Three hundred Ramayanas and more

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“How many Ramayanas? Three hundred? Three thousand? At the end of some Ramayanas, a question is sometimes asked: How many Ramayanas have there been? And there are stories that answer the question.” In an essay titled “Three Hundred Ramayanas,” Ramanujan sets out to explore how “hundreds of tellings of a story in different cultures, languages, and religious traditions relate to each other: what gets translated, transplanted, transposed.”

I was reminded of Ramanujan’s essay and the collection, Many Ramayanas (edited by Paula Richman), when I recently learned about the Ramayana being narrated on television. In fact, the Ramayana seems central to programming strategy for NDTV’s new entertainment channel, NDTV Imagine. And according to this story, this new version of the Ramayana has been responsible for boosting ratings and distinguishing NDTV Imagine from other similar “general entertainment” ventures such as Reliance’s Bindass and ZEE’s Zee Next.

This latest telling of the Ramayana is produced by Sagar Arts (established in 1950), the family that first took on the task of figuring out how to narrate a mythology on television. Needless to say, the version that’s on TV now is slicker and producers are making full use of technological advances (videos here).

The last time a Ramayana was aired on TV – on state-regulated Doordarshan – a number of people were concerned that the televised version would come to possess an authority that would be difficult to question. Furthermore, Doordarshan presented the Ramayana as an expression of “national culture,” leading scholars like Romila Thapar to wonder if “other tellings of the Ramayana story might be irretrievably submerged or marginalized” (link). But again, as Richman suggests in the introduction to Many Ramayanas, it might be worth thinking about television’s narration of the Ramayana “not as heralding the demise of other tellings but as affirming the creation of yet another rendition of the Ramayana , the latest product of an ongoing process of telling and retelling the story of Rama.”

And it’s not just TV! Virgin Comics sets Rama in 3392 A.D.

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And Nina Paley, of course, gives us a Sitayana!

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4 Responses to “Three hundred Ramayanas and more”

  1. amrita Says:

    Great post on the Ramayana. The only Ramanujan I knew so far was the mathematician.

  2. Movie channels and syndication « BollySpace 2.0 Says:

    [...] do attract audiences and at times help a new TV channel establish itself very quickly (Ramayan on NDTV Imagine, for e.g.), there is no escaping the fact that Bollywood has the largest program library and a [...]

  3. Indu Bali Says:

    Three Hundred Ramayana Article- Case Vice Chancellor Delhi University summoned by Dera Bassi Court.
    Buzz up! ShareThisMar 8 2009 | Views 175 | Comments (1)
    Many Ramayanas – Three Hundred Ramayanas; Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation” by A.K. Ramanujan.

    In Three Hundred Ramayana, Legal Case against V.C. Delhi University has been summoned to face trial for the alleged commission of an offense punishable under Section 153_A, 295_A. and 298 of IPC, for 22.4.2009. This is an order against the complaint filed by Anil Bali in Dera Bassi Court on 13.6.2008, in the SUB DIVISIONAL JUDICIAL MAGISTRATE, DERA BASSI.

    The Case was filed through Advocates Sh. Mukesh Gandhi, Sh. Anmol Singh and Miss Indu Bali.

    The complainant was aggrieved and his conscience is hurt after going through the malicious, fictitious, mutilated comments added by altering the original contents of the religious book. It contains abusive and libelous language used for Divine Hindu deities. It contains false stories quoted under one pretext or oral and other without any authenticity. That it is a matter of concern that popular beliefs and prevailing traditions of Hindu Culture are projected in distorted manner. An attempt is made to create differences in communities.

    I am giving below the points which are objectionable in the above Article. All those who respect the sentiments of others are requested to come forward to associate and help in all possible ways in this case with possitive feelings.

    The Case has been filed through Advocates Sh. Mukesh Gandhi, Sh. Anmol Singh and Miss Indu Bali.

    3) I was very much upset to read irrelevant chapter added with no relevance to Ramayana and for the purpose to insult all those who listen to Ramayana that “What Happens When YOU Listen” i.e. all we who listen. This is a created absurd story showing a lady who tells her unwilling husband to goes to listen Ramayana and she sleeps in her house. Can any Indian lady will do, when she knows about her husband. When her husband returns in the morning; she asks the man what he has listened. Since he goes there and sleeps, and gets parshad in the morning and tells it was sweet and so on. In this way the writer links various absurd quotes in the story and went to the extend of sordid indecency by saying that “a dog came that way and pissed into his mouth a little before he wake up…..” i.e. “What Happens When You Listen” (at page 46-47) and tells his wife terrible! it was salty. This is a vicious creation and is generalized to all those “who listen to a story the Ramayana i.e. “Specially Ramayana”. In this way all the devotees of Rama are insulted, which University is teaching through this article.

    ii. He has interpreted as per his notion as; “when Rama is exiled, he does not want Sita to go with him into the forest. Sita argues with Rama, at first she uses the usual arguments, that she is wife, she should share his sufferings in exile, and so on…. When he still resists the idea, she is furious, she bursts out ‘countless Ramayanas have been composed before this, do you know one where Sita doesn’t go with Rama to the forest’ that clinches the argument and she goes with him”.

    iii. I have read Adyatam Ramayana in my childhood and could never expected this type of wording from any Indian wife for her husband in literature, then what to talk of Sita. Any how I was not able to get the copy in my library, it might have been given to some one for reading, therefore I rushed to Chandigarh and purchased a new copy and read these lines 10 time there itself. I was not able find anything of this type in original text. There were no convulsive words as written in article. In Original text it is mentioned that; when Rama informed the developments to Sita, she said happily: “First I will go to forest and you come behind me, Hay Ragav! Yours going to forest and leaving me is not proper”. In reply Rama explained various difficulties she will face while living in Jungle and also expressed “that in jungle you (Sita) may see some gruesome demons and may die (leave breathing)” (Shalok 63 to 69). It is all in one para, which Sita listened calmly. In her reply she said “in intense pain, slight anger, and with shivering lips” point to point with logic in a single para and Rama listened all.Her last word are “If you will go after leaving me, I will die (leave breath) just now before you”. After listening Rama said “Devi! Immediately accompany me to forest.”As evident there is nothing like resisting, furious, bursts or argumentation etc. as ineptly projected in the article?

    iv. That in the same para (page 33, F.N.11) the simple translation of text is not done sincerely. We must understand that it is a scholarly discussion and research work therefore each and every word and translation is impartant.

    (a) In original text Sita said “please tell out of these, in any one where Rama went without Sita to Forest”. This is deliberately changed to “Do you know of one where Sita doesn’t go with Rama to the forest”. May see Adhyatama Ramayana 1913 Allhabad adition by Sh.Baij Nath B.A. at page 39 Salok 78.

    further details can be had from anilbali49.sulekha.com

  4. Cheap essays Says:

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