Ramayana is the name of one of the two great epic poems of ancient India (for the other, SEE MAHA-BHARATA ). Its subject-matter is the history of Rama, one of the incarnations of Vishnu (q.v., and SEE RAMA ), and its reputed author is Valmiki, who is said to have taught his poem to the two sons of Rama, the hero of the history; and, according to this legend, would have been a contemporary of lama himself. But though this latter account is open to much doubt, it seems certain that Valmiki — unlike Vyassa (q.v.), the supposed compiler of the Mahabharata — was a real personage; and, moreover, that the Ramayana was the work of one single poet-not like the Mahabharata, the creation of various epochs and different minds. As a poetical composition, the Ramayana is therefore far superior to the Mahabharata; and it may be called the best great poem of ancient India, fairly claiming a rank in the literature of the world equal to that of the epic poetry of Homer. Whereas the character of the Mahabharata is cyclopoedical, its main subject-matter overgrown by episodes of the most diversified nature, its diction differing in merit, both from a poetical and grammatical point of view, according to the ages that worked at its completion — the Ramayana has but one object in view, the history of Rama. Its episodes are rare, and restricted to the early portion of the work, and its poetical diction betrays throughout the same finish and the same poetical genius. Nor can there be any reasonable doubt as to the relative ages of both poems, provided that we look upon the Mahabharata in the form in which it is preserved as a whole. Whether we apply as a test the aspect of the religious life, or the geographical and other knowledge displayed in the one and the other work, the Ramayana appears as the older of the two. Since it is the chief source whence our information of the Rama incarnation of Vishnu is derived, its contents may be gathered from that portion of the article VISHNU SEE VISHNU which relates to Ramachandra. The Ramayana contains (professedly) 24,000 epic verses, or slokats, in seven books, or kandas, called the Bdla-Ay-odlhya-, Aranyac-, Kishkindhad-, Sundara-, Yuddha- (or Lankca-), and Uttara- kanda. The text which has come down to us exhibits, in different sets of manuscripts, such considerable discrepancies that it becomes necessary to speak of two recensions in which it now exists. This remarkable fact was first made known by A. W. von Schlegel, who, in Europe, was the first to attempt a critical edition of this poem; it is now fully corroborated by a comparison that may be made between the printed editions of both texts. The one is more concise in its diction, and has less tendency than the other to that kind of descriptive enlargement of facts and sentiments which characterizes the later poetry of India; it often also exhibits grammatical forms and peculiarities of an archaic stamp, where the other studiously avoids that which must have appeared to its editors in the light of a grammatical difficulty. In short, there canl be little doubt that the former is the older and more genuine, and the latter the more recent, and in some respects more spurious, text. A complete edition of the older text, with two commentaries, was published at Madras in 1856 (in the Telugu characters, vol. i-iii); another edition of the same text, with a short commentary, appeared at Calcutta in two volumes (1860), and a more careful and elegant one at Bombay (1861). Of the later edition, Gaspare Gorresio has edited the first six books (vol. i-v, Paris, 1843-50) without a commentary, but with an Italian, somewhat free, translation in poetical prose (vol. i-x, Paris, 184758). Former attempts at an edition and translation of the Ramayana remained unfortunately incomplete. The earliest was that made by William Carey and Joshua Marshman, who edited the first two books, and added to the text a prose translation in English and explanatory notes (vol. i-iii, Serampore, 1806-10; and vol. i, containing the first book, Dunstable, 1808). Another edition, of an eclectic nature, is that by A. W. von Schlegel; it contains the first two books of the text, and an excellent Latin translation of the first book and twenty chapters of the second (vol. i, pts. i and ii, and vol. ii, pt. i, Bonn, 1846). Various episodes from the Ramayana, it may also be added, have at various times occupied sundry editors and translators.

Bible concordance for RAMA.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

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