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RAMAYANA - The Summary of Great Indian Epic in a Nutshell

Updated on April 8, 2017

Rama Sita Coronation

Rama Sita Coronation
Rama Sita Coronation | Source

The Ramayana - The Great Indian Epic

Ramayana, the oldest and most popular epic of Indian sub continent, is written by Valmiki, who is also known as the first poet. It is written in Sanskrit, one of the earliest Indo – European languages, and it has 2400 couplets in seven Kandas (sections). Historians have estimated that the epic was written around fifth century B.C. Ramayana has a number of versions which exist in different parts of Southeast Asia.

The incidents narrated in Ramayana was taken place in the Treta yuga. Ayodhya was ruled by the king Dasaratha of Solar dynasty. Kaushalya, Sumithra and Kaikeyi were his queens. By the blessing of a great sage, he got four sons: Rama, of Kausalya; Bharatha of Kaikeyi; Lakshmana and Shatrughna of Sumitra.

All of the princes were educated in arts and in the use of all types of weapons. They lived amicably as a model for brotherly affection. Sage Vishwamitra came to the court of Dasaratha for the help of Rama to protect the sages from the attack of Asuras and Rakshasas (demons). The king agreed after some hesitation. Lakshmana also followed Rama in his mission.

Sage Viswamitra taught them many hymns by which they got immense power to use against the Asuras. They could defeat and kill a large number of Asuras and protect the sages as desired by Viswamitra.

Rama and Hanuman

Rama and Hanuman
Rama and Hanuman | Source

The kingdom of Mithila was ruled by king Janaka who was a saintly king. He had a daughter named Sita whom he got while ploughing the field and so she was considered as the daughter of the mother earth. As while she was a child, she had moved the bow of Lord Siva and so Janaka took the decision that only the youth who could string the bow, would be allowed to marry her. Sage Viswamitra knew that vow of the king and he decided to seek the hand of Sita for Rama. Rama broke the bow when he was trying to string it. Rama married Sita and the returned to Ayodhya happily.

King Dasaratha decided to hand over the kingdom to his eldest son, Rama, as per the custom of the country. The king arranged a ceremony to crown him. But at this juncture, an unfortunate issue arose. Kaikeyi, his second wife, armed with the king's earlier promise that she would be given whatever she wanted, for, she had saved the king from an accident, demanded to make Baratha, her son, the king. When this drama was unfolded, both Bharata and Shatrughna were at their grand father's house.


The king was in a dilemma. Rama saved the king by agreeing himself for Kaikeyi's wishes. Kaikeyi had raised another demand that Rama should live in forest for fourteen years. Rama had not any hesitation to agree for that demand also. Lakshmana and Sita followed him to the forest. The heart broken king Dasaratha died very soon.


When Bharata and Shatrughna returned to Ayodhya, they were shocked on the painful incidents. Bharatha rejected the throne and went to the forest to request Rama to come back and rule the country. Rama told him that he could not violate the word given to his father. Bharatha looked after the affairs of Ayodhya in the name of Rama without entering the royal court or sitting in the throne. He put Rama's chapels on the throne and considered it as the presence of his elder brother.

Hanuman slaying demons on each side

Hanuman slaying demons on each side
Hanuman slaying demons on each side | Source

Ravana, the Asura (demon) king, came to know about the presence of Rama and Lakshmana in the forest. He was looking for chance to take revenge for the killing of his men by them. He had another wound to heal. Lakshmana had humiliated his sister when she requested him to marry her. Ravana with the Help of Maricha , an Asura who knew many charms and magic, abducted Sita and took her to Lanka.


Rama got the help of Vanaras (monkey people) in his search for Sita. It was the Hanuman, the son of God of air and a monkey woman, entered into Lanka, the land of Asuras and met her.


