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Ramayana — Valmiki and others

Dr. Rangan delivering a discourse at Ayodhya Mandapam, West Mambalam, Chennai.

Dr. Rangan delivering a discourse at Ayodhya Mandapam, West Mambalam, Chennai.   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

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Dr. Rangan underlines the differences, which make Adikavi a class apart

It is well-known that the Ramayana is familiar to the people of many countries. The story, of course, takes on different shades. Eminent scholar and orator Dr. Rangan threw light on the variations in the epic comparing them with Valmiki Ramayana. Dr. Rangan’s talks, over nine days, were based on his 10 volume-work on the Ramayana containing verse by verse English translation of the entire epic followed by an in depth analysis of five different readings of Ramayana in different regional languages. The Navaham was hosted by WEBOLIM (http://webolim.org/contact-us/)at the Ardhanareeswarar temple, Nanganallur, Chennai, recently.

Dr. Rangan followed the timeline to underline the differences, starting from the original author Valmiki, dating back to several millennia, to the version of Tulsi (16th century). Then he went on to compare with Valmiki, the Ramayana stories written by various authors, including Kamban. Dr. Rangan stressed that Valmiki remained Adikavi, countless authors, who came later, borrowing from his rich vocabulary.

Rama-related stories reflect their own eras. For instance, Dasaratha in Valmiki Ramayana, expects the consent of people and their representatives to anoint crown Rama as the Crown Prince. In remakes, Dasaratha discusses with his Ministers or other kings or only with his priest. This shows that the era of Valmiki had more democratic elements in the administration.

When Rama begins his journey to the forest, in Valmiki’s literature, up until the end of the Kosala kingdom and a little beyond, everyone, whom he comes across recognises him. Guha, the tribal in Valmiki’s literature is already an intimate friend to Rama. But in the remakes, Rama is not familiar to many. In a few of them, Guha meets Rama for the first time during the latter’s journey into exile. Guha acts more friendly with Rama in Valmiki while he is more of a subservient friend in remakes.

On diction and style

Dr. Rangan made an emphatic statement in his ninth day talk that Rama did not desert a pregnant Sita. It was not Valmiki’s idea and he was not the author of Uttara Ramayana. The speaker cited the style and diction, which differed starkly from what one found in Valmiki’s narration. The notion of ‘human race superiority’ is absent in Valmiki’s original literature. Yuval Noah Harari in his work Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind says that in the ancient era, this notion did not exist at all. This makes us wonder whether Ramayana belongs to such an early era. Harari adds that it was only after the emergence of the notion of human race superiority in the collective psyche of sapiens, that the concept of classes/castes among humans surfaced. Classifying a particular class/caste as inferior is absolutely absent in Valmiki’s original literature, Dr. Rangan said.

The features of Manushyas, Vanaras and Rakshasas described by Valmiki correspond to Sapiens, Neanderthals and Erectus or Homo Floresiensis respectively. Valmiki’s epic might provide valuable information for researchers in anthropology, observed Dr. Rangan.

As many as 25 members of WEBOLIM (the practitioners of daily Ramayana recitation for several years) recited the whole epic in chorus.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 1:02:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/ramayana-valmiki-and-others/article30576456.ece

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