Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is attributed to the Hindu
sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon. The
Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India. It depicts the
duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal
servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king. The
name Ramayana is a compound of
ayana "going, advancing", translating to "Rama's Journey".
The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books, and 500
cantos and tells the story of Rama (an incarnation of the Hindu
preserver-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king
of Lanka, Ravana. Thematically, the epic explores themes of human
existence and the concept of dharma.
Ramayana is ascribed to a Valmiki, regarded as India's first poet.
The Indian tradition, is unanimous in its agreement that the poem is
the work of a single poet, the brahman sage Valmiki, a contemporary
of Rama and a peripheral actor in the epic drama. The story's
original version in Sanskrit is known as Valmiki Ramayana,
written around 4th century B.C. According to Hindu tradition, the
Ramayana takes place during a period of time, known as Treta Yuga.
In the form we have it today, Valmiki Ramayana is an epic poem of
some 50,000 lines retelling in Sanskrit verses. The text survives in
several thousand partial and complete manuscripts, the oldest of
which appears to date from the eleventh century A.D. The text has
several regional renderings, recensions and subrecensions. Textual
scholar Robert P. Goldman differentiates two major regional
recensions—the northern (N) and the southern (S). Famous recensions
include, the Ramayanam of Kamban in Tamil (ca. 11th-12th
century) and Ramacharitamanas by Tulasidas in Hindi (c. 16th
century). Scholar 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 have been
speculations on whether the first and the last chapters of Valmiki's
Ramayana were written by the original author. Many experts are of
the opinion that they are integral parts of the book in spite of the
many differences in style and some contradictions in content between
these two chapters and the rest of the book.