Posted: 09 December 2006 at 9:22am
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The Rmya?a (Devangar: ??????) is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the poet Valmiki and is an important part of the Hindu canon (sm?ti). The name Rmya?a is a tatpurusha compound of Rma and ayana "going, advancing", translating to "the travels of Rma". The Rmya?a consists of 24,000 verses in seven cantos (k??as) and tells the story of a prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Rkshasa) king of Lanka, Rvana. In its current form, the Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BC to 100 BC, or about co-eval to early versions of the Mahabhrata. As with most traditional epics, since it has gone through a long process of interpolations and redactions, it is impossible to date it accurately. The Rmyana had an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry, primarily through its establishment of the Sloka meter. But, like its epic cousin Mahbhrata, the Rmyana is not just an ordinary story. It contains the teachings of ancient Hindu sages and presents them through allegory in narrative and the interspersion of the philosophical and the devotional. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanumn and Rvana (the villain of the piece) are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India.
One of the most important literary works on ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The story of Rama also inspired a large amount of later-day literature in various languages, notable among which are the works of the sixteenth century Hindi poet Tulsidas and the Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century.
The Ramayana is not just a Hindu religious tale. Starting from the 8th century, the colonisation of Southeast Asia by Indians began. Several large empires like the Khmers, the Majapahits, the Sailendras, the Champas and Sri Vijaya were established. Because of this, the Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia and manifested itself in text, temple architecture and performance, particularly in Indonesia (Java, Sumatra, Bali and Borneo), Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, vietnam.