The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the poet Valmiki and is an important part of the Hindu canon. The name Ramayana is a tatpurusa compound of Rama and ayana “going, advancing”, translating to “the travels of Rama”. The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven cantos (kandas) and tells the story of a prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Rakshasa) king of Lanka, Ravana. In its current form, the Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BCE to 100 BCE, or about co-eval to early versions of the Mahabharata. As with most traditional epics, since it has gone through a long process of interpolations and redactions, it is impossible to date it accurately. Indian tradition regards the Ramayana as part of Ithihasa, or history, with Valmiki’s version as the oldest written form and the most authentic.
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