raamaayaaNa is one of the largest epics in the world, comparable to the Illiad and Odyssey. it originates form bhaarata (india) - the land of king bharata. raamaayaNa is one of the two itihaasa (historical account) scriptures of sanaatana dharma (Hindu-dharma), the other being the mahaabhaarata. It describes events that took place in ancient bhaarata around 7000 BCE (before common era - also known as B.C.) It contains the story of Lord raama the 7th avataara (incarnation) of Lord vishNu in the tretaa yuga (the silver age among the four ages in a mahaayuga which corresponds to a complete cycle of the earth's percession). The puraaNas, raamaayaNa and the bhagavada geeta are considered (both-independently and together) by many as a fifth veda. Among the four most popular sets of Hindu scriptures - the vedas, puraaNas, itihaasas and tantras, the itihaasas (raamaayaNa & mahaabhaarata) are the most popular among Hindus all around the world today. Among the numerous translations of raamaayaNa are shrii raama charita maanasa in avadhii language by tulasidaasa and kamba raamaayaNa in Tamil.
The original raamaayaNa was authored by r^shi (Seer, Sage) vaalmiiki in sanskr^ta. The interesting thing about it is that raamayaNa unfolded AFTER it was written. The incidents that were to happen around the seventh avataara of vishNu were revealed to vaalmiiki before they even took place. Another way of looking at is that vishNu simply played out a role as raama as dictated in the raamaayaNa. The significant thing however is that the role itself was of an ideal human being. r^shi vaalmiiki was originally a robber who later turned into a r^shi of the highest stature. He is credited to be the first human to compose poetry and is given the title aadikavi. Valmiiki himself appears in the raamaayaNa. In the last part of raamaayaNa when siitaa is sent to the forest by raama, it is r^shi vaalmiiki's hermitage where siitaa takes refuge.
raamaayaNa stresses on bhakti yoga - the yoga of devotional love. raama represents the ideal man and siitaaraani the ideal woman. hanumaan is an epitome of a bhakta (devotee) with daasya bhaava (accepting God as the supreme master). Since raamaayaNa is about events in tretaa yuga, when the society was still mature, it represents the best of relationships among humans. Even the raakshasas (roughly translated as demons, but a better translation would be misguided or ignorant beings) of lankaa followed a strict code of conduct. Thus in the raamaayaNa we can find the ideal relationship between father and son in dasharatha & raama as well as in raavaNa and meghanaatha. The ideal couple is represented by raama & siitaa and raavaNa and mandodari. raama and lakshamaNa are the best of brothers and so are bharata and shatrughna. hanumaana and vibhiishaNa are the ideal devotees.
There are some interesting differences between raama and krishNa although both are avataars of vishNu. raama was born and died as a prince and king but lived as an ascetic, krishNa on the other hand was born in a prison and died due to a would caused by a hunters arrow, but He lived as a king all his life. raama exemplifies the ideal human and is most loving and gentle. krishNa on the other hand has the most fun and lovable personality. In the form of raama, vishNu simply plays a part or role already assigned to Him by vaalmiiki whereas as krishNa he reveals that he is God incarnate.
raamayaNa is a religious, spiritual and historical manual. The tulasii raamaayaNa is one of the most popular scriptures authored during the bhakti era in medieval India.
The vaalmiiki raamaayaNa has the following kaanDas (chapters).
itx/iTrans version of the entire raamaayaNa in sanskr^ta.
postscript version of the entire raamaayaNa in sanskr^ta in devanaagri script.
Nov 16, 1999: Please note that these files are from 1995. The detailed pages linked elsewhere in this site have the more recent updated version of the text.