When was the Valmiki Ramayana written? Like all ancient events, works and personages, Ramayana also cannot be dated back correctly.
We do not know precisely as to when this epic poem was composed. Our problem becomes still difficult when Sanskrit scholars pronounce that first 7 chapters of this book have not been written by one and the same author and at one particular time.
The scholars think that the first and the 7th chapters have been added by later writers and they have painted Rama not as a human hero but as a divine personality having godly attributes.
It means that the chapters from 2nd to 6th were written originally by Rishi Valmiki to put the life story of Rama in real perspective but as the time had it, he was supposed to be the incarnation of Vishnu on this earth, and thus in the 1st and the 7th chapters such powers and qualities were attributed to him that made him represent the great deity. It is very doubtful as to when the original five chapters were written and as to when the first and the last ones were added.
Discussing this question at length, MacDonald came to the conclusion that the original book was written at least 500 years before Jesus Christ and the later portions were added something like 300 years after that.
The date of the Ramayana, as estimated by MacDonald, can be accepted, as in the book we find references of certain places and rulers which refer to this period of history.
- Patliputra had attained a very important place in the Aryan polity but the absence of its reference in Ramayana is another proof that the book was composed before the foundation of Patliputra.
- Another proof is that the capital of Rama is called Ayodhya in Ramayana while in the Buddhist literature this name was replaced by Saketam. It, therefore, indicates that the book was written before the time of Buddha’s Jatakas.
- The last proof is the solitary reference to Buddha only once in this poem. Since the two chapters, as already mentioned above, were added in the later period, he might have been mentioned only by the writer of the first and the 7th chapters; otherwise he was unknown to Rishi Valmiki. Had it been written after the great philosopher Lord Buddha, there might have been references of his personality and achievement as well. Thus, we can safely conclude that the book was written between 500 and 200 B.C.
The story of the poem has been written in a very lucid style. It is the first book of its kind that has been written in the ‘Shloka metre’ and in accordance with the rules of Vedic poetry. It contains 24000 verses in all. The main story is that of Rama, his wife, Sita and his brother. Lakshmana but references have been found about certain other events and personalities, their character and their failings and achievements.