About the Ramayana

Welcome to the historic first audio recording of the unabridged Ramayana. The Ramayana has been described as the original epic quest--comparable to the Bible, Star Wars, and Romeo and Juliet all rolled into one! Revered today by more than one billion people world-wide as the most sacred of stories, the Ramayana not only has its roots as the national treasure of India and Southeast Asia, but has emerged as one of the great classics in world literature. Now for the first time, the complete unabridged Ramayana is available in its original form--as an oral tradition--for Western listeners to enjoy.

The Ramayana is the story of the enlightened 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.

About the Audio Production of the Ramayana

"2004 Outstanding Project of the Year" Humanities Iowa National Endowment for the Humanities

The completion of the Ramayana audio production was a landmark humanities event. Even though the Ramayana is considered a classic in world literature and revered by millions throughout the world, no one has ever taken the time to professionally record the entire unabridged Ramayana of Valmiki. Beginning his own epic quest, Michael Sternfeld undertook the project to record the complete Ramayana as a dramatic reading in English, preserving the essential oral tradition of the epic tale. Seven years in the making, this 75-hour long production is now complete, allowing western listeners to enjoy for the first time the Ramayana as it was meant to be heard.

Michael Sternfeld is the Director on Volumes I and II of the audio production. The narrator on Volume I is Richard Ross, an artist and singer with a life-long interest in Vedic literature, chosen for his refinement of speech and beauty of voice. Volume II features the narration of Stephen White, a talented Shakespearean actor who adds a dramatic power and depth to the production. Sternfeld then switches to the other side of the mic and creates over 150 different voice characters in narrating Volume III of the Ramayana.

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 to highest audiophile standards and was released on several MP3 formats in July 2006.