Ramayana (Samskrit: रामायणम्, Rāmāyaṇam) is an ancient epic poem, originally written by Valmiki, which narrates the history of Lord Rama's activities in the world. Along with the Mahabharata, it is called the itihasa (Samskrit: इतिहास), which forms the Smriti (Samskrit: स्मृति) part of the Prasthantrayi.
The Ramayana is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. It consists of nearly 24,000 verses (mostly set in the Shloka meter), divided into seven Kandas and about 500 sargas (chapters). Lord Ramacandra was ordered by His father, Maharaja Dasaratha, to leave home for the forest under awkward circumstances, and the Lord, as the ideal son of His father, carried out the order, even on the occasion of His being declared the King of Ayodhya. One of His younger brothers, Laksmanaji, desired to go with Him, and so also His eternal wife, Sitaji, desired to go with Him. The Lord agreed to both of them, and all together they entered the Dandakaranya forest, to live there for fourteen years. During their stay in the forest, Ravana kidnapped the Lord Ramachandra's wife, Sita. The quarrel ended in the vanquishing of the greatly powerful Ravana, along with all his kingdom and family.
रामायणम् (rāmāyaṇam), from राम (rāma) + आयणम् (āyaṇam), where आयान (āyana, “journey”). Sri Rāma is the hero and āyana is His journey.
Ramayana - A continuous impact
Ramayana is one of the most famous and factual narrations, having an impact even today. It is an instructive historical account and therefore the actual experience the reader goes through is emphasized more than its not so assorted chronological references. It is neither a fiction nor simply a fact, but it has a continuous impact. History can be boring but when the history has a relevant and realistic impact, that is what makes the history endearing. Ramayana is such an endearing history. It was and will remain to be so.
The personalities in Ramayana represents certain principles. Although they are personalities, they also represent certain values and psychologies, which never stop making sense even today and therefore it is always fresh.
Ramayana - Not just grammer
What is important in Ramayana is the concept in Ramayana and not the grammar. Ramayana is perfectly composed samskrit poetry, with perfect grammar. But the purpose of Ramayana is not to look out for grammar. The purpose is to learn the concept in Ramayana, which brings out the karuna-rasa. The beauty of this epic or any such literature is that the reader does not read page number. Absorption in the content makes the reader to transcend the page number. For example while reading, one does not read the individual alphabets. The combination of various alphabets forms a word, words forms a sentence, sentence becomes part of a paragraph, paragraph becomes part of a page, page becomes part of a book. Similarly, every aspect of grammar starts to loose its identity to enhance the very purpose of the Ramayana.
In the musical symphony, there are singers, guitarists, flute players, the spectators and many more. While listening to it, there is oneness of absorption and if somebody wants to have a separate identity, then it no longer remains a symphony. Separate identity destroys the very concept of music, which is the harmonious integration of various music players and instruments. So, to look out for just grammar in Ramayana is to loose the experience of Ramayana.
Grammarians or writers may write poetically, with great imagination, but if their imagination disturbs the siddhanta, the core laws or the foundation of Ramayana, then it is not Ramayana but some book of their perverted psychology.
Ramayana - Not Symbolic
Ramayana is a itihasa or history, but not the history, currently taught in schools, which is more a collection of dates. They do not make any legacy. Ramayana is not like that. In the word, itihasa, iti means thus happening and will happen in future. For example Dasharatha represents a legacy. Through Ramayana, emotionally he affects us, socially makes us more apt and intellectually teaches us.
Every character in Ramayana is reality and not symbolic. When symbolism is brought at the cost of history, the history itself gets destroyed.
Ramayana and Caste System
Some modern thinkers accuse Ramayana to be a work of the exploitation of the lower castes by the higher castes. They say that it is written by the higher caste brahmanas. A sincere study of Ramayana expose this flawed understanding.
There is an example in Ramayana of Sumantra, who was one amongst the eight ministers of Maharaja Dasharatha. He was from a mixed caste, yet he had the courage to chastise queen Kaikayi in front of Dasharatha and nobody could throw him out. In Ramayana, that kind of transparency is there and the minister could question even kings.