RK Narayan once wrote that almost every Indian “is aware of the story of the Ramayana in some measure or other.”
Sometime around the beginning of the Common Era, Valmiki wrote the first narrative of the epic in Sanskrit. Although the Ramayan may have existed in some form even before, his version is considered the standard for most translations into English. The oldest manuscript is a palm-leaf that was found in Nepal, dated 1020CE.
Valmiki presented Ram as an ideal man. It was only later that the prince of Ayodhya was presented as an incarnation of Vishnu.
The 16th century poet Tulsidas mourns the rise of lower castes to influential positions (as opposed to Ram Rajya, where everyone knew his place) in the Ramcharitmanas. In a Jain version, Raavan is a sympathetic character, and Ram and Sita end up as a monk and nun. And in a version popular among Dalits in Maharashtra, Raavan is seen as a hero.
But most people were introduced to the story of Ram through television or the Amar Chitra Katha comics (they have the Valmiki version and the Tulsidas one too).
Yet, you probably aren’t as fascinated by the straightforward story of the Ramayan as you are by the complex Mahabharat. But that’s why you should read more adaptations of the text, to see what has been done with the essence of the Ramayan.
Case in point: Meena Kandasamy’s short poem titled Princess-In-Exile, here in its entirety:
"Scorned, she sought refuge in spirituality,
and was carried away by a new-age guru
with saffron clothes and caramel words.
Years later, her husband won her back
but by then, she was adept at walkouts,
she had perfected the vanishing act."
The Ramayan can make you think – and it is a great read, every single time. So we decided to round up popular translations and adaptations. Pick what sounds the most interesting!
Valmiki Ramayana, the book of wilderness
The Ramayana: A Modern Retelling of the Great Indian Epic by Ramesh Menon (2004)
Prince of Ayodhya
Ramayan 3392 AD
In Search of Sita
|Sita’s Ramayana |
by Samhita Arni & Moyna Chitrakar (2011)
A rather graphic novel – the art is in red and earthen panels of patua style. And Sita’s Ramayana starts from the very end: a banished Sita tells the story of her life to the forest she now lives in.
Ramayana, A Retelling
Sita: An Illustrated Retelling Of The Ramayana
Ramayana For Young Readers
by Sarah Joseph, translated by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan (2014)
This translation of the Malayalam novel Oorukaaval is the story of Vali’s son, Angadan (Vali was the monkey-king slain by Ram in alliance with his brother Sugriv, who promised to help him search for Sita). Through this story, Joseph brings to the fore, the reasons why Ram killed Vali, and the real reason for Angadan to help find Sita. Also read for her depiction of Sita, who says to her husband: "You didn’t know my mind as keenly as you knew my body".
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From HT Brunch,October 19
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