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The Ramayana or Rāmāyaṇa (//; Sanskrit: रामायणम्, Rāmāyaṇam, pronounced [rɑːˈmɑːjəɳəm]) is one of the great Hindu epics. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu literature (smṛti), considered to be itihāasa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of Hinduism, the other being the Mahabharata. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife, and the ideal king. The name Ramayana is a tatpurusha compound of Rāma and ayana ("going, advancing"), translating to "Rama's Journey". The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books (kāṇḍas) and 500 cantos (sargas), and tells the story of Rama (an avatar of the Hindu supreme-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka (current day Sri Lanka). Incidentally the first letter of every 1000 verses (total 24) make the Gayatri mantra. Thematically, the Ramayana explores human values and the concept of dharma.
Verses in the Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called anuṣṭubh. The Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture. Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages (Vedas) in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and devotional elements. The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Bharata, Hanuman, and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal, and many south-east Asian countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
- 1 Textual history and structure
- 2 Characters
- 3 Synopsis
- 4 Influence on culture and art
- 5 Variant versions
- 6 Theological significance
- 7 Media
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Textual history and structure
Traditionally, the Ramayana is attributed to Valmiki. The Hindu tradition is unanimous in its agreement that the poem is the work of a single poet; the sage Valmiki,also known as dashu ratnakar a contemporary of Rama and a peripheral actor in the drama. The story's original version in Sanskrit is known as Valmiki Ramayana, dating to approximately the 5th to 4th century BCE. While it is often viewed as a primarily devotional text, the Vaishnava elements appear to be later accretions, possibly dating to the 2nd century BCE or later. The main body of the narrative lacks statements of Rama's divinity, and identifications of Rama with Vishnu are rare and subdued even in the later parts of the text.
According to Hindu tradition—and according to the Ramayana itself—the Ramayana belongs to the genre of itihāasa, like the Mahabharata. The definition of itihāasa has varied over time, with one definition being that itihāsa is a narrative of past events (purāvṛtta) which includes teachings on the goals of human life. According to Hindu tradition, the Ramayana takes place during a period of time known as Treta Yuga.
In its extant form, Valmiki's Ramayana is an epic poem of some 50,000 lines. The text survives in several thousand partial and complete manuscripts, the oldest of which is a palm-leaf manuscript found in Nepal and dated to the 11th century CE. The text has several regional renderings, recensions, and subrecensions. Textual scholar Robert P. Goldman differentiates two major regional recensions: the northern (n) and the southern (s). Scholar Romesh Chunder Dutt writes that "the Ramayana, like the Mahabharata, is a growth of centuries, but the main story is more distinctly the creation of one mind."
There has been discussion as to whether the first and the last chapters of Valmiki's Ramayana were composed by the original author. Most Hindus still believe they are integral parts of the book, in spite of some style differences and narrative contradictions between these two chapters and the rest of the book.
Famous retellings include Gona Budda Reddy's Ramayanam in Telugu, Kamban's Ramavataram in Tamil (c. 11th–12th century), Madhava Kandali's Saptakanda Ramayana in Assamese (c. 14th century), Krittibas Ojha's Krittivasi Ramayan (also known as Shri Rama panchali) in Bengali (c. 15th century), sant Eknath's Bhavarth Ramayan (c. 16th century) in Marathi (which is spoken in Maharashtra), Balaram Das' Dandi Ramayana (also known as the Jagamohan Ramayana) (c. 16th century) in Oriya, Tulsidas' Ramcharitamanas (c. 16th century) in Awadhi (which is an eastern form of Hindi), and Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan's Adhyathmaramayanam in Malayalam.
Some cultural evidence (the presence of sati in the Mahabharata but not in the main body of the Ramayana) suggests that the Ramayana predates the Mahabharata. However, the general cultural background of the Ramayana is one of the post-urbanization period of the eastern part of north India and Nepal, while the Mahabharata reflects the Kuru areas west of this, from the Rigvedic to the late Vedic period.
By tradition, the text belongs to the Treta Yuga, second of the four eons (yuga) of Hindu chronology. Rama is said to have been born in the treta yuga to king Daśaratha in the Ikshvaku vamsa (clan). Maharishi Valmiki—the writer of Ramayana and a contemporary of Lord Rama—has described in three shlokas. The positions of planets at the time of birth of lord Rama.
