It has remained a vital story through the present time in India, and is widely accepted as a religious text among Hindus.
The Ramayana is not a single text, but instead is comprised of many texts, as well as oral renditions. According to K. Watanabe, writing in 1907, the earliest record of the Ramayana is a Chinese Buddhist text of disputed date. The most authoritative text of the Ramayana is the Indian epic poem dated between the fourth and the second centuries b.c., and attributed to the Brahmin sage and poet Valmiki. Although Valmiki's historical existence is not firmly established, he is supposed to have written the Ramayana at the request of Rama's banished wife, Sita, as depicted in the Uttara Kanda, the seventh book of the Ramayana, for the benefit of Rama's children, Luv and Kush. Valmiki's text is the forerunner of innumerable written "tellings," a term coined by A. K. Ramajuna in order to convey the authority of every version. Notable among other Ramayana texts is the pre-Christian, Buddhist Dasaratha Jataka, a variant Hindu version attributed to Tulsidas, the Laotian Buddhist Phra Lak/Phra Lam, the twelfth century Cambodian Kampan, and the Thai Ramakirti. There are also the post-eighteenth century Buddhist/Hindu hybrid Ramakien, written by several Thai kings, each with "Rama" included in his royal name, the sixteenth-century Bengali Ramayana Kriitibasa, by Chandravati, and the eighteenth-century Kashmiri Ramayana of Divakar Prakash Bhatt. The many texts reflect the cultures in which they were written and differ from each other in myriad ways, including variances in character, stories, and motives. In 1979, a group of South Asian women presented a feminist, anti-neo-nazi version of the Ramayana in London, and in 1989, an elaborate production of the Ramayana was serialized on Indian television, achieving immense national popularity.
Plot and Major Characters
The Valmiki version of the Ramayana is a long, complex text, composed of nearly fifty thousand verses. There are many separate stories embedded in it, and it exists in many, sometimes contradictory, versions. Despite the importance of other versions, it is this one that is considered the most fundamental. According to this narrative in the Ayodhya Kanda, the second book of the epic, when Dasaratha of Ayodhya chooses his son Rama as his successor, Kaikeyi, one of his three wives, implores him to make her son, Bharata, king. Dasaratha, having previously given