The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon (smṛti). The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India, the other being Mahabharata. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.
The name Ramayana is a tatpurusha compound of Rāma and ayana "going, advancing", translating to "Rama's Journey". The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books, and 500 cantos (kāṇḍas), and tells the story of Rama (an incarnation of the Hindu preserver-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Rakshasa) king of Lanka, Ravana. Thematically, the epic explores themes of human existence and the concept of dharma.
Verses in Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called anustubh. The epic was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Indian life and culture, primarily through its establishment of the shloka meter. Like its epic cousin the Mahābhārata, however, 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.