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A different song

A form of Mappilapattu that incorporates tales from the Ramayana.

Many versions of the Ramayana are prevalent in India and in different parts of the world. The story of the ideal man `Rama' is popular in Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and many other countries. We have a Jaina Ramayana and a Buddha Ramayana too. Like many other regional languages, Malayalam too reworked the Ramayana partially or as a whole in different forms through songs, poems, `champus,' attakkathas, thullalkathas and so on.

The most popular is, of course, Ezhuthachan's `Adhyathma Ramayanam Kilippattu.' However, an interesting aspect of the Ramayana in Kerala is its presence in `Mappilapattu.'

Mappilapattu - a genre of song, which is popular among the Muslims belonging to Kerala and Lakshadweep, has incorporated some episodes from the Ramayana in some of its songs. These songs, known as Mappila Ramayana, have been handed down from one generation to the next orally and became popular as Mappila Ramayana.

Mappila Ramayana

The story of the Ramayana has been changed into that of a sultan, so that it adapts to the form of a Mappilapattu. There are no major changes in the names of characters except for that of Rama's which is `Laman' in many places. The available text includes episodes such as `Hanumante Poonkavana Pravesam,' `Ravanante Pranayabhyarthana,' `Shoorpanakhayude Chamanjorungal,' `Shoorpanakhayude Pranayabhyarthana,' and `Hanumante Poonkavana Naseekaranam.' The language and the imagery projected in the Mappilapattu are in accordance with the social fabric of the earlier Muslim community.

Taking into consideration the language that the songs have been composed in, the songs cannot boast of antiquity. Father Kamil Bulke, author of `Ramakatha,' who has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana all over the world has not mentioned this version in his book.

Discovery

In 1976, K.K. Karunakaran, a research scholar on Poorakkali, who heard a recital of Mappila Ramayanam by T. H. Kunjuraman Nambiar at a seminar on `Vadakkan Pattukal,' mentioned it to Professor M. N. Karassery. At the time Karassery was a research scholar under Dr. Sukumar Azhikode. Armed with a letter from the renowned poet V.T. Kumaran, he paid a visit to Kunjuraman's house at Vadakara in Kozhikode district. Karassery jotted down the songs. "I was really fascinated and was eager to know more about it. In fact my thesis was on the social and cultural values of Mappilapattu," beams Karassery.

Karassery recorded the recital in a tape, which is still with him, and later documented it. Of the origins of the songs it is said that a mendicant wandered singing tales from the Ramayana in the Mappilapattu style. "There might have been more songs depicting episodes from the Ramayana, which are yet to be discovered," says Karassery.

Paula Richman who has done extensive research on the Ramayana and who has authored `Questioning Ramayana' is all set to translate Mappila Ramayanam to English.

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