Rites of passage
Gurus, saints, philosophers
U. G. Krishnamurti
Ramachandra Dattatrya Ranade
Hinduism by country
Hinduism and Jainism / and Buddhism / and Sikhism / and
Judaism / and Christianity / and Islam
Ramayana (/rɑːˈmɑːjənə/; Sanskrit: रामायणम्,
Rāmāyaṇam [rɑːˈmɑːjəɳəm]) is an ancient Indian epic poem
which narrates the struggle of the divine prince
Rama to rescue his
Sita from the demon king Ravana. Along with the Mahabharata, it
The epic, traditionally ascribed to the
Hindu sage Valmiki, narrates
the life of Rama, the legendary prince of the
Kosala Kingdom. It
follows his fourteen-year exile to the forest from the kingdom, by his
father King Dasharatha, on request of his second wife Kaikeyi. His
travels across forests in
India with his wife
Sita and brother
Lakshmana, the kidnapping of his wife by Ravana, the demon king of
Lanka, resulting in a war with him, and Rama's eventual return to
Ayodhya to be crowned king.
Ramayana is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature.
It consists of nearly 24,000 verses (mostly set in the
divided into seven Kandas (books) and about 500 sargas (chapters). In
Hindu tradition, it is considered to be the adi-kavya (first poem). It
depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like
the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife
and the ideal king.
Ramayana was an important influence on later
Sanskrit poetry and
Hindu life and culture. Like Mahabharata, Ramayana
is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient
in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and ethical
elements. The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman,
Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural
consciousness of India, Nepal, Sri
Lanka and south-east Asian
countries such as Thailand, Cambodia,
Malaysia and Indonesia.
There are many versions of
Ramayana in Indian languages, besides
Buddhist, Sikh and
Jain adaptations. There are also Cambodian,
Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malaysian versions of the
2 Textual history and structure
4.1 Ikshvaku dynasty
4.2 Allies of Rama
4.3 Foes of Rama
5.1 Bala Kanda
5.3 Aranya Kanda
5.5 Sundara Kanda
5.6 Yuddha Kanda
5.7 Uttara Kanda
6.1.1 Buddhist Version
6.1.3 Sikh Version
6.3 Southeast Asian
6.4 Critical edition
7 Influence on culture and art
8 Religious significance
Ramayana in popular culture
9.3 Animated movies
9.7 TV series
12 Further reading
13 External links
Ramayana is a tatpuruṣa compound of the name Rāma.
Textual history and structure
An artist's impression of
Valmiki Muni composing the Ramayana
Hindu tradition, and the
Ramayana itself, the epic
belongs to the genre of itihasa like Mahabharata. The definition of
itihāsa is a narrative of past events (purāvṛtta) which includes
teachings on the goals of human life. According to
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 24,000
verses. The text survives in several thousand partial and complete
manuscripts, the oldest of which is a palm-leaf manuscript found in
Nepal and dated to the 11th century CE. A Times of
India report dated
18 December 2015 informs about the discovery of a 6th-century
manuscript of the
Ramayana at the Asiatic Society library, Kolkata.
Ramayana text has several regional renderings,recensions and sub
recensions. Textual scholar
Robert P. Goldman differentiates two major
regional revisions: the northern (n) and the southern (s). Scholar
Romesh Chunder Dutt
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 discussion as to whether the first and the last volumes
(bala kandam and uttara kandam) of Valmiki's
Ramayana were composed by
the original author. Most Hindus still believe they are integral parts
of the book, in spite of some style differences and narrative
contradictions between these two volumes and the rest of the book.
Retellings include Kamban's
Ramavataram in Tamil (c. 11th–12th
century), Gona Budda Reddy's Ramayanam in Telugu (c. 13th century),
Saptakanda Ramayana in Assamese (c. 14th century),
Krittivasi Ramayan (also known as Shri
in Bengali (c. 15th century), Sarala Das'
Vilanka Ramayana (c. 15th
century) and Balaram Das'
Dandi Ramayana (also known as
the Jagamohan Ramayana) (c. 16th century) both in Odia, sant Eknath's
Bhavarth Ramayan (c. 16th century) in Marathi, Tulsidas'
Ramcharitamanas (c. 16th century) in
Awadhi (which is an eastern form
of Hindi) and Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan's
Rama (left third from top) depicted in the Dashavatara, the ten
avatars of Vishnu. Painting from Jaipur, now at the Victoria and
Some cultural evidence, such as the presence of sati in Mahabharata
but not in the main body of Ramayana, suggests that
Mahabharata. However, the general cultural background of
one of the post-urbanization periods of the eastern part of north
India and Nepal, while
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, second of the four
eons (yuga) of
Rama is said to have been born in the
Treta yuga to king
Dasharatha in the Ikshvaku dynasty.
The names of the characters (Rama, Sita, Dasharatha, Janaka, Vashista,
Vishwamitra) are all known in late Vedic literature. However, nowhere
in the surviving Vedic poetry is there a story similar to the Ramayana
of Valmiki. According to the modern academic view, Vishnu, 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. Also, in the epic Mahabharata,
there is a version of
Ramayana known as Ramopakhyana. This version is
depicted as a narration to Yudhishthira.
