Have you heard Aristotle’s story of the carpenter’s knife? When asked to an old carpenter how long he had possessed his knife, he answered- “I’ve had it for 30 years. I have changed the blade a few times and the handle a few times, but it’s the same knife.” Similar is the case with the epic Ramayana.
It is rather unfortunate, that my generation is only exposed to Valmikis’s Ramayana and the Ramcharitmanas, because of the popular TV show by Ramanand Sagar. The problem is that we don’t read much and many texts don’t exist anymore.
A different version of Ramayana exists in many languages, including Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian, Chinese, Gujarati, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, etc. In Sanskrit itself there are 25 different versions. According to A. K. Ramanujam, more than 300 tellings of Ramayana exist. I’ve carefully chosen the word tellings and not versions, because there is no invariant, “the” original text for it.