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Hindu Scriptures (Part e) Ramayana: Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism…

Some Interesting Questions about  Hinduism… (Part 6e) 

Ramayana

The scriptures that appeared after the Vedas and Upnishads fall under the category of smriti ‘remembrance’. Smriti literature includes Puranas, historical epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, Agamas,  Darshanas and Dharmashastras (law books)

The Ramayana is certainly one of the world’s oldest legends. Modern scholars claim that it was first composed around 300 BC. The devout Hindu believes that Rama lived many hundred millennia ago, in the treta yuga, and that was also when Valmiki first told his immortal story. The epic is called the Adi Kavya, the world’s first poem. The God Brahma himself is meant to have inspired Valmiki to create his classic, in twenty-four thousand slokas. The true purpose of the Ramayana is to awaken its reader spiritually, and to send him forth on the great journey that leads to Moksha, to God.

Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is one of most popular deities worshipped in the Hindu religion. Every year, the story of Ramayan is elaborately dramatized across North India in each small and big town and localities during the Navratras, culminating in the Dushehra festival, the day when Rama kills the demon king Ravana. The poem is not seen as just a literary monument, but serves as an integral part of Hinduism, and is held in such reverence that the mere reading or hearing of it, or certain passages of it, is believed by Hindus to free them from sin and bless the reader or listener. According to Hindu tradition, Rama is an incarnation of the God Vishnu. The main purpose of this incarnation is to demonstrate the righteous path (dharma) for all living creatures on earth.

Historian H D Sankalia, basing his assumption on description of geographies in the scritpture, proposed a date of 4th century BC for the composition of the text of Ramayana whereas another expert A L Basham, is of the opinion that Rama may have been a minor chief who lived in the 8th or the 7th century BC. By Hindu tradition, the scripture belongs to the Treta Yuga, second of the four eons ‘yuga’ of Hindu chronology. Rama is said to have been born in the Treta Yuga to King Dasaratha in the Ikshvaku vansh ‘clan’.

Traditionally, the Ramayana is attributed to Valmiki. Maharishi Valmiki, the writer of Ramayana and a contemporary of lord Rama, has described in 3 shlokas the positions of planets at the time of birth of Lord Rama. The Hindu tradition is unanimous in its agreement that the poem is the work of a single poet, the sage Valmiki, a contemporary of Rama and a peripheral actor in the drama. The story’s original version in Sanskrit is known as Valmiki Ramayana, dating to approximately the 5th to 4th century BCE. While it is often viewed as a primarily devotional scripture, the Vaishnav elements appear to be later accretions possibly dating to the 2nd century BCE or later. In its extant form, Valmiki’s Ramayana is an epic poem of some 50,000 lines. The text survives in several thousand partial and complete manuscripts, the oldest of which appears to date from the 11th century CE.

The main body of the narrative lacks statements of Rama’s divinity, and identifications of Rama with Vishnu are rare and subdued even in the later parts of the text. According to Hindu tradition, and Ramayana itself, it belongs to the genre of historical epic, like the Mahabharata.

The oldest preserved manuscript of Valmiki’s Ramayana was written in Nepal alphabets in 1401. The text has several regional versions. Famous retellings include the Ramayanam of Kamban in Tamil (11th – 12th century), the Saptakanda Ramayana of Madhava Kandali in Assamese (14th century), Shri Rama Panchali or Krittivasi Ramayan by Krittibas Ojha in Bengali (15th century), Bhavarth Ramayan by sant Eknath in Marathi, (16th century), Ramcharitamanas by Tulsidas in Awadhi, which is an eastern form of Hindi (16th century) and Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilippattu by Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan in Malayalam.

Primary Characters

  • Rama: Main protagonists of the tale, portrayed as the seventh avatar of the God Vishnu, he is the eldest and favourite son of the King of Ayodhya (current day Ayodhya, India), Dasharatha, and his Queen Kausalya. He is portrayed as the epitome of virtue. Dasharatha is forced by Kaikeyi, one of his wives, to command Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile.

