Page:Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists.djvu/26

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CHAPTER II : THE RAMAYANA

Sources

VALMlKI is a name almost as shadowy as Homer. He was, no doubt, a Brahman by birth, and closely connected with the kings of Ayodhya. He collected songs and legends of Rama (afterwards called Rama-Chandra, in distinction from Parashu-Rama) ; and very probably some additions were made to his work at a later time, particularly the Uttara Kanda. He is said to have invented the shloka metre, and the language and style of Indian epic poetry owe their definite form to him. According to the Ramayana, he was a contemporary of Rama, and sheltered Sita during her years of lonely exile, and taught the Ramayana to her sons Kusa and Lava. The material of the Ramayana, in its simplest form, the story of the recovery of a ravished bride, is not unlike that of another great epic, the Iliad of Homer. It is not likely, however, although the view has been suggested, that the Iliad derives from the Ramayana : it is more probable that both epics go back to common legendary sources older than 1000 years B.C.

The story of Rama is told in one of the Jatakas, which may be regarded as a shorter version, one of many then current. Probably at some time during the last centuries preceding Christ the current versions of Rama s saga were taken up by the Brahman poet, and formed into one story with a clear and coherent plot; while its complete form, with the added Uttara Kanda, may be as late as A.D. 400. As a whole, the poem in its last redaction seems to belong essentially to the earlier phase of the Hindu renaissance, and it reflects a culture very similar to that which is visibly depicted in the Ajanta frescoes (first