Glossary of Characters and Terms
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Agastya. one of the Saptarishis (Seven Sages).
Agni. god of fire.
Ahalya. wife of the rishi Gautama.
Aja. king of Ayodhya; father of Dasharatha, Rama’s father.
Akampana. son of Sumali; brother of Kaikasi; uncle of Ravana.
Aksha. youngest son of Ravana and Mandodari.
Anaranya. ancient king of Ayodhya; Rama’s remote ancestor.
Anasuya. wife of the rishi Atri.
Anga. ancient kingdom of eastern India; home of Rishyashringa.
Angada. monkey; son of Vali and his wife Tara; Rama’s ally.
Anjana. mother of Hanuman.
apsaras. beautiful celestial beings skilled in music and dancing.
Aruna. charioteer of Surya, the sun-god.
Aruni. female form of Aruna.
Arundhati. wife of the rishi Vashishtha.
ashoka trees. flowering trees.
ashrams. secluded homes of holy persons; hermitages.
Ashwapati. king of Kekeya; father of Kaikeyi, wife of Dasharatha.
astras. celestial weapons imbued with supernatural power.
asuras. supernatural beings, often hostile to devas and humans.
avatar. the “descent” of a god or goddess who lives on the earth.
Atri. one of the Saptarishis (Seven Sages); husband of Anasuya.
Ayodhya. capital of the kingdom of Koshala.
Ayomukhi. rakshasi who lives in a cave in the forest.
Benjakai. rakshasi with special magical powers.
Bharata. brother of Rama; son of Dasharatha and Kaikeyi.
Bhasmalochana. rakshasa warrior who possesses a deadly gaze.
Bhudevi. goddess of the earth; also called Bhumi.
Brahma. god of creation; consort of the goddess Saraswati.
Brahma-arrow. celestial weapon given to Rama by the rishi Agastya.
Brahman. Ultimate Reality, the cause of everything.
Brahmastra. the Brahma-weapon, which is immensely powerful.
brahmins. members of the priestly class.
Chandra. god of the moon.
Chandrahasa. sword that Shiva gave to Ravana.
Dadhimukha. monkey; guardian of the honey-grove in Kishkindha.
danavas. type of asura, often at war with the devas.
Dashagriva. birth name of Ravana; it means “Ten-Necked.”
Dasharatha. king of Ayodhya; father of Rama.
devas. divine beings, gods.
devis. divine beings, goddesses.
dharma. that which is right and true; duty; justice.
Dilipa. king of Ayodhya; Rama’s great-great-grandfather.
Dundubhi. asura in the form of a bull; father of the asura Mayavi.
Durga. goddess of war; manifestation of the goddess Parvati.
Durvasa. rishi, notorious for his bad temper.
Dushana. rakshasa warrior.
gandharvas. celestial musicians.
gandharvis. female gandharvas.
Garuda. divine bird; the vehicle of the god Vishnu.
Gautama. one of the Saptarishis (Seven Sages); husband of Ahalya.
gopis. female cowherd.
Guha. ferryman who takes Rama across the river into exile.
gurus. teachers, guides, spiritual experts.
Haihaya. ancient kingdom of central India; ruled by King Kartavirya.
Hanuman. divine monkey; son of Anjana and Vayu, the wind-god.
Hema. apsara; wife of Mayasura; mother of Mandodari.
hijras. people of the third gender; transgender people.
Himalayas. mountain range in northern India.
Ilvala. rakshasa; brother of Vatapi.
Indra. god of storms and the sky; guardian of the eastern direction.
Indrajit. rakshasa warrior; son of Ravana and Mandodari.
Jambavan. king of the bears; ally of Rama.
Janaka. king of the Videha kingdom; adopted father of Sita.
jatas. matted, twisted hair (locs; dreadlocks).
Jatayu. celestial bird; brother of Sampati; friend of Dasharatha.
Kabandha. headless rakshasa; originally a gandharva, Vishvavasu.
Kaikasi. rakshasi; wife of the rishi Vishrava; mother of Ravana.
Kaikeyi. wife of King Dasharatha; mother of Bharata.
Kailasha. peak in the Himalayas; home of the god Shiva.
Kala. god of time, associated with destiny and with death.
Kali. goddess of war; manifestation of the goddess Parvati.
Kartavirya. thousand-armed king of Haihaya.
Kasur. city in the Punjab to the south of Lahore; now in Pakistan.
