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Bibek Debroy in the article 10 Sanskrit texts everyone must read says:

1. Valmiki Ramayana - Valmiki was the first Sanskrit poet. He invented the shloka. In roughly 25,000 shlokas, this is the first work of Sanskrit literature, though other Sanskrit texts pre-date Valmiki. This is beautiful poetry, especially in the first 6 kandas, and unlike classical Sanskrit literature, it is simple in structure, easily understood. Yes, the Ramayana is about Rama's journey and it has religious significance. But it is much more.

Now the homepage of valmikiramayan.net says:

Ramayana contains 24,000 verses [sloka] arranged into numerous cantos [sarga] which are contained in 6 books as mentioned earlier.

So what is the correct number of shlokha's in Valmiki Ramayana including the Uttara Khanda?

When they say 24,000 or 25,000 verses, does it generally include the Uttara Khanda?


P.S I'm looking for well-researched answers, not copy-paste answers from random blogs.

  • Even Valmiki Ramayana by IITK says it has 24k verses. – The Destroyer Sep 30 '16 at 2:37
  • 24k as agreed by multiple scholars. 24 (and its multiple) is the number that fits the pattern of gayatri mantra as well, of which the Ramayana is said to be a form. – user1195 Sep 30 '16 at 2:50
  • It is said there are 24000 slokas in Ramayanam. The 1st slokam and then every 1000th slokam begins with the letter in Gayathri mantra of 24 letters. – Trichakra Sep 30 '16 at 3:58
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Valmiki Ramayana consists of 24000 verses. It is verified in Balakanda 1.4.2 itself:

चतुर् विंशत् सहस्राणि श्लोकानाम् उक्तवान् ऋषिः | तथा सर्ग शतान् पंच षट् काण्डानि तथा उत्तरम् ||१-४-२

Sage Valmiki said Ramayana in twenty four thousand verses, in six hundred chapters, in six books, likewise an end-piece too. [1-4-2]

Does Uttara Kanda comes in 24000 verses?
Yes, it comes because the above verse itself speaks:

षट् काण्डानि तथा उत्तरम् ||
Six Kandas and also the Uttara.

And furthermore each 1000th letter of these 24000 verses forms Gayatri mantra which is of 24 letters which is also called Gayatri Ramayana. The last word in Gayatri mantra is प्रचोदयात् (Prachodayat).

प्र is from Yuddha Kanda:

प्रणम्य देवताभ्यश्च ब्राह्मणेभ्यश्च मैथिली ।
बद्धांजलिपुटाचेदमुवाचाग्निसमीपतः ॥ (६.११९.२३)

Offering her salutations to the devas and the brahmanas Sita, with folded hands went near Agni and spoke thus.

The above verse starts with प्र (pra).

च is from Uttara Kanda:

चलनात्पर्वतेन्द्रस्य गणा देवाश्च कंपिताः।
चचाल पार्वती चापि तदाश्लिष्टा महेश्वरम् ॥ (७.१६.२६)

When the mountain was shaking, the ganas and devas were tossed about. Parvati also felt the tremor and embraced her consort Maheshwara (Siva).

द is also from Uttara Kanda:

दाराः पुत्राः पुरं राष्ट्रं भोगाच्छादनभोजनम्।
सर्वमेवाविभक्तं नौ भविष्यति हरीश्वर ॥ (७.३४.४१)

O Chief of Vanaras, henceforth wives, sons, city, country, objects of enjoyment, clothes and food would be undivided between us, that is, we will partake of them as common assets.

य is also from Uttara Kanda:

यामेव रात्रिं शत्रुघ्नः पर्णशालां समाविशत्।
तामेव रात्रिं सीतापि प्रसूता दारकद्वयम् ॥(७.६६.१)

The night during which satrughna entered the hermitage of Valmiki, the same night Sita was delivered of twin male children.

Thus as all these verses are 1000 verses apart. We can safely conclude that Uttara Kanda also counts in 24000 verses.

The list of Gayatri Ramayana is prepared by deleting some chapters for the standardization of Ramayana to make 24000 verses as per that statement of Bala Kanda. Regarding this ValmikiRamayana.net says:

There is a controversy about the number of verses and cantos. If Uttara Ramayana, otherwise called abhudaya kaanDa , is ascribed to Valmiki, the cantos are seven and chapters are about 649 and verses are about 24,253. But some verses and chapters are deleted for standardization of Ramayana as per this verse and they contain 560 chapters and 24,000 verses only.

Thus in avaliable manuscripts there are 649 chapters including Uttara Kanda which makes 24253 verses. But as per Bala Kanda there are 24000 verses. Thus some chapters (which are likely to be interpolation) are deleted and chapter no. is made 560 and it contains 24000 verses and 24 letters of it also form Gayatri Mantra.

