Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaņa Translation Project

Valmiki’s Ramayana, one of the most popular and influential works of poetic and religious literature ever composed, has been the subject of a quartercentury-long translation project at UC Berkeley. The project, titled the Valmiki Ramayana Translation Project was started at Berkeley in the mid 1970’s and was being carried out by an international consortium of Sanskrit scholars under the direction of Professor Robert Goldman and Professor Sally Sutherland Goldman. The Project had as its goal the production of a complete, accurate and readable English translation of the critical edition of the Valmiki Ramayana. The critical edition, prepared over a period of fifteen years by scholars at the Oriental Institute of Baroda, represents a scientifically reconstructed text of the great epic based on dozens of manuscripts in all scripts and from all regions of the Indian subcontinent. It has thus been a major contribution to scholarship in all fields concerned with early Indian literature, art, religion and society.

The project took as its mission not only a translation of the critically reconstructed text of the epic but a copious scholarly introduction and a dense annotation of each of the poem’s seven books. One innovation concerning the annotation is that it is informed by a close reading of the extensive and highly influential medieval body of Sanskrit language commentary on the text produced from the 12th to the 19th century. No previous translation has brought forth the indigenous scholarship on the poem which has had a major impact on the theological and literary reception of the work. In addition, the annotation, while dealing with every narrative, textual and interpretive problem presented by the critically established text also provides a translation and annotation of the numerous passages in the so-called “vulgate” versions of the poem, which are widely known and important to its traditional audiences, as well as a running commentary on more than half a dozen earlier translations of the various recensions of the work in European languages. 

The design of the Project called for the serial publication of the translation as each of the seven kandas, or books, of the poem was completed. The project was taken up by the Princeton University Press as the flagship work in its series, the Princeton Library of Asian Translations. The first volume, the Balakanda, translated by Robert Goldman, appeared in print in 1984 and was followed in 1986 by the Ayodhyakanda (Sheldon Pollock), in 1991 by the Aranyakanda (Sheldon Pollock), in 1994 by the Kishkindhakanda (Rosalind Lefeber), and in 1996 by the Sundarakanda (Robert and Sally Goldman).The sixth and by far the largest book of the epic, the Yuddhakanda, translated and annotated by Robert and Sally Goldman and B.A. van Nooten, and running to more than 2,600 pages in manuscript, was published in 2009. The translation and annotation of the epic’s seventh and final book, the Uttarakanda, by Robert and Sally Goldman was completed in November 2016.

The series has received a very enthusiastic and warm reception on the part of scholarly and general audiences alike. The Sundarakanda was named as one of the one hundred best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times Book Review in 1997 and the series has been taken up for reprinting by the Clay Sanskrit Library (New York University Press) and Messrs. Motilal Banarsidas, New Delhi each of which have republished the first five volumes to date.


A symposium titled, A Tale for All Seasons: The Rāmāyaṇa from Antiquity to Modernity in South Asia was held on Friday, November 18th, 2016 at the University of California: Berkeley to celebrate the conclusion of the Project.


Click links below for videos from the symposium

8:30-8:45: Welcome & Opening Remarks by Robert P. Goldman

8:45-10:15. Panel One moderated by Kashi Gomez

10:30-12:00. Panel Two moderated by Priya Kothari

1:15-2:45. Panel Three moderated by Priya Kothari 

3:00-4:30. Panel Four moderated by Kashi Gomez 


An exhibition held at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco that invites you to explore the personalities and perspectives of the four main characters of the Ramayana: Rama, his wife Sita, Rama’s faithful monkey lieutenant Hanuman, and the 10-headed demon king Ravana. Spanning the ancient to the contemporary, this major international survey of 135 artworks captures the epic in a new light. 


The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe

by Robert P. Goldman (Author), Sally J. Sutherland Goldman (Author), Forrest McGill (Editor), Pika Ghosh (Introduction)

The Ramayana has been a subject for visual and performing arts, literature, and religious thought in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia for many centuries. This book illustrates some of the most important episodes involving the four primary characters: Rama; Rama's wife Sita; Rama's faithful monkey lieutenant Hanuman; and the demon king Ravana.


Our Fall 2013 issue of South Asia Research Notes (SARN) celebrated the completion of the Project. It includes summaries of all seven volumes as well as an article that came out in the LA Times on Sept. 14, 1997, titled, The Curse of Valmiki by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. Click here to read it.