Books two to six form the oldest portion of the epic, while the first
and last books (
Bala Kanda and Uttara Kanda, respectively) are later
additions, as some style differences and narrative contradictions
between these two volumes and the rest of the book. The author or
Bala Kanda and
Ayodhya Kanda appear to be familiar with the
Gangetic basin region of northern
India and with the Kosala,
Magadha regions during the period of the sixteen
Mahajanapadas, based on the fact that the geographical and
geopolitical data accords with what is known about the region.
Rama seated with Sita, fanned by Lakshmana, while
Hanuman pays his
Dasharatha is king of
Ayodhya and father of Rama. He has three queens,
Kaikeyi and Sumitra, and three other sons: Bharata, and
Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favourite queen,
forces him to make their son Bharata crown prince and send
Dasharatha dies heartbroken after
Rama goes into exile.
Rama is the main protagonist of the tale. Portrayed as the seventh
avatar of god Vishnu, he is the eldest and favourite son of
Dasharatha, the king of
Ayodhya and his Chief Queen, Kausalya. He is
portrayed as the epitome of virtue.
Dasharatha is forced by
Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years
and go into exile.
Rama kills the evil demon Ravana, who abducted his
wife Sita, and later returns to
Ayodhya to form an ideal state.
Rama and the monkey chiefs
Sita is another of the tale's protagonists. She is a daughter of
Mother Earth, adopted by King Janaka, and Rama's beloved wife. Rama
went to Mithila and got a chance to marry her by breaking the Shiv
Dhanush (bow) while trying to tie a knot to it in a competition
organized by King
Janaka of Mithila in Dhanusa. The competition was to
find the most suitable husband for
Sita and many princes from
different states competed to win her.
Sita is the avatara 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 the demon king Ravana. She is imprisoned on the island of
Rama rescues her by defeating Ravana. Later, she gives
birth to twin boys Luv and Kusha.
Bharata is the son of
Dasharatha and Queen Kaikeyi. When he learns
that his mother
Kaikeyi has 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
Ayodhya as the regent of
Rama for the next fourteen years,
staying outside the city of Ayodhya. He was married to Mandavi.
Lakshmana is a younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile
with him. He is the son of King
Dasharatha and Queen
Sumitra and twin
Lakshmana is portrayed as an avatar of Shesha, the
nāga associated with the god Vishnu. He spends his time protecting
Sita and Rama, during which time he fights the demoness Surpanakha. He
is forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon
Rama was in trouble.
Sita is abducted by
his leaving her. He was married to Sita's younger sister Urmila.
Shatrughna is a son of
Dasharatha and his second wife Queen Sumitra.
He is the youngest brother of
Rama and also the twin brother of
Lakshmana. He was married to Shrutakirti.
Allies of Rama
The vanaras constructing the
Rama Setu Bridge to Lanka, makaras and
fish also aid the construction. A 9th century
Central Java, Indonesia.
Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. He is an
ideal bhakta of Rama. He is born as son of Kesari, a
Vanara king in
Sumeru region and the goddess Añjanā. He plays an important part in
Sita and in the ensuing battle. He is believed to live until
our modern world.
Sugriva, a vanara king who helped
Sita from Ravana. He had
an agreement with
Rama through which Vali – Sugriva's brother and
Kishkindha – would be killed by
Rama in exchange for
Sugriva's help in finding Sita.
Sugriva ultimately ascends the throne
Kishkindha after the slaying of Vali and fulfills his promise by
Vanara forces at Rama's disposal.
Angada is a vanara who helped
Rama find his wife
Sita and fight her
abductor, Ravana, in Ramayana. He was son of Vali and Tara and nephew
Angada and Tara are instrumental in reconciling
his brother, Lakshmana, with
Sugriva fails to fulfill
his promise to help
Rama find and rescue his wife. Together they are
able to convince
Sugriva to honour his pledge to
Rama instead of
spending his time carousing and drinking.
Jambavan/Jamvanta is known as Riksharaj (King of the Rikshas). Rikshas
are bears. In the epic Ramayana, Jambavantha helped
Rama find his wife
Sita and fight her abductor, Ravana. It is he who makes Hanuman
realize his immense capabilities and encourages him to fly across the
ocean to search for
Sita in Lanka.
Jatayu, son of
Aruṇa and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the
form of a vulture that tries to rescue
Sita from Ravana.
valiantly with Ravana, but as
Jatayu was very old,
Ravana soon got the
better of him. As
Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and
Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the
direction in which
Ravana had gone.
Sampati, son of Aruna, brother of Jatayu. Sampati's role proved to be
instrumental in the search for Sita.
Vibhishana, youngest brother of Ravana. He was against the abduction
Sita and joined the forces of
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.
Ramayana stamps issued by
Foes of Rama
Ravana, a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. He was son of a sage named
Vishrava and daitya princess Kaikesi. 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
Vishnu incarnates as the human
Rama to defeat him, thus
circumventing the boon given by Brahma.
