There have been many attempts to unravel the epic's historical growth and compositional layers; various recent scholars' estimates for the earliest stage of the text range from the 7th to 4th centuries BCE, with later stages extending up to the 3rd century CE. The Ramayana is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. It consists of nearly 24,000 (mostly set in the meter), divided into seven Kandas and about 500 sargas (chapters). In tradition, it is considered to be the adi-kavya (first poem).
It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal husband and the ideal king. Ramayana was an important influence on later poetry and Hindu life and culture. Like Mahabharata, Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative, interspersing philosophical and ethical elements. The characters,,,,,, and are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of,, and south-east Asian countries such as,,. There are many in Indian languages, besides Buddhist, Sikh and adaptations.
There are also,,,,, and versions of the tale. An artist's impression of Valmiki Muni composing the Ramayana According to Hindu tradition, and the Ramayana itself, the epic belongs to the genre of itihasa like Mahabharata.
The definition of itihāsa is a narrative of past events ( purāvṛtta) which includes teachings on. According to Hindu tradition, Ramayana takes place during a period of time known as. In its extant form, Valmiki's Ramayana is an epic poem of some 24,000 verses. The text survives in several thousand partial and complete manuscripts, the oldest of which is a found in Nepal and dated to the 11th century CE.
A Times of India report dated 18 December 2015 informs about the discovery of a 6th-century manuscript of the Ramayana at the Asiatic Society library,. The Ramayana text has several regional renderings, recensions and sub recensions. Textual scholar differentiates two major regional revisions: the northern (n) and the southern (s). Scholar writes that 'the Ramayana, like the Mahabharata, is a growth of centuries, but the main story is more distinctly the creation of one mind.'
There has been discussion as to whether the first and the last volumes (bala kandam and uttara kandam) of Valmiki's Ramayana were composed by the original author. Most Hindus still believe they are integral parts of the book, in spite of some style differences and narrative contradictions between these two volumes and the rest of the book. Retellings include 's Ramavataram in (c. 11th–12th century), 's Ramayanam in (c. 13th century), 's in (c.
14th century), 's (also known as Shri Rama Panchali) in (c. 15th century), ' (c. 15th century) and Balaram Das' Dandi Ramayana (also known as the Jagamohan Ramayana) (c.
16th century) both in, 's (c. 16th century) in, ' (c. 16th century) in (which is an eastern form of ) and 's in. Rama (left third from top) depicted in the, the ten avatars of. Painting from, now at the Ramayana predates. However, the general cultural background of Ramayana is one of the post- periods of the eastern part of north and, while Mahabharata reflects the Kuru areas west of this, from the to the late period.