An Indian Epic


This classic tale is the shorter one of the two great epics of India; the other one being the Mahabharata. Though it has been passed down orally since 1500 B.C.E., its official creation date was when it was written down by the sage Valmiki in 300 B.C.E. This amazing story was very popular in the 16th century, or the Mughal period. It was also the favorite subject in the 17th and 18th centuries for Kajasthani and Pahari painters.
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Rama has been banished and is about to head to the forest for fourteen years with Lakshmana and Sita.

Did you know?

The most well-known form of the Ramayana today is made up of about 2400 couplets, divided into seven different books.

The Ramayana

A long time ago, in Ayodhya, King Dasaratha's three wives gave birth to a total of four boys, Rama, Bharatha, and twins Lakshmana and Shatrughana. Rama was the oldest, an avatar of Vishnu, and everybody's favorite. When he was a teenager, a sage named Vishvamitra, requested King Dasaratha for Rama's assistance in defending himself from demons. Rama and his brother Lakshmana went to help. After assisting Vishvamitra for a long time, the sage told Rama that he should try to participate in a competition a neighboring kingdom was holding to win the marriage of Princess Sita. All he had to do was string Lord Shiva's bow, but while all the other competitors couldn't even lift the bow, Rama strung the bow and broke it, and married Sita. Rama was then all set to become King, but one of Dasaratha's wives, Kaikeyi, was convinced by her maid that Rama would not be a good king, and that she should convince Dasaratha to make her own son, Bharatha, the king. Kaikeyi demanded this of Dasaratha, and that Rama should be banished to the forest for fourteen years. Though King Dasaratha was heartbroken, he owed Kaikeyi a favor, and was forced to surrender. Rama readily agreed, and Sita and Lakshmana decided to accompany him, and they left together. They lived there peacefully for many years. Though both Bharatha and Kaikeyi later tried to convince him to come back, Rama refused. Ravana, the cruel king of Sri Lanka, heard of Rama's banishment, and decided he wanted Sita for himself. He sent his sister, disguised as a golden deer, to attract Sita, who asks Rama and Lakshmana to get it for her. While they are gone, Sita is kidnapped by Ravana. Hanuman offered to get Sita back for Rama. He arrived in Lanka, but Ravana got annoyed and set his tail on fire. Hanuman grew, making his tail much longer, and set Lanka on fire. Sita gave Hanuman a jewel to give to Rama to assure him of her safety. It was clear to both Rama and Ravana that war was coming if Ravana wouldn't release Sita. In the final battle, Rama wins, and Sita is freed. To prove Sita's innocence and loyalty, she walks through a holy fire. When she comes out unburned, she proves she is innocent. She, Rama, and Lakshmana return to Ayodhya to festivities and celebrations, and Rama becomes King.

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Sita is looking at the golden deer and falls in love with the color. She asks Rama and Lakshmana to get it for her.

Did you know?

The Indian festival of lights, Diwali, was created on the date when Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana returned from Ayodhya.

Same Title, Different Versions

There are many different versions of the story, because it was passed down by word of mouth for centuries. The basic information is all the same. Rama is still the incarnation of Vishnu, he still gets banished to the forest for fourteen years, and he is crowned King when he comes back. However, there are many different adaptations, and the story changed slightly every time it was translated into a different language. In the Bengali version, the story changes quite a bit, and Ravana is made the hero. A writer named Micheal Madhusudan, who lived from 1824 to 1873, actually rewrote the Bengali version and made Rama seem weak and unmanly. The ending varies in different versions as well. In some adaptations, no one believes Sita is innocent and that she did some untoward things with Ravana. Rama ends up banishing her to the forest for life, where she has twins Lava and Kusa. There are even more variations after this. In some, Sita and Rama make up at the end, when Rama sees his kids even after he banished her to the forest. However, in other versions, when they meet again after she had to leave, she doesn't take him back, and they never meet again.

Works Cited

Lal, Vinay. "Manas: Religious Texts of India, Ramayana." Manas: Religious Texts of India, Ramayana. N.p., 1997. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.

"Ramayana." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2013


Kumar, Ashok. Ramayna. New Delhi: Vohra & Distributors, 2004. Print.