Indrajit or Meghnadha, the eldest son of
Ravana who twice defeated
Lakshmana in battle, before succumbing to Lakshmana. An adept
of the magical arts, he coupled his supreme fighting skills with
various stratagems to inflict heavy losses on
Vanara army before his
Kumbhakarna, 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
Vanara army before
Rama cut off his limbs and head.
Surpanakha, Ravana's demoness sister who fell in love with
had the magical power to take any form she wanted.
Vali, was king of Kishkindha, husband of Tara, a son of Indra, elder
Sugriva and father of Angada. Vali was famous for the boon
that he had received, according to which anyone who fought him in
single-combat lost half his strength to Vali, thereby making Vali
invulnerable to any enemy. He was killed by Lord Rama, an
Main article: Bala Kanda
The marriage of the four sons of
Dasharatha with the four daughters of
Siradhvaja and Kushadhvaja Janakas.
Rama and Sita,
Urmila, Bharata and
Shatrughna with Shrutakirti.
Dasharatha was the king of Ayodhya. He had three wives: Kaushalya,
Kaikeyi and Sumitra. He was childless for a long time and anxious to
produce an heir, so he performs a fire sacrifice known as
putra-kameshti yagya. As a consequence,
Rama is first born to
Kaushalya, Bharata is born to Kaikeyi,
born to Sumitra. These sons are endowed, to various degrees, with the
essence of the Supreme Trinity Entity Vishnu;
Vishnu had opted to be
born into mortality 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 from Vashistha. When
Rama is 16 years old,
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
Lakshmana receive instructions and supernatural
Vishwamitra and proceed to destroy the demons.
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 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. The king
had decided that who ever could lift and wield the heavy bow,
presented to his ancestors by Shiva, could marry Sita. Sage
Lakshmana to Mithila to show the bow. Then
Rama desires to lift it and goes on to wield the bow and when he draws
the string, it breaks. Marriages are arranged between the sons of
Dasharatha and daughters of Janaka.
Rama gets married to Sita,
Lakshmana to Urmila, Bharata to
Shatrughna to Shrutakirti.
The weddings are celebrated with great festivity in Mithila and the
marriage party returns to Ayodhya.
Rama leaving for fourteen years of exile from Ayodhya
Sita have been married for twelve years, an elderly
Dasharatha expresses his desire to crown Rama, to which the Kosala
assembly and his subjects express their support. On the eve of the
Kaikeyi – her jealousy aroused by Manthara, a wicked
maidservant – claims two boons that
Dasharatha had long ago granted
Rama to be exiled into the 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
characterises him throughout the story. He is joined by
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
Main article: Aranya Kanda
Jatayu as he carries off the kidnapped Sita. Painting by
Raja Ravi Varma
After thirteen years of exile, Rama,
southward along the banks of river Godavari, where they build cottages
and live off the land. At the
Panchavati forest they are visited by a
rakshasi named Surpanakha, sister of Ravana. She tries to seduce the
brothers and, after failing, attempts to kill Sita.
her by cutting off her nose and ears. Hearing of this, her brother
Khara organises an attack against the princes.
Rama defeats Khara and
When the news of these events reach 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 ploy of the demons, cannot dissuade
Sita from her desire and chases the deer into the forest, leaving Sita
under Lakshmana's guard. After some time,
Rama calling out
to her; afraid for his life, she insists that
Lakshmana rush to his
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 stranger. He draws a chalk outline,
Lakshmana rekha, around the cottage and casts a spell on it that
prevents anyone from entering the boundary but allows people to exit.
With the coast finally clear,
Ravana appears in the guise of an
ascetic requesting Sita's hospitality. Unaware of her guest's plan,
Sita is tricked into leaving the rekha and is then forcibly carried
away by Ravana.
Jatayu, a vulture, tries to rescue Sita, but is mortally wounded. At
Sita is kept under the guard of rakshasis.
marry him, but she refuses, being eternally devoted to Rama.
Lakshmana learn about Sita's abduction from Jatayu
and immediately set out to save her. During their search, they meet
Kabandha and the ascetic Shabari, who direct them towards
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.
Kishkindha Kanda is set in the ape (Vanara) citadel Kishkindha. Rama
Lakshmana meet Hanuman, the biggest devotee of Rama, greatest of
ape heroes and an adherent of Sugriva, the banished pretender to the
throne of Kishkindha.
Sugriva and helps him by killing
his elder brother Vali thus regaining the kingdom of Kishkindha, in
exchange for helping
Rama to recover Sita. However
forgets his promise and spends his time in enjoying his powers. The
clever former ape queen Tara (wife of Vali) calmly intervenes to
prevent an enraged
Lakshmana from destroying the ape citadel. She then
Sugriva to honour 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
Hanuman learns from a vulture named
Sampati (elder brother of Jatayu), that
Sita was taken to Lanka.
Main article: Sundara Kanda
Ravana is meeting
Sita at Ashokavana.
Hanuman is seen on the tree.
Sundara Kanda forms the heart of Valmiki's
Ramayana and consists of a
detailed, vivid account of Hanuman's adventures. After learning about
Hanuman assumes a gargantuan form and makes a colossal leap
across the sea to Lanka. On the way he meets with many challenges like
facing a Gandharva kanya who comes in the form of a demon to test his
abilities. He encounters a mountain named Mainakudu who offers Lord
Hanuman assistance and offers him rest. Lord
Hanuman refuses because
there is little time remaining to complete the search for Sita.
