I have a serious problem. I am going to start writing a novel which includes a character called Ravana, from the Hindu literary text called the Ramayana.

Now, if I were to publish this, would it be illegal? I live in India, where the Ramayana originated.


6 Answers 6


It may be illegal in some parts of the world if the material you're writing can be considered blasphemous or heretical. However in most of the world it would be perfectly fine. Pretty much all mainstream religious texts are old enough to be out of copyright or predate the concept of copyright altogether.

  • 1
    However note that even though the religious text itself is out of copyright, the specific translation may not be. For example, the original bible is certainly not under copyright, but e.g. the Revised Standard Version should still be covered by copyright.
    – celtschk
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 11:50

If by "material from another religion" you mean direct quotations from their texts or scriptures (e.g. a Jehovah's Witnesses tract, or a recent Bible translation), then you'll need to be aware of copyright laws.

Large quotations might need explicit permission, while short paragraphs will be allowed if a proper citation is given.

If you are simply taking historical or mythological events and retelling them in your own words, don't worry about it. I doubt there were any copyright laws several thousand years ago, and even if there were, the content would have entered public domain by now.

If you are making significant changes to the events or characters, then you might need to be aware of blasphemy laws in whatever countries you are publishing in. Depicting a religious figure as anything but what they are known as could be a serious offence.

And even if you aren't planning on publishing in such countries, be aware of what happened when Salman Rushdie - Wikipedia published his infamous book.


I am also live in India. And India is the origin land of not only the Ramayana, But also

  • Shiva trilogy,
  • Ram Chandra Series.
  • Randamoozham (Malayalam)
  • & a lot more.

All of this contains Hindu mythology characters , but none of them is a Hindu literary text .

So don't worry as long as your story is not intended to insulting the mythology it is completely legal to use mythology characters in your work under Indian law. And as I mentioned a lot people already done it. So, break a pen, as long as your story is interesting we will love to read it. :)


It would help if you could give some Jurisidictions (I am assuming America, where most religious characters are considered Public Domain or Scientology). Moses and Pharaoh (traditionally Ramses "The Great" aka Ramses II, though no historical evidence exists. The historical Ramses had a much longer lifespan than the Biblical one.) are certainly public Domain. Certain elements from more recent depictions may be considered problematic (i.e. Try to distance from Prince of Egypt in characterization.) but generally, it's nothing to be concerned about. A good idea is to depict Moses as a stutter, which is detail that doesn't show up in adaptations of Exodus and has some biblical support.

Blasphamey might find some issues in Islamic Nations, due to the taboo of depicting Prophets of God, which I believe (but may be wrong) Moses falls under (Jesus too, as Christianity is an older religion than Islam by 600 years give or take). Islamic nations would be the only problem culture with this as Israel is the only nation with a majority Jewish population and it tends to be more Secular in it's laws regarding fictional works and depictions of Biblical characters is not a taboo (though God and Angels are often not given humanoid figures... in the Bible, Moses was nearly overwhelmed by seeing God from behind, let alone his face, and the Angels were not usually creatures that were pleasant for humans to look at... there's a reason why "Fear Not, I am an Angel of the Lord" is almost a catchphrase with the angels.).

In terms of Christianity, there are few taboos against depictions of biblical figures. Eastern Orthodox sects tend to have the most taboos, but these are for statues of the biblical figures and saints. 2D paintings are fine by them. As a rule, most majority Christian nations tend to no longer have blasphemy laws, so there shouldn't be any issues.

  • OP already edited the question two days ago to say that they live in India and want to incorporate characters from Hindu mythology.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 15:34

Unless it is portrayed as blasphemous by the authors of the religious material and the ruling body of your area, it shouldn’t be illegal to use certain religious material in writing.


Is it copyrighted? Are you using it to defame or otherwise besmirch them? Then absolutely not.

India may have other laws concerning usage.

  • This adds nothing to the existing answers.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 13:37

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