When Rama's all attempts for a peaceful settlement failed, finally the war began. In the disastrous war, Rama killed the Ravana, the Asura king. He made Vibhishana, Ravana's righteous brother, the ruler of that country and returned to Ayodhya. Sita united with her husband. By that time, the fourteen years were over and he returned to his kingdom happily.

Sita Abduction

Sita Abduction
Sita Abduction | Source

The story took a sad turn thereafter. A section of the public had begun to doubt about the chastity of Sita as she had to stay in the Ravana's kingdom. Rama was not ready to live with Sita with the doubt of chastity. Sita had to perform a fire ordeal to prove her chastity. When she entered into the pyre, the fire God appeared and said she was absolutely sinless.


Rama became happy as the chastity of his wife was proved. He thought the public would not blame him any more on that issue. But what happened was otherwise. The public was not satisfied with this also. Finally Rama decided to abandon her in the forest to keep up his high moral character. He thought that a ruler should be above all blames.

It was Lakshmana to do the task. He disclosed the truth to Sita when they reached in the middle of the forest with great sorrow. The Valmiki Rishi, the author of Ramayana, took her to his ashram. Sita delivered twin boys: they were named as Lava and Kusa. They were taught by Valmiki. He taught his great epic poem to them.

Kusa and Lava happened to recite Ramayana when Rama was conducting Asvamedha, from which he came to know the identity of Lava and Kusa. He asked to bring Sita to there. The Gods and Valmiki were present there. Rama said he believed Sita was faultless and Kusa and Lava were his sons. He told them what he had done was to end the public censure. He added “I am convinced that Sita is pure but I will be happy only when her chastity is established before the world.”


It was more than Sita could bear. She asked mother earth to take her. The mother earth appeared from a rift of earth, and took her to the Patala.

Sita's Ordeal by Fire

Sita's Ordeal by Fire
Sita's Ordeal by Fire | Source

Ramayana - Religious Significance

The epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata are the sacred scriptures of of the masses. They turn to these great books for solace and inspiration when they are in sorrow or despair. The characters mentioned in them have become legendary heroes and some of them are actually worshipped as the various incarnations of God himself.

Ramayana - Literary and Cultural Significance

Ramayana is not only a mere epic poem of India, also a religious book which is a source of of inspiration for millions of people. It is a source of a large number of books in a number of languages of India and South East Asia. Their music, dance, poetry, drama, sculpture etc. also derive their inspiration from it.

Ramayana - Historical Significance

History and mythology is intermingled in Ramayana. Some historians put forward a view that Rama belongs to the Aryan race who entered into India as invader and Ravana is the leader of the earlier inhabitants and non - Aryans of the country. The victory of Rama over Ravana is considered as the victory of Aryans over non – Aryans. By the time of Mahabharata the arynisation was more or less completed.

Ramayana - Historians Divergent Views

V A Smith : “The poem – Ramayana - seems to me to be essentially a work of imagination probably founded on vague traditions of the Kingdom of Kosala and Its capital Ayodhya.”



Jacobi and Macdonell: The epics are based on Mythology and their heroes and heroines are not historical figures.



Ramayana Part I

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Main Characters of Ramayana

Dasarath : Famous king of Solar dynasty. He had three wives and four sons including Rama.

Kaikeyi : Dasarath's wife. Rama was her son.

Kausalya: Dasarath's wife. Baratha was her son.

Sumitra : Dasarath's wife. Lakshmana and Sathrugnan were her sons.

Janaka : King of Mithila. Sita was his Daughter.

Viswamitra : Famous sage. He taught Rama many Hymns by which he got immense power.

Rama : the central character of Ramayana. He was incarnation of God Vishnu, the preserver of the world.

Baratha : Rama's brother. His mother Kaikeyi caused much turmoil in Ayodhya.

Ravana : King of Lanka. He abducted Sita which led to the War between Rama and Ravana in which Ravana was killed.

Hanuman : the son of the air-god and a monkey woman. He had a great role in the success of Rama in the war.

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