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Ramayana (The Journey of Rama)

Rama, c. 975, Indian

The Ramayana (The Journey of Rama) is perhaps the most popular story from South Asia and is recounted, visualized, and performed throughout India, Southeast Asia, and beyond. The hero of this epic, Rama, is viewed by many as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, born to restore cosmic balance between good and evil.

The epic narrates how Rama, the crown prince of Ayodhya, is banished from his kingdom for fourteen years. His wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshmana, accompany him on his exile and the group encounters numerous friends and foes as they journey across land and sea.

One of the most formidable of these foes, the ten-headed demon Ravana, kidnaps Sita. This leads to a terrible battle where Rama is assisted by the monkeys he has befriended during his travels. Despite Ravana’s mighty forces and magical knowledge, Rama kills him and reunites with Sita.

This grouping brings together works of art created in many different materials, times, and places. These diverse interpretations of the stories and characters of the Ramayana attest to its far-reaching appeal.