The Ramayana is an ancient Indian epic which narrates the challenging life events of the divine prince Rama (Prince of the Kosala Kingdom). to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. The epic, came from the Hindu sage Valmiki and narrates the life of Rama, following his banishment from the kingdom by his father King Dasharatha, his travels across forests of India with his wife and brother Lakshmana, kidnapping of his wife by Ravana (the demon king of Lanka), resulting in a war with him, and Rama's eventual return to his kingdom to being crowned as a king.
It is one of the largest ancient epics in the global world of literature. It consists of nearly 24,000 verses, divided into seven Kandas (books) and about 500 sargas (chapters). It is considered to be the first poem (adi-kavya) of Hindu tradition, it depicts the duties of relationships and portrays ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.
There are many versions of Ramayana in both Indian and foriegn languages. Apart from Indian there also exists Cambodian, Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malaysian versions of the same tale.
Even today, there are some places across India and Sri Lanka that are connected to Ramayana and hold sacred and historical significance.
Below is the list of few such places:
- Rameshwaram: Holds many places connected with the Ramayana. A temple with a floating rock inside exists near the bridge that is to be crossed to enter Rameswaram . When Shri Rama went to Lanka with the monkey army, they crossed the ocean on a bridge of floating rocks. Nearby this temple is Lakshmana Tirtha and Rama Tirtha. Shri Rama is said to have bathed in these two tanks. Kodi Tirtha is another spring, that Shri Rama created by shooting an arrow into the ground.
- Hampi (Vijayanagar): Once the capital of the powerful Vijayanagar empire, one of the most powerful empires in Indian history which ruled for over two centuries. Vijayanagar means "the city of victory". At this place Shri Rama first met Hanuman. It is also said to be the spot where Parvati (known as Hampi) met and married Lord Shiva.
- Kishkindha: About 5 km from Hampi, The town of Anegundi is situated on the north bank of the Tungbhadra River. Local people believe this to be the ancient place known as Kishkindha where Rama met Hanuman and Sugriva. The Rishmukh mountain mentioned in the Ramayana is also near Hampi.
- Nasik: Located about 187kms northeast of Bombay. Lord Rama stayed here for some time during His exile and Sita was carried off by Ravana from this place. Also, Lakshmana cut off the nose of Surpanakha, the younger sister of Ravana, here and hence the place got the name Nasik. Nasik is on the banks of the Godavari river, which flows to the bay of Bengal. .
- Chitrakuta: Shri Rama and Sita are said to have stayed here for 11 years of Their 14 year exile in the forest. Chitrakuta is near the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Bharata, the brother of Rama, came to Chitrakuta and begged Rama to return to Ayodhya.
10 Important lessons from Ramayana:
- The destructive power of bad association: It was a known fact in Ayodhya that Kaikeyi loved Lord Rama more than his own son Bharath, then how did she become so evil? It was by her bad association with Mantara that changed her.
- Attachment to service but not to the position: Lord Ram was willing to become the king as well as he was also willing to go to the forest all in service to His father.
- Lord is the Proprietor: Bharat ruled the kingdom on behalf of Lord Ram by keeping Lord Ram’s Paduka’s on the Throne. We are only caretakers, He is the real proprietor, He can give and take away. The Caretaker acts according to the will of the owner.
- Attachments can creates traps and make us suffer: Marichi takes up the form of a golden deer to which Sita developed deep interest in having possession of, which eventually get her trapped. We should see the substance through the eyes of the scripture. Marichi was all about false promises. Just like a spider web which is most attractive to the fly but in reality it’s a sweet trap.
- Always stand by the Right: Jatayu’s integrity. Real success is to please the Lord. Jatayu lost his life fighting for Lord Ram but achieved the purpose of Life to please the Lord. It is better to lose & win than to win & lose.
- Honesty, We can’t hide the truth from Lord: Hanumanji disguises when he first met Lord Ram. Lord knows us from within and we can’t hide truth from him. we must be honest to receive the mercy of the Lord. Lord Ram didn't speak to Hanuman for four months.
- We can swim the ocean of world by chanting Lord’s holy name: Big or Small, all the stones floated by writing Lord Ram’s name.
- Patience, Determination & Enthusiasm: Shabari was asked by her guru to wait for Lord Ram while all other disciples and Guru himself went back to Godhead. She showed her devotion by working hard everyday to clean the place and gathering fruits for the Lord. She had complete faith in the words of Guru and patiently waited with determination. The Lord reveals only when He wants and it takes a lot of patience and determination to meet the lord.
- Righteousness: Vibhishana comes to take shelter of Lord Ram as he believed it was the right thing to do, all the monkeys were against except Hanumanji. Vibhishana knew that he would be misunderstood or can be even chastised to surrender to the Lord but he still did it.
- Grace of a Sadhu needed to kill demons within: Agastya muni had given a divine arrow to Lord Ram. That arrow was used by Lord Ram to kill Ravan by piercing his heart.
Significant proofs that indicate Ramayana to be an epic of real incidents.
- The Hanuman Garhi: Lord Hanuman one of the most important characters of Ramayana is believed to be an ardent devotee of Lord Rama. Hanuman Garhi, now a temple is a place in Ayodhya, where Hanuman was waiting patiently for Lord Rama who was in exile. The temple is also famous for its strategic location with such a height, that the sunrises and sunsets are graciously visible.
- Footprints of Lord Hanuman: When Hanuman reached Ashok Vatika, he is said to have come in the giant form. There are still giant imprints on one side of the lake there which are believed to be fromed when Hanuman landed.
- Floating Stone Mystery: According to Ramayana, Ram Setu was built by Stones and that started floating on water by touch of Nala & Neel. Some such stones were scattered at Rameswaram during the Tsunami and still float on water.
- Sanjeevani Mountain at Dunagiri: Lord Hanumana carried the entire mountain of Sanjeevani Booti when Lakshmana lost his conscious during the Lanka war. This mountain was named as Dunagiri. After the medicines were used, Hanuman flies back and replaces the mountain at its rightful place. Today there exists ascar on the side of Dunagiri where Hanumana sliced off the mythological real estate, and it “bleeds” in the afternoon sun.
- Presence of Himalyan herbs in Sri Lanka: Exotic Himalayan species are found suddenly in tropical Sri Lankan vegetation, its is believed to be the legacy of Hanuman’s heroic voyage of carrying a mountain with life-restoring herbs called Sanjeevani.
- Ashok Vatika, Sri Lanka: The location where Sita was held captive by Ravana after her abduction, as she refused to stay in Ravana's palace, and took shelter under the Ashoka tree. Much of the Ashoka Vatika was destroyed by Hanuman, during his first visit to Lanka while searching for Sita. Its present location is believed to be the Hakgala Botanical Garden and the area is known as Seetha Eliya.
- Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh: When Sita was abducted by Raavan, they bumped into a demi-god in vulture form refered as Jatayu, who tried his best to stop Raavan. Lepakshi, in Andhra Pradesh, is said to be the place where Jatayu fell after their fight. Ram, accompanied by Hanuman, met the dying Jatayu and helped him attain moksha by uttering the words "Le Pakshi", which is Telugu for "Rise, bird". There's also exists huge footprint in the area which is beleived to be that of Hanumana's.
- Hanuman and fire in Lanka: The color of the soil of the ancient battlefield locate in Sri Lanka is still red today, and is still surrounded by lighter colored earth. One of the airports of Ravana which was torched by Hanuman, still appeares to be baked. A patch of darker soil surrounded by brown earth.