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Ramayan promotional poster
|Created by||Ramanand Sagar|
|Country of origin||India|
|Original language(s)||Hindi (primary)
|No. of episodes||78|
|Executive producer(s)||Subhash Sagar|
|Camera setup||Digital movie camera|
|Running time||35 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Sagar Art Enterprises|
|Original release||25 January 1987 – 31 July 1988|
|Followed by||Luv Kush|
Ramayan is an Indian epic television series, which aired during 1987-1988, created, written, and directed by Ramanand Sagar. The remake of Ramayan series was again presented by Sagar Arts and which aired on NDTV Imagine in 2008. Ramayan introduced the concept of Hindu history to Indian Television and went on to become a cult classic, it was aired on Zee TV in mid-90's. Also, it was aired on Star Plus and Star Utsav in 2000's. 
The serial was brought to the small screen by Sagar Art Enterprises. The list of technicians is as follows:
Screenplay & Dialogue - Ramanand Sagar; Special Effects - Ravikant Nagaich; Technical Advisor - Prem Sagar; Lyrics & Music - Ravindra Jain; Title Music - Jaidev; Executive Producer - Subhash Sagar; Second Unit Directors - Anand Sagar & Moti Sagar; Produced & Directed - Ramanand Sagar.
Writing for the Indian Express following the airing of the series' final episode, S. S. Gill wrote that it was during his tenure as the Secretary under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in September 1985 that he Ramanand Sagar with the project. Gill added that in a letter to Sagar, he had written about the Ramayana as a subject for the television series was ideal in that it was "a repository of moral and social values" and that its message was "secular and universal". He added that he had noted in the letter that Sagar's "real challenge would lie in seeing the epic "with the eyes of a modern man and relating its message to the spiritual and emotional needs of our age". Gill added that he also wrote a similar letter to B. R. Chopra over the production of the series Mahabharat based on another epic of the same name, and mentioned that both he and Sagar accepted to his suggestions and constituted panels of experts and scholars to conceptualize the production.
The series was initially conceptualized to run for 52 episodes of 45 minutes each. But, owing to popular demand it had to be extended thrice, eventually ending at 78 episodes.
Ramayan notably broke viewership for any Indian television series during the time. It was telecast in 55 countries and at a total viewership of 650 million, it became the highest watched Indian television series by a distance. D. K. Bose, the media director of Hindustan Thompson Associates, remarked, "The unique thing about the Ramayana was its consistency. Other programmes like Buniyaad and even Hum Log did achieve viewership of around 80 per cent and more, on occasion. In the case of Ramayana that figure had been maintained almost from the beginning". He added, "Starting at around 50 per cent the 80 per cent figure was reached within a few months and never went down." He noted that the viewership was high at more than 50 per cent even in the predominantly non-Hindi speaking southern Indian States Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. He also added that the show's popularity spanned across religions and was watched by people of the Islam faith in high numbers as well. He mentioned that it was common among people threatening to burn down the local electricity board headquarters during a power outage.
The success of the series was documented well by the media. Soutik Biswas of BBC recalled that when the series was telecast every Sunday morning, "streets would be deserted, shops would be closed and people would bathe and garland their TV sets before the serial began." Writing for the Telegraph, William Dalrymple noted, "In villages across south Asia, hundreds of people would gather around a single set to watch the gods and demons play out their destinies. In the noisiest and most bustling cities, trains, buses and cars came to a sudden halt, and a strange hush fell over the bazaars. In Delhi, government meetings had to be rescheduled after the entire cabinet failed to turn up for an urgent briefing."
However, critics dismissed the series calling it a "technically flawed melodrama".
The telecast of Ramayan was seen as a precursor to the Ayodhya dispute. Arvind Rajagopal in his book Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India (2000) wrote that with the series, the government "violated a decades-old taboo on religious partisanship, and Hindu nationalists made the most of the opportunity." He added that it "confirm[ed] to the idea of Hindu awakening" and the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party capitalizing on this. Manik Sharma of Hindustan Times voiced similar views in that the series "played in the backdrop of a Hindutva shift in Indian politics, under the aegis of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its political outfit, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While the media and cultural commentators struggled to consider Sagar's epic one way or the other, there were some who saw it as a catalyst, even if unintended, to the turmoil that the movement resulted in."
Regarding initial apprehensions about the series being aired by a government-owned broadcaster, its hitherto producer Sharad Dutt said that "a lot of people within the channel’s office weren't supportive of the idea to begin with. But it had no motivation with what was going on politically. The Congress was in power and it had no agenda of the sort." He however felt the execution was poor and remembered questioning Sagar upon watching "the tape" if he had "made Ramayana or Ram-Leela". Sharma noted that the political clout the series held could be adjudged by the fact that Sagar and Arun Govil (who played Rama) "were repeatedly courted by both the Congress and the BJP to campaign for them", and that Deepika Chikhalia (Sita) and Arvind Trivedi (Ravana) went on to become members of parliament.