According to tradition the Ramayana was composed about 500 BC. The
original authorship of the great epic is attributed to Valmiki. It received its
present form two or three centuries later, but there are a number of different
versions which exist today.
    Out of its seven books, the first and last are the latest. The former states
that Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu, an indication of its later composition,
but many of the stories are very old and include some which probably
originated, in the kingdoms of Magadha and Kosala.
Known originally as Jaya Samhita, the Mahabharata includes the Harivamsa
(the Genealogy of Hari or Vishnu) and the Bhagavad Gita (Song of the
Lord). Traditionally it is attributed to Krishna Dvaipayana, also known as
    It was composed over many centuries and was almost finalised by the 3rd
or 2nd century BC, although the Bhagavad Gita and other interpolations are of
somewhat later period.
    The great battle described in the Mahabharata may have a historical basis
in the memory of a battle in north India in the 9th century BC.
    lt consists of eighteen books or sections. The Harivamsa forms an
appendix to the Mahabharata and consists of three parts which give an
account of creation, a genealogical list of the Yadavas, myths, the adventures
and love affairs of Krishna and the cowherd girls. Although it purports to be
part of the Mahabharata, it belongs to a much later period and in style
resembles the popular works, Puranas.
    The Gita represents the views of Krishna Devakiputra who declared that
righteous conduct is more efficacious than gifts made to a priestly sacrificer.
Traditionally the Puranas expound five subjects:
    (i) the creation of the world;
    (ii) its destruction and recreation;