Ramayana is one of the most famous, and the most read, epics of all time. It was written by Valmiki, who is regarded as a Maharishi.
A long time ago in Ayodhya, there ruled a noble king named Dasharatha. He had three queens and was blessed with four sons by the Gods who were very happy after his long and dedicated Yagna. The eldest son was named Rama. He was well-known for his values and idealistic outlook and is worshipped as the seventh incarnation of the Lord Vishnu. As he was the rightful heir to the throne, the king decided to crown Rama.
The second queen, Kaikeyi, bore jealousy against Rama. She wanted the king to make her son the king of Ayodhya. The king had made a promise to her, fourteen years before, to fulfil her three wishes. She reminded the king of his promise and wanted Rama to be exiled for 14 years. Being an idealist and obedient son, Rama obeyed his father. He bid adieu to the riches and the kingdom and embraced the life of an aesthetic.
Thus began the 14 year long exile of Rama and Sita with Lakshmana in the deep forests of the Indian sub-continent. One day, a demoness, mesmerised by the personality of Rama, tried to seduce him. Being the Maryada-Purshottom (the man of values and honour), Rama ignored her totally. After failing in her attempt, she tried her tricks on Lakshmana. Enraged by her act, Lakshmana cut off her nose. This insult was too much for her and she ran to her brother, the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. With the ulterior motive of seeking revenge, Ravana abducted Sita and held her captive in a vine near to his palace. Ravana was a very mighty king. He was a highly-educated Brahmin and had been blessed by Lord Shiva and other gods. Vanity was his only flaw.
With his brother Lakshmana, Rama set out to find his wife and kill Ravana. On his travels he was helped by a group of monkeys.
A tough battle ensued between the demon army of Ravana and the monkey army of Rama. Rama was victorious in the war and this win united him with his soul-mate, Sita. Their exile was over and they returned to their kingdom. Rama became the king and he was among the best rulers of India. Even now, every peaceful state is called "Ram Raj" (the rule of Rama).