The Ramayana is a Hindu epic poem about Rama and Sita, written in Sanskrit. The story is ascribed to the poet Valmiki, who allegedly received it from the gods while residing in Northern India, c. 300-400 BCE.
The Ramayana tells a story about banishment and return. It deals with ethics, lies, gossip, unusual spirituality, and Hindu beliefs about purity of dharma.
A good, basic summary can be found here » http://hinduism.about.com/od/epics/a/ramayana_story.htm. It should be noted, however, that there are different versions of the tale, different plot developments, and so on.
Sourav Roy adds:
After some exhaustive research, I have reached to a conclusion that versions 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.
Each has newer dimensions, more fascinating than the other. Read them in reverse order here- http://souravroy.com/?s=too+many+ramayanas ¹
Artists performing dance drama on Ramayana at the Central Park in New Delhi.
Along with the Mahabharata, the Ramayana is considered one of the great treasures of Hindu religious literature. Together, these epics continue to exert a huge influence on contemporary Hindu culture. Every Hindu child knows the story, just as most Western kids know about Adam and Eve.