The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic about Rama. It is one of the two most important ancient epics of India, the other being the ancient Mahabharata. The epic was originally written by sage (rishi) Valmiki of Ancient India. The book has about 96,000 verses and is divided into seven parts.
The different parts of the Ramayana are also called books. These seven parts or books are noted below:
- The first book is Balakand, meaning the book of the childhood.
- The second book is Ayodhyakanda, meaning the book of Ayodhya.
- The third book is Aranyakanda, meaning the book of the forests.
- The fourth book is Kishkindhakanda, meaning the book of Kishkindha.
- The fifth book is Sundarakanda, meaning the book beautiful.
- The sixth book is Yuddhakanda, meaning the book of the war.
- The seventh book is Uttarakanda, meaning the book of after events.
There are different views about the time the Ramayana was written. Some people believe that it was written 2,500 years ago. Others think that it was written around 1,800 years ago. All agree that the book is very old and was written before the Mahabharata.
The Ramayana is still very popular today. Every autumn the Ramlila (Rama play) is performed at the festival of Dassehra. A huge model of Ravana is set alight. This symbolises the triumph of light over darkness.
A Tamil version of the book was written between the 9th and 10th century. The writer of this book was Kamban. This version is known as Iramavataram, meaning coming of Rama. In the 16th century, Tulasidas wrote a Hindi version of Ramayana. This was named Ramacharitmanasa. Over many centuries, the story of Rama reached places in other countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. The Ramayana has been translated into most of the major languages of the world.
The Ramayana was used in Ancient India for the teaching of young children. It was mainly used for acting out their religious beliefs so that their children knew that they were to worship the main Hindu beliefs that were: Brahman, Multiples gods, Dharma, Samsara, and Karma.