After entering into Lanka, he finds a demon, Lankini, who protects all
Hanuman fights with her and subjugates her in order to get
into Lanka. In the process Lankini, who had an earlier vision/warning
from the gods that the end of
Lanka nears if someone defeats Lankini.
Hanuman explores the demons' kingdom and spies on Ravana. He
Sita in Ashoka grove, where she is being wooed and threatened
Ravana and his rakshasis to marry Ravana.
Hanuman reassures Sita,
giving Rama's signet ring as a sign of good faith. He offers to carry
Sita back to Rama; however, she refuses and says that it is not the
dharma, stating that
Ramayana will not have significance if Hanuman
carries her to
Rama – "When
Rama is not there
Ravana carried Sita
forcibly and when
Ravana was not there,
Sita back to
Rama". She says that
Rama himself must come and avenge the insult of
Hanuman then wreaks havoc in
Lanka by destroying trees and buildings
and killing Ravana's warriors. He allows himself to be captured and
delivered to 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
Kishkindha with the news.
The Battle at Lanka,
Ramayana by Sahibdin. It depicts the monkey army
of the protagonist
Rama (top left, blue figure) fighting Ravana—the
demon-king of the Lanka—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 Hanuman, the monkey-companion of Rama.
Also known as
Lanka Kanda, this book describes the
between the army of
Rama and the army of Ravana. Having received
Hanuman's report on Sita,
Lakshmana proceed with their allies
towards the shore of the southern sea. There they are joined by
Ravana's renegade brother Vibhishana. The apes named
Nala and Nila
construct a floating bridge (known as
Rama Setu) across the sea,
using stones that floated on water because they had Rama's name
written on them. The princes and their army cross over to Lanka. A
lengthy war ensues. During a battle, Ravana's son
Indrajit hurls a
powerful weapon at Lakshmana, who is badly wounded and is nearly
killed. So
Hanuman assumes a gigantic form and flies
Lanka to the Himalayas. Upon reaching Mount Sumeru,
unable to identify the herb that could cure
Lakshmana and so decided
to bring the entire mountain back to Lanka. Eventually, the war ends
Rama kills Ravana.
Rama then installs
Vibhishana on the throne of
On meeting Sita,
Rama asks her to undergo an
Agni Pariksha (test of
fire) to prove her chastity, as he wants to get rid of the rumors
surrounding her purity. When
Sita plunges into the sacrificial fire,
Agni, lord of fire raises Sita, unharmed, to the throne, attesting to
her innocence. The episode of
Agni Pariksha varies in the versions of
Valmiki and Tulsidas. In earlier versions, this event does
not occur and many scholars consider it to have been added later as
society became more patriarchal. In Tulsidas's
Sita was under the protection of
Agni (see Maya
Sita) so it was necessary to bring her out before reuniting with Rama.
At the expiration of his term of exile,
Rama returns to
Sita and Lakshmana, where the coronation is performed. This is the
beginning of Ram Rajya, which implies an ideal state with good morals.
Ramayan is not only the story about how truth defeats the evil, it
also teaches us to forget all the evil and arrogance that resides
Main article: Uttara Kanda
Sita in the hermitage of Valmiki
Uttara Kanda is regarded to be a later addition to the original story
Valmiki and concerns the final years of Rama,
Sita and Rama's
brothers. After being crowned king,
Rama passes time pleasantly with
Sita. After some time,
Sita gets pregnant with twin children. However,
Agni Pariksha ("fire ordeal") of Sita, rumours about her
"purity" are spreading among the populace of Ayodhya.
Rama yields to
public opinion and reluctantly banishes
Sita to the forest, where the
Valmiki provides shelter in his ashrama ("hermitage"). Here, she
gives birth to twin boys,
Lava and Kusha, who become pupils of Valmiki
and are brought up in ignorance of their identity.
Valmiki composes the
Ramayana and teaches
Lava and Kusha to sing it.
Rama holds a ceremony during the
Ashwamedha yagna, which sage
Lava and Kusha, attends.
Lava and Kusha sing the
Ramayana in the presence of
Rama and his vast audience. When
Kusha recite about Sita's exile,
Rama becomes grief-stricken and
Valmiki produces Sita.
Sita calls upon the Earth, her mother, to
receive her and as the ground opens, she vanishes into it.
Lava and Kusha are his children. Many years later, a
messenger from the Gods appears and informs
Rama that the mission of
his incarnation is over.
Rama returns to his celestial abode along
with his brothers. It was dramatised as
Uttararamacarita by the
Sanskrit poet Bhavabhuti.
See also: Versions of Ramayana
The epic story of
Ramayana was adopted by several cultures across
Asia. Shown here is a Thai historic artwork depicting the battle which
took place between
Rama and Ravana.
Relief with part of the
Ramayana epic, shows
Rama killed the golden
deer that turn out to be the demon
Maricha in disguise. Prambanan
Trimurti temple near Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.