The names of the characters (Rama, Sita, Daśaratha, Janaka, Vashista, Vishwamitra) are all known in late Vedic literature. However, nowhere in the surviving Vedic poetry is there a story similar to the Ramayana of Valmiki. According to the modern academic view, Vishnu—who, according to bala kanda, was incarnated as Rama—first came into prominence with the epics themselves and further during the "puranic" period of the later 1st millennium CE. Also, in the epic Mahabharata, there is a version of Ramayana known as Ramopakhyana. This version is depicted as a narration to Yudhishtira.
There is general consensus that books two to six form the oldest portion of the epic, while the first and last books (bala kanda and uttara kanda, respectively) are later additions. The author or authors of bala kanda and ayodhya kanda appear to be familiar with the eastern Gangetic basin region of northern India and with the Kosala and Magadha region during the period of the sixteen janapadas, based on the fact that the geographical and geopolitical data is in keeping with what is known about the region. The knowledge of the location of the island of Lanka also lacks detail. Basing his assumption on these features, the archeologist Hasmukh Dhirajlal Sankalia has proposed a date of the 4th century BC for the composition of the text. However, the historian and indologist Arthur Llewellyn Basham is of the opinion that Rama may have been a minor chief who lived in the 8th or the 7th century BC.
The seven kandas (books)
The epic is traditionally divided into several major kāndās (books), which deal chronologically with the major events in the life of Rama. The division into 7 kāndās is as follows:
|1||Bāla Kāṇḍa (Book of childhood)||The origins and childhood of Rama, born to king Dasharatha of Ayodhya and destined to fight demons. Sita's swayamvara and subsequent wedding to Rama.|
|2||Ayodhya Kāṇḍa (Book of Ayodhya)||The preparations for Rama's coronation in the city of Ayodhya, his exile into the forest, and the regency of Bharata.|
|3||Araṇya Kāṇḍa (Book of the forest)||The forest life of Rama with Sita and Lakshmana, his constant companion. The kidnapping of Sita by the demon king Ravana.|
|4||Kishkindha Kāṇḍa (Book of the monkey kingdom)||Rama meets Hanuman and helps destroy the monkey people's king, Vali, making Vali's younger brother, Sugriva, king of Kishkindha instead.|
|5||Sundara Kāṇḍa (Book of beauty)||Detailed accounts of Hanuman's adventures, including his meeting with Sita. Traditionally read first when reading the Ramayana, this book's name derives from the fond name given to Hanuman by his mother.|
|6||Yuddha Kāṇḍa (Book of war, also known as Lanka Kanda)||The battle in Lanka between the monkey and the demon armies of Rama and Ravana, respectively. After Ravana is defeated, Sita undergoes the test of fire, completes exile with Rama, and they return to Ayodhya to reign over the ideal state.|
|7||Uttara Kāṇḍa (Last book)||Rumors of impurity lead to Sita's banishment, during which she gives birth to and raises Lava and Kusha. Rama and Sita reconcile. The twin boys later ascend the throne of Ayodhya, after which Rama departs from the world.|
- Rama is one of the protagonists of the tale. Portrayed as the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, he is the eldest and favorite son of Dasharatha—the king of Ayodhya (current day Ayodhya, India)—and his Queen, Kausalya. He is portrayed as the epitome of virtue. Dasharatha is forced by Kaikeyi, one of his wives, to command Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile.
- Sita is another of the tale's protagonists. She is King Janaka's daughter, and Rama's beloved wife. Rama went to Mithila (current day Janakpur, Nepal), and got a chance to marry her by lifting a heavy bow in a competition organized by King Janaka. The competition was to find the most suitable husband for Sita, and many princes from different states competed to win her. Sita is the avatara of goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu. Sita is portrayed as the epitome of female purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and is abducted by Ravana. She is imprisoned on the island of Lanka, until Rama rescues her by defeating the demon king Ravana. Later, she gives birth to Lava and Kusha, the heirs of Rama.
- Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. In some versions (other than Valmiki's), he is portrayed as the eleventh avatar of Shiva (he is also called rudra) and an ideal bhakta of Rama. He is born as the son of Kesari, a Vanara king, and the goddess Anjana. He plays an important part in locating Sita and in the ensuing battle. He is believed to live until our modern world.
- Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile with him. He is the son of King Dasaratha and Queen Sumitra, and twin of Shatrughna. Lakshmana is portrayed as an avatar of the Shesha, the nāga associated with the god Vishnu. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama during which he fought the demoness Surpanakha. He is forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon Maricha into believing that Rama was in trouble. Sita is abducted by Ravana upon him leaving her. He was married to Sita's younger sister Urmila.
- Ravana, a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. After performing severe penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the creator-god Brahma: he could henceforth not be killed by gods, demons,or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king who disturbs the penances of rishis. Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.
- Jatayu,the son of Aruṇa and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the form of an vulture that tries to rescue Sita from Ravana. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old, Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the direction in which Ravana had gone.
- Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has three queens, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, and three other sons: Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favourite queen, forces him to make his son Bharata crown prince and send Rama into exile. Dasharatha dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.
- Bharata is the son of Dasharatha and Queen Kaikeyi. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi had forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharatha to die brokenhearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama in the forest. When Rama refuses to return from his exile to assume the throne, Bharata obtains Rama's sandals, and places them on the throne as a gesture that Rama is the true king. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as the regent of Rama for the next fourteen years. He was married to Mandavi.
- Shatrughna is the son of Dasharatha and his second wife Queen Sumitra. He is the youngest brother of Rama and also the twin brother of Lakshmana. He was married to Shrutakirti.
- Sugriva, a vanara king who helped Rama regain Sita from Ravana. He had an agreement with Rama through which Vaali – Sugriva's brother and king of Kishkindha – would be killed by Rama in exchange for Sugriva's help in finding Sita. Sugriva ultimately ascends the throne of Kishkindha after the slaying of Vaali, and fulfills his promise by putting the Vanara forces at Rama's disposal
- Indrajit, a son of Ravana who twice defeated Lakshmana in battle, before succumbing to him the third time. An adept of the magical arts,he coupled his supreme fighting skills with various stratagems to inflict heavy losses on the Vanara army before his death.
- Kumbhakarna, a brother of Ravana, famous for his eating and sleeping. He would sleep for months at a time and would be extremely ravenous upon waking up, consuming anything set before him. His monstrous size and loyalty made him an important part of Ravana's army. During the war he decimated the Vanara army before Rama cut off his limbs and head.
- Surpanakha, Ravana's demoness sister who fell in love with Rama and had the magical power to take any form she wanted.
- Vibhishana, a younger brother of Ravana. He was against the kidnapping of sita, and joined the forces of Rama when Ravana refused to return her. His intricate knowledge of Lanka was vital in the war, and he was crowned king after the fall of Ravana.
Dasharatha was the king of Ayodhya. He had three queens Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. He was childless for a long time and, anxious to produce an heir, he performs a fire sacrifice known as putra-kameshti yagya. As a consequence, Rama is first born to Kausalya, Bharata is born to Kaikeyi, Lakshmana and Shatrughna are born to Sumitra. These sons are endowed, to various degrees, with the essence of the god Vishnu; Vishnu had opted to be born into mortality to combat the demon Ravana, who was oppressing the gods,and who could only be destroyed by a mortal. The boys are reared as the princes of the realm, receiving instructions from the scriptures and in warfare. When Rama is 16-years-old, the sage Vishwamitra comes to the court of Dasharatha in search of help against demons who were disturbing sacrificial rites. He chooses Rama, who is followed by Lakshmana, his constant companion throughout the story. Rama and Lakshmana receive instructions and supernatural weapons from Vishwamitra, and proceed to destroy the demons.
