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Durable Link to this BlogTuesday, July 26, 2005

Recollecting Ramayana

Ramayana occupies a very high place in Indian ethos. It is national epic along with Mahabharata. It has influenced Indian mind over ages in matters of religion, culture, society, political and moral life. Each character in Ramayana is special and ideal. Apart from Rama, Laxmana, Bharata, Seeta, Hanuman, Vibhishana, Tara etc are great in their own way. It has set norms to the ruler and the ruled over centuries.

Originally Ramayana was written in Sanskrit by Valmiki arguably in the 7th century B.C. Since the mention of Dasharatha and Rama occurs in Rigveda, their story must have happened much earlier. Ramayana is mentioned several times in Mahabharata.

Legends connected with Ramayana exist right from the northern part of the Himalayas to Sri Lanka ,south. Every region is replete with local version of Ramayana wherein Rama or Hanuman might have passed through their village and town during Rama’s long exile with Sita and Laxman! So Rama’s mark is found in a caves, temples, streams, rivers, hills, rocks, or even in trees in many places. Biggest Indian festival Dasara is associated with Ramayana in North India.

By now, there are thousands of regional versions of Ramayana in all the Indian languages. Sculptures based on different anecdotes of the epic are umpteen. Tibet, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia boast of their own versions. National theatre and dance forms of Thailand and Indonesia have strong Ramayana traits.

Sage Valmiki, the hunter turned poet and author of Ramayana is considered the first Indian Poet (Adikavi). His first agonized utterances over the mindless killing of the bird making love, are considered the first poetic lines. Hindi Ramayana (Ramcharitmanas) of Tulasidas is immensely popular throughout the Hindi belt, sung in millions of homes.

Jaina and Buddhist literature also includes Ramayana with variation. Plays, puppet shows, Yakshagana, masked performances (Chohu) and other folk dance-dramas based on various episodes were and still are popular. With modern additions of fairy tales from different countries, Indian children, till recently relished greatly, exploits of Rama and Hanuman as narrated by their grand parents.

Rama is considered as super human and incarnation of God himself. He is called Maryada Purushottama or Paragon of virtue. He was an ideal son, ideal brother, ideal friend, ideal king and ruler. But what counts most is, he remained monogamous. In the age when polygamy was highly prevalent, he had his only beloved,in Sita, even after forsaking her.

The story of Ramayana is simple, direct and most appealing which has made it universal. Whether in the northernmost tip of Himalayas, or remotest village in the east or west and to the fag end of south (Rameshwar), glory of Rama is sung. What is important is, it has bound the country of Bharat that is India for more than three thousand years.

Gandhi died uttering ‘He Ram!’. He believed in Ramraj where all were equal.

See Also:
• Illustrated Ramayana
• Tales and Pictures from the Ramayana

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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