Kaushalya. chief wife of King Dasharatha; mother of Rama.
Kekaya. ancient kingdom of northern India, ruled by King Ashwapati.
Khara. rakshasa warrior.
Khatvanga. king of Ayodhya; Rama’s great-great-great-grandfather.
kheer. sweet rice pudding, also called payasam.
Kishkindha. kingdom of monkeys (vanaras).
Koshala. ancient kingdom of northern India.
Krishna. eighth avatar of the god Vishnu (following Rama, the seventh).
Kubera. king of the yakshas; son of Vishrava; half-brother of Ravana.
Kubja. woman with a hunched back cured by Krishna.
Kumbhakarna. gigantic rakshasa; brother of Ravana; cursed to sleep.
Kusha. one of the two sons of Rama and Sita.
kusha grass. sacred plant of India, called “salt reed-grass” in English.
Lahore. city in the Punjab; modern Lahore is in Pakistan.
Lakshmana. brother of Rama; son of Dasharatha and Sumitra.
Lakshmi. goddess of wealth; consort of the god Vishnu.
Lanka. home of Ravana, king of the rakshasas.
Lankini. divine protectress of Lanka.
Lava. one of the two sons of Rama and Sita.
Lavapura. Lava-City, associated with the modern city of Lahore.
Macchanu. son of Hanuman and the mermaid Suvannamaccha.
Madhuvana. honey-park (Madhu-Vana) belonging to King Sugriva.
Mahendra. legendary mountain range on the eastern coast of India.
Mainaka. legendary flying mountain that hides in the ocean.
Mandakarni. rishi who lives in Panchapsaras (Five-Apsara) Lake.
Mandavi. sister (or cousin) of Sita; wife of Bharata.
Mandodari. wife of Ravana; mother of Indrajit and Aksha.
Manthara. loyal servant of Queen Kaikeyi; she has a humped back .
mantra. sacred words or sounds; some mantras are used as weapons.
Maricha. rakshasa; son of Tataka; brother of Subahu.
Marutta. king mentioned in the Uttara Kanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana.
Matali. charioteer of the god Indra.
Matanga. rishi whose ashram was on Rishyamukha Hill.
maya. trick or illusion; a play-show that people mistake for reality.
Mayasura. architect among the asuras; husband of Hema.
Mayavi. asura; son of the asura Dundhubi.
Meghanada. birth name of Indrajit, son of Ravana and Mandodari.
Mithila. capital city of the ancient kingdom of Videha.
nagas. divine snake-beings with supernatural powers.
Nala. monkey engineer; son of the god Vishvakarma.
Nalakubara. son of Kubera; husband of Rambha.
Nandana-Vana. “Pleasure-Garden” of Indra’s heaven.
Nandi. divine bull; the vehicle of the god Shiva.
Narada. divine rishi tells stories, shares wisdom, and spreads gossip.
Nidra. goddess of sleep.
Padma. “Lotus,” the daughter of King Padmaksha.
Padmaksha. “Lotus-Eyed,” a king, father of Princess Padma.
Pampa. lake in southern India; one of the five sacred lakes of India.
Panchapsaras. a lake; the name means “Five-Apsaras.”
Panchavati. location on the Godavari River; now called Nashik.
Parashurama. sixth avatar of Vishnu; a brahmin hostile to kings.
Parvati. goddess of fertility and power; consort of the god Shiva.
Prahasta. rakshasa, one of Ravana’s generals.
Pratyangira. goddess of war; manifestation of the goddess Parvati.
pujas. devotional rituals that may include offerings of food or flowers.
Pulastya. one of the Saptarishis (Seven Sages); father of Vishrava.
Pushpaka. flying chariot (vimana).
Raghu. king of Ayodhya; great-grandfather of Rama.
rakshasas. supernatural beings, often hostile to devas and humans.
rakshasis. female rakshasas.
Rama. son of Dasharatha; the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu.
Rama-fruit. fruit called “custard-apple” in English.
Ramachandra. another name of Rama: Rama-Moon.
Ramayana. Rama-Ayana, Rama’s Journey; a composition by Valmiki.
Rambha. apsara; wife of Nalakubara, son of Kubera.
Ratnakar. bandit who later became the rishi Valmiki.
Ravana. king of the rakshasas in Lanka; son of Vishrava and Kaikasi.
Rishabha Hill. Himalayan peak where Hanuman sought healing herbs.
