सनातन धर्म भूमिका

Meaning of "Ramayana"







In General

Ramayana is an epic poem in Sanskrit which is familiar to every generation of Indians. Ramayana is also the first kavya (lyrical poetry) of mankind. It is part of the Hindu smriti, written by Adikavi Valmiki. This epic of 24,253 verses in seven kandas (chapters) further sub divided into 647 sargas, tells the glory of Raghuvamsa prince Rama, his chaste wife Sita and her abduction that lead the war to end Rakshasa king, Ravana. To most of the devout Hindus, Ramayana is not just a story but a historical event that happened in some remote past.

Ramayana is undoubtedly one of the most influential books in the world. The tradition belief is that basic work was written during the life time of Rama ( 4400 B.C.E is the coronation of Rama) by Valmiki Maharshi. The original Sanskrit text has got various versions of transliteration to every Indian language. Apart from famous written works there is a lot of small folklore Ramayana belong to indigenous community which was transferred from generation to generation by oral tradition. Though many of them were lost, few of them like Gond Ramayani are still popular and available in print.

There are many versions of Ramayana in every vernacular language in the Indian subcontinent and in the countries like Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Japan, Philippines, Tibet, Persia, etc. The Ramayana of Valmiki in Sanskrit is the oldest and is considered as influenced all the other versions of Ramayana. The poets who rendered Ramayana to their language do not followed the Sanskrit original in all its details, though they were faithful to the main theme and incidents of the story. These creative poets were more concerned about expressing the Idea to their target readers (or listeners) without sacrificing the spirit of original. Some of the successful Ramayana thus reproduced are: Kambha Ramayana(Tamil), Adyatma Ramayana(Malayalam), Tulasidasa Ramayana(Hindi), Baskara Ramayanam and Gona Budda Reddy's Ramayanam (Telugu), Saptakanda Ramayana (Asamese), Krittivasi Ramayana (Bengali), Kumudendu Ramayana(Kannada), Dandi Ramayana(Oriya), Bhavartha Ramayana(Marathi), Pothi Ramayana (Urdu), Siddhi Ramayan (Nepali)

The antiquity of Ramayana is undisputable even though we cannot rule out some of the portions being added to it at a later period. Ramayana do not talk about Bharata war or Buddha cult, but Mahabharata and Jataka story of the Buddhists mention about Sri Rama as a honest and ideal king. So Ramayana was a popular text before Buddha and Sri Krishna.


Vedas are much older than Ramayana, but they are philosophical texts with no stories embedded in it. Compared to Vedas Ramayana is a common man’s text.


Sage Narada told Valmiki about the King Rama as an ideal king and Avatara of Vishnu. Valmiki was thus very much impressed by the life of Rama decided to write about Rama. Meanwhile one day while returning from the river Tamasa along with his disciple the Sage Valmiki witnessed a hunter shooting down one of a Kraunca bird couple. The intense emotion created by the incident burst out as follows in verse form.

Ma nisada pratistharh tvamagamah sasVatlh samah /

Yat krauncamithunadekamavadhlh kamamohitam//

Valmiki considered the poetry come out as an auspicious intuition and wrote the story of Rama in the same pattern of the verse.

When Valmiki complted Ramayana he taught the poem to his disciples Lava and Kusa, the twin sons of Sita. Asvamedhayajna performed at Ayodhya by Sri Rama was attended by all the eminent sages and scholars. Valmiki thought it will be the right opportunity to present his work and sent Lava and Kusa to sing Ramayana before the learned audience. The Kavya got instant popularity and the dramatic turn that followed as Rama recognizing Lava, Kusa as his sons and meeting Sita again gave the text a romantic touch.

Most of the verses in Valmiki Ramayana are in anustup meter, other meters like Indravajra and upendravajra is also used rarely. The text is divided into 8 kandas:

Balakanda: The mighty king of Kosala, Dasaratha desirous of children conduct a yajna. He begets four children, namely Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrugna. Once, sage Visvamitra took two of them, Rama and Lakshmana to forest to fight Rakshansas who are disturbing the peaceful atmosphere in the forest. The two princes successfully completed the mission. The sage then took them to the court of Mithila where the king Janaka was conducting a svayamvaram (test to choose bridegroom) for his daughter Sita. Rama passed the test and married the beautiful Sita. King Janaka proposed his other three daughters to the other three sons of King Dasaratha and accordingly all the four brothers got married. During the return journey Sage Parasurama, the exterminator of Kshatriya challenged Rama for a fight; with soft convincing words Rama brought Parasurama’s rage down; the sage then retired for Tapas in high mountain.