Rama

  • Sita:  Representing female form of God, reincarnation of Goddess Lakshmi in human form. The beloved wife of Rama and the daughter of king Janaka. Rama went to Mithila (current day Janakpur, Bihar, India/Nepal), and got a chance to marry her by lifting a heavy Bow in a competition organised by King Janaka. The competition was to find the most suitable husband for Sita and many princes from different states competed to win her. Sita is the avatar of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu. Sita is portrayed as the epitome of female purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and is abducted by Ravana. She is imprisoned on the island of Lanka until Rama rescues her by defeating the demon king Ravana. Later, she gives birth to Lava and Kusha, the heirs of Rama.

Sita

  • Hanuman:  One of the most critical characters of Ramayana, one of the most beloved god in India even today, Hanuman is in the form of vanara (monkey) belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. In some versions, (other than Valmiki’s) he is portrayed as the eleventh avatar of God Shiva (He is also called Rudra) and an ideal bhakta of Rama. He is born as the son of Kesari, a vanara king, and the Goddess Anjana. He plays an important part in locating Sita and in the ensuing battle. He is believed to live until our modern world.

Hanuman1

  • Lakshmana: The younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile with him. He is the son of King Dasaratha and Queen Sumitra, and twin of Shatrughna. Lakshmana is portrayed as an avatar of the Shesha, the nāga associated with the God Vishnu. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama during which he fought the demoness Surpanakha. He is forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon Maricha into believing that Rama was in trouble. Sita is abducted by Ravana upon him leaving her. He was married to Sita’s younger sister Urmila.

Ram Lakshman and Sita

  • Ravana: A rakshasa (demon), he is the king of Lanka (current day Sri Lanka). After performing severe penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the creator-God Brahma: he could henceforth not be killed by Gods, demons, or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king who disturbs the penances of Rishis. Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.

Ravana

  • Jatayu:  The son of Aruna and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the form of an vulture that tries to rescue Sita from Ravana. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old, Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them the direction in which Ravana had gone.

Jatayu

  • Dasharatha:  The king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has three queens, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, and three other sons: Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha’s favourite queen, forces him to make his son Bharata crown prince and send Rama into exile. Dasharatha dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.

King-Dasaratha

  • Bharata:  Younger son of Dasharatha from his most beloved Queen Kaikeyi. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi had forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharatha to die brokenhearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama in the forest. When Rama refuses to return from his exile to assume the throne, Bharata obtains Rama’s sandals, and places them on the throne as a gesture that Rama is the true king. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as the regent of Rama for the next fourteen years. He was married to Mandavi.

Bharat

  • Satrughna:  Son of Dasharatha and his third wife, Queen Sumitra. He is the youngest brother of Rama and also the twin brother of Lakshmana. He was married to Shrutakirti.
  • Sugriva: A vanara (monkey) king who helped Rama regain Sita from Ravana. He had an agreement with Rama through which Baali – Sugriva’s brother and king of Kishkindha-would be killed by Rama in exchange for Sugriva’s help in finding Sita. Sugriva ultimately ascends the throne of Kishkindha after the slaying of Baali, and fulfils his promise by putting the Vanara forces at Rama’s disposal
  • Indrajit: Son of Ravana who twice defeated Lakshmana in battle, before succumbing to him the third time. An adept of the magical arts, he coupled his supreme fighting skills with various stratagems to inflict heavy losses on the Vanara army before his death.

Indrajit

  • Kumbhakarna: Brother of Ravana, famous for his eating and sleeping. He would sleep for months at a time and would be extremely ravenous upon waking up, consuming anything set before him. His monstrous size and loyalty made him an important part of Ravana’s army. During the war, he decimated the Vanara army before Rama cut off his limbs and head.

kumbhakarna

  • Surpanakha: Ravana’s demoness sister who fell in love with Rama, and had the magical power to take any form she wanted.

Surpanaka

  • Vibhishana:  Younger brother of Ravana. He was against the kidnapping of Sita, and joined the forces of Rama when Ravana refused to return her. His intricate knowledge of Lanka was vital in the war, and he was crowned king after the fall of Ravana.

