A wise sage once remarked, “that which lasts longest is closest to the truth.”
By this criterion the Råmåyana holds a unique position in the field of world
literature. Both in terms of its lasting impact over time, as well as its breadth of influence across many cultures, the Råmåya∫a has had a profound effect on the world. No other epic tradition has had so far-reaching an effect, as evidenced by its influence on the populations of Asia and even the West to the extent that over one billion people worldwide revere the Råmåyana as one of the most sacred of all epic texts. To generate such a lasting and diverse effect, there must be a great depth of universal values embedded within the Råmåyana. Just as Joseph Campbell found the hero appearing “with a thousand faces,” the Råmåyana also appears as “many Råmåyana”—each wearing the garb of diverse cultural values, of particular time periods or regional geographies. Yet beneath these ever-changing forms, the Råmåya∫a must contain values of intrinsic truth that have sustained its universal appeal. The exploration of these more universal values is the central thesis of this paper.
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