Janaka was the king of Mithila. One day, a female child was found in the field by the king in the deep furrow dug by his plough. Overwhelmed with joy, the king regarded the child as a "miraculous gift of god". The child was named Sita, the Sanskrit word for furrow. Sita grew up to be a girl of unparalleled beauty and charm. When Sita was of marriageable age, the king decided to have a swayamvara which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the god Shiva: whoever could wield the bow could marry Sita. The sage Vishwamitra attends the swayamvara with Rama and Lakshmana. Only Rama is able to wield the bow and, when he draws the string, it breaks. Marriages are arranged between the sons of Dasharatha and daughters of Janaka. Rama gets married to Sita, Lakshmana to Urmila, Bharata to Mandavi and Shatrughan to Shrutakirti. The weddings are celebrated with great festivity at Mithila and the marriage party returns to Ayodhya.
After Rama and Sita have been married for twelve years, an elderly Dasharatha expresses his desire to crown Rama, to which the Kosala assembly and his subjects express their support. On the eve of the great event, Kaikeyi—her jealousy aroused by Manthara, a wicked maidservant—claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her. Kaikeyi demands Rama to be exiled into wilderness for fourteen years, while the succession passes to her son Bharata. The heartbroken king, constrained by his rigid devotion to his given word, accedes to Kaikeyi's demands. Rama accepts his father's reluctant decree with absolute submission and calm self-control which characterises him throughout the story. He is joined by Sita and Lakshmana. When he asks Sita not to follow him, she says,"the forest where you dwell is Ayodhya for me and Ayodhya without you is a veritable hell for me." After Rama's departure, King Dasharatha, unable to bear the grief, passes away. Meanwhile, Bharata who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns about the events in Ayodhya. Bharata refuses to profit from his mother's wicked scheming and visits Rama in the forest. He requests Rama to return and rule. But Rama, determined to carry out his father's orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile. However, Bharata carries Rama's sandals,and keeps them on the throne, while he rules as Rama's regent.
Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana journey southward along the banks of river Godavari, where they build cottages and live off the land. At the Panchavati forest they are visited by a rakshasa woman, Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana. She attempts to seduce the brothers and, failing in this, attempts to kill Sita. Lakshmana stops her by cutting off her nose and ears. Hearing of this, her demon brother, Khara, organises an attack against the princes. Rama annihilates Khara and his demons.
When news of these events reaches Ravana, he resolves to destroy Rama by capturing Sita with the aid of the rakshasa Maricha. Maricha, assuming the form of a golden deer, captivates Sita's attention. Entranced by the beauty of the deer, Sita pleads with Rama to capture it. Lord Rama, aware that this is the ploy of the demons, cannot dissuade Sita from her desire and chases the deer into the forest, leaving Sita under Lakshmana's guard. After some time, Sita hears Rama calling out to her; afraid for his life, she insists that Lakshmana rush to his aid. Lakshmana tries to assure her that Rama is invincible and that it is best if he continues to follow Rama's orders to protect her. On the verge of hysterics, Sita insists that it is not she but Rama who needs Lakshmana's help. He obeys her wish but stipulates that she is not to leave the cottage or entertain any strangers. He draws a chalk outline, the Lakshmana rekha, around the cottage and casts a spell on it that prevents anyone from entering the boundary but allows people to exit. With the coast finally clear, Ravana appears in the guise of an ascetic requesting Sita's hospitality. Unaware of the devious plan of her guest, Sita is tricked into leaving the rekha and is then forcibly carried away by the evil Ravana.
Jatayu, a vulture, tries to rescue Sita, but is mortally wounded. At Lanka, Sita is kept under the heavy guard of rakshasis. Ravana demands Sita marry him, but Sita, eternally devoted to Rama, refuses. Rama and Lakshmana learn about Sita's abduction from Jatayu and immediately set out to save her. During their search, they meet the demon Kabandha and the ascetic Shabari, who direct them towards Sugriva and Hanuman.
The kishkindha kanda is set in the monkey citadel Kishkindha. Rama and Lakshmana meet Hanuman, the greatest of monkey heroes and an adherent of Sugriva, the banished pretender to the throne of kishkindha. Rama befriends Sugriva and helps him by killing his elder brother Vali thus regaining the kingdom of Kiskindha, in exchange for helping Rama to recover Sita. However Sugriva soon forgets his promise and spends his time in debauchery. The clever monkey queen Tara, second wife of Sugriva (initially wife of Vali), calmly intervenes to prevent an enraged Lakshmana from destroying the monkey citadel. She then eloquently convinces Sugriva to honour his pledge. Sugriva then sends search parties to the four corners of the earth, only to return without success from north, east and west. The southern search party under the leadership of Angad and Hanuman learns from a vulture named Sampati that Sita was taken to Lanka.