Why some Scholars still debate in Authenticity of Uttara Kanda?

One of the main reason is. ValmikiRamayana Yuddha Kanda, ie. 6.128.106 states:

सर्वे लक्षणसम्पन्नाः सर्वे धर्मपरायणाः || ६-१२८-१०६
दशवर्षसहस्राणि रामो राज्यमकारयत्

All the people were endowed with excellent characteristics. All were engaged in virtue. Rama was engaged in the kingship thus for ten thousand years.

After this verse immediately starts the Phala Shruti. ie. Benefits of reading ValmikiRamayana. In every text PhalaShruti starts in the end of text. As it is in end of Yuddha Kanda, thus some scholars believe whole of the Uttara Kanda is an interpolation.

Possible Solution:

One of the possible solution is Valmiki composed Ramayana of 24000 verses including Uttara Kanda. But as some parts of Uttara Kanda was yet to come, he taught only upto Yuddha Kanda to Lava and Kusha and thus kept Phalashruti at that place. Thus he only made Uttara Kanda avaliable only when all events described took place (like Sita going inside earth, Disowning of Lakshmana, Entering in Sarayu etc... ). So the Phala Shruti remained in the Yuddha Kanda itself.

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    @sv. well I myself believe that there are many added stories in Bala Kanda and Uttara Kanda...regarding Rama being made incarnation of Vishnu in book I and VII... it's possible that Valmiki made incarnation in 1st and last book... but not in other to show human like nature of Vishnu incarnation... and furthermore Rama being incarnation of Vishnu is hinted in other Kandas as well like Ayodhya kanda, statementof Indra in Aranya Kanda, statement of Garuda in Yuddha kanda... and I do not know what words in Sanskrit are used for Greeks, Parthians, Sakas etc... – Tejaswee Sep 30 '16 at 4:37
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    There is a translation error here. षट् काण्डानि तथा उत्तरम् doesn't mean six kandas along with Utttara. You have to add the complete sentence to get the correct meaning. Six along Uttara means "Six if Uttara kanda is included". – Sarvabhouma Sep 19 '17 at 17:02
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    @sv. Nonsense, "yavanas" word is used for multiple foreign tribes, sakas have always been there in West of india, even Vedas mention many tribes such as sakas, Parsu etc were they compiled in ad era? – Anubhav Jha Feb 18 '18 at 5:45
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    @sv. Well, those authors are not correct- sadly they can't do that with Mahabharata because it's filled with miracles- the atheists claiming that avatars or anyone else were human first later became divine suffer from atheist bias- the bala kanda for once mentions 3 preist yajna ceremony, the 3 preist yajna ceremony was done when there were only 3 vedas- four priest yajna ceremony is done nowadays because atharva Veda was compiled in age of Lord Krishna, it was started by grandson of arjuna- which directly means that bala kanda is older than mahabharata – Anisha Apr 23 '18 at 15:49
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    @sv. Furthermore the dialogues of bala kanda where Brahma says to gods to "make vanaras for Lela of Lord vishnu" is repeated in the retelling of ramayana in Mahabharata. The sakas and yavan are not words that are only used for one tribe but many foreign tribes. The atheists repeat the same trope for divinity of Christ claiming he was only a mere human who later became God. – Anisha Apr 23 '18 at 15:51
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Continuing the answer from the verse in Baala Kaanda Chapter IV: (2) चतुर्विंशत्सहस्त्राणि श्लोकानामुक्तवानृषिः | तथा सर्गशतान् पञ्च षट्काण्डानि तथोत्तरम् || This epic contains twenty four thousand verses split into five hundred chapters in Six Cantos. (Baala Kaanda: Ch IV:2) [The six cantos are Baala Kaanda, Ayodhya Kaanda, Aranya Kaanda, Kishkinda Kaanda, Sundara (Lanka) Kaanda and Yuddha Kaanda.] With the words 'तथोत्तरम्' it is interperted that Uttara Kaanda is the Seventh Canto.

Without Uttara Kaanda the present available editions of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana comprise of 20134 verses in 534 Chapters. This would lead to a conclusion, that twenty four thousand verses would include Uttara Kaanda which comprises of 3538 verses (still below 24,000) but the chapters go up to 635. Further 6 chapters comprising of 'n' number of verses is ignored. It may be that these six chapters comprise of the balance verses to make up 24000 verses.

The most acceptable conclusion would be that Maharishi Valmiki composed 24,000 verses including Uttara Kaanda, but in the years succeeding the composition and the written version, the Chapters were increased from 534 to 641.

