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The five articles which make up this special issue of South Asia explore the role of the Ramayana in Sri Lankan art, literature, religious ritual and political discourse in shaping Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Saiva perceptions of the island’s distant past. Contributors work to answer the question as to when and how Sri Lanka came to be equated with the mythic ‘Lankapura’ of Valmiki’s epic, exploring both positive and negative portrayals of Ravana (ruler of Lanka antagonist of the Ramayana) in Sinhala and Tamil literature from the late medieval period to the present day. Authors work to account for the politicisation and historicisation of the Ramayana in twenty-first century Sri Lanka (including similarities to and differences from the contemporary Indian situation), along with the appropriation of Ravana as a Sinhala Buddhist cultural hero, and the incorporation of Vibhishana as a ‘guardian deity’ in the Sinhala Buddhist pantheon.