*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.