As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the
Ramayana survive. In
Ramayana related in north
India differs in important
respects from that preserved in south
India and the rest of southeast
Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on
Ramayana in Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia,
Vietnam and Maldives. Father Kamil Bulke, author of Ramakatha,
has identified over 300 variants of the Ramayana.
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, Kamban wrote Ramavataram, known popularly as
Kambaramayanam in Tamil. A Telugu version, Ranganatha Ramayanam, was
Gona Budda Reddy in the 14th century. The earliest
translation to a regional Indo-Aryan language is the early 14th
Saptakanda Ramayana in Assamese by Madhava Kandali. Valmiki's
Sri Ramacharit Manas
Sri Ramacharit Manas by
Tulsidas 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; it is an
acknowledged masterpiece of India, popularly known as Tulsi-krita
Ramayana. Gujarati poet Premanand wrote a version of the
the 17th century. Other versions include Krittivasi Ramayan, a Bengali
Krittibas Ojha in the 15th century;
Vilanka Ramayana by
15th century poet Sarala Dasa and
Dandi Ramayana (also known as
Jagamohana Ramayana) by 16th century poet
Balarama Dasa, both in Odia;
Kannada by 16th-century poet Narahari;
Malayalam version by Thunchaththu Ramanujan
Ezhuthachan in the 16th century; in Marathi by Sridhara in the 18th
century; in Maithili by Chanda Jha in the 19th century; and in the
20th century, Rashtrakavi Kuvempu's
Sri Ramayana Darshanam
Sri Ramayana Darshanam in Kannada.
There is a sub-plot to the Ramayana, prevalent in some parts of India,
relating the adventures of
Ahiravan and Mahi Ravana, evil brother of
Ravana, which enhances the role of
Hanuman in the story. Hanuman
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.
Adbhuta Ramayana is a
version that is obscure but also attributed to
Valmiki – intended as
a supplementary to the original
Valmiki Ramayana. In this variant of
Sita is accorded far more prominence, such as
elaboration of the events surrounding her birth – in this case to
Mandodari as well as her conquest of Ravana's older
brother in her
Mappillapattu – a genre of song popular among the Muslims belonging
Lakshadweep – 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
Ramayana has been changed into that of a sultan
and there are no major changes in the names of characters except for
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
In the Buddhist variant of the
Ramayana (Dasarathajātaka, #467),
Dasharatha was king of
Benares and not Ayodhya.
Rāmapaṇḍita in this version) was the son of Kaushalya, first wife
of Dasharatha. Lakṣmaṇa (Lakkhaṇa) was a sibling of
Rama and son
of Sumitra, the second wife of Dasharatha.
Sita was the wife of Rama.
To protect his children from his wife Kaikeyi, who wished to promote
her son Bharata,
Dasharatha sent the three to a hermitage in the
Himalayas for a twelve-year exile. After nine years,
and Lakkhaṇa and
Sita returned; Rāmapaṇḍita, in deference to
his father's wishes, remained in exile for a further two years. This
version does not include the abduction of Sītā.There is no Ravan in
this version i.e. no Ram-ravan war.
In the explanatory commentary on Jātaka, Rāmapaṇḍita is said to
have been a previous incarnation of Buddha, and
Sita an incarnation of
Ravana appears in other Buddhist literature, Lankavatar Sutta.
Rama in Jainism and Salakapurusa
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Jain versions of the
Ramayana can be found in the various
like Ravisena's Padmapurana (story of Padmaja and Rama, Padmaja being
the name of Sita), Hemacandra's Trisastisalakapurusa charitra
(hagiography of 63 illustrious persons), Sanghadasa's Vasudevahindi
and Uttarapurana by Gunabhadara. According to
Jain cosmology, every
half time cycle has nine sets of Balarama,
Vasudeva and prativasudeva.
Ravana are the eighth baladeva, vasudeva and
Padmanabh Jaini notes that, unlike in the
Hindu puranas, the names Baladeva and
Vasudeva are not restricted to
Jain Puranas. Instead they serve as names of
two distinct classes of mighty brothers, who appear nine times in each
half time cycle and jointly rule half the earth as half-chakravartins.
Jaini traces the origin of this list of brothers to the jinacharitra
(lives of jinas) by
Acharya Bhadrabahu (3d–4th century BCE).
Jain epic of Ramayana, it is not
Rama who kills
Ravana as told
Hindu version. Perhaps this is because Rama, a liberated Jain
Soul in his last life, is unwilling to kill. Instead, it is
Lakshmana who kills Ravana. In the end, Rama, who led an upright
life, renounces his kingdom, becomes a
Jain monk and attains moksha.
On the other hand,
Ravana go to Hell. However, it is
predicted that ultimately they both will be reborn as upright persons
and attain liberation in their future births. According to
Ravana will be the future
Tirthankara (omniscient teacher) of Jainism.
Jain versions have 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 came 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 the Jain
Rama had four chief queens: Maithili, Prabhavati, Ratinibha,
and Sridama. Furthermore,
Sita takes renunciation as a
Rama abandons her and is reborn in heaven. Rama, after
Lakshmana's death, also renounces his kingdom and becomes a
Ultimately, he attains
Kevala Jnana omniscience and finally
Rama predicts that
Ravana and Lakshmana, who were in the
fourth hell, will attain liberation in their future births.
