Rama (right), seated on the shoulders of Hanuman, battles the demon-king Ravana.
Rama (right), seated on the shoulders of Hanuman, battles the demon-king Ravana.

Depending on the methods of counting, as many as three hundred[1][2] versions of the Indian Hindu epic poem, the Ramayana, are known to exist. The oldest version is generally recognized to be the Sanskrit version attributed to the sage Narada, the Mula Ramayana.[3] Narada passed on the knowledge to Valmiki, who authored Valmiki Ramayana, the present oldest available version of Ramayana.

The Ramayana has spread to many Asian countries outside of India, including Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam and China.[4][5] The original Valmiki version has been adapted or translated into various regional languages, which have often been marked more or less by plot twists and thematic adaptations. Some of the important adaptations of the classic tale include the 12th-century Tamil language Ramavataram, 14th-century Telugu language Sri Ranganatha Ramayanam, the Khmer Reamker, the Old Javanese Kakawin Ramayana, and the Thai Ramakien, the Lao Phra Lak Phra Lam, and the Burmese Yama Zatdaw.

The manifestation of the core themes of the original Ramayana is far broader even than can be understood from a consideration of the different languages in which it appears, as its essence has been expressed in a diverse array of regional cultures and artistic mediums. For instance, the Ramayana has been expressed or interpreted in Lkhaon Khmer dance theatre, in the Mappila Songs of the Muslims of Kerala and Lakshadweep,[6] in the Indian operatic tradition of Yakshagana, and in the epic paintings still extant on, for instance, the walls of Thailand's Wat Phra Kaew palace temple. In Indonesia, the tales of the Ramayana appear reflected in traditional dance performances such as Sendratari Ramayana and Kecak, masked danced drama, and Wayang shadow puppetry.[7] Angkor Wat in Siem Reap also has mural scenes from the epic Battle of Lanka on one of its outer walls.

Sanskrit versions

Below are a few of the most prominent Sanskrit versions of the Ramayana. Some primarily recount Valmiki's narrative, while others focus more on peripheral stories and/or philosophical expositions:

In Sanskrit drama

Regional versions

Rama is shown about to offer his eyes to make up the full number – 108 – of lotus blossoms needed in the puja that he must offer to the goddess Durga to gain her blessing. Scene from Krittivasi Ramayan.
Rama is shown about to offer his eyes to make up the full number – 108 – of lotus blossoms needed in the puja that he must offer to the goddess Durga to gain her blessing. Scene from Krittivasi Ramayan.

Some noteworthy examples of these additional renderings of the Ramayana tale include:


Giti-Ramayan or Durgabari-Ramayan in the 16th century written by Durgavara kayastha.

Other Languages

Versions in other Dharmic religions

Versions outside India

The following are among the versions of the Ramayana that have emerged outside India:

East Asia
Southeast Asia
South Asia

Contemporary versions

Contemporary prose versions of the epic Ramayana include Sri Ramayana Darshanam by Dr. K. V. Puttappa in Kannada and Ramayana Kalpavrikshamu by Viswanatha Satyanarayana in Telugu, both of which have been awarded the Jnanpith Award. A prose version called Geet Ramayan in Marathi by G.D. Madgulkar was rendered in music by Sudhir Phadke and is considered to be a masterpiece of Marathi literature. The popular Indian author R. K. Narayan wrote a shortened prose interpretation of the epic. In addition, Ramesh Menon wrote a single-volume edition of the Ramayana, which has received praise from scholars. A short version with a somewhat contemporary feel, influenced, according to the author, by contemporary representations of guerrilla warfare, appeared in Martin Buckley's Ramayana-based travelogue, An Indian Odyssey (Random House London, 2008). C Rajgopalachari, India's only Indian Governor General, also wrote a single volume Ramayana, published by Bhavans in 1957. From 1951 to 1975 a team of the University Grants Commission (India) supported researchers who worked on and published a critical edition at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSU) Oriental Institute.[28] Based on this, in 1996 an abridged translation into English, was published by writer Arshia Sattar under the Penguin publishing house Valmiki Ramayana. In September 2006, the first issue of Ramayan 3392 A.D. was published by Virgin Comics, featuring the Ramayana as re-envisioned by author Deepak Chopra and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur.

