The outrage among academics at Delhi University over its infamous decision to scrap A. K. Ramanujan's controversial essay on the Ramayana is refusing to die down with a discussion on the essay and the importance of critical evaluation of ancient texts being held at Ramjas College here on Tuesday.
“Every version of the Ramayana is clear that Ravana never violated Sita, that he was a man learned and refined, his death was considered tragic and he was not always demonised. The complexity that exists in the epic has been taken away from us by categorising everything into good and bad, black and white with the grey conveniently overlooked,” said History Prof. Bharati Jagannathan leading the discussion.
A painting with a live model by artist Shishir Basumatari depicted a popular tale that suggests that for every Rama there is a Ramayana which forms the introduction in the essay.
“Once Lord Rama's gold ring slipped from his finger and disappeared underground. Hanuman took on a tiny form and went into the netherworld in its search. He was caught by the netherworld people who took him to their king. When Hanuman told the king his reasons for entering the netherworld, the king showed him a platter full of rings that looked identical and said: ‘There have been as many Ramas as there are rings on this platter',” said Shishir, adding that his rendition, showing a live Hanuman reaching for the painted golden rings was meant to be humorous.
“To Valmiki, Rama was the personification of the perfect man, a purushotam, whereas to the Tamil writer Kamban, Rama was God. Valmiki was inspired by separation and tragedy and Kamban based his story on prosperity,” added Prof. Bharati.
“Rama banishes a pregnant Sita based on the fact that his kingly duties should not interfere with his emotions. But he supports Sugriva, the monkey king, against his brother Bali whose wife had become Sugriva's consort, Rama even goes against dharma and shoots Bali in the back and then says that since he is an enemy and a monkey, his actions are justified. Nuances and complexities like these have been conveniently ignored,” she said.
“I am deeply religious and do not like religious characters maligned, but it is imperative as a historian to critically analyse ancient texts,” added Prof. Bharati.