Ramayana – Story of Lord Rama Written by Valmiki

Ramayana, the story of Lord Rama, is written in Sanskrit. About 24,000 ‘shlokas’ (Sanskrit verses) long, the Ramayana, considered to be the earliest of the epics, was written by a single sage-poet, Maharshi Valmiki. The epic is divided into seven books (Kaand - काण्ड) & 500 cantos (Sarga - सर्ग). These ‘kaand’ are Bal Kaand (बाल काण्ड), Ayodhya Kaand (अयोध्या काण्ड), Aranya Kaand (अरण्य काण्ड), Kishkindha Kaand (किष्किन्धा काण्ड), Sundar Kaand (सुंदर काण्ड), Yuddh Kaand (युद्ध काण्ड) and Uttar Kaand (उत्तरकाण्ड). Ramayana is the primordial poetic composition, our Adikavya.Several versions of the Valmiki Ramayana, a motivating and interesting narration of the noble character and awe-inspiring deeds of a historical human known as Rama, have emerged outside India like Reamker in Cambodia, Ramakien in Thailand, Yama Zatdaw in Burma (Mayanmar) etc. There are Ramayanas in all the main Indian languages with regional variations as well as Buddhist and Jain Ramayanas. Rama, the hero of Ramayana, was depicted as a human by Valmiki. But Rama had grown into a full-fledged god in the wake of the Bhakti movement that produced a wealth of poetryand song by great poet saints.

Ramayana’s true worth lies in its moral and ethical moorings, its strict, almost obsessive, adherence to ‘dharma’ as duty and in the visionary nature of its composition. Rama is the hero of the great Ramayana epic which is staged all over India once a year. The final act of the drama comes when he slays the ten-headed Ravana, and this day, Dussehra, is a time of rejoicing and celebrating with great pomp. Rama and his wife, Sita, the ideal of Indian womanhood, are two of the most popular deities and widely worshipped. In the Ramayana epic, the abduction of Sita results in war against ancient Lanka, and the death of the Demon-King Ravana. And much later, in historic times, wars were fought to protect the honour of women according to rules of chivalry.

Story of Rama in Valmiki Ramayana: There once ruled a wise and powerful king at Ayodhya or Awadh. His name was Dasharatha. He had three wives — Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. By Kausalaya he had a son by name Rama; by Kaikeyi he had a son, Bharata, and by Sumitra he had two sons, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Rama is the hero of this long narrative. He takes Sita, the daughter of King Janaka of Mithala, as his wife after publicly proving his great physical prowess by bending an enormous bow. The bow, known as Pinaka, belonged to Lord Shiva. After he returns to Ayodhaya with his beautiful bride, his father decides to declare him heir apparent.

Rama being the embodiment of all princely virtues, everyone acclaims the proposal of the ageing King, except his favourite wife, Kaikeyi. In fulfillment of a promise which Dasharatha had given her a long time ago — to sanction any two of her wishes — she demands that succession to the throne be conferred on her son Bharata, and that Rama should be exiled for 14 years into the forests. This cruel wish comes as a great shock to the King. But Rama, noble as he is, insists on going into exile so that his father may be able to keep his promise. His wife and one of his half-brothers, Lakshmana, join him. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana spent a long duration of their exile in Dandakaranya. Dandakaranya comprised parts of present-day Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The King dies of grief. Bharata, furious at his mother’s wickedness, tries to persuade his brother to return to Ayodhya but Rama refuses. Instead he agrees that Bharata should reign for fourteen years as a Regent.

During these years Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana wander through the forests killing demons and giving protection to the noble saints. One of these is a vile ogress, Surpanakha, who falls in love with Rama but he rejects her advances. She goes to Lanka (Ceylon), ruled by her brother, Ravana, a demon king. She tells him about the beauty of Sita and incites him to abduct her. The royal princes go in search of Sita and are told that she has been taken to Lanka. They meet the monkey general Hanuman, who organizes a huge army on their behalf. Ravana’s fortress is besieged; the demon king is killed and Rama returns with Sita to Ayodhya. Bharata, on his brother’s return, hands over the reins of the kingdom. There is great jubilation all over the country, and Rama rules for many years bringing peace, justice and prosperity to all. The way Rama took care of their subjects with highest standards of character and moral values, the term Rama Rajya had been coined as the pinnacle of ideal rule.

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