Rishyamukha Hill. site of Matanga’s ashram.
rishis. enlightened persons, sages.
Rishyashringa. son of the rishi Vibhandaka.
Sampati. celestial bird; brother of Jatayu.
sanjivani. healing herb found in the Himalayas.
Sanskrit. language in which Valmiki composed his Ramayana.
Saptarishis. the Seven Rishis, or Seven Sages.
Saraswati. goddess of wisdom; consort of the god Brahma.
Sarayu. river in northern India that flows past the city of Ayodhya.
Shabari. old woman who lives in an abandoned ashram.
Shambara. rakshasa who challenged the god Indra.
Shambuka. shudra who conducted rituals reserved for brahmins.
Shanta. daughter of Dasharatha and Kaushalya.
Sharabhanga. rishi whom Rama visits in the forest.
Shatrughna. Rama’s brother; son of King Dasharatha and Sumitra.
Shiva. destroyer-god; consort of the goddess Parvati.
Shrutakirti. sister (or cousin) of Sita; wife of Shatrughna.
shudras. lowest of the classes: brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya, shudra.
Shurpanakha. rakshasi; sister of Ravana.
Simhika. monstrous asura able to control shadows.
Sita. adopted daughter of Janaka; wife of Rama; avatar of Lakshmi.
Sita-fruit. fruit called “sweet-apple” in English.
Subahu. son of the rakshasi Tataka; brother of Maricha.
Sugriva. younger brother of Vali; after Vali’s death, King of Kishkindha.
Sulochana. wife of Indrajit; also known by the name Promila or Pramila.
Sumali. a rakshasa; father of Kaikasi, mother of Ravana.
Sumantra. royal charioteer of King Dasharatha.
Sumitra. wife of Dasharatha; mother of Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
Sunaina. wife of King Janaka; adopted mother of Sita.
Suparshva. honorable rakshasa serving Ravana’s court.
Surasa. supernatural being who attacks Hanuman on his way to Lanka.
Surya. god of the sun.
Sutikshna. rishi whom Rama visits in the forest.
Suvannamaccha. mermaid; lover of Hanuman; mother of Macchanu.
Swayamprabha. holy woman; friend of the apsara Hema.
Tamasa. supernatural “darkness” weapon in Ravana’s possession.
Tara. wife of Vali, king of Kishkindha; mother of Angada.
Taranisen. rakshasa devoted to Rama; son of Vibhishana.
Tataka. born a yakshini, cursed to become a rakshasi.
Tenalirama. court poet of southern India in the sixteenth century.
Trijata. rakshasi; friend of Sita; daughter of Vibhishana.
Tumburu. gandharva; cursed to live as the rakshasa Viradha.
Urmila. daughter of Janaka; sister of Sita; wife of Lakshmana.
Vaishravana. another name of Kubera.
Vali. monkey; son of Indra; husband of Tara; father of Angada.
Valmiki. rishi; the world’s first poet, he composed the Ramayana.
Varuna. god of the sea; guardian of the western direction.
Vashishtha. one of the Saptarishis (Seven Sages); priest of Ayodhya.
Vasuki. king of the nagas.
Vatapi. rakshasa; brother of Ilvala.
Vayu. god of wind; father of Hanuman
Vedavati. woman devoted to Vishnu; avatar of the goddess Lakshmi.
veena. stringed musical instrument like a lute.
vermilion. sindoor; bright red powder used for sacred purposes.
Vibhandaka. rishi; father of Rishyashringa.
Vibhishana. rakshasa; brother of Ravana; father of Trijata.
Videha . ancient kingdom of northern India; ruled by King Janaka.
Vidyutjiva. rakshasa; husband of Shurpanakha.
Virabahu. son of Ravana.
Viradha. rakshasa; originally a gandharva named Tumburu.
Vishnu. god of preservation; consort of the goddess Lakshmi.
Vishrava. rishi; father of Ravana and of Kubera.
Vishvakarma. god of architecture.
Vishvamitra. one of the Saptarishis (Seven Sages); Rama’s guru.
Vishvavasu. gandharva; cursed to live as the rakshasa Kabandha.
yakshas. spirits of mountains, trees, lakes, etc.; Kubera is their king.
yakshinis (yakshis). female yakshas.
Yama. god of death and of justice; guardian of the southern direction.
yojana. measure of distance; appx. 8 miles or 12 kilometers.