Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation

Last updated

"Three Hundred Rāmāyaṇas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation" is an essay written by Indian writer A. K. Ramanujan for a Conference on Comparison of Civilizations at the University of Pittsburgh, February 1987.

Contents

The essay was a required reading on Delhi University's syllabus for history undergraduates from 2006–7 onward. On October 9, 2011, the Academic Council of the University decided to remove the essay from the BA curriculum for its next academic cycle. This action of the Academic Council attracted a lot of attention and several people viewed this as an act of unwarranted censorship.

Ramanujan's thesis

Three Hundred Rāmāyaṇas is a scholarly essay that summarizes the history of the Rāmāyaṇa and its spread across India and Asia over a period of 2,500 years or more. It seeks to demonstrate factually how the story of Rama has undergone numerous variations while being transmitted across different languages, societies, geographical regions, religions, and historical periods. It does not seek to document all the recorded tellings and re-tellings of the Rāmāyaṇa. Instead, it focuses on only five specific tellings of the Rāmāyaṇa from different languages, regions, cultures, and periods, which serve purely as indicators of a much larger range of actual variations.

The count of 300 Ramayanas in the title of the essay is based on a work of Camille Bulcke [1] and it has been pointed out that it is an underestimate of the actual count. However, Ramanujan considers only five tellings of Ramayana, namely, the tellings by Valmiki, Kamban, the Jain telling, the Thai Ramakien and the South Indian folk tellings. Ramanujan specifically prefers the term "tellings" to the usual terms "versions" and "variants" because the latter terms can and do imply the existence of an invariant original text. One of Ramanujan's main observations in the essay is that there is no such original Ramayana and that Valmiki's Ramayana telling is only one among many Ramayana tellings.

Publication history

  1. A. K. Ramanujan, ‘Three Hundred Rāmāyaṇas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation’, in Many Rāmāyaṇas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia, ed. by Paula Richman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 22–48. ISBN   9780520075894. Available at http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft3j49n8h7/.
  2. A. K. Ramanujan, ‘Three Hundred Rāmāyaṇas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation’, in The Collected Essays of A. K. Ramanujan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 131–60, available here.

Further reading

Arguments against the inclusion of the essay in the curriculum

The following sources provide more information on the arguments against the inclusion of the essay in the curriculum:

Implications of the removal of the essay from the curriculum

The following are some of the sources that discuss the implications of the removal of the essay from the curriculum:

  • Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (18 November 2011). "The rule of unreason". Frontline. 28 (23). Retrieved 15 November 2015.

News reports on opposition to the essay

Some news reports indicating the nature and extent of opposition to the essay:

Related Research Articles

<i>Ramayana</i> Ancient Sanskrit Epic by Valmiki

Ramayana is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Mahābhārata. Along with the Mahābhārata, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

Ravana Important figure in the Hindu epic Ramayana

Ravana(;Sanskrit: रावण, IAST: Rāvaṇa, pronounced [ˈraːʋɐɳɐ]) is a king of Lanka and the chief antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana and its adaptations. In the Ramayana, Ravana is described to be the eldest son of sage Vishrava and Rakshasi Kaikeshi. He abducted Rama's wife Sita and took her to his kingdom of Lanka, where he held her as a prisoner in Ashok Vatika, and also expressed a desire to marry her. Later, Rama, with the support of vanara King Sugriva and his army of vanars, attacked Ravana in Lanka. They killed Ravana and Rama rescued his beloved wife Sita.

Hanuman Hindu god and a companion of the god Rama

Hanuman is a Hindu god and divine vanara companion of the god Rama. Hanuman is one of the central characters of the Hindu epic Ramayana. He is an ardent devotee of Rama and one of the chiranjeevis. He is also mentioned in several other texts, such as the epic Mahabharata and the various Puranas. Hanuman is also son of the wind-god Vayu, who in several stories played a direct role in Hanuman's birth.