If Uttara Kaanda is left out, then Srimad Valmiki Raamayana comprises of 20,134 verses in 534 chapters (sargas). One possible solution is originally Yuddha Kaanda, finished with the death of Raavana and the other verses including the Phalashruti in the later chapters was termed Uttara Kaanda. Still the conundrum of चतुर्विंशत्सहस्त्राणि or 24,000 remains.

1

The total number of ślokas in the Critical Edition of Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa is only 18,670. In the non-critical versions of the epic, the number is consistently around 24,000.

Yes, the Uttara-kāṇḍa is also included in these counts.

From The Valmiki Ramayana: Volume 1 by Bibek Debroy:

The table below shows the number of chapters and shlokas we have in the Critical Edition. The Critical text has 606 chapters, 106 more than the 500 sargas mentioned in the text itself. And there are 18,670 shlokas. If one considers chapters and shlokas from non-Critical versions, irrespective of which version it is, there are almost 650 chapters and just over 24,000 shlokas. Compared to such non-Critical versions, very few chapters have been excised from 'Bala', 'Ayodhya', 'Aranya', 'Kishkindha' or 'Sundara' kandas. The excision is primarily from 'Yuddha' and 'Uttara' kandas. The excision of shlokas is uniformly spread throughout the kandas, though most excision, relatively speaking, is from the 'Ayodhya', 'Yuddha' and 'Uttara' kandas.

+------------------+------------------------+-------------------------+
| Name of kanda    |  Number of chapters    |    Number of shlokas    |
+------------------+------------------------+-------------------------+
| Bala Kanda       |       76               |          1941           |
|                  |                        |                         |
| Ayodhya Kanda    |      111               |          3160           |
|                  |                        |                         |
| Aranya Kanda     |       71               |          2060           |
|                  |                        |                         |
| Kishkindha Kanda |       66               |          1898           |
|                  |                        |                         |
| Sundara Kanda    |       66               |          2487           |
|                  |                        |                         |
| Yuddha Kanda     |      116               |          4435           |
|                  |                        |                         |
| Uttara Kanda     |      100               |          2689           |
+------------------+------------------------+-------------------------+
|                  |                        |                         |
| Total            |      606               |        18,670           |
|                  |                        |                         |
+------------------+------------------------+-------------------------+
1

The question itself indicates that the questioner had done some deeper study of Ramayana and in his/her post script, the questioner called for a well-researched answers.

According to my study I had understood that

a) Bala Kanda contains major interpolations

I. Prologue to the story

The first 4 Sargas of Bala Kanda. It is in these Sargas we will come across the stories of

Sage Narada describing the great qualities of Sri Rama

Lord Brahma coming down personally to the Ashram of Sage Valmiki and ordering him to pen the Srimad Ramayana.

Singing of Ramayana by Lava and Kusa.

(1) Ramayana was written at the Vedic age. Sage Narada was not a part of Vedic Literature. Hence, his coming and explaining about Sri Rama is an insertion made at a later date.

(2) All Vedas were heard by Rishies in Dhyana and they gave that knowledge to the world. In no case we heard that Lord Brahma himself coming down and directing a sage to share the Vedic Knowledge with the world. So the story of Lord Brahma ordering Sage Valmiki is an INTERPOLATION.

(3) The Story of Ramayana ends with the coronation of Sri Rama as the king of Kosala Kingdom. It was only in the PRAKSHIPTA KANDA i.e, Uttara Kanda Lava and Kusa were mentioned. Hence, their presence in Baala Kanda does not fit in.

So the first 4 Sargas of Baala Kanda are interpolation with a view to elevate the status of Vishnu to the level of SUPREME GOD.

II. Conduct of Putrakaamesthi Yagna

King Dasaratha never thought of conducting of Putrakaamesthi Yagna. This story is incorporated at a later date (interpolation) in 15 - 17 sargas (3 in number ) to elevate the status of Vishnu to that of SUPREME God and to establish that Sri Rama was an incarnation of Vishnu.

III) The story of Parasurama

Parasurama was not an incarnation of Vishnu. This story was incorporated in 75 - 77 Sargas (3 Sargas) of Baala Kanda. This story was incorporated with a view to establishing the 6th incarnation of Vishnu, an interpolation.

IV) Sargas/Cantos that are not in tune with Sage Valmiki's style

If we read Srimad Ramayana carefully, we will find that Sage Valmiki deviated sparingly from the Main story. If it all he had to narrate about a sub-story, he used to describe that sub-story in brief. It is his style of narrating the story.

For example: Whether it is (i) describing the greatness of Anasuya, the wife of Sage Atri in Ayodhya Kanda, (ii) narrating the greatness of Sage Agastya in Aranya Kanda, (iii) telling about the enmity between Vali and Sugreeva in Kishkinda Kanda, (iv) the curse imposed on Kumbakarna by Lord Brahma in Yuddha Kanda, etc, we will observe his style of narrating the sub-story in brevity.