Vibhishana

The Epic is traditionally divided into several major kandas or books, that deal chronologically with the major events in the life of Rama.

  • 1.  Bala Kanda (Book of childhood)
    • The origins and childhood of Rama, born to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya and destined to fight demons. Sita‘s swayamvara and subsequent wedding to Rama.
      • Dasharatha was the king of Ayodhya. He had three queens Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. He was childless for a long time and, anxious to produce an heir, he performs a fire sacrifice known as Putra-Kameshti Yagya. As a consequence, Rama is first born to Kausalya, Bharata is born to Kaikeyi, and Lakshmana and Shatrughna are born to Sumitra. These sons are endowed, to various degrees, with the essence of the God Vishnu; Vishnu had opted to be born into mortality to combat the demon Ravana, who was oppressing the Gods, and who could only be destroyed by a mortal.The boys are reared as the princes of the realm, receiving instructions from the scriptures and in warfare.
      • When Rama is 16 years old, the sage Vishwamitra comes to the court of Dasharatha in search of help against demons, who were disturbing sacrificial rites. He chooses Rama, who is followed by Lakshmana, his constant companion throughout the story.
      • Rama and Lakshmana receive instructions and supernatural weapons from Vishwamitra, and proceed to destroy the demons.
      • Janaka was the king of Mithila. One day, a female child was found in the field by the king in the deep furrow dug by his plough. Overwhelmed with joy, the king regarded the child as a “miraculous gift of God”. The child was named Sita, the Sanskrit word for furrow. Sita grew up to be a girl of unparalleled beauty and charm.
      • When Sita was of marriageable age, the king decided to have a swayamvara which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the God Shiva: whoever could wield the bow could marry Sita. The sage Vishwamitra attends the swayamvara with Rama and Lakshmana. Only Rama wields the bow and breaks it. Marriages are arranged between the sons of Dasharatha and daughters of Janaka. Rama gets married to Sita, Lakshmana to Urmila, Bharata to Mandavi and Shatrughan to Shrutakirti.
      • The weddings are celebrated with great festivity at Mithila and the marriage party returns to Ayodhya.
  • 2. Ayodhya Kanda (Book of Ayodhya)
    • The preparations for Rama’s coronation in the city of Ayodhya, his exile into the forest, and the regency of Bharata.
      • After Rama and Sita have been married for twelve years, an elderly Dasharatha expresses his desire to crown Rama, to which the Kosala assembly and his subjects express their support. On the eve of the great event, Kaikeyi – her jealousy aroused by Manthara, a wicked maidservant – claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her. Kaikeyi demands Rama to be exiled into wilderness for 14 years, while the succession passes to her son Bharata. The heartbroken king, constrained by his rigid devotion to his given word, accedes to Kaikeyi’s demands.
      • Rama accepts his father’s reluctant decree with absolute submission and calm self-control which characterises him throughout the story. He is joined by Sita and Lakshmana. After Rama’s departure, king Dasharatha, unable to bear the grief, passes away.
      • Meanwhile, Bharata who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns about the events in Ayodhya. Bharata refuses to profit from his mother’s wicked scheming and visits Rama in the forest. He requests Rama to return and rule. But Rama, determined to carry out his father’s orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile.
      • However, Bharata carries Rama’s sandals, and keeps them on the throne, while he rules as Rama’s regent.
  • 3. Aranya Kanda (Book of the forest)
    • The forest life of Rama with Sita and Lakshmana, his constant companion. The kidnapping of Sita by the demon king Ravana.
      • Rama, Sita and Lakshmana journeyed southward along the banks of river Godavari, where they built cottages and lived off the land. At the Panchavati forest they are visited by a rakshasa woman, Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana. She attempts to seduce the brothers and, failing in this, attempts to kill Sita. Lakshmana stops her by cutting off her nose and ears. Hearing of this, her demon brother, Khara, organises an attack against the princes. Rama annihilates Khara and his demons.