The sundara kanda forms the heart of Valmiki's Ramayana and consists of a detailed, vivid account of Hanuman's adventures. After learning about Sita, Hanuman assumes a gargantuan form and makes a colossal leap across the ocean to Lanka. Here, Hanuman explores the demon's city and spies on Ravana. He locates Sita in ashoka grove, who is wooed and threatened by Ravana and his rakshasis to marry Ravana. He reassures her, giving Rama's signet ring as a sign of good faith. He offers to carry Sita back to Rama, however she refuses, reluctant to allow herself to be touched by a male other than her husband. She says that Rama himself must come and avenge the insult of her abduction.
Hanuman then wreaks havoc in Lanka by destroying trees and buildings, and killing Ravana's warriors. He allows himself to be captured and produced before Ravana. He gives a bold lecture to Ravana to release Sita. He is condemned and his tail is set on fire, but he escapes his bonds and, leaping from roof to roof, sets fire to Ravana's citadel and makes the giant leap back from the island. The joyous search party returns to Kishkindha with the news.
Also known as Yudhdha kand, this book describes the battle between the army of Rama, constructed with the help of Sugriva, and Ravana. Having received Hanuman's report on Sita, Rama and Lakshmana proceed with their allies towards the shore of the southern sea. There they are joined by Ravana's renegade brother Vibhishana. The monkeys named Nala and Nila construct a floating bridge (known as Rama Setu) across the ocean, and the princes and their army cross over to Lanka. A lengthy battle ensues and Rama kills Ravana. Rama then installs Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka.
On meeting Sita, Rama asks her to undergo an "agni pariksha" (test of fire) to prove her purity, as he wants to get rid of the rumours surrounding Sita's purity. When Sita plunges into the sacrificial fire, Agni the lord of fire raises Sita, unharmed, to the throne, attesting to her purity. The episode of agni pariksha varies in the versions of Ramayana by Valmiki and Tulsidas. The above version is from Valmiki Ramayana. In Tulsidas's Ramacharitamanas Sita was under the protection of Agni (see Maya Sita) so it was necessary to bring her out before reuniting with Rama. At the expiration of his term of exile, Rama returns to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana, where the coronation is performed. This is the beginning of Ram Rajya, which implies an ideal state with good morals.
The uttara kanda is regarded to be a later addition to the original story by Valmiki and concerns the final years of Rama, Sita, and Rama's brothers. After being crowned king, many years passed pleasantly with Sita. However, despite the agni pariksha (fire ordeal) of Sita, rumours about her purity are spreading among the populace of Ayodhya. Rama yields to public opinion and reluctantly banishes Sita to the forest, where the sage Valmiki provides shelter in his ashrama (hermitage). Here she gives birth to twin boys, Lava and Kusha, who become pupils of Valmiki and are brought up in ignorance of their identity.
Valmiki composes the Ramayana and teaches Lava and Kusha to sing it. Later, Rama holds a ceremony during Ashwamedha yagna, which the sage Valmiki, with Lava and Kusha, attends. Lava and Kusha sing the Ramayana in the presence of Rama and his vast audience. When Lava and Kusha recite about Sita's exile, Rama becomes grief-stricken, and Valmiki produces Sita. Sita calls upon the earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opens, she vanishes into it. Rama then learns that Lava and Kusha are his children. Later a messenger from the gods appears and informs Rama that the mission of his incarnation was over. Rama returns to his celestial abode.
Influence on culture and art
One of the most important literary works of ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. The story ushered in the tradition of the next thousand years of massive-scale works in the rich diction of regal courts and Hindu temples. It has also inspired much secondary literature in various languages, notably the Kambaramayanam by the Tamil poet Kambar of the 12th century, the Telugu-language Molla Ramayanam by poetess Molla and Ranganatha Ramayanam by poet Gona Budda Reddy, 14th century Kannada poet Narahari's Torave Ramayana, and 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha's Krittivasi Ramayan, as well as the 16th century Awadhi version, Ramacharitamanas, written by Tulsidas.