Contrary to this style, we will find many Sargas/Cantos in Baala Kanda of Srimad Ramayana.

  1. Bringing Sage Rishyasringa to Ayodhya.

In order to perform Aswamedha Yagna Sage Rishyasringa was invited and brought to Ayodhya. However, apart from this brief episode, the story of Rishyasringa was narrated in 4 sargas (9-11) in Baala Kanda. As it is not no related to the main story, we have to omit these 4 Sargas.

  1. The stories of Ganga, Sagara, Ahalya, etc

The stories of Ganga, Uma, the birth of Kaartikeya, the story of Sagara, digging of Earth by the sons of Sagara, the story of Bhagiratha, Ahalya, etc, were described from Sargas 35 - 50 (16 in number) in Baala Kanda. These stories have no relevance to the story of Sri Rama,i.e, Ramayana. Hence, these are interpolations.

  1. The story of Viswamitra

The story of Sage Viswamitra was narrated from 51 to 65 Sargas (15 in number) in Baala Kanda. This story has no relevance to the story of Sri Rama,i.e, Ramayana. Hence, these are interpolations.

Thus we have interpolations in 45 Sargas out of 77 sargas in Bala Kanda.

b) Ayodhya, Aranya, Kishkinda and Sundara Kandas contains interpolations here and there.

For example:

1) Sri Rama gives instructions to Bharata about ruling of kingdom. It is quite peculiar as to why Sri Rama should start teaching about ruling after a re-unite with Bharata. It is not Valmiki's style.

https://www.valmikiramayan.net/utf8/ayodhya/sarga100/ayodhya_100_frame.htm

2) Sri Hanuman searches for Sita in Lanka and sees Pushpaka. Here the following Sarga appears to be interpolation, as it contains description Lakshmi as the Goddess being venerated by elephants, which is a Puranic Concept but not Vedic. In Vedic era Lakshmi means riches.

https://www.valmikiramayan.net/utf8/sundara/sarga7/sundara_7_frame.htm

नियुज्यमानाः च गजाः सुहस्ताः | सकेसराः च उत्पल पत्र हस्ताः | बभूव देवी च कृता सुहस्ता | लक्ष्मीः तथा पद्मिनि पद्म हस्ता || ५-७-१४

Images of elephants in a lotus-pool with filaments of lotus on body, with lotus petals held in their trunks, were devoted to the worship of an image of Goddess Lakshmi. And also an image of Goddess Lakshmi with four graceful hands and holding lotus in Her hand was made to exist in Pushpaka.

c) The Sita Parityaga (dis-owning of Sita by Sri Rama) episode, consequent Agni Pravesha (jumping into pyre by Sita) episode, arrival of Brahma, Shiva and other gods episode are interpolations. This was already discussed by me at the following link:

Why did Lord Rama ask mother Sita for Agni Pariksha?

d) Uttara Kanda is an interpolated story in toto. It was already discussed by me at the following link:

Why did Sri Rama banish Lady Sita when he was a witness of her fire-test himself?

&&&&&&&&

Sage Valmiki gave the Ramayana to the World, to present a role model to human beings in the form of Sita and Sri Rama. It is naive to think that he wrote his poem in 24,000 slokas, though ardent devotees of Gayatri may differ with me.

&&&&

The Ramayana story starts with Sarga 5 of Baala Kanda. We have to add the remaining 32 Sargas to Ayodhya Kanda, making it as a single Kanda.

So we have only 5 Kandas in the Srimad Ramayana.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

A) According to the Critical edition of Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa , the total number of ślokas is only 18,670. Out of which 100 sargas consisting of 2,689 Slokas pertain to Uttara Kanda (as per questioner's answer).

B) As my study proved that Uttara Kanda is an interpolation in toto, we have to delete 2,689 slokas of Uttara Kanda, for arriving at a realistic number of slokas in Ramayana. So it leaves us with 15,981 slokas (18,670 - 2,689).

C) Further, I had also mentioned above that 45 sargas in Bala Kanda are interpolations. On an average there will be 20 slokas in a Sarga. So we have to delete 900 slokas (45 sargas x 20 slokas). This will bring down the actual slokas in Ramayana to 15,081 (15,981 - 900).

D) If we consider minor interpolations in Ayodhya, Aranya, Kishkinda and Sundara Kandas we may arrive at actual slokas in Ramayana to be below 15,000.

  • Welcome back to the site. 'It is naive to think that he wrote his poem in 24,000 slokas' - so how many shlokas did the original VR contain? – sv. May 13 at 17:25
  • @sv.: Thanks. I have updated my answer. – srimannarayana k v May 14 at 5:12

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