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The Ramayana Literature
Though there are many Ramayanas, the one penned by Valmiki is said to be the earliest. It was written in the Treta Yoga, aound 4400 B.C. The text as available to us now consists of 24,253 verses and is divided into seven kandas or Books. Each kanda is subdivided into sargas or chapters (total number of sargas being 647) and these comprise shlokas or verses. Though the work is almost entirely in the shloka or the anustubh metre, bigger metres like indravajra or upendravajra have also been employed.

The seven kandas in Valmiki Ramayana are:

Balakanda

Ayodhyakanda

Aranyakanda

Kiskindhakanda

Sundarakanda

Yuddhakanda

Uttarakanda

Three pathas or recensions of the Valmiki Ramayana have been discovered so far: the Daksinatya (southern), the Gaudiya (Bengali) and the Vayavya (north-western).

There are some well-known commentaries on the Valmiki Ramayana in Sanskrit. They are:

Tilaka or Ramabhirami by Nagoji Bhatta

Siromani by Sivasahaya

Bhusana by Govindaraja

Tattvadipa, by Mahesvara Tirtha

Ramanujiyavyakhya, by Kandala Ramanuja

Vivekatilaka by Varadaraja

Dharmakutavyakhya by Tryambakaraja

Ramayana-kuta-vyakhya by Ramananda Tirtha

Most of these commentaries have been printed and are available on this website.

A ceremonial recitation of the Ramayana, especially during the Ramanavami (in April) and the Navaratri (during September-October) celebrations, is believed to confer great religious merit.

Other Ramayanas:

The influence of the Ramayana of Valmiki has been so powerful and deep that quite a few other Ramayanas have come into existence in course of time, thereby enriching our Ramayana literature. Of these, mention must be made of the Adhyatma Ramayana (4200 verses) considered to be a part of the Brahmanda Purana. Cast in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati, the Adhyatma Ramayana is a highly devotional piece of work and contains quite a few philosophical discourses including the well known Ramagita.

The /book/details/ananda-ramayana-attributed-to-great-sage-valmiki-sanskrit-text-english-translation-and-introduction-two-volumes-IDF389/">Ananda Ramayana (12,000 verses), is another popular work. It is also in the form of a dialogue, first between Parvati and Shiva, and later between Ramadasa and his disciple Visnudasa. This work contains a number of stories popular even now, such as those of Gokarna, the famous pilgrimage centre in Karnataka and the of the raksasa brothers Ahiravana and Mahiravana of the nether world who tried to help Ravana.

Then there are some other Ramayanas, also in Sanskrit, like the Adbhuta Ramayana (1355 verses) the Yogavasistha Ramayana (32,000 verses), the Tattvasangraha Ramayana and the Sangraha Ramayana.

Other Indian languages also have been enriched by the Ramayanas based on Valmiki’s Ramayana or its adaptations. The most famous is Ramacaritamanasa of Tulasidas (in Hindi) the Ramayana of Kamba (in Tamil), the Ramayan of Krttivasa (in Bengali), the Ramacaritam and the Kannassa Ramayanam of Ceraman and Kannassa (in Malayalam), the Ramavatar of Guru Govind Singh (in Punjabi), the Ranganatha Ramayana (in Telugu), the Ramacaritra of Girdhar (in Gujarati), the Saptakanda Ramayana of Sarala Das (in Oriya), the Ramayana of Madhava Kandali (in Assamese) the Torave Ramayana of Narahari (in Kannada) are some of the more well-known Ramayanas in the vernaculars.

Ramayanas outside India:

The story of Rama, either in its original form as de depicted by Valmiki in his Ramayana, or in a metamorphosed form, has travelled widely outside India. The following list of works – by no means exhaustive – gives an idea of this movement:

Ramayana Kakawin (Javanese)

Hikayat Seri Rama (Malaysian)

Ramakien (Thai)

Pha Lak Pha Lam and Khvay Thuaraphi (Laos)

Hobutsushu (Japanese)

Ramasvamedha (Nepali)

Janakiharana (Sinhalese)

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