      • When news of these events reaches Ravana, he resolves to destroy Rama by capturing Sita with the aid of the rakshasa Maricha. Maricha, assuming the form of a golden deer, captivates Sita’s attention. Entranced by the beauty of the deer, Sita pleads with Rama to capture it. Lord Rama, aware that this is the play of the demons, is unable to dissuade Sita from her desire and chases the deer into the forest, leaving Sita under Lakshmana’s guard. After some time Sita hears Rama calling out to her; afraid for his life she insists that Lakshmana rush to his aid. Lakshmana tries to assure her that Rama is invincible, and that it is best if he continues to follow Rama’s orders to protect her. On the verge of hysterics Sita insists that it is not she but Rama who needs Lakshmana’s help. He obeys her wish but stipulates that she is not to leave the cottage or entertain any strangers. He draws a chalk outline, the Lakshmana rekha around the cottage and casts a spell on it that prevents anyone from entering the boundary but allows people to exit. Finally with the coast clear, Ravana appears in the guise of an ascetic requesting Sita’s hospitality. Unaware of the devious plan of her guest, Sita is tricked into leaving the rekha and then forcibly carried away by the evil Ravana.
      • Jatayu, a vulture, tries to rescue Sita, but is mortally wounded. At Lanka Sita is kept under the heavy guard of rakshasis. Ravana demands Sita marry him, but Sita, eternally devoted to Rama, refuses.
      • Rama and Lakshmana learn about Sita’s abduction from Jatayu, and immediately set out to save her.[45] During their search, they meet the demon Kabandha and the ascetic Shabari, who direct them towards Sugriva and Hanuman.
  • 4.Kishkindha Kanda (Book of the monkey kingdom)
    • Rama meets Hanuman and helps destroy the monkey people’s king, Baali, making Baali’s younger brother, Sugriva, king of Kishkindha instead.
      • The Kishkindha Kanda is set in the monkey citadel Kishkindha. Rama and Lakshmana meet Hanuman, the greatest of monkey heroes and an adherent of Sugriva, the banished pretender to the throne of Kishkindha.
      • Rama befriends Sugriva and helps him by killing his elder brother Vali thus regaining the kingdom of Kiskindha, in exchange for helping Rama to recover Sita. However Sugriva soon forgets his promise and spends his time in debauchery. The clever monkey Queen Tara, second wife of Sugriva (initially wife of Vali), calmly intervenes to prevent an enraged Lakshmana from destroying the monkey citadel. She then eloquently convinces Sugriva to honour his pledge.
      • Sugriva sends search parties to the four corners of the earth, only to return without success from north, east and west. The southern search party under the leadership of Angad and Hanuman learns from a vulture named Sampati that Sita was taken to Lanka.
  • 5. Sundara Kanda (Book of beauty)
    • Detailed accounts of Hanuman’s adventures, including his meeting with Sita. Traditionally read first when reading the Ramayana, this book’s name derives from the fond name given to Hanuman by his mother.
      • The Sundara Kanda forms the heart of Valmiki’s Ramayana and consists of a detailed, vivid account of Hanuman’s adventures. After learning about Sita, Hanuman assumes a gargantuan form and makes a colossal leap across the ocean to Lanka. Here, Hanuman explores the demon’s city and spies on Ravana. He locates Sita in Ashoka grove, who is wooed and threatened by Ravana and his rakshasis to marry Ravana. He reassures her, giving Rama’s signet ring as a sign of good faith. He offers to carry Sita back to Rama, however she refuses, reluctant to allow herself to be touched by a male other than her husband. She says that Rama himself must come and avenge the insult of her abduction.
      • Hanuman then wreaks havoc in Lanka by destroying trees and buildings, and killing Ravana’s warriors. He allows himself to be captured and produced before Ravana. He gives a bold lecture to Ravana to release Sita. He is condemned and his tail is set on fire, but he escapes his bonds and, leaping from roof to roof, sets fire to Ravana’s citadel and makes the giant leap back from the island. The joyous search party returns to Kishkindha with the news.
  • 6. Yuddha Kanda (Book of war) also known as Lanka Kanda
    • The battle in Lanka between the monkey and the demon armies of Rama and Ravana, respectively. After Ravana is defeated, Sita undergoes the test of fire, completes exile with Rama, and they return to Ayodhya to reign over the Ideal State.
      • This book describes the battle between the army of Rama, constructed with the help of Sugriv, and Ravana. Having received Hanuman’s report on Sita, Rama and Lakshmana proceed with their allies towards the shore of the southern sea. There they are joined by Ravana’s renegade brother Vibhishana. The monkeys named “Nal” and “Neel” construct a floating bridge (known as Rama Setu, physical evidence still existing and a major law suit currently going on in Indian Supreme Court to confirm or deny its historical importance) across the ocean, and the princes and their army cross over to Lanka. A lengthy battle ensues and Rama kills Ravana. Rama then installs Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka.
