VI] SANSKRIT LITERATURE 237
Ntiarivamsa. Several, such as the )latsya (' Fish') and KXtrma
(' Tortoise') Puradna, are connected with incarnations of Vishnu.
One of the best known is the Vishznu Purina, which, as
treating of five main topics, corresponds most closely to the
Indian definition of a Purana. The Bhdagavata Pzerd.iza, con-
sisting of about I8,ooo slokas, derives its name from being
dedicated to the glorification of Bhagavata or Vishnu. It exer-
cises a more powerful influence in India than any other Purana.
The Ramayana in its present form extends to about 24,000 Rdlza-
s'okas and is divided into seven books. It has, however, been ya.a.
shown to have originally consisted of five books (ii-vi) only,
and to contain some interpolated cantos even in these.
The internal evidence of the poem indicates that it arose in Place of
Ayodhya (Oudh), the capital of the country ruled by the race origin and
of Ikshvaku. There is ground for believing that the original
part of the RdamayaN.a was completed before the fiahizbharata
assumed coherent shape. The balance of the evidence, including
the political conditions revealed by the epic, further indicates
that the original Rdmiya~na is pre-Buddhistic. A review of the
whole evidence available appears to warrant the conclusion that
the original part was composed before 500 B.C., and that the
more recent portions were not added till the second century B. C.
In style the Rdimdaz.na is by no means a simple popular Its style.
epic in which the story, and not the form, is the main thing.
On the contrary, both in the use of poetical figures and in the
style of its descriptions, it approximates to the later artificial
epics (Kdvya), of which it is the forerunner.
The main story of the Rdmadyana, as related in the five Its main
original books, tells how, through the machinations of one of story: first
the wives of king DaSaratha of Ayodhya, his eldest son Rama part.
goes into exile, accompanied by his wife Sita and his brother
Lakshmana, in the Dandaka forest. Subsequently his younger
brother Bharata comes to offer him the succession, but failing
in his object returns to the capital. Rama then sets about the
task of clearing the forest of the gigantic demons infesting it, and
slays many thousands. Their chief, Ravana, determined on
revenge, succeeds, during Rama's absence, in carrying Sita off
by force to the island of Lafika. Discovering through the
chiefs of the monkeys, Hanumat and Sugriva, the locality
where she is confined, RAma with their help leads his army
across from the mainland to Lafika, slays Ravana and recovers
Sita. Accompanied by her he returns to Ayodhvy, where he
reigns gloriously in association with his faithful brother Bharata.