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The Ramayana (Sanskrit: रामायणम्।, Rāmāyaṇam, pronounced [rɑːˈmɑːjəɳəm]) is one of the great Hindu epics. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu literature (smṛti), considered to be itihāasa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of Hinduism, the other being the Mahabharata. 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. 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 (kāṇḍas) and 500 cantos (sargas), and tells the story of Rama (an avatar of the Hindu supreme-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka (current day Sri Lanka). Incidentally the first letter of every 1000 verses (total 24) make the Gayatri mantra. Thematically, the Ramayana explores human values and the concept of dharma.
Verses in the Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called anuṣṭubh. The Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture. Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages (Vedas) in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and devotional elements. The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Bharata, Hanuman, and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal, and many south-east Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
There are other versions of the Ramayana, notably the Malayalam Adhyathmaramayanam Kilippattu; the Tamil Ramavataram; the Telugu Sri Ranganatha Ramayanam; Buddhist (Dasaratha Jataka No. 461) and Jain adaptations; and also Cambodian, Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, Lao, Burmese, and Malaysian versions of the tale.
- Textual history and structure
- Influence on culture and art
- Variant versions
- Theological significance
- Further reading