      • The monkeys (vanars) who had fought for Lord Rama had entered the throne room. The palace guards struck them to move them out. This angered Lord Rama. He said these are my people. Let them be. Rama orders Sita to be brought to him in open court.
      • To the great dismay of all present, he treats her coldly. Valmiki mentions that Rama is ‘afraid of how vulgar people talk’ and this factors in his behaviour. Still what he says is very shocking – that he only fought the battle in the cause of righteousness. He will not take Sita back because she has been the property of another man. She can marry some other Prince- including one of his brothers or the new King of Lanka. Or else she can go where she likes.
      • Grief-stricken Sita gives him a fitting reply. She reveals that her true birth is Divine and causing a pyre to be built up, herself enters the fire as proof of her Virtue.
      • Rama’s silence and inaction during this horrendous event shocks and paralyses everybody. However, Sita’s self-imposed trial by fire triggers the appearance of the Heavenly Gods who explain the Divine nature of Lord Rama and Lord Sita and their true relationship. Sita is restored to Ram and he also meets his Father who has attained Heavenly Bliss. Ram asks for and is granted the restoration to life of all his humble followers slain in battle. It is noteworthy, in Valmiki’s account, that though mistreatment of the monkey people (who symbolise the ordinary devotees of the Lord) first causes him to flare up with anger and order Sita to be brought before him in open court – thus affording the devotee a ‘darshan’  of  ‘Divine Mother’ but, at the same time, Lord Ram is said to feel fear because of how vulgar people speak and the sort of prejudices they harbour, during his speech to Sita. This shows once again that the common people, ordinary devotees with all their imperfections, remain closest to his heart.
      • One final point, but for Ram’s cold and unfeeling behaviour to Sita, she would not have chosen to enter the fire. However, it was that act which triggered the appearance of the Gods. Once again, Ram shows his over-riding concern for his humble devotees by asking that the lives of his slain followers be restored.
      • Departing from Valmiki, in popular culture, this episode is dealt with differently. There, on meeting Sita, Rama asks her to undergo an “agni pariksha” (test of fire) to prove her purity, as he wanted to get rid of the rumours surrounding Sita’s purity. When Sita plunges into the sacrificial fire, Agni the lord of fire raises Sita, unharmed, to the throne, attesting to her purity.
      • The episode of agni pariksha varies in the versions of Ramayana by Valmiki and Tulsidas. The above version is from Valmiki Ramayana. In Tulsidas’s Ramacharitamanas Sita was under the protection of Agni so it was necessary to bring her out before reuniting with Rama. At the expiration of his term of exile, Rama returns to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana, where the coronation is performed. This is the beginning of Ram Rajya, which implies an ideal state with good morals.
  • 7. Uttara Kanda (Last Book)
    • Rumors of impurity lead to Sita’s banishment, during which she gives birth to and raises Lava and Kusha. Rama and Sita reconcile. The twin boys later ascend the throne of Ayodhya, after which Rama departs from the world.
      • The Uttara Kanda is regarded to be a later addition to the original story by Valmiki and concerns the final years of Rama, Sita, and Rama’s brothers. After being crowned king, many years passed pleasantly with Sita. However, despite the Agni Pariksha (fire ordeal) of Sita, rumours about her purity are spreading among the populace of Ayodhya.
      • Rama yields to public opinion and reluctantly banishes Sita to the forest, where sage Valmiki provides shelter in his ashrama (hermitage). Here she gives birth to twin boys, Lava and Kusha, who became pupils of Valmiki and are brought up in ignorance of their identity.
      • Valmiki composes the Ramayana and teaches Lava and Kusha to sing it. Later, Rama holds a ceremony during Ashwamedha yagna, which the sage Valmiki, with Lava and Kusha, attends. Lava and Kusha sing the Ramayana in the presence of Rama and his vast audience. When Lava and Kusha recite about Sita’s exile, Rama becomes grievous, and Valmiki produces Sita.
      • Sita calls upon the Earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opens, she vanishes into it. Rama then learns that Lava and Kusha are his children. Later a messenger from the Gods appears and informs Rama that the mission of his incarnation was over. Rama returns to his celestial abode.