Ayodhya kanda: The aged king Dasharatha decide to anoint Rama as yuvaraja and retire. Kaikeyi, a queen spoils the coronation by demanding his son Bharata to be anointed as king and Rama to be banished to the forest for fourteen years. King was in great dilemma because of his promise to Kaikeyi few decades back; Bharata did not know the incidence as he was away to his uncle’s country for a visit. Rama readily agreed to the proposals of Kaikeyi and went to the forest along with his brother Lakshmana and wife Sita. Unable to bear the separation of his children Dasaratha had his last breath. When Bharata returned to palace he refused his coronation, and instead went to Rama to bring him back. Since Rama has the vow to stay in forest for 14 years he turned down Bharata’s request. Bhatata then kept the Paduka(sandals) of Rama in throne and ruled the country as Rama’s regent.

Aranya kanda: Lakshmana built a hermitage at Panchavati in Dantakaranya and all the three stayed there. One day, a Rakshasa prince, Surpanaka approached Rama and Lakshmana with advances to marry her. When both of them turned down her request she tried to attack Sita whom she thought is the stumbling block before her. The angry Lashmana furious then cut her nose and breast. The disgraced and defaced lady then went straight to Khara, the demon king of the area and complained. Khara came with his huge army; Rama single handedly eliminated Khara and his army. The humiliated lady then approached her brother Ravana to take revenge. Ravana with help of his relative Maricha abduct Sita and brought her to Lankha. Rama and lakshmana searched the length and breadth of forest for the missing Sita. While searching they met Sugreva, an exiled Vanara king.

Kishkinda kanda: Sugreeva was made a fugitive by his brother Baali. Rama forged a contract with Sugreeva, accordingly Rama killed Baali and Sugreeva promised all help to Rama to find his lost wife. Sugreeva sent his monkey army to all direction. The group lead by Hanuman, the minister of Sugreeva came to know that Sita could be in Lanka, an island in the ocean under the control Ravana. They came to the shore of the southern tip of peninsula unable to cross the sea.

Sundara kanda: Hanuman the mighty Vanara was deputed to cross the sea and he successfully jumped across the sea and reached Lanka. Hanuman found Sita in Asokavana in Lanka, successfully talked to her, delivering to her the signet ring of Rama, received her cudamani (crown jewel) to be given to Rama. The Ravana army captured Hanuman and brought him before Ravana. Hanuman escaped from captivity and did great havoc to the fort and city and jumped back to the main land.

Yudha kanda: The Sea stood before the Vanara Army(Ramasena) as a huge obstacle. Rama also doesn’t know what to do. He prayed to Siva. Various options were thought and at last came to the conclusion that a bridge to be constructed in the sea to cross the army to the island. Mean while when Ravana convened the meeting to decide on war, all the Rakshasa warriors supported war except Vibhishana. Ravana threatened to kill Vibhishana and he then fled country and joined with Rama.

Nala, a Vanara chieftain designed the bridge and Vanara army built it in few days. Mandodari, wife of Ravana and Kumbhakarna, the brother of Ravana also advised Ravana to free Sita and avoid war, but Ravana refused. Vanara Army crossed the sea, took position, then as a last resort to avoid war, Rama sent Angada, the Vanara prince to Ravana as a messenger to release Sita from captivity and thus avoid bloodshed. Ravana turned down this request and the terrific war started. Lot of people from both side died on war and that continued for many days. Once by the serpent missile of Indrajit most of Vanara army was killed and even Rama, Lakshmana become fatigue and fainted down. At this critical instance Hanuman brought Mritasanjeevani from Himalaya, which rejuvenated Rama, Lakshmana and brought life back to all the dead Vanaras. With the added Vigour, great havoc is made in Ravana army and the great warriors like indrajit and Kumbhakarna were slain. Ravana was then killed by Rama in the final war.

Rama then put Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka and accepted Sita, after she underwent the fire ordeal. By this time the 14 years of banishment completed and Rama rushed to home and was welcomed by Bharata, queen mothers, and the citizens.

Uttara kanda: Being over very happy of the fall of Ravana and establishment of Ramarajya, many sages visited Rama and honored him. One day, a rumor came to Rama, accusing him of residing with Sita who was sheltered in Ravana’s kingdom for some time. Rama felt it is not ideal for him to stay with Sita any more and asked to Lakshmana to secretly leave the pregnant Sita in forest. Lakshmana did so with great pain. Sita got shelter in Valmiki ashram and there she delivered twin sons, Lava and Kusa. Years passed, Rama always thought of his estranged wife but never went in search of her. Once during an assembly of sages at Rama’s palace two boys chanted a work by Sage Valmiki which was praised by everybody including Rama. The boys were none other than Lava and Kusa, the sons of Rama. Rama recognized his folly and wanted to accept Sita, but again put forward the condition to prove the chastity test by fire. Sita proved her purity but prayed to her mother to take her back to earth, Bhudevi readily agreed the demand and Sita disappeared in the earth which split for her. Rama then anointed his sons as king and retired.

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