The Ramayana became popular in southeast Asia during the 8th century and was represented in literature, temple architecture, dance and theatre. Today, dramatic enactments of the story of Ramayana, known as Ramlila, take place all across India and in many places across the globe within the Indian diaspora.
The Ramayana has also been depicted in many paintings, most notably by the Malaysian artist Syed Thajudeen in 1972. The epic tale was picturized on canvas in epic proportions measuring 72 x 453 cm in 9 panels. The painting depicts three prolific parts of the epic, namely The Abduction of Sita, Hanuman visits Sita and Hanuman Burns Lanka. The painting is currently in the permanent collection of the Malaysian National Visual Arts Gallery.
As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the Ramayana survive. In particular, the Ramayana related in north India differs in important respects from that preserved in south India and the rest of south-east Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the Ramayana in Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. Father Kamil Bulke, author of Ramakatha, has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana.
The 7th century CE "bhatti's poem" Bhaṭṭikāvya of Bhaṭṭi is a Sanskrit retelling of the epic that simultaneously illustrates the grammatical examples for Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as the major figures of speech and the Prakrit language.
There are diverse regional versions of the Ramayana written by various authors in India. Some of them differ significantly from each other. During the 12th century, Kamban wrote Ramavataram, known popularly as Kambaramayanam in Tamil. A Telugu version, Ranganatha Ramayanam, was written by Gona Budda Reddy in the 14th century. The earliest translation to a regional Indo-Aryan language is the early-14th century Saptakanda Ramayana in Assamese by Madhava Kandali. Valmiki's Ramayana inspired the Sri Ramacharit Manas by Tulsidas in 1576, an epic Awadhi (a dialect of Hindi) version with a slant more grounded in a different realm of Hindu literature, that of bhakti; it is an acknowledged masterpiece of India, popularly known as Tulsi-krta Ramayana. Gujarati poet Premanand wrote a version of Ramayana in the 17th century. Other versions include Krittivasi Ramayan, a Bengali version by Krittivas in the 14th century; in Oriya by Balarama das in the 16th century; a Torave Ramayana in Kannada by the 16th-century poet Narahari; Adhyathma Ramayanam Kilippattu, a Malayalam version by Tunccattu Ezhuttaccan in the 16th century; in Marathi by Sridhara in the 18th century; in Maithili by Chanda Jha in the 19th century; and in the 20th century, rashtrakavi Kuvempu's Sri Ramayana Darshanam.
There is a sub-plot to Ramayana, prevalent in some parts of India, relating the adventures of Ahi Ravana and Mahi Ravana, the evil brother of Ravana, which enhances the role of Hanuman in the story. Hanuman rescues Rama and Lakshmana after they are kidnapped by the Ahi-Mahi Ravana at the behest of Ravana and held prisoner in a subterranean cave, to be sacrificed to the goddess Kali.
Mappillapattu—a genre of song popular among the Muslims belonging to Kerala and Lakshadweep—has incorporated some episodes from the Ramayana into its songs. These songs, known as mappila ramayana, have been handed down from one generation to the next orally. In mappila ramayana, the story of the Ramayana has been changed into that of a sultan, and there are no major changes in the names of characters except for that of Rama which is `laman' in many places. The language and the imagery projected in the mappilapattu are in accordance with the social fabric of the earlier muslim community.
In the Buddhist variant of Ramayana, Dasaratha was the king of Benares and not Ayodhya. According to Romila Thapar: "Rama and Lakshmana were the siblings born to the first wife of Dasaratha. To protect his children from his second wife, the king sent the three in exile to the Himalayas. Twelve years later, the trio came back to the kingdom with Rama and Sita ruling as consorts. The abduction of Sita did not find a place in this version."