Various Versions of Ramayana

As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the Ramayana survive. In particular, the Ramayana related in North India differs in important respects from that preserved in South India and the rest of South-East Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the Ramayana in Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. There are more than 300 versions of Ramayana – the story of Rama.

  • Buddhist version
    • In the Buddhist variant of Ramayana, Dasaratha was the king of Benares and not Ayodhya. Rama and Lakshmana were the siblings born to the first wife of Dasaratha. To protect his children from his second wife, the king sent the three in exile to the Himalayas. Twelve years later,the trio came back to the kingdom with Rama and Sita ruling as consorts. The abduction of Sita did not find a place in this version.
  • Sikh Version
    • In Guru Granth Sahib, there is description of two types of Ramayana. One is spiritual Ramayana which is actual subject of Guru Granth Sahib, in which Ravan is Ego, Seeta is Budhi (Intellect), Raam is Inner Soul and Laxman is Mann (Attention, Mind). Guru Granth Sahib also believes in existence of Dasavtara who were Kings of their times which tried their best to bring revolution in the world. King Ramchandra was one of those and It is not covered in Guru Granth Sahib.
    • The other version of Ramayana was written by Guru Gobind Singh, which is part of Dasam Granth, Guru Gobind Singh explained that he does not believe Ramchandra as reincarnation of Divine  God. He is equating Ramchandra with a common man.
  • Jain version
    • Jain version of Ramayana can be found in the various Jain agamas like Padmapurana (story of Padmaja & Rama, Padmaja being the name of Seeta ), Hemacandra’s Trisastisalakapurusa Caritra (hagiography of 63 illustrious persons), Sanghadasa’s Vasudevahindi and Uttarapurana by Gunabhadara. According to Jain cosmology, every half time cycle has nine sets of Balarama, Vasudeva and Prativasudeva. Rama, Lakshmana and Ravana are the eighth Baladeva, Vasudeva, and Prativasudeva respectively. Padmanabh Jaini notes that, unlike in the Hindu Puranas, the names Baladeva and Vasudeva are not restricted to Balarama and Krishna in Jain puranas. Instead they serve as names of two distinct class of mighty brothers, who appear nine times in each half time cycle and jointly rule the half the earth as half-chakravartins. Jaini traces the origin of this list of brothers to the Jinacharitra (lives of the Jinas) by Acharya Bhadrabahu (3–4th century BCE).
    • In the Jain epic of Ramayana, it is Lakshmana who ultimately kills Ravana and not Rama as told in the Hindu version. In the end, Rama who lead an upright life renounces his kingdom, becomes a Jain monk and attains moksha. On the other hand, Lakshmana and Ravana go to hell. However, it is predicted that ultimately they both will be reborn as upright persons and attain liberation in their future births. According to Jain texts, Ravana will be the future Tirthankara (omniscient teacher) of Jainism.
    • The Jain versions has some variations from Valmiki’s Ramayana. Dasharatha, the king of Saketa had four queens: Aparajita, Sumitra, Suprabha and Kaikeyi. These four queens had four sons. Aparajita’s son was Padma, and he became known by the name of Rama. Sumitra’s son was Narayana: he became to be known by another name, Lakshmana. Kaikeyi’s son was Bharata and Suprabha’s son was Shatrughna.
    • Furthermore, not much was thought of Rama’s fidelity to Sita. According to Jain version, Rama had four chief-queens: Maithili, Prabhavati, Ratinibha, and Sridama. Furthermore, Sita takes renunciation as a Jain ascetic after Rama abandons her and is reborn in Heaven. Rama, after Lakshmana’s death, also renounces his kingdom and becomes a Jain monk. Ultimately, he attains Kevala Jnana omniscience and finally liberation. Rama predicts that Ravana and Lakshmana, who were in fourth hell, will attain liberation in their future births. Accordingly, Ravana is the future Tirthankara of next half ascending time cycle and Sita will be his Ganadhara.