Author Ashok Banker, authored an eight-volume imaginative retelling based on the Ramayana which found considerable success and was credited with ushering in a new wave of interest in the epic as well as other mythological retellings. Banker's version took considerable liberties with the original Sanskrit epic yet found critical acclaim. It is claimed to be the most popular retelling of the epic currently.

More recently, popular Indian lyricist, music director and singer, Ravindra Jain wrote the Hindi version of Ramayan named, Ravindra Ramayan (ISBN 978-9351862604) which was published after his death. RJ Group, which was formed by Ravindra Jain and his family, has uploaded all the kands (cantos) of Ravindra Ramayan on YouTube.

The latest in the retelling of the epic is from Ravi Venugopal, a US-based NRI narrating the story from the eyes of Rama. The first volume of the I, Rama trilogy is Age of Seers and is narrated by an age old Rama who introspects his life and the events happening with a pragmatic view. The book explores new perspectives of several characters and tries to give a scientific lift to the ancient epic.


The Ramayana has been adapted on screen as well, most notably as the television series Ramayan by producer Ramanand Sagar, which is based primarily on the Ramcharitmanas and Valmiki's Ramayana and, at the time, was the most popular series in Indian television history. In the late 1990s, Sanjay Khan made a series called Jai Hanuman, recounting tales from the life of Hanuman and related characters from the Ramayana.

A Japanese animated film called Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama was released in 1992. US animation artist Nina Paley retold the Ramayana from Sita's point of view (with a secondary story about Paley's own marriage) in the animated musical Sita Sings the Blues. An Indian animated film called Ramayana: The Epic was released in October 2010. The Stories Without Borders Production Company has a documentary in production about different versions of the Ramayana and a second India epic, the Mahabharata, across South and Southeast Asia that is slated to film begin filming in 2014. In 2015, star plus hosted Siya ke Ram, a retelling of Ramayana from Sita's POV.


Starting in 1978, and under the supervision of Baba Hari Dass, the Ramayana has been performed every year by Mount Madonna School in Watsonville,[29] California. Currently, it is the largest yearly, Western version of the epic being performed. It takes the form of a colorful musical with custom costumes, sung and spoken dialog, jazz-rock orchestration and dance. This performance takes place in a large audience theater setting usually in June, in San Jose, CA.[30] Baba Hari Dass has thought acting arts, costume-attire design, masks making, and choreography to bring alive characters of Sri Ram, Sita, Hanuman, Lakshmana, Shiva, Parvati, Vibhishan, Jatayu, Sugriva, Surpanakha, Ravana and his rakshasa court, Meghnaad, Kumbhakarna, and the army of monkeys and demons.

Late Tamil Actor R. S. Manohar played Ravana as the Antagonist in his Magnum Opus Lankeswaran, in which he projects the heroic and better side of Ravana. It was staged more than 1,800 times.[31]

Comic series

Artist Vikas Goel and writer Vijayendra Mohanty have created a ten-part comic series called Ravanayan that presents the story of Ramayana from Ravana's perspective.[32]

Following the success of Ashok Banker's Ramayana Series retellings, a graphic novel adaptation was released in 2010.