Ahalya Wife of the sage Gautama Maharishi in Hinduism

In Hinduism, Ahalya also known as Ahilya, is the wife of the sage Gautama Maharishi. Many Hindu scriptures say that she was seduced by Indra, cursed by her husband for infidelity, and liberated from the curse by Rama.

Valmiki Legendary Indian poet, author of the Ramayana

Valmiki is celebrated as the harbinger-poet in Sanskrit literature. The epic Ramayana, dated variously from the 5th century BCE to first century BCE, is attributed to him, based on the attribution in the text itself. He is revered as Ādi Kavi, the first poet, author of Ramayana, the first epic poem.

Lanka the mythological city

Lanka is the name given in Hindu epics to the island fortress capital of the legendary asura king Ravana in the epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The fortress was situated on a plateau between three mountain peaks known as the Trikuta Mountains. The ancient city of Lankapura is thought to have been burnt down by Hanuman. After its king, Ravana, was killed by Rama with the help of Ravana's brother Vibhishana, the latter was crowned king of Lankapura. The site of Lankā is identified with Sri Lanka. His descendants were said to still rule the kingdom during the period of the Pandavas. According to the Mahabharata, the Pandava Sahadeva visited this kingdom during his southern military campaign for the rajasuya of Yudhishthira.

Vanara Mythological creatures in the Hindu epic Ramayana

Vānara refers to a group of people living in forests in the Hindu epic the Ramayana and its various versions. In the Ramayana, the Vanaras help Rama defeat Ravana.

Sita Hindu goddess

Sita is the central female character and one of the central figures in the Hindu epic, Ramayana and its other versions. She is described as the daughter of the earth goddess, Bhūmi or Prithvi and the adopted daughter of King Janaka of Videha and his wife, Queen Sunaina. She has a younger sister, Urmila, and the female cousins Mandavi and Shrutakirti. Sita is known for her dedication, self-sacrifice, courage and purity.

Sundara Kanda

Sundara Kaanda, is the fifth book in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. The original Sundara Kanda is in Sanskrit and was composed by Valmiki, who was the first to scripturally record the Ramayana. Sundara Kanda is the only chapter of the Ramayana in which the hero is not Rama, but rather Hanuman. The work depicts the adventures of Hanuman and his selflessness, strength, and devotion to Rama are emphasized in the text. Hanuman was fondly called “Sundara” by his mother Anjani and Sage Valmiki chose this name over others as the Sundara Kanda is about Hanuman's journey to Lanka.

The Hanuman Chalisa is a Hindu devotional hymn (stotra) addressed to Lord Hanuman. It has been authored by 16th-century poet Tulsidas in the Awadhi language, and is his best known text apart from the Ramcharitmanas. The word "chālīsā" is derived from "chālīs", which means the number forty in Hindi, as the Hanuman Chalisa has 40 verses. A rendition of Hanuman Chalisa sung by Gulshan Kumar and Hariharan has received more than 1.2 billion views on YouTube, as of September 2020, becoming the first devotional song in the platform to achieve this feat.

A. K. Ramanujan Indian linguist

Attipate Krishnaswami Ramanujan was an Indian poet and scholar of Indian literature who wrote in both English and Kannada. Ramanujan was a poet, scholar, professor, philologist, folklorist, translator, and playwright. His academic research ranged across five languages: English, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and Sanskrit. He published works on both classical and modern variants of this literature and argued strongly for giving local, non-standard dialects their due. Though he wrote widely and in a number of genres, Ramanujan's poems are remembered as enigmatic works of startling originality, sophistication and moving artistry. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award posthumously in 1999 for The Collected Poems.

Adhyathmaramayanam Kilippattu is the most popular Malayalam version of the Sanskrit epic Ramayana. It is believed to have been written by Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan in the early 17th century, and is considered to be a classic of Malayalam literature and an important text in the history of Malayalam language. It is a retelling of the Sanskrit work Adhyatma Ramayana in kilippattu format. Ezhuthachan used the Grantha-based Malayalam script to write his Ramayana, although the Vatteluttu writing system was the traditional writing system of Kerala then. Recitation of Adhyathmaramayanam Kilippattu is very important in Hindu families in Kerala. The month of Karkitakam in the Malayalam calendar is celebrated as the Ramayana recitation month and Ramayana is recited in Hindu houses and temples across Kerala.