  • Nepalese Version
    • Besides being the site of discovery of the oldest surviving manuscript of Ramayana, Nepal gave rise to two regional variants in mid 19th-early 20th century. One, written by Bhanubhakta Acharya, is considered the first epic of Nepali language, while the other, written by Siddhidas Mahaju in Nepal Bhasa was a foundational influence in the renaissance of that language.
  • Other Southeast Asian versions
    • Many other Asian cultures have adapted the Ramayana, resulting in other national epics.
    • In Indonesia, Kakawin Ramayana is an old Javanese rendering; Yogesvara Ramayana is attributed to the scribe Yogesvara circa 9th century CE, who was employed in the court of the Medang in Central Java. It has 2774 stanzas in manipravala style, a mixture of Sanskrit and Kawi language. The most influential version of the Ramayana is the Ravanavadham of Bhatti, popularly known as Bhattikavya.
      • The Javanese Ramayana differs markedly from the original Hindu prototype. The 9th century Javanese Kakawin Ramayana has become the reference of Ramayana in the neighbouring island of Bali. The bas reliefs of Ramayana and Krishnayana scenes is carved on balustrades wall of 9th century Prambanan temples in Yogyakarta.
      • In Indonesia, Ramayana has been integrated into local culture especially those of Javanese, Balinese and Sundanese, and has become the source of moral and spiritual guidance as well as aesthetic expression and also entertainment. Cultural performances such as Wayang shadow puppet and traditional dances often took their story from Ramayana.
      • In Bali as well as in Java, the dances based on the episode of Ramayana often performed in temples such as Prambanan in Java and Pura in Bali.
    • Phra Lak Phra Lam is a Lao language version, whose title comes from Lakshmana and Rama. The story of Lakshmana and Rama is told as the previous life of the Buddha.
    • In Hikayat Seri Rama of Malaysia, Dasharatha is the great-grandson of the Prophet Adam. Ravana receives boons from Allah instead of Brahma. In many Malay language versions, Lakshmana is given greater importance than Rama.
    • The Cambodian version of Ramayana, the Reamker, is the most famous story of Khmer Literature since the Funan era. It adapts the Hindu concepts to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the world. The Reamker has several differences from the original Ramayana, including scenes not included in the original and emphasis on Hanuman and Sovanna Maccha, a retelling which influences the Thai and Lao versions. Reamker in Cambodia is not confined to the realm of literature but extends to all Cambodian art forms, such as sculpture, Khmer classical dance, theatre known as Lakhorn Luang (the foundation of the royal ballet), poetry and the mural and bas reliefs seen at the Silver Pagoda and Angkor wat.
    • Thailand’s popular national epic Ramakien is derived from the Hindu epic. In Ramakien, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Mandodari (Thotsakan and Montho). Vibhisana (Phiphek), the astrologer brother of Ravana, predicts calamity from the horoscope of Sita. Ravana has her thrown into the water, who, later, is picked by Janaka (Chanok). While the main story is identical to that of the Ramayana, many other aspects were transposed into a Thai context, such as the clothes, weapons, topography, and elements of nature, which are described as being Thai in style. It has an expanded role for Hanuman and he is portrayed as a lascivious character. Ramakien can be seen in an elaborate illustration at Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
    • Other Southeast Asian adaptations include Ramakavaca of Bali (Indonesia), Maharadia Lawana and Darangen of Mindanao (Philippines), and the Yama Zatdaw of Myanmar.
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