Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Ayodhya (ah-YOH-dyah). Mythical Indian kingdom that may be the same place as the historical ancient kingdom of Ayodhya, in the far north of India between the Ganges River and the Himalaya Mountains, in which is now India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Ayodhya is both the birthplace of the epic’s hero, Prince Rama, and the place to which he ultimately returns as king with his queen, Sita.


Forest. Wooded region between holy Ayodhya and its evil counterpart, Lanka, in which Rama undergoes his most important transformations. In Hindu mythology, forests are magical places that represent the nonhuman, supernatural world. They are typically home to wise hermits, as well as to wild animals. Rama leaves Ayodhya in response to a plea from the hermit Visvamitra, who is threatened by demons. Rama spends thirteen years in the forest, fighting demons and learning from Visvamitra. There he also meets King Janak and wins the hand of Janak’s half-divine daughter, Sita.


*Lanka. Mythical kingdom that may be the same as the island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon), which lies off the southern tip of India. The struggle between Ayodhya and Lanka begins in earnest when Lanka’s demon king, Ravana, kidnaps Sita. With the help of the monkey king Hanuman, the bear king Hambavan, and an army of monkeys, bears, and vultures, Rama finds Sita, invades, and conquers Lanka. Afterward, he returns to Ayodhya with Sita, where they become king and queen once more.

The Ramayana Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Narayan, R. K. The Ramayana. New York: Viking Press, 1972. Narayan has based his Ramayana on the Tamil poet Kamban’s version of the original. The easy-flowing prose of Narayan’s Ramayana makes for an enjoyable reading of the great epic for all age groups. His succinct epilogue refers to differences in the original Sanskrit version and the Tamil version.

Shaw, J. C. The Ramayana Through Western Eyes. Bangkok, Thailand: Distributed by D. K. Today, 1988. Shortened Thai version of the Ramayana with beautiful colored plates. The warfare and magic that appears in the original version has been excluded. Each chapter is introduced by excerpts from English poems.

Smith, H. Daniel, ed. The Picturebook Ramayana: An Illustrated Version of Vlmki’s Story. Syracuse: Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, 1981. The basic plot of Rama’s story is explained in the summary preceding the illustrations, which are accompanied by verses from the Ramayana. Appropriate for college level as well as junior and senior high school students.

Venkatesananda, Swami. The Concise Ramayana of Vlmki. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988. This condensed version of the epic is divided into seven chapters that describe Rama’s life from his birth until his death. The simple narrative style of the book and appropriate chapter intervals make it very readable.

Vyas, Shantikumar Nanooram. India in the Ramayana Age. New Delhi: Atma Ram & Sons, 1967. Analyzes social and cultural conditions in ancient India as portrayed in Vlmki’s Ramayana. Includes a chapter on the position of women during this time.