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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 tatpurusha compound of Rama and ayana "going, advancing", translating to "the travels of Rama". The Ramaya?a consists of 24,000 verses in seven cantos 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. The Ramayana had an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry, primarily through its establishment of the Sloka meter. But, like its epic cousin Mahabharata, the Ramayana is not just an ordinary story. It contains the teachings of ancient Hindu sages and presents them through allegory in narrative and the interspersion of the philosophical and the devotional. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana (the villain of the piece) are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India.
One of the most important literary works on ancient India, the Ramayana has had a profound impact on art and culture in the Indian Subcontinent. The story of Rama also inspired a large amount of later-day literature in various languages, notable among which are the works of the sixteenth century Hindi poet Tulsidas and the Tamil poet Kambar of the 13th century.
Traditionally the epic belongs to the Treta Yuga, one of the four eons of Hindu chronology and is attributed to Valmiki, is an active participant in the story.
It is composed in Epic Sanskrit, an early variant of Classical Sanskrit, so that in principle the core of the work may date to as early as the 5th century BCE. Since in its current form, after hundreds of years of transmission through recitations and in manuscript form, the epic has gone thorough numerous variations, it cannot be dated by linguistic analysis as a whole, and should be considered to have emerged over a long process, spanning maybe from the 5th century BCE to the 4th century CE.
The Ramayana is not just a Hindu religious tale. Starting from the 8th century, the colonisation of Southeast Asia by Indians began. Several large empires like the Khmers, the Majapahits, the Sailendras, the Champas and Sri Vijaya were established. Because of this, the Ramayana became popular in Southeast Asia and manifested itself in text, temple architecture and performance, particularly in Indonesia (Java, Sumatra and Borneo), Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos.

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