Ravana is the future tirthankara of the next half
ascending time cycle and
Sita will be his Ganadhara.
In Guru Granth Sahib, there is a description of two types of Ramayana.
One is a spiritual
Ramayana which is the actual subject of Guru Granth
Sahib, in which
Ravana is ego,
Sita is budhi (intellect),
inner soul and Laxman is mann (attention, mind). Guru Granth Sahib
also believes in the existence of
Dashavatara who were kings of their
times which tried their best to restore order to the world. King Rama
(Ramchandra) was one of those who is not covered in Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Granth Sahib
Guru Granth Sahib states:
ਹੁਕਮਿ ਉਪਾਏ ਦਸ ਅਉਤਾਰਾ॥
हुकमि उपाए दस अउतारा॥
By hukam (supreme command), he created his ten incarnations
This version of the
Ramayana was written by Guru Gobind Singh, which
is part of Dasam Granth.
He also said that the almighty, invisible, all prevailing God created
great numbers of Indras, Moons and Suns, Deities, Demons and sages,
and also numerous saints and Brahmanas (enlightened people). But they
too were caught in the noose of death (Kaal) (transmigration of the
soul). This is similar to the explanation in
Bhagavad Gita which is
part of the Mahabharata.
Besides being the site of discovery of the oldest surviving manuscript
of the Ramayana,
Nepal gave rise to two regional variants in mid 19th
– early 20th century. One, written by Bhanubhakta Acharya, is
considered the first epic of Nepali language, while the other, written
Siddhidas Mahaju in
Nepal Bhasa was a foundational influence in the
Nepal Bhasa renaissance.
Ramayana written by
Bhanubhakta Acharya is one of the most popular
verses in Nepal. The popularization of the
Ramayana and its tale,
originally written in
Sanskrit Language was greatly enhanced by the
work of Bhanubhakta. Mainly because of his writing of Nepali Ramayana,
Bhanubhakta is also called Aadi Kavi or The Pioneering Poet.
Cambodian classical dancers as
Sita and Ravana, the Royal Palace in
Phnom Penh (c. 1920s)
The Cambodian version of the Ramayana,
រាមកេរ្ដិ៍ - Glory of Rama), is the most famous
story of Khmer literature since the
Kingdom of Funan
Kingdom of Funan era. It adapts
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
Hanuman and Sovanna Maccha, a retelling which influences
the Thai and Lao versions.
Cambodia is not confined to the
realm of literature but extends to all Cambodian art forms, such as
sculpture, Khmer classical dance, theatre known as lakhorn luang (the
foundation of the royal ballet), poetry and the mural and bas-reliefs
seen at the
Silver Pagoda and Angkor Wat.
Sita during their exile in
Dandaka Forest depicted
in Javanese dance
Indonesia has some adaptations of Ramayana, including Kakawin Ramayana
of Java, and Ramakavaca of
Bali (Indonesia). Javanese
Ramayana has some differences if compared with the original
Hindu version. The first half of
Kakawin Ramayana is similar to the
Sanskrit version, while the latter half is very different
from the original Ramayana. One of the recognizable modification in
Javanese version of
Ramayana is the inclusion of the indigenous
Javanese guardian god, Semar, and his misshapen sons, Gareng, Petruk,
and Bagong who make up the numerically significant four
Kakawin Ramayana is believed to have been written in
Java circa 870 AD during the reign of Mpu Sindok in Medang
Kingdom.:128 The Javanese
Kakawin Ramayana is not based on
Valmiki's epic, which was then the most famous version of Rama's
story, but based on Ravanavadha or the "
Ravana massacre", which is the
sixth or seventh century poetry by Indian poets Bhattikavya.
Kakawin Ramayana has also become the reference of
Ramayana in the
neighboring island of
Bali which developed the Balinese Ramakavaca.
The bas reliefs of
Ramayana and Krishnayana scenes are carved on
balustrades wall of 9th century
Prambanan temples in Yogyakarta,
as well as in East
Java 14th century bas-relief of Penataran
temple. In Indonesia,
Ramayana has been integrated into local
culture especially those of Javanese, Balinese and Sundanese people,
and has become the source of moral and spiritual guidance as well as
aesthetic expression and also for entertainment, like in wayang and
traditional dances. The Balinese kecak dance drama for example,
represent the story taken from
Ramayana episodes, where dancers that
play as Rama, Sita, Lakhsmana, Jatayu, Hanuman, Ravana, Kumbhakarna
and Indrajit, performed and surrounded by a troupe of over 50
bare-chested men who serve as the chorus chanting "cak" chant. The
performance also include a fire show to describe the burning of Lanka
by Hanuman. In Yogyakarta, the
Javanese dance drama
also performed a Javanese rendering of
Ramayana episodes. The most
Ramayana performance in
Java would be the
performed on the
Prambanan open air stage, with backdrop view
of the three main prasad spires of
Phra Lak Phra Lam
Phra Lak Phra Lam is a
Lao language version, whose title comes from
Lakshmana and Rama. The story of
Rama is told as the
previous life of Gautama buddha.
