The Ramayana

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12613

Do you give or get Valentine cards? Would you want one with two million words? There are old stories that have just as much action, adventure and romance as today's big-budget productions! Here's one!


Mythology, World Cultures

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • How do you know if someone really and truly loves you?

If you get together with your friends, you might ask them sometime about their favorite bedtime story or TV show from childhood.

You will be surprised at how you and your friends of the same age may have similar answers! As you get older, you will all remember some of those stories together. It might feel like those stories help bind you together as a group because they were part of an experience you shared.

Now, imagine if you and your friends shared stories in common that your parents also heard and loved, and your parents’ parents, and your parents’ parents’ parents. Suppose that those shared stories went back hundreds or even thousands of years. They would not only be something that helped connect you and others your age — they could help connect your entire nation of people!

That is exactly how it is with Indian epic stories. An epic is a story that covers a wide period of time and a large geographical area. Epics often tell the stories of heroes and villains, the struggle of good versus evil, and the rise of civilizations.

One of the great collections of stories in the history of India, known as the Mahabharata (/maha bar’ ata/) is traced back to the eighth or ninth century BC, runs over ten full volumes, and contains nearly two million words. That makes the Iliad or the Odyssey of Ancient Greek fame seem like cute little bedtime stories!

Read a short passage below to learn more about the great Indian epics. As you read, write down answers to these questions in your notebook or journal:

  • How can people understand epic literature differently?
  • When was the Ramayana possibly written?
  • How do people experience the story of the Ramayana?

Now read the passage below and collect the information to answer the questions:

Some people read the great epics of Indian literature and they think of them as "mythology." For millions of people, the events described in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana describe real events in the distant past. Either way, these ancient stories explore important ideas that we all share: the value of truth, the need for heroes, the struggle against evil, and the importance of self-sacrifice.

The Mahabharata is the longest epic written in the ancient Indian language known as Sanskrit. Many of the stories in the Mahabharata speak of the drama between different political leaders or folk heroes, while other parts are deeply religious. The Ramayana is another important epic. It is said to have been written by the sage known as Valmiki some time after 500 BC, but some believe the story to be a lot older. It was also written in Sanskrit, but the story of the Ramayana has been translated into many local Indian languages and performed as plays, dances, puppet shows, and other forms. The events of the epic are re-enacted every year during the festival known as Dussehra to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness.

Once you have completed your reading and collected your information, reflect on the following questions and write your responses in your notebook or journal:

  • Why don’t people get bored of these stories and just stop telling them?
  • What do you think is the value of shared stories like these, stories that everyone knows?
  • Does your society or culture have any shared stories that people tell generation-after-generation?

The Ramayana is a long story with many side-stories and complex themes. At the core of it, though, the Ramayana is a love story.

Learn more about the characters and the plot of this amazing tale in the Got It? section below!

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