lord Ram and King Ravana.


VII. Uttara Kanda :  It depicts the story of the birth of the two sons of Lord Ram - Luv and Kusha and their coronation as the throne of Ayodhya.


Q4. What is the moral of the story Ramayana?


Ravana was highly intellectual, but a cruel and arrogant king. He kidnaps Lord Rama‘s wife, Sita, to claim revenge from him and his brother Laxman for having cut off the nose of his sister Surpanakha. However, in the end, Lord Rama wins the battle and rescues Sita. No matter how bad the circumstances are in life, good wills always prevail over evil. In today’s modern life, many of us have stopped believing in the ideals laid out by our venerated scriptures. However, in reality, these lessons are truly enlightening and important to lead a life by good karma. By following these lessons, we are sure to experience peace, harmony and contentment in life.


Q5. Which is the oldest Ramayana?


The oldest version is generally recognized to be the Sanskrit version attributed to the sage Narada, the Mula Ramayana. Narada passed on the knowledge to Valmiki, who authored Valmiki Ramayana, the present oldest available version of Ramayana.

 

Q6. How many types of Ramayana exist?


Many versions of the Ramayana have been written since Sage Valmiki first composed his epic. Since then, over 300 original Ramayanas have been composed in Sanskrit as well as in several regional languages of India. In all, there are 25 Sanskrit Ramayanas. One of the earliest vernacular Ramayanas is Kamban's Tamil epic written in the 9th or 12th Century. There are many tribal versions including the famous Bhil Ramayana.