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(rämä`yənə) [story of Rama], classical Sanskrit epic of India, probably composed in the 3d cent. B.C. Based on numerous legends, it is traditionally the work of Valmiki, one of the minor characters. The epic was revised and set down in its best-known form by the poet Tulsi Das (1532–1623). The Ramayana, because of its single subject, has more unity and is far shorter than the Mahabharata, the other great Indian epic. In the many different recensions of the work, there are from 24,000 to 43,000 couplets of 16-syllable lines. Incorporating much earlier sacred material from the VedaVeda
[Sanskrit,=knowledge, cognate with English wit, from a root meaning know], oldest scriptures of Hinduism and the most ancient religious texts in an Indo-European language.
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, the Ramayana relates the adventures of Rama, who, together with his three half-brothers, collectively made up the seventh avatar (incarnation) of the Hindu god Vishnu. Rama was deprived by guile of the throne of Ayodhya and forced into a long exile with his wife, Sita, the prototype of noble womanhood. When Sita was abducted by a demon, Rama allied himself with the king of the monkeys, Sugriva, and the monkey general, Hanuman, and fought a mighty battle in Lanka (Sri Lanka). Finally, Sita was recovered, and Rama was restored to his kingdom. The Adhyatma Ramayana, a popular work of more recent date, tells how Sita's mother (the earth mother) rose from a great chasm to reclaim her daughter. The epic influenced many of the literatures of Southeast Asia. Its principal characters are still worshiped in India.


See translation by H. P. Shastri (3 vol., 1952–59); studies by H. Jacobi (tr. 1960), V. Raghavan, ed. (1982), and H. D. Sankalia (1983).



an ancient Indian epic poem in Sanskrit, ascribed to the legendary poet Valmiki. It was presumably composed around the fourth century B.C. in eastern India and assumed its present form by the second century A.D.

In the Middle Ages, the Ramayana became one of the sacred books of Vishnuism. Devoted to the exploits of Rama, it is thought to be based on historical events: the invasion of the Aryans into southern India and their military clashes with the aboriginal tribes. Motifs of fantasy in the work’s legends and myths mingle with realistic features of the era in which it was created.

The Ramayana is the second great epic poem of India, after the Mahabharata, and reflects a higher level of social and cultural development. The symmetry and unity of the content, which suggest that the major sections were by a single author, in addition to the perfection of poetic form and wealth of expressive means, have made the poem one of the most popular works of Indian literature. Versions of the Ramayana were well known in Tibet, China, and the countries of Southeast Asia as early as the Middle Ages. In Indian literature, the poem has supplied plots for works by Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, and Bhatti, Buddhist and Jain literary works, and translations and adaptations into Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, and other national Indian languages. Abroad, a translation of the Ramayana into ancient Ja-van formed the basis of a heroic epos in Khmer, Thai, Malay, and other languages of Indochina and Indonesia.


Valmiki. Ramayana. Edited by T. R. Krishnacharya and T. R. Vyasacharya. Bombay, 1911–13.
Mazumdar, S. The Ramayana. [Bombay, 1958.]
In Russian translation:
Ramaiana: Drevnii epos. Literary adaptation by V. G. Erman and E. N. Temkin. Moscow, 1965.
Makhabkharata. Ramaiana. Moscow, 1974.
Ramaiana. Prose adaptation by N. D. Datt. Kiev, 1959.


Grintser, P. A. Makhabkharata i Ramaiana. Moscow, 1970.
Grintser, P. A. Drevneindiiskii epos. Moscow, 1974.
Sastri, V. S. S. Lectures on the Ramayana. [Madras, 1952.]
Sitaramiah, V. Valmiki Ramayana. New Delhi, 1972.
Sankalia, H. The Ramayana. New Delhi, 1973.



epic poem of ancient India. [Indian Lit.: Ramayana]
See: Epic
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