The Ramayana

Among India’s vast cultural literature, the two epics stand in category all their own. The collected legends of gods (devas), kings, saints and sages are called Puranas but a different category exists for the epics because they encompasses so much more than great stories. These are the Ithihasas: The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. I will address only The Ramayana in this post. It is the story of Rama, a young prince and incarnation (avatara) of MahaVishnu. It follows his adventures with companions (his brother Lakshmana & the famous Hanuman) as they travel across ancient India (Bharata) in search of Rama’s wife Sita, who had been abducted by Ravana, lord of the demons (asuras). This is the central storyline but naturally the plot reveals to us myriads of side stories and lore.

Unlike the Puranas, which are somewhat more sectarian and particular, the two epics are universally known by every Indian regardless of religion, deity affiliation or class. The Ramayana has been re-told by so many, in so many different ways. Indian Disney had made an after-school cartoon about the adventures of little Hanuman (à la “Muppet Babies”). Its influence has spread far beyond the sub-continent. It is the national dance of Thailand, called the Ramakien (“Glory of Rama”). The ruling Chakri dynasty of Thailand has assumed the name Rama for every king since its ascension in 1782; they are presently on Rama IX. I remember hearing about several comic books but one in particular of interest: a futuristic Anime one called Ramayan 3382 AD. The most famous re-telling was that of Tulsidas. This is the Hindi Ramcharitmanas, the text of which is venerated across North India. The epic was actually composed by the sage Valmiki. The stories of Valmiki and Tulsidas are interesting in themselves and perhaps I will narrate them at another time. If interested in a nice novelized version of The Ramayana, I suggest that of my favourite author R. K. Narayan.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the full movie Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (1992). It’s a great Indo-Japanese cartoon that tells the basic storyline. It has some great scenes with the demons because there are certain effects you can do in cartoons that you just cannot do on film.

Funny note: the voice of the demon king Ravana is played by the same actor who was MoolaRam, the sacrificial priest in Temple of Doom.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. savasana addict
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 13:57:44

    Thanks for this post! I saw the Ramayana in Indonesia some years ago as a play, a truly recommendable experience! 🙂


  2. l'orignal qui court
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 11:39:40

    Thanks for the links. I love a good bande dessinée. I was disappointed to see that the Grande bibliothèque doesn’t have them. Will keep looking.


  3. Trackback: Vijaya Dashami – Dusshera « Sri Satchmo

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