The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the  sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Vedic canon (smrti), considered to be itihasa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of Indiaand Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata.  It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.

The name Ramayana is a tatpurusha compound of Rama and ayana ("going, advancing"), translating to "Rama's Journey". The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books  and 500 cantos (sargas), and tells the story of Rama (an avatar of the Hindu preserver-God Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king ofLanka, Ravana. Thematically, the Ramayana explores human values and the concept of dharma.

Verses in the Ramayana are written in a 32-syllable meter called anustubh. The Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Indian life and culture. Like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages (Vedas) in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and devotional elements. The characters Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India and Nepal.

There are other versions of the Ramayana, notably Kambaramayana in Tamil, the Buddhist (Dasaratha Jataka No. 461) and Jain in India, and also Cambodian, Indonesian, Philippine, Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malay versions.