The Hikayat Seri
Malaysia incorporated element of both Hindu
and Islamic mythology. For example,
Dasharatha is the
great-grandson of the Prophet Adam.
Ravana receives boons from Allah
instead of Brahma.
Rama (Yama) and
Sita (Me Thida) in Yama Zatdaw, the Burmese version of
Yama Zatdaw is Burmese version of Ramayana. It also considered as
Myanmar unofficial national epic. There are nine known pieces of the
Yama Zatdaw in Myanmar. The Burmese name for the story itself is
Yamayana, while zatdaw refers to the acted play or being part of
jataka tales of Theravada Buddhism. This Burmese version also heavily
Ramakien (Thai version of Ramayana) which resulted from
various invasion by
Konbaung Dynasty king toward Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Main article: Maharadia Lawana
The Maharadia Lawana, an epic poem of the
Maranao people of the
Philippines, has been regarded as an indigenized version of the
Ramayana since it was documented and translated into English by
Juan R. Francisco and Nagasura Madale in
1968.(p"264") The poem, which had not been written down before
Francisco and Madale's translation,(p"264") narrates the
adventures of the monkey-king, Maharadia Lawana, whom the Gods have
gifted with immortality.
Francisco, an indologist from the University of the Philippines
Manila, believed that the
Ramayana narrative arrived in the
Philippines some time between the 17th to 19th centuries, via
interactions with Javanese and Malaysian cultures which traded
extensively with India.(p101)
By the time it was documented in the 1960s, the character names, place
names, and the precise episodes and events in Maharadia Lawana's
narrative already had some notable differences from those of the
Ramayana. Francisco believed that this was a sign of "indigenization",
and suggested that some changes had already been introduced in
Java even before the story was heard by the Maranao, and
that upon reaching the Maranao homeland, the story was "further
indigenized to suit Philippine cultural perspectives and
The Thai retelling of the tale—Ramakien—is popularly expressed in
traditional regional dance theatre
Thailand's popular national epic Ramakien
glory of Rama) is derived from the
Hindu epic. In Ramakien,
the daughter of
Mandodari (thotsakan and montho).
Vibhishana (phiphek), the astrologer brother of Ravana, predicts the
Ravana from the horoscope of Sita.
Ravana has thrown her into
the water, but she is later rescued by
Janaka (chanok). :149 While
the main story is identical to that of 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
Ramakien can be seen in an elaborate
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
A critical edition of the text was compiled in
India in the 1960s and
1970s, by the Oriental Institute at Maharaja Sayajirao University of
Baroda, India, utilizing dozens of manuscripts collected from across
India and the surrounding region. An English language translation
of the critical edition was completed in November 2016 by Sanskrit
Robert P. Goldman of the University of California,
Influence on culture and art
Ramlila actor wears the traditional attire of Ravana.
One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the
Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian
subcontinent and southeast Asia with the lone exception of Vietnam.
The story ushered in the tradition of the next thousand years of
massive-scale works in the rich diction of regal courts and Hindu
temples. It has also inspired much secondary literature in various
Kambaramayanam by Tamil poet Kambar of the 12th
Telugu language Molla Ramayanam by poet Molla and Ranganatha
Ramayanam by poet Gona Budda Reddy, 14th century
Ramayana and 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas
Ojha's Krittivasi Ramayan, as well as the 16th century
Ramacharitamanas, written by Tulsidas.
Ramayanic scenes have also been depicted through terracottas, stone
sculptures, bronzes and paintings. These include the stone panel
at Nagarjunakonda in
Andhra Pradesh depicting Bharata's meeting with
Rama at Chitrakuta (3rd century CE).
Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during 8th century and
was represented in literature, temple architecture, dance and theatre.
Today, dramatic enactments of the story of the Ramayana, known as
Ramlila, take place all across
India and in many places across the
globe within the Indian diaspora.
Sita in her captivity in Lanka, as depicted in
In Indonesia, especially
Java and Bali,
Ramayana has become a popular
source of artistic expression for dance drama and shadow puppet
performance in the region. Sendratari
Ramayana is Javanese traditional
ballet of wayang orang genre, routinely performed in Prambanan
Trimurti temple and in cultural center of Yogyakarta. Balinese
dance drama of Ramaya also performed routinely in Balinese temples,
especially in temples in
Ubud and Uluwatu, where scenes from Ramayana
is integrap part of kecak dance performance. Javanese wayang kulit
purwa also draws its episodes from
Ramayana or Mahabharata.
Ramayana has also been depicted in many paintings, most notably by the
Syed Thajudeen in 1972. The epic tale was picturized
on canvas in epic proportions measuring 152 x 823 cm in 9 panels.
The painting depicts three prolific parts of the epic, namely The
Abduction of Sita,
Hanuman Burns Lanka. The
painting is currently in the permanent collection of the Malaysian
National Visual Arts Gallery.
A depiction of
Ramayana by Syed Thajudeen
Sita (far right),
Lakshmana (far left) and
Hanuman (below, seated) at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford, England
Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is one of the most popular deities
worshipped in the
Hindu religion. Each year, many devout pilgrims
trace their 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.