In Guru Granth Sahib, there is description of two types of Ramayana. One is spiritual Ramayana which is actual subject of Guru Granth Sahib, in which Ravan is ego, Seeta is budhi (intellect), Rama is inner soul and Laxman is mann (attention, mind). Guru Granth Sahib also believes in existence of dasavtara who were kings of their times which tried their best to bring revolution in the world. King Ramchandra was one of those and it is not covered in Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Granth Sahib states:
- ਹੁਕਮਿ ਉਪਾਏ ਦਸ ਅਉਤਾਰਾ॥
- हुकमि उपाए दस अउतारा॥
- By hukam (supreme command), he created his ten incarnations,
This version of Ramayana was written by Guru Gobind Singh, which is part of Dasam Granth. In dasam granth, Guru Gobind Singh also explained that he does not believe Ramchandra as a God. He is equating Ramchandra with a common man by calling him insect, though he calls himself insect, too.
He also said that the almighty, invisible, all prevailing God created millions of Ramas, Shivas, Vishnus, Prophets and Brahmas. But they too were caught in the noose of death (KAAL)(Transmigration of soul).
Jain version of Ramayana can be found in the various Jain agamas like Padmapurana (story of Padmaja & Rama, Padmaja being the name of Sita), Hemacandra's Trisastisalakapurusa charitra (hagiography of 63 illustrious person's), Sanghadasa's Vasudevahindi and Uttarapurana by Gunabhadara. According to Jain cosmology,every half time cycle has nine set's of Balarama, Vasudeva and prativasudeva. Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana are the eighth baladeva, vasudeva, and prativasudeva respectively. Padmanabh Jaini notes that, unlike in the Hindu puranas, the names Baladeva and Vasudeva are not restricted to Balarama and Krishna in jain puranas. Instead they serve as names of two distinct class of mighty brothers, who appear nine times in each half time cycle and jointly rule the half the earth as half-chakravartins. Jaini traces the origin of this list of brothers to the jinacharitra (lives of the jinas) by Acharya Bhadrabahu (3–4th century BCE).
In the Jain epic of Ramayana, it is Lakshmana who ultimately kills Ravana and not Rama as told in the Hindu version. In the end, Rama who led an upright life renounces his kingdom, becomes a Jain monk and attains moksha. On the other hand, Lakshmana and Ravana go to hell. However, it is predicted that ultimately they both will be reborn as upright persons and attain liberation in their future births. According to Jain texts, Ravana will be the future Tirthankara (omniscient teacher) of Jainism.
The Jain versions have some variations from Valmiki's Ramayana. Dasharatha, the king of Saketa had four queens: Aparajita, Sumitra, Suprabha and Kaikeyi. These four queens had four sons. Aparajita's son was Padma, and he became known by the name of Rama. Sumitra's son was Narayana: he became to be known by another name, Lakshmana. Kaikeyi's son was Bharata and Suprabha's son was Shatrughna. Furthermore,not much was thought of Rama's fidelity to Sita. According to Jain version, Rama had four chief-queen's: Maithili, Prabhavati, Ratinibha, and Sridama.Furthermore, Sita takes renunciation as a Jain ascetic after Rama abandons her and is reborn in heaven. Rama, after Lakshmana's death, also renounces his kingdom and becomes a jain monk. Ultimately, he attains Kevala Jnana omniscience and finally liberation. Rama predicts that Ravana and Lakshmana, who were in fourth hell, will attain liberation in their future births. Accordingly, Ravana is the future tirthankara of next half ascending time cycle and Sita will be his Ganadhara.
Besides being the site of discovery of the oldest surviving manuscript of Ramayana, Nepal gave rise to two regional variants in mid 19th – early 20th century. One, written by Bhanubhakta Acharya, is considered the first epic of Nepali language, while the other, written by Siddhidas Mahaju in Nepal Bhasa was a foundational influence in the renaissance of that language.
The Ramayana written by Bhanubhakta Acharya is one of the most popular verses in Nepal. The popularization of the 'Ramayana' and its tale, originally written in Sanskrit Language was greatly enhanced by the work of Bhanubhakta. Mainly because of his writing of Nepali Ramayana, Bhanubhakta is also called 'Aadi Kavi' or 'The Pioneering Poet'. 
Southeast Asian versions
Phra Lak Phra Lam is a Lao language version, whose title comes from Lakshmana and Rama. The story of Lakshmana and Rama is told as the previous life of the Buddha. In Hikayat Seri Rama of Malaysia, Dasharatha is the great-grandson of the Prophet Adam. Ravana receives boons from Allah instead of Brahma. In many Malay language versions, Lakshmana is given greater importance than Rama, whose character is considered somewhat weak.
