Deconstructing the Rama Consciousness: Appropriation of the Ramayana and its variations across India
Rohit Dutta Roy (Jadavpur University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper sees Rama consciousness and multiplicity of versions as inseparable, critiques political attempts at homogenization; analyzes changes in story and structure. It traces Buddhist and Jain versions, eulogizing Ravana, Rama's journey from Purushottama to divinity, Sita's characterizations.
Paper long abstract:
The original Ramayana existed in different oral versions before scribes put it down in writing; this paper posits the later recensions as socio-cultural constructs of divergent worldviews having their own legitimacy, questioning authoritative values and offers a critique of political attempts at homogenization of Ramakatha. It will pose the question of later Ramayanas being derivatives and analyze the changes in characterization, story and structure in various versions. The Dasaratha Jataka presents Rama and Sita as brother and sister while Vimala Suri's Paumacariya attempts to rid the story of exaggerations and divine elements, elevates the characters of Ravana, Kaikeyi and others, and propogates the Jain doctrine of Ahimsa. Hemachandra's version, adopted from the Paumacariya, has elaborate descriptions of the dynasties of the Raksasas and the Vanaras, the story of Rama is rather short and eulogizes Ravana's high character, leading one to infer that Ravana was the real hero of the Dravidian legend. Ennobling qualities of the hero and its delineation is evident as the Purushottama in Valmiki's Ramayana,the Parabramha in Adhyatma Ramayana, the avatar in Kambaramayanam, equated with Krshna in Bhusundi Ramayana, a symbol of Divinity in the form of a Personal God in Ramacharitmanasa and with a hint of cowardice in Krittivasa's Ramayana and Meghnadbadh Kabya. Sita's character has also been variously explored like the imitations of the Devimahatmya in the Adbhut Ramayana wherein Sita takes weapons in her hand after Rama faints and kills the thousand-faced Ravana, or in folklore where Sita is impregnated by a drop of Hanumat's sweat, can lift the bow with her left hand.
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