Judging from normal experience, however, it would appear that the story of Rama had been in existence, though not as a written work, long before Valmiki wrote his epic. It looks as though Valmiki gave form to a story that has been handed down from generation to generation." (Rao).
Again, there are various interpretations regarding the birth of Sita Devi. In the version written by Valmiki, it is seen that Janaka found her in a furrow when he was tilling the soil for the purpose of performing Vedic sacrifices. The various versions that Sita was the daughter of (1) Ravana and (2) Mandodari seems to be in line with Valmiki's stylized version of Shadadhara Vidya.
The main differences between the different versions lie in their emphasis on the characters. While in the original Valmiki version, the entire focus is on the characterization of Ram, other versions lay emphasis on the abduction of Sita Devi by the Lankan demon king, Ravan, Rama's war with him and his ultimate victory and repositions of Sita Devi. Therefore, it is believed that while the structure of the epic remains similar among the versions, the emphasis placed on various characters and incidents are differently dealt with, by different authors. It is believed that the Kamban version of the Ramayana in Tamil was compiled during the 11th Century and the Ramcharithmanas during the 16th Century.
There are diverse regional versions both in the Indian sub-continent and outside India. Some of these versions are very different from each other. The celebrated Tamil poet, Kamban, wrote Ramavatharam during the 12th Century, and it is different from the original Valmiki version in that it has restructured many of the incidents to suit the Tamil traditions and way of living. Again, it is seen that in the 16th Century, Ram Charit manas was written by Tulsidas with a lot of emphasis being placed on devotion (Bhakti).
When the propagation of the Ramayana in places outside India is considered, it has been seen that in the Lao language, Phra Lak phra lam 's title come from Lakshman and Ram. The story of the Ramayana has been told as the previous birth of Buddha.
Again some interesting facts regarding Ramayana are visible in Malaysia, where in the Hikayat seri Rama, Dasharth is shown as the great-grandson of Adam and Ravan received boon from Allah, instead of Brahma. (Structure of Valmiki Ramayan).
The idolation of Rama as the hero of the Ramayana is the main element of the Ramayana.
"However, in parts of south India as well as in south-east Asian countries like Indonesia, it is Ravana who is worshipped as a hero. Centuries ago, some oral versions of the Ramayana placed Rama and Sita as siblings! Even after Valmiki penned the first written Ramayana around two millennia ago, various versions were written, sung or told with widely varying plots, characterizations and beliefs." (Mehrotra).
It would be incorrect to believe that these versions were not a true representation of the epic. Different