Ramayana is one of the two great epic poems of India. The other is the Mahabharata. The hero of the Ramayana is Ram, the son and heir of the king of Ayodhya (formerly Oudh, now part of Uttar Pradesh), King Dashratha. King Dashratha had three wives Kaushalya (mother of Rama), Sumitra (mother of Lakshmana) and Kaikayi (mother of Bharat and Shatrughan). At an early age, the four brothers were sent to the ashram (living place) of Maharishi Vishvamitra, their wise schoolmaster, to obtain knowledge in all forms of sciences, warfare, politics etc. and who also taught them the ideals they should follow on becoming the king.
As a young man, Rama competed with other suitors for the hand of Princess Sita at the court of her father, King Janaka (the king of Janakpuri). By drawing the great bow of the god Shiva, he proved worthy to win the princess's hand in marriage. The couple returned to Ayodhya but Rama's stepmother Kaikaya plotted against him and, as a result, he was exiled. Sita and Lakshmana, Rama's half-brother, went with him. They all lived together in the forest.
One day Surpnakha who was the sister of Ravana, the demon king of Lanka (now Sri Lanka) was passing by their hut when she saw Rama and was infatuated by him. She proposed Rama to marry her or else she threatened to kill Sita. Lakshamana was enraged and he cut off Surpnakha's nose and ears. Surpnakha fled to Ravana and related her tragic story to him. Ravana was furious and he decided to take revenge. He had an uncle Marichi who could disguise into a beautiful golden deer (Kasturi Mrig). Ravana sent Marichi into the forest. Sita was delighted and asked Rama to catch it for her. The deer led him far away, and when he failed to return, Sita asked Lakshmana to look for him. Rama had asked Lakshmana to guard Sita, but on this one occasion he disobeyed his instructions in order to please Sita, and disaster followed.
After Lakshmana had gone, Sita was left alone. Then King Ravana appeared disguised as a holy man. When he begged some food of Sita, she explained that she could not cross a line drawn round the house by Lakshmana. But Ravana tricked her. Sita trusted him because he looked like a holy man, but he seized her and carried her off to his court in Lanka.
When Rama and Lakshmana returned and found Sita gone, they were determined to rescue her. During their preparations they made an alliance with Sugriva, the monkey king. The monkey general, Hanuman (also the 11th incarnation of Lord Shiva), helped Rama to find Sita and attack Lanka. In the ensuing battle, Ravana was killed and Sita was rescued. Vibhishana, the noble brother of Ravana who helped Rama defeat Ravana was crowned the king of Lanka. Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman returned to Ayodhya rejoicing, and Rama was crowned the king.
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