Studying Hinduism? Introduce your students to the Ramayana with this essay by Daljit Nagra. He's written a new book about the fantastical stories of Rama and Sita which make up the great Indian epic, the Ramayana. In an essay for the Guardian, Nagra explains the popularity of the tales, their history, and their importance to Hindus.
In 1987 and 1988, Indian television serialized the epic for an audience of over 100,000,000 people.
According to Nagra, the epic was first written between 2000 and 3000 years ago by the Hindu sage, Valkmiki. Nagra summarizes the plot like this:
"It is set in northern India and the southern kingdom of Lanka, and tells of the supreme god, Vishnu, incarnating himself as a man (Rama) in order to vanquish the demon Ravana who is causing chaos in the heavens and on Earth. Rama is heir to the kingdom of Kosala in Ayodhya, but his father is persuaded by his wife against giving him the throne, and instead Rama is sent into exile followed by his devoted wife, Sita, and loyal brother, Lakshmana. The trio live peacefully in the forest until Sita is abducted to Lanka by Ravana who has fallen in love with her. Rama wins the support of a monkey army to help him fight Ravana's troops to win her back."