Written by the sage Valmiki, The Ramayana is a smaller work than the Mahabharata, having about 24, 000 couplets.
The fortunes of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, form the main theme of the epic. The prince who was virtuous, brave and kind was the eldest son of king Dasharath who, as he grew old, decided to crown Rama as king and then retire. On the eve of the coronation, Kaikeye, the youngest wife of Dasharatha, though manipulation extracted a promise from him to get her son Bharata installed as the king and. exile Rama, his wife Sita, and half brother Lakshman to the jungles of the Deccan.
Bharata, who was away when this was happening was full of remorse and a followed Rama to the jungles and offered his kingdom back to him. This meeting of the brothers is described with much, pathos and tenderness. But Ratna would not cause the promise given by his father to be broken and sent his brother back to rule as his regent.
From this point the real saga begins. Ravana, the demon king of Lanka (Ceylon) came to hear about the beauty of Sita and abducted her, carrying her away in his aerial chariot, Pushpak. Rama and Lakshmana were out at that time and on returning, set out on a search for Sita. After long wanderings in the forests’ they found out her whereabouts with the help of wild bears and monkey tribes that inhabited the hills. Under Rama’s leadership, an army of monkeys was raised who built a bridge across the gulf between the rnainlafl(l and Lanka,. and stormed Lanka. After many bloody battles, the ten-headed Ravana was killed and Sita reclaimed. After the exile Rama returned to Ayodhya with many of the monkey chiefs. Of them, Hanuman was considered the most loyal and brave and is worshipped at present by the Hindus as a god.