Ramanand Sagar's TV epic, the Ramayana, brought the whole of India to a halt week after week in the mid-1980s. It was not surprising, for the story of Lord Rama has enthralled Hindus for thousands of years, ever since the 24,000-couplet saga was composed 6,000 years ago by Sage Valmiki for Rama's sons, Lava and Kusha. "The epic poem enjoys immense popularity in India," states the Students' Brittanica India, "where its recitation is considered an act of great merit. Many of its translations into the vernacular languages are themselves works of great literary merit, including the Tamil version of Kampan, the Bengali version of Krittibas and the Hindi version, Ramcharitmanas, of Tulsidas." In countries of the diaspora, such as Trinidad, it is theRamayana that is the sacred text of first choice. The Ramayana is anitihasa, or history, a part of Hinduism's secondary scriptures or smriti, which compliment the primary scriptures or sruti, the Vedas andAgamas.
The well-known story of Lord Rama can be summarize as follows. He was born to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya along with three younger half-brothers, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna, sons of the other wives of the king. As a young man, Rama wins the hand of Sita, daughter of King Janaka, in an archery contest. As King Dasharatha has grown old, he prepares to anoint Rama as his successor when his wife Kaikeyi demands that her son Bharata be placed on the throne and Rama be exiled to the forest for fourteen years.