- Rama is one of the protagonists of the tale. Portrayed as the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, he is the eldest and favourite son of Dasharatha—the king of Ayodhya(current day Ayodhya, India)—and his Chief Queen, Kausalya. He is portrayed as the epitome of virtue. Dasharatha is forced by Kaikeyi, one of his wives, to command Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile. He kills the evil demon Ravana, who abducted his wife Sita and later retuned to Ayodhya to form an ideal state.
- Sita is another of the tale's protagonists. She is King Janaka's daughter and Rama's beloved wife. Rama went to Mithila(located in Janakpur, Nepal) and got a chance to marry her by fracturing the Shiv Dhanush(bow) while trying to tie knot to it in a competition organized by King Janaka of Nepal in Dhanusa. The competition was to find the most suitable husband for Sita and many princes from different states competed to win her. Sita is the avatara of goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu. Sita is portrayed as the epitome of female purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and is abducted by Ravana. She is imprisoned on the island of Lanka, until Rama rescues her by defeating the demon king Ravana. Later, she gives birth to Lava and Kusha.
- Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkindha. In some versions(other than Valmiki's), he is portrayed as the eleventh avatar of Shiva(he is also called rudra) and an ideal bhakta of Rama. He is born as the son of Kesari, a Vanara king in Sumeru region and the goddess Anjana. He plays an important part in locating Sita and in the ensuing battle. He is believed to live until our modern world.
- Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama, who chose to go into exile with him. He is the son of King Dasaratha and Queen Sumitra and twin of Shatrughna. Lakshmana is portrayed as an avatar of the Shesha, the nāga associated with the god Vishnu. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama during which he fought the demoness Surpanakha. He is forced to leave Sita, who was deceived by the demon Maricha into believing that Rama was in trouble. Sita is abducted by Ravana upon him leaving her. He was married to Sita's younger sister Urmila.
- Ravana, a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. He was son of a sage named Vishrawa and a demoness Kekasi. After performing severe penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the creator-god Brahma: he could henceforth not be killed by gods, demons,or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king who disturbs the penances of rishis. Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.
- Jatayu, the son of Aruṇa and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the form of an vulture that tries to rescue Sita from Ravana. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old, Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the direction in which Ravana had gone.
- Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has three queens, Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, and three other sons: Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favourite queen, forces him to make his son Bharata crown prince and send Rama into exile. Dasharatha dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.
- Bharata is the son of Dasharatha and Queen Kaikeyi. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi had forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharatha to die brokenhearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama in the forest. When Rama refuses to return from his exile to assume the throne, Bharata obtains Rama's sandals and places them on the throne as a gesture that Rama is the true king. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as the regent of Rama for the next fourteen years. He was married to Mandavi.
- Shatrughna is the son of Dasharatha and his second wife Queen Sumitra. He is the youngest brother of Rama and also the twin brother of Lakshmana. He was married to Shrutakirti.
- Sugriva, a vanara king who helped Rama regain Sita from Ravana. He had an agreement with Rama through which Vaali – Sugriva's brother and king of Kishkindha – would be killed by Rama in exchange for Sugriva's help in finding Sita. Sugriva ultimately ascends the throne of Kishkindha after the slaying of Vaali and fulfills his promise by putting the Vanara forces at Rama's disposal
- Indrajit or Meghnadha, the eldest son of Ravana who twice defeated Lakshmana in battle, before succumbing to him the third time. An adept of the magical arts, he coupled his supreme fighting skills with various stratagems to inflict heavy losses on the Vanara army before his death.
- Kumbhakarna, a brother of Ravana, famous for his eating and sleeping. He would sleep for months at a time and would be extremely ravenous upon waking up, consuming anything set before him. His monstrous size and loyalty made him an important part of Ravana's army. During the war he decimated the Vanara army before Rama cut off his limbs and head.
- Surpanakha, Ravana's demoness sister who fell in love with Rama and had the magical power to take any form she wanted.
- Vibhishana, a younger brother of Ravana. He was against the kidnapping of Sita and joined the forces of Rama when Ravana refused to return her. His intricate knowledge of Lanka was vital in the war and he was crowned king after the fall of Ravana.
Intro Textual History & Structure Characters Synopsis Influence On Culture & Art Variant Versions Theological Significance Media See also References Further reading External links
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