Camille Bulcke Jesuit missionary

Camille Bulcke was a Belgian Jesuit missionary in India who came to be known as "India's most renowned Christian Hindi scholar".

Versions of <i>Ramayana</i> Different versions of the Indian epic poem Ramayana

Depending on the methods of counting, as many as three hundred versions of the Indian epic poem, the Ramayana, are known to exist. The oldest version is generally recognized to be the Sanskrit version attributed to the sage Narada, the Mula Ramayana. Narada passed on the knowledge to Valmiki, who authored Valmiki Ramayana, the present oldest available version of Ramayana.

Rama Hindu deity

Rama or Ram also known as Ramachandra, is a major deity of Hinduism. He is the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, one of his most popular incarnations along with Krishna, Parshurama, and Gautama Buddha. Jain Texts also mentioned Rama as the eighth balabhadra among the 63 salakapurusas. In Rama-centric traditions of Hinduism, he is considered the Supreme Being.

<i>Srisitaramasuprabhatam</i>

Śrīsītārāmasuprabhātam (2009), literally The beautiful dawn of Sītā and Rāma, is a Saṃskṛta minor poem (Khaṇḍakāvya) of the Suprabhātakāvya (dawn-poem) genre composed by Jagadguru Rambhadracharya in the year 2008. The poem consists of 43 verses in five different metres.

Rama in Jainism

Rama (Rāma), the hero of Ramayana, is described in the Jain scriptures as one of sixty-three illustrious persons, known as Salakapurusa. Among these, there are nine sets of Balabhadra, Vasudeva and Prati-Vasudeva. Rama was the 8th Balabhadra with Lakshmana and Ravana being his Vasudeva and Prati-Vasudeva counterparts. He is described as a young prince who is deprived of his throne and turned into a pauper. While living in exile his wife Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, King of Lanka. Rama then rescues Sita with the help of his brother Lakshmana and King Sugriva. Ravana is killed by Lakshmana and they both go into hell. Rama becomes a Jain monk and his soul attains moksha. Sita becomes a Jain nun and is born into heaven as Indra.

Trijata Demoness in the Hindu epic Ramayana

Trijata is a rakshasi (demoness) in the Ramayana who is assigned the duty of guarding Sita who was kidnapped by king of Lanka Ravana. In latter adaptions of Ramayana, Trijata is describe as a daughter of Vibhishana.

Sarama (Ramayana)

In the Ramayana, Sarama is the wife of Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, the demon (rakshasa) king of Lanka. Sometimes, she is described a rakshasi (demoness), at other times, she is said to have gandharva lineage. All accounts agree that Sarama was friendly to Sita, the consort of Rama, who was kidnapped by Ravana and imprisoned in Lanka. Like her husband who sides with Rama in the war against Ravana, Sarama is kind to Sita and aids Rama. Sarama and Vibhishana had a daughter called Trijata.

Ramayana is one of the ancient Indian epics, with the first work being dated by scholars to around the 3rd century BC. The story is narrated by the saint poet Valmiki and tells the tale of a North Indian Prince Rama of the city of Ayodhya, who is banished into the forest along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. During the exile, Sita gets kidnapped by the king Ravanan of Lanka, and Rama with the help of a Vanara army rescues Sita from Lanka. The tale has parallels to the Greek Iliad, the details however differing The original set in Sanskrit consists of 24,000 verses, and there are several variations in the story narrated in South Asian and South East Asian cultures, across India, Thailand and Indonesia, with several versions re-written in various Asian and Indian languages.

References

  1. Camille Bulcke (1950). Ramakatha: utpatti aur Vikas(The rama Story: Origin and Development) (Hindi). Prayag: Hindi Parishad Prakasan.