The Cambodian version of Ramayana, the Reamker, is the most famous story of Khmer literature since the Funan era. It adapts the Hindu concepts to Buddhist themes and show's the balance of good and evil in the world. The Reamker has several differences from the original Ramayana, including scenes not included in the original and emphasis on Hanuman and Sovanna Maccha, a retelling which influences the Thai and Lao versions. Reamker in Cambodia is not confined to the realm of literature but extends to all Cambodian art forms, such as sculpture, Khmer classical dance, theater known as lakhorn luang (the foundation of the royal ballet), poetry and the mural and bas reliefs seen at the Silver Pagoda and Angkor wat.
Thailand's popular national epic Ramakien (thai:รามเกียรติ์.,from Sanskrit rāmakīrti,"glory of Rama") is derived from the Hindu epic. In Ramakien, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Mandodari (thotsakan and montho). Vibhisana (phiphek), the astrologer brother of Ravana, predicts calamity from the horoscope of Sita. Ravana has her thrown into the water, but is later rescued by Janaka (chanok). While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style. It has an expanded role for Hanuman and he is portrayed as a lascivious character. Ramakien can be seen in an elaborate illustration at Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is one of most popular deities worshipped in the Hindu religion. Each year, many devout pilgrims trace their journey through India and Nepal, halting at each of the holy sites along the way. The poem is not seen as just a literary monument, but serves as an integral part of Hinduism, and is held in such reverence that the mere reading or hearing of it, or certain passages of it, is believed by Hindus to free them from sin and bless the reader or listener.
A number of movies and television serials have been produced based upon the Ramayana.
Starting in 1978, and under the supervision of Baba Hari Dass, the Ramayana has been performed every year by Mount Madonna School in Watsonville, California. Currently, it is the largest yearly, Western version of the epic being performed. It takes the form of a colorful musical with custom costumes, sung and spoken dialog, jazz-rock orchestration and dance. This performance takes place in a large audience theater setting usually in June, in San Jose, CA. Baba Hari Dass has thought acting arts, costume-attire design, masks making, and choreography to bring alive characters of Sri Ram, Sita, Hanuman, Lakshmana, Shiva, Parvati, Vibhishan, Jatayu, Sugriva, Surpanakha, Ravana and his rakshasa court, Meghnaad, Kumbhakarna, and the army of monkeys and demons.
- Sampoorna Ramayanam – A 1958 Tamil movie starring N. T. Rama Rao
- Sampoorna Ramayana,1961 Hindi film directed by Babubhai Mistry
- Lava Kusha – A 1963 uttara kandam based Telugu movie starring N. T. Rama Rao
- Kanchana Sita - A 1977 Malayalam film by G. Aravindan
- Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama – A Japanese animated film released in Hindi, Japanese and English languages.
- A Little Princess – A 1995 drama film where the main character tells the story
- Sita Sings the Blues – An independent animated film (2008).
- Lava Kusa: The Warrior Twins – Animated film based on uttara kandam (2010).
- Ramayana: The Epic – A Warner Bros. Indian animated film (2010).
- Sri Rama Rajyam – Movie based on Uttara (2011).
- Mumbai Musical - DreamWorks Animation (2016).
- Kanchana Sita, Saketham and Lankalakshmi – award winning trilogy by Malayalam playwright C. N. Sreekantan Nair
- Lankeswaran play by award winning Tamil actor R. S. Manohar
Serials (TV series)
- Ramayan (1987) – Originally broadcast on Doordarshan.
- Ramayan (2008) – Originally broadcast on NDTV Imagine.
- Ramayan (2012) – A remake of the 1987 series.
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- Prose translation of the complete Ramayana by M. N. Dutt (1891–1894): Balakandam, Ayodhya Kandam, Aranya Kandam, Kishkindha Kandam, Sundara Kandam, Yuddha Kandam, Uttara Kandam
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- Geet Ramayan literally 'Ramayan in verse' in Marathi by G. D. Madgulkar
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- A condensed verse translation by Romesh Chunder Dutt sponsored by the Liberty Fund
- The Ramayana as a Monomyth from UC Berkeley (archived)