The Ramayana

The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal (the other is the Mahabharata) translated from the sacred language Sanscrit into local idioms. Dated to approximately the 5th to 4th century B.C., it is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and consists of 24,000 verses in seven books and 500 cantos. The poem tells the adventures of Rama, one of Vishnu's most famous incarnation on earth. The Ramayana it's not just a story, it explores human values and the concept of dharma, presenting the teaching of The Vedas in narrative allegory.

The heros of the Ramayana are perfomed by flat leather puppetrs in the famous Shadow Theatre, the oldest form of puppetry in the world. Their acting is the oldest tradition of storytelling in the world and has been proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Bhutan, Sri_lanka, Nepal, Burma and many South-East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia. Most notably Cambodia which has the largest ancient Hindu temple complex in the world called Angkor Wat, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
There are other versions of the Ramayana, notably Ramavataram in Tamil, the Buddhist (Dasaratha Jataka No. 461) and Jain in India, and also Cambodian, Indonesian, Philippine, Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malay versions of the tale.
Traditionally, the Ramayana is attribute to Valmiki, regarded as India's first poet. The Indian tradition is unanimous in its agreement that the poem is the work of a single poet, the sage Valmiki, a contemporary of Rama and a peripheral actor in the drama. The story's original version in Sanskrit is known as Valmiki Ramayana, dating to approximately the 5th to 4th century B.C. While it is often viewed as a primarily devotional text, the Vaishnava elements appear to be later accretions possibly dating to the 2nd century BC or later. The main body of the narrative lacks statements of Rama's divinity, and identifications of Rama with Vishnu are rare and subdued even in the later parts of the text.
According to Indian tradition, and according to the Ramayana itself, the Ramayana belongs to the genre of itihasa, like the Mahabharata. The definition of itihasa has varied over time, with one definition being that itihasa is a narrative of past events which includes teachings on the goals of human life.