Some say it is history, others a mythological tale, some say it’s a guide on how to live life. Whatever your view, The Ramayana is a story that has stood the test of time.
For generations and millennia the Ramayana has been told and re-told. Each subsequent version has its own unique flavour influenced by the time and culture of its authors.
Not just a story. There is great knowledge contained within the Ramayana. It explores the deeper universal questions we all have: ‘Who am I?’, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’, ‘How do I live to fulfil that purpose?’, ‘What is the nature of the universe?’ etc.
Did you know: The Ramayana contains no less than 3 Gitas (Rama, Lakshman, Vibhishana).
The Ramayana is the story of Prince Rama and his 3 brothers (Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrugan). The princes belong to the mighty Suyra (Sun) dynasty that ruled much of Asia at the time. We see how the 4 princes live in a palace full of riches, loved by all in the kingdom. They grow up to be dynamic, righteous men of valour who fall in love with equally strong and graceful princesses. We watch a kingdom in mourning as the royal family is split apart by the consequences of past actions. Princes Rama, his wife Princess Sita and Lakshman are disinherited and banished to the forest with nothing aside of their bows and arrows. We watch in awe, as the beloved trio battle against misguided and fiendish beings. We see how they interact compassionately with a sense of duty and justice with those who love them, those who hate them, those who want to kill them, and those who want them for themselves. We understand these events in the context of a larger picture of a battle between good and evil. Despite all challenges and ill fate Rama and his entourage deal with each situation with great equanimity, showing us an ideal way to tackle those obstacles that face us all. The Ramayana is a beautiful, gripping emotional, captivating story of the human condition that once seen and heard does not leave you.
For generations and millennia the Ramayana has been told and re-told. An oral tradition that was handed down from grandparent to child, committed to memory and then discharged again to the next generation. The story was first recorded by Valmiki. His Ramayana was the first written record of the incredible story and set the precedence for its propagation across languages and mediums. Each subsequent version has its own unique flavour influenced by the time and culture of its authors.
Tulsidasji’s Ramacharitmanas, holds Rama as the supreme incarnation of God. His devotion (Bhakti) and love for Rama drips like honey from the page. Written in the Awadhi language (spoken in a region around Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh in India and Nepal) in the late 16th Century, it is the Ramayana of the North.
Ramavataram known as Kamba Ramayana, was written in the 12th Century and is considered as one of the greatest works in Tamil literature. It portrays Rama less as a God incarnated but a man who attains God-hood through his continued adherence to Dharma (right actions and intentions). There are some differences between Valmiki’s Sanskrit original and the Tamil version that take into account the cultural sensitivities of the time. For example when Ravana abducts Sita, he is said to have carried her away on his shoulder. But in Kamban’s Ramaynana to treat a woman as such was unthinkable (even for a villain such as Ravana) and so he carried the entire hut she was in when he kidnapped her.
There have also been numerous deployments into other mediums. In the 80’s Indian streets would be deserted as people huddled around TV sets to watch the latest episode of the Ramanand Sagar’s TV show. There have been animated adaptations, comic books, poems, and paintings.