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The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the poet Valmiki and an important part of the Hindu canon (smr.ti). The name Ra-ma-yan. is a tatpurusha compound of Ra-m and ayan "going, advancing", translating to "Ra-m's Journey". The Ra-ma-yan. consists of 24,000 verses[2] in seven cantos ( and tells the story of Rama, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Ra-kshas) king of Lanka, Ra-van. Verses are written in thirty two syllable meter called Anustubh. In its current form, the Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BCE to 100 BCE, or about co-eval to early versions of the Mahabha-rata.

Traditionally the epic belongs to the Treta Yuga, one of the four eons(yug) of Hindu chronology. Ram is said to have been born in the Treta Yug to King Das'arath in ikshuaku vansh

The Ra-ma-yana had an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Indian life and culture, primarily through its establishment of the Slok meter. But, like its epic cousin Maha-bha-rata, the Ra-ma-yana is not just an ordinary story. It contains the teachings of the very ancient Hindu sages and presents them through allegory in narrative and the interspersion of the philosophical and the devotional. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharat, Hanuma-n and Ra-vana (the villain of the piece) are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India.

One of the most important literary works on ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The story of Rama also inspired a large amount of latter-day literature in various languages, notable among which are the works of the sixteenth century Hindi poet Tulsidas, Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century Molla ramayanam in Telugu and the 14th century Kannada poet Narahari Kavi`s Torave Ramayan. The Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia during the 8th century and manifested itself in text, temple architecture and performance.

Structure of Valmiki's Ramayana

Valmiki's Ramayana, the oldest version of Ramayana is the basis of all the various versions of the Ramayana that are relevant in the various cultures. The text survives in numerous complete and partial manuscripts, the oldest surviving of which is dated from the eleventh century AD. The current text of Valmiki Ramayana has come down to us in two regional versions from the north and the south of India. Valmiki Ramayana has been traditionally divided into seven books, dealing with the life of Rama from his birth to his death.

1. Bala Kanda - Book of the young Rama which details the miraculous birth of Rama, his early life in Ayodhya, his slaying of the demons of the forest at the request of Vishvamitra and his wedding with Sita.
2. Ayodhya Kanda - Book of Ayodhya in which Dasharath comes to grief over his promise to Kaikeyi and the start of Rama's exile.
3. Aranya Kanda - Book of the Forest which describes Rama's life in the forest and the abduction of Sita by Ravana.
4. Kishkindha Kanda - Book of Kishkindha, the Vanara kingdom in which Rama befriends Sugriva and the Vanara army and begins the search for Sita.
5. Sundara Kanda - Book of Sundar (Hanuman) in which Hanuman travels to Lanka and finds Sita imprisoned there and brings back the good news to Rama.
6. Yuddha Kanda Book of the War, which narrates the Rama-Ravana war and the return of the successful Rama to Ayodhya and his coronation.
7. Uttara Kanda - Epilogue, which details the life of Rama and Sita after their return to Ayodhya, Sita's banishment and how Sita and Rama pass on to the next world.

There have been speculations on whether the first and the last chapters of Valmiki's Ramayan 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. These two chapters contain most of the interpolations found in the Ramayana, such as the miraculous birth of Rama and his divine nature as well as the numerous legends surrounding Ravana., 2003-2005. All Rights Reserved.
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