The Epic...

The story relies on the beliefs of life and death enunciated in the Vedas.  It leads to the view that the Rāmāyaṇa might have been created to popularize the Vedic thoughts. The vividness of narration and the detailed use of geographic locations give the impression that the story could be a historical legend that was recreated as poetic art.  However, the contrary view that the story was a pure myth, is also harbored by many.  The Rāmāyaṇa has been an integral part of India’s cultural fabric for more than two thousand years.  The original Sanskrit version has been rendered into various other languages. It has formed a cultural base in countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.

According to the poet Vālmīki, the context of the story is a description of the life of a “perfect” human, who possesses all necessary skills and is endowed with all noble attributes: he is handsome, heroic, powerful, kind, affectionate, diligent, law-abiding and dutiful, and he lives in society as a family man, and he deals with the tribulations of everyday life. A sketch of the story is presented at the beginning, making the speculation that the main character Rāma could be a legendary figure.  The poet weaves the details of the story by adding characters, events and drama.  The Rāmāyaṇa is considered to be the oldest surviving living cultural tradition in the world.  While its exact time of writing has not been fully established, philological analyses point to an approximate date from the second century BCE to the second century CE.  The poet Vālmīki is recognized as the author of the Sanskrit text.  It is possible that fragments of the story existed as earlier oral renderings in popular literature.  Vālmīki is credited to have woven these into a coherent story with a high class of literary touch.  As in its contemporary Greek epic “Iliad”, Vālmīki uses simple meters, probably to facilitate singing of the poem by bards and singers.  While the “Iliad” tradition has died in Greece, the Rāmāyaṇa story, along with the cultural and the moral beliefs associated with it, continues to live among the people of the Indian subcontinent and the Far East.


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