About the Ramayana

Welcome to the historic first audio recording of the unabridged Ramayana. The Ramayana is the story of the supreme hero-Rama-whose divine purpose was to purify the world of ignorance and negativity. Cognized by the illustrious sage Valmiki, the Ramayana was composed in Sanskrit, the language of the Vedic civilization of ancient India. The date of composition of the Ramayana cannot be fixed, since for thousands of years, in the tradition of Vedic knowledge, Vedic literature was handed down orally singer to singer, generation after generation. Reading Rama's epic tale is powerful, but listening to it as part of this original oral tradition yields even deeper experiences.

Of the many different aspects or branches of Vedic literature, the Ramayana belongs to the Itihasa branch, which also contains another great epic, the Mahabharata. The Ramayana was written in poetry of unsurpassed dramatic power and richness and contains over 24 thousand couplet verses, or slokas, making it one of the longest epic poems ever written (after the Mahabharata).

The translation chosen for this recording is the Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam, by renowned Indian journalist, N. Raghunathan (Vighneswara Publishing House, India). His translation is a literal translation, not a paraphrase, and with his direct and simple style, using rhythmic prose, rather than poetic meter (which often does not translate well), he has captured the essence of the original. His translation has also adapted beautifully from the written to spoken word.

The Audio Production of the Ramayana

Background on the Ramayana

Narrator Michael Sternfeld in the recording studio created over 150 different character voices for the production of Volume III of The Ramayana

The completion of the Ramayana audio production was a landmark humanities event. The Ramayana is one of the most timeless epics in world literature. It tells the story of the illustrious hero, Rama, whose mission was to purify the world of ignorance and restore virtue in the world. Originally written by the sage, Valmiki, the Ramayana was originally chanted in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. Although estimates of its age vary widely (with a range of 1000 B.C. to 200 B. C.), the exact date of composition of the Ramayana cannot be fixed, since Indian epic literature was transmitted orally, generation after generation. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of Indian culture, along with its companion epic, the Mahabharata. Although the Ramayana is a world literature classic and is revered by people of India, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia as the most sacred of epic texts, no one has ever taken the time to read and record the entire unabridged Ramayana in English. Beginning his own epic quest Michael Sternfeld undertook the project to record the entire Ramayana as a dramatic reading in English, preserving the essential oral tradition of the epic tale. After 7 years in the making, this production is now complete, allowing western listeners to enjoy for the first time the Ramayana as it was meant to be heard.

The Ramayana was written in poetry of unsurpassed dramatic power and richness and it contains over 24,000 couplet verses, or slokas, making it the second longest epic poem ever written (after the Mahabharata). The translation chosen for this recording is the Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam, by the renowned Indian journalist, N. Raghunathan. Volume I, including the first two books of the Ramayana and containing 14 ninety-minute cassettes, was released in January 1998. Volume II, including the next three books of the Ramayana and containing 16, 95-minute cassettes, was released in January 2000. The third and final volume, containing the final two books of the Ramayana and containing 18, 100-minute audiocassettes, was released November 2004. The entire production has been digitally remastered and was released on several MP3 formats in July 2006.