The Ramayana is one of the great Hindu epics, it is ascribed to the sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu literature considered to be Itihasa. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like an ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife, and the ideal king. The name Ramayana is a tatpurusha compound of Rama and ayana translating to Rama's journey.The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven kandas and 500 cantos and tells the story of Rama(an avatar of the Supreme God Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. Incidentally, the first letter of every thousand verses(total 24) make the Gayatri mantra. The Ramayana is not just a story,it explores human values and the concept of Dharma.
The epic is divided into seven major kandas, which deal with major events in the life of Rama.
1. Bala kanda: The origins and childhood of Rama,born to King Dasaratha of Ayodhya and destined to fight demons. Sita's swayamvara and subsequent wedding to Rama.
2. Ayodhya kanda: The preperations for Rama's coronation in the city of Ayodhya, his exile into the forest, and the regency of Bharata.
3. Aranya kanda: The forest life of Rama with Sita and Lakshmana. The kidnapping of Sita by the demon King Ravana.
4. Kishkindha kanda: Rama meets Hanuman and helps destroy the monkey peoples King, Vali, making Vali's younger brother, Sugreeva, King of Kishkindha instead.
5. Sundara kanda: Detailed accounts of Hanuman's adventures, including his meeting with Sita.Traditionally read first when reading the Ramayana. This book's name derives from the fond name giiven to Hanuman by his mother.
6. Yuddha kanda: The battle in Lanka between the monkey and the demon armies of Rama and Ravana respectively. After Ravana is defeated, Sita undergoes the test of fire, completes exile with Rama, and they return to Ayodhya to reign over the kingdom.
7.Uttarakanda: Rumours of impurity lead to Sita's banishment during which she gives birth to and raises Lava and Kusha. After Ashwamedha yagnya, when twins fight with Rama, Sita comes there and stops them, they come to know that Rama is their father, Sita enters the earth. Lava and Kusha later ascend the throne, after which Rama departs the world.
Once Valmiki was sitting in his hermitage thinking of any man born into the world was blessed with every virtue the father in heaven. Suddenly, Narada appears there and knowing his mind he asks him "Tell me what the virtues are, and I will tell you the man who has them."
Valmiki began in his inward way, enunciating each attribute carefully, 'Integrity, bravery, righteousness, gratitude, dedication to his beliefs, a flawless character, compassion for all the living, learned, beauty, courage beyond bravery, radiance,control over his anger and his desires, serenity, a lack of envy,and valour to awe devas.'
Narada said, 'In these very times such a man was born into the world. His name is Rama.' And then he narrated the legend of Rama, as Brahma already imparted the same to him.
Long after Narada's visit to the asrama, the story of Rama haunted Valmiki. Months after he heard the legend he saw images of Rama's life before his eyes, whenever he shut them to meditate.
One morning Valmiki walked along the banks of Tamasa with his disciple.They saw two krauncha birds mating in the branches of a kadamba tree. Suddenly an arrow flew savagely to its mark. With a scream,the male crane fell off his mate's back and down to the ground below and in a few minutes he was gone. Valmiki saw a pale-eyed hunter, a curse erupted from the rishi:
Valmiki himself could not forget the morning incident. Valmiki heard a gasp from his disciples and opened his eyes and saw Brahma in the asrama.
Brahma said, "Valmiki, I put the shloka on your tongue, with which you cursed the hunter. I sent Narada to you, so you could hear the legend of the perfect man from him. I want you to compose the life of Rama in the metre of the curse. You will see clearly not only into the Prince's life, but his heart; Lakshmana's Sita's and Ravana's. No secret will be kept from you and not a false word will enter your epic. It shall be known as the Adi Kavya, the first poem of the earth. As long as Rama is remembered in the world of men, so shall you be. The epic you are going to compose make you immortal." In a week Valmiki composed 24,000 verses in anushtup metre.
(Rama is the 7th incarnation of Vishnu.Rama took birth to free the world from the cruelty and sins of the demon King Ravana. Ravana had practical austerities in order to propitiate Shiva and Brahma, who had granted him immunity from being killed by gods, gandharvas or demons. One of the gods had to take on a human form in order to be able to defeat Ravana.)