What is Ramayana? Information about the story, history and characters of Ramayana epic.
Ramayana; one of the two great Sanskrit epics of India (the other being the Mahabharata) contains 24,000 couplets and is divided into seven sections. There are three recensions : the West Indian, the Bengal, and the Bombay. According to A. A. Macdonell, the major portion of the work was composed about 500 b.c. It is the first kavya (artificial epic) produced in India and abounds in rich similes, fantastic anecdotes, and other ornamentation familiar in classical poets. Valmiki, the author, had been a highwayman in early life but became a saint through repeating Rama’s name. It is said that, moved at the death of a male dove killed by a hunter’s arrow while sporting with its mate, Valmiki uttered an exclamation, whereupon a voice from heaven declared that he had unwittingly created the sloka meter and bade him write in that meter of the life and deeds of Rama. The Ramayana was sung by bards at religious ceremonies. It is not an allegory but is based on various legends about Rama current at the time of its writing.
The influence of the Ramayana on Indian culture is incalculable. Rama and Sita are widely worshiped as divine personifications. Sita’s conjugal devotion, Rama’s magnanimity and sense of duty, Lakshmana’s fidelity to Rama, and Hanuman’s devoted service greatly appeal to the Hindu mind. The work has been translated into many of the Indian vernaculars. Sanskrit dramatists and poets—such as Kalidasa, Bhatti, and Bhavabhuti—have selected their themes from the Ramayana, which also inspired the medieval saint Tulsidas to write the Rama-charita-manasa, read with devotion by millions of Hindus even in the 20th century.
RAMA, sixth incarnation of Vishnu, whose life is narrated in the Ramayana. Rama was the eldest son of Dasaratha, king of Ayodhya, in northern India. As old age approached, the king wished to install Rama as heir apparent, but was frustrated by his wily second wife, who, recalling a past promise of the king, succeeded in making her own son heir apparent and exiling Rama for fourteen years. With his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, Rama went to the forest, where he protected the ascetics and their religious observances. His deeds enraged Ravana, the monster king of Ceylon, who came in disguise and carried off Sita. With the help of the monkey chief Sugriva and Hanuman, Rama invaded Ceylon and killed Ravana. A happy reunion followed. Returning to the ancestral capital, Rama was crowned king amid the jubilation of his subjects. His rule ushered in a golden age characterized by universal spiritual and material welfare. Because of a rumor impugning Sita’s character, on account of her long residence in Ravana’s palace, the dutiful king reluctantly sent her to the forest hermitage of Valmiki, where she gave birth to twin sons, Lava and Kusa, to whom the sage later taught the Ramayana. The family was ultimately reunited.