The Rāmāyana (; Sanskrit: रामायणम्, IAST: Rāmāyaṇam pronounced [raːˈmaːjɐɳɐm]) is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and important text of Hinduism, the other being the Mahābhārata

The epic, traditionally ascribed to the Maharishi Valmiki, narrates the life of Rama, a legendary prince of Ayodhya city in the kingdom of Kosala

The epic follows his fourteen-year exile to the forest urged by his father King Dasharatha, on the request of Rama’s stepmother Kaikeyi; his travels across forests in the Indian subcontinent with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana – the king of Lanka, that resulted in war; and Rama’s eventual return to Ayodhya to be crowned king amidst jubilation and celebration

The Ramayana is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature

It consists of nearly 24,000 verses (mostly set in the Shloka/Anustubh meter), divided into seven kāṇḍas, the first and the seventh being later additions

It belongs to the genre of Itihasa, narratives of past events (purāvṛtta), interspersed with teachings on the goals of human life

Scholars’ estimates for the earliest stage of the text range from the 7th to 4th centuries BCE, with later stages extending up to the 3rd century CE

There are many versions of Ramayana in Indian languages, besides Buddhist, Sikh and Jain adaptations

There are also Cambodian (Reamker), Indonesian, Filipino, Thai (Ramakien), Lao, Burmese and Malay versions of the tale

Retellings include Kamban’s Ramavataram in Tamil (c

11th–12th century), Champu Ramayanam of Bhoja (c

11th century), Gona Budda Reddy’s Ranganatha Ramayanam in Telugu (c

13th century), Madhava Kandali’s Saptakanda Ramayana in Assamese (c

14th century), Krittibas Ojha’s Krittivasi Ramayan (also known as Shri Ram Panchali) in Bengali (c

15th century), Sarala Das’ Vilanka Ramayana (c

15th century) and Balarama Dasa’s Jagamohana Ramayana (also known as the Dandi Ramayana) (c

16th century) both in Odia, sant Eknath’s Bhavarth Ramayan (c

16th century) in Marathi, Tulsidas’ Ramcharitamanas (c

16th century) in Awadhi (which is an eastern form of Hindi) and Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan’s Adhyathmaramayanam in Malayalam (c

 17th century)

The Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture

The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman, and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of the South Asian nations of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the South-East Asian countries of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand

Its most important moral influence was the importance of virtue, in the life of a citizen and in the ideals of the formation of a state or of a functioning society