See also


  1. ^ Camille Bulcke, Ramkatha: Utpatti aur Vikās (The Rāma story: Original and development), Prayāg: Hindī Pariṣad Prakāśan, 1950.
  2. ^ A. K. Ramanujan, "Three hundred Rāmāyaṇas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation", in Paula Richman (ed.), Many Rāmāyaṇas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1991, p. 48, note 3.
  3. ^ M. Srinivasachariar (1989). History of Classical Sanskrit Literature: Being an Elaborate Account of All Branches of Classical Sanskrit Literature, with Full Epigraphical and Archaeological Notes and References, an Introduction Dealing with Language, Philology, and Chronology, and Index of Authors & Works. Motilal Banarsidass Publishe. p. 74. ISBN 9788120802841.
  4. ^ "Ramayana(s) retold in Asia". The Hindu. 19 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  5. ^ "History of Rama and Ramayan". Hindu Online. 2010. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  6. ^ "A different song". The Hindu. 12 August 2005. Archived from the original on 5 January 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2009.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Jain, Jagdishchandra (1979). "Some Old Tales and Episodes in the Vasudevahindi" (PDF). Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 60 (1/4): 167–173. ISSN 0378-1143.
  9. ^ Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey (18 December 2015). "6th-century Ramayana found in Kolkata, stuns scholars". The Times of India.
  10. ^ Leslie, Julia (2003). Authority and meaning in Indian religions: Hinduism and the case of Vālmīki. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. ISBN 0-7546-3431-0
  11. ^ Ananda Ramayana. Parimal Publications. 2006.
  12. ^ Mahabharata. Parimal Publications. 2006.
  13. ^ Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. Gita Press, Gorakhpur. ISBN 81-293-0155-5.
  14. ^ Schuyler, Montgomery (1877). A bibliography of the Sanskrit drama: with an introductory sketch of the dramatic literature of India. Columbia University Press, the Macmillan Company, agents.
  15. ^ "Pratima Nataka of Bhasa".
  16. ^ "www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/maithili". exoticindiaart.com. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  17. ^ "Civil Services: Prelims Online Practice Test Exams, Guidance In Telugu". Sakshi Education. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  18. ^ Saradesāya, Manohararāya (2000). A history of Konkani literature: from 1500 to 1992. Sahitya Akademi. p. 317. ISBN 9788172016647.
  19. ^ Bhembre, Uday (September 2009). Konkani bhashetalo paylo sahityakar:Krishnadas Shama. Sunaparant Goa. pp. 55–57.
  20. ^ "A different song". The Hindu. 12 August 2005. Archived from the original on 26 November 2007.
  21. ^ Ray, D. (2007). Prataparudradeva, the Last Great Suryavamsi King of Orissa (A.D. 1497 to A.D. 1540). Northern Book Centre. p. 131. ISBN 978-81-7211-195-3. Retrieved 13 August 2020. He had already completed his Jagamohan Ramayana in Oriya before coming Shri Chaitanya to Orissa . " He completed this epic at the age of thirty ( i . e . in AD 1503 )
  22. ^ Mehta, Mona. "Gond Ramayani". Times of India. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  23. ^ "Rāmāyan of Akbar".
  24. ^ Krishnamoorthy, K.; Mukhopadhyay, Satkari (1991). A Critical Inventory of Ramayana Studies in the World. ISBN 9788172015077.
  25. ^ Krishnamoorthy, K.; Mukhopadhyay, Satkari (1991). A Critical Inventory of Ramayana Studies in the World. ISBN 9788172015077.
  26. ^ Fang, Liaw Yock (2013). A History of Classical Malay Literature. Jakarta: Yayasan Pustaka Obor and ISEAS. ISBN 978-979-461-810-3.
  27. ^ de Jong, J.W. 1971. ‘Un fragment de l’histoire de Rāma en tibétain’ in Études tibétaines dédiées à la mémoire de Marcelle Lalou. Paris: Librairie d’Amérique et d’Orient; de Jong, J.W. 1977. The Tun-huang Manuscripts of the Tibetan Ramayana Story’, Indo-Iranian Journal 19:37–88, 1977; Thomas, F.W. 1929. ‘A Rāmāyaṇa Story in Tibetan from Chinese Turkestan’ in Indian Studies in Honor of Charles Rockwell Lanman: 193–212. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  28. ^ "critical edition". MSU Baroda Oriental Institute.
  29. ^ website editor (6–8 June 2014). "Ramayana". 36th Annual Ramayana!. Mount Madonna School. Retrieved 8 August 2014. ((cite web)): |last= has generic name (help)
  30. ^ Jha, Ritu (8 July 2011). "California school celebrates Ramayan for 33 years". rediff News. rediff.com. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  31. ^ "Superstar of Tamil theatre". The Hindu. 2 October 2000. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012.
  32. ^ Banerjee, Manali (9 July 2011). "The Ramayana as Ravana saw it". Hindustan Times. New Delhi: HT Media. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2011.