Rama is an incarnation (Avatar) of god
Vishnu. The main purpose of this incarnation is to demonstrate the
righteous path (dharma) for all living creatures on earth.
Ramayana in popular culture
Multiple modern, English-language adaptations of the epic exist,
namely Ram Chandra Series by Amish Tripathi,
Ramayana Series by Ashok
Banker and a mythopoetic novel, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished by Anand
Neelakantan. Another Indian author, Devdutt Pattanaik, has published
three different retellings and commentaries of
Ramayana titled Sita,
The Book Of Ram and Hanuman's Ramayan.
A number of plays, movies and television serials have also been
produced based upon the Ramayana.
Starting in 1978 and under the supervision of Baba Hari Dass, Ramayana
has been performed every year by Mount Madonna School in Watsonville,
California. Currently, it is the largest yearly, Western version of
the epic being performed. It takes the form of a colorful musical with
custom costumes, sung and spoken dialog, jazz-rock orchestration and
dance. This performance takes place in a large audience theater
setting usually in June, in San Jose, CA.
Baba Hari Dass
Baba Hari Dass has taught
acting arts, costume-attire design, mask making and choreography to
bring alive characters of Sri Ram, Sita, Hanuman, Lakshmana, Shiva,
Parvati, Vibhishan, Jatayu, Sugriva, Surpanakha,
Ravana and his
rakshasa court, Meghnadha,
Kumbhakarna and the army of monkeys and
Sampoorna Ramayanam – a Telugu/Tamil bilingual film starring N. T.
Rama Rao (1958)
Sampoorna Ramayana – a
Hindi film directed by
Babubhai Mistry (1961)
Lava Kusha – a Uttara Kanda-based bilingual
Telugu movie and Tamil
movie starring N. T.
Rama Rao (1963)
Sampoorna Ramayanamu – a
Telugu film directed by Bapu, starring
Sobhan Babu, Chandrakala,
S V Ranga Rao
S V Ranga Rao (1971)
Sita – a
Malayalam film by
G. Aravindan (1977)
Ramayana: The Legend of Prince
Rama – a Japanese animated film
released in the Hindi, Japanese and English languages (1992)
A Little Princess
A Little Princess (1995) – an American film chronicling the time of
an orphaned child during WWI in an all-girl's boarding school. The
Sita is told by the main character to the other
girls and is constantly referenced throughout the plot.
Opera Jawa – an Indonesian-Austrian film in the Indonesian language;
inspired by the story of the abduction of
Sita Sings the Blues – an independent animated film (2008).
Lava Kusa: The Warrior Twins – animated film based on Uttara Kanda
Ramayana: The Epic – a Warner Bros. Indian animated film (2010)
Rama Rajyam – based on Uttara Kanda, a
Telugu film starring
Nandamuri Balakrishna (2011).
Yak: The Giant King – a re-interpretation of Ramayana, the Thai
animation film tells the story of a giant robot, Na Kiew, who is left
wandering in a barren wasteland after a great war. Na Kiew meets Jao
Phuek, a puny tin robot who has lost his memory and is now stuck with
his new big friend. Together they set out across the desert populated
by metal scavengers, to look for Ram, the creator of all robots.
Mumbai Musical – DreamWorks Animation (2016)
Rama – an animated version of
Ramayana from the
perspective of Ravana, the demon king of Lanka
Sons Of Ram by Kushal Ruia , its about the life of
Sita with her sons
Luv and Kush.
Kanchana Sita, Saketham and Lankalakshmi – award-winning trilogy by
Malayalam playwright C. N. Sreekantan Nair
Lankeswaran – a play by the award-winning
Tamil cinema actor R. S.
Dharma – a multi-media production produced by Ben Kahan and
Andreas Canning (2016)
Ramayana Exhibition -Part of the art of the book
Ramayana:Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel.
Rama epic:Hero.Heroine,Ally,Foe by The Asian Art Museum.
"The Ramayana" by R.K. Narayan
"A tale of Gods and Demons:Ramayana" by R Prime
"The Song of Rama" by Vanamali
William Buck and S Triest
"Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God" by Jonah Blank
"Indian Odyssey" by Martin Buckley
"Ramayana:Divine Loophole" by Sanjay Patel
"Sita´s Ramayana" by Samhita Arni & Moyna Chitrakar
"Sita: An Illustrate Retelling of the Ramayana" By Devdutt Pattanaik
Ramayan – originally broadcast on Doordarshan, produced by Ramanand
Sagar in 1987
Hanuman – originally broadcast on Doordarshan, produced and
directed by Sanjay Khan
Ramayan (2002) – originally broadcast on Zee TV, produced by BR
Ramayan (2008) – originally broadcast on Imagine TV, produced by
Ramayan (2012) – a remake of the 1987 series and aired on Zee TV
Antariksh (2004) – a sci-fi version of Ramayan. Originally broadcast
on Star Plus
Raavan – series on life of
Ravana based on Ramayana. Originally
broadcast on Zee TV
Hanuman – 2015 series based on the life of
Hanuman presently broadcasting on Sony TV
Siya Ke Ram
Siya Ke Ram – a series on Star Plus, originally broadcast from
November 16, 2015 to November 4, 2016
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