Ramayana, along with standardizing Ramakatha, transcends history, geography and binaries of mode of thinking. Its appeal may be discerned from the fact that it exists in different versions in various regions and forms. Notwithstanding these versions, valmiki Ramayana rules human heart and mind for its subject matter and manner of articulation.
The multilayered worlds of Ramayana make it a seedbed of ideas existing at various levels. Traversing generations, and getting interpreted anew in consonance with cultural needs and existential questions, it has earned serious critical consideration of scholars from different perspectives - literary, aesthetic, ethical, comparative, interdisciplinary, religious, philosophical, moral, social, archaeological, and intermedial among many. Hence, it demands its reinterpretation by every generation. The present book is a testimony to it, and a response in this direction.
Consisting of scholarly papers by eminent intellectuals and with a perspicuous introduction, this book reconsiders Valmiki Ramayana from different perspectives, presented in a seminar on Ramayana that was organized with the blessings of Pujya Morari Bapu.
About the Author
Avadhesh Kumar Singh, PhD, has been Founder Head, Department of English & Comparative Literary Studies, Saurashtra University, Rajkot (1989-2005). He served as Vice-Chancellor of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University, Ahmedabad (2006-09). Thereafter, he was the Founder Convener, Knowledge Consortium of Gujarat, Government of Gujarat, Gandhinagar. He taught at School of Studies in English, Vikram University, Ujjain (MP) too.
At present Dr Singh is Professor of Translation Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Delhi. Also he is Honorary Chair Professor, Comparative & Interdisciplinary Studies, Auro University, Surat and Adjunct Professor, SMVD University, Katra (Jammu). He has been Director, School of Translation Studies & Training, IGNOU (2011-14) and also Director of Indian Sign Language, Research & Training Centre, MoSJ&E.
Dr Singh has lectured in universities in India and abroad. Apart from his 160 papers in various anthologies, national and international journals of repute, he has authored 16 books till now. His latest books include Revisiting Literature, Criticism and Aesthetics in India (2012), and Samkalin Alochana Vimarsh (2016) in Hindi.
He is Series Editor, Critical Discourses in South Asia, Routledge, Taylor & Francis. Since 1994, he has been Editor, Critical Practice, journal of literary and critical studies.
Valmiki Ramayana, adi-kavya (first poetic composition), is an inexhaustible fountain of culture and knowledge. As an integral part of Indian cerebral and cultural system, it has profoundly impacted, and it still does so, lives of immeasurable numbers of minds and souls in India and beyond, and also forms of human expressions - aural and visual among others. Human mind, that has been beholden to it for centuries, has employed, approximated and reinterpreted Ramakatha for its purposes. Ramayana, as Romesh Chunder Dutt stated, "like Mahabharata, is a growth of centuries, but the main story is more distinctly the creation of one mind". Against the individuality of creation of Ramayana, the history of subsequent creative works based on Ramayana, first Sanskrit epic and Ramakatha, reveals incessant engagement of human mind with Ramakatha, its collective ownership and participatory creativity too. Ramayana, thus, is not just ayana (march) of Rama but of Indian civilization at individual and collective levels, for that matter of entire human civilization for the values it upholds for humanity.
Like creative faculty, Ramayana has earned serious critical consideration from various perspectives - literary, aesthetic, ethical, comparative, interdisciplinary, religious and philosophical, among others. New interpretative strategies and perceptions are unfolding multiple layers of meanings and enriching our understanding of the text Valmiki Ramayana, of the Ramakatha and also of ourselves in the process. "The publications such as Plant and Animal Diversity in Valmiki Ramayana by M. Amrithalingam et al. (2013), "Psychology Reflected in Valmiki Ramayana" by Neeraj Shyam Deo and interdisciplinary work being done by I-Serve Institute of Scientific Research on historicity and dating of Ramayana through astronomical and interdisciplinary study of planetary positions and zodiac constellations are some among such cases in view.
Valmiki Ramayana continues to inspire and engage creative and critical minds, and would do so in future as well, as it contains frameworks and traces of standardized creativity and human wisdom. Various Ramayanas in different oral and scripted traditions and versions have interpreted it to instruct and delight, and soothe and solace different communities, countries and subcontinents in different periods. Accordingly, much has been written about Ramayana and its subsequent counterparts. The fact, however, is that sublime texts like Ramayana need to be interpreted by every generation for itself in accordance with its cultural needs and existential questions. The present book bears testimony to it, as it reconsiders voices and visions inherent in Ramayana.
The reconsideration of Ramayana by various illustrious scholars from various perspectives became a reality with the blessings of Pujya Sri Morari Bapu in the form of a seminar on Valmiki Ramayana with Pujya Bapu as the principal listener. From the conception of the seminar to its execution and the subsequent publication of the book, each stage has been marked indelibly by his kindness and affection. Though his kathas are based on Tulsidas's Ramacaritamanasa and he relates with other traditions with equal ease, he never obviates the Gomukha of Ramakathas, i.e. Valmiki Ramayana. Hence, it is natural that the book emerges as his tribute to Ramayana as the foundational text of Indian civilization and culture, and yet another instance of his infinite generosity toward the obtaining generation that needs to learn from Ramayana more than ever.
Before concluding this Prefatory Note, it is necessary to acknowledge contribution, help and guidance received from the book would not have been a possibility without the ceaseless commitment of Shri Parthivbhai Hariyani, Managing Trustee, Shree Sitaram Seva Trust, Shri Nagindas Sanghavi 'Bapa' and self-effacing endeavours of Shri Jaydev Mankad. Their pieces of advice shaped the book in qualitative terms. Language fails us in our exertions to articulate gratitude to them for all that they did for the effort. Mention must be made about Shri Harishchandrabhai Joshi and so many souls who worked silently for the seminar and the book.
Here, let me acknowledge our indebtedness to all eminent authors of papers in the book and also to translators who helped us by rendering pieces into English. They were kind enough to respond to our queries at different stages of the composition of the book. Special thanks are due to Dr Rajnish Mishra for considering our request to do an erudite piece on an aspect of Ramayana that has hitherto remained unattended. Hope that the book would contribute to our existing understanding of Ramayana.
To bring in consistency across different articles in this book, and following the house style of the publisher, the definite article "the" has been omitted from the name of works as far as the Sanskrit texts are concerned.
I wish to thank Shri Susheel Mittal, Director, D.K. Printworld for undertaking the task of publication of this book and accomplishing it with a rare commitment and rigour for qualitatively rich Publication.
Not much remains unstated about Ramayana. Almost everything has been said and written about it. What is there for lesser mortals like me to add to the existing body of knowledge about it? However, Ramayana is like a grandmother about whom even after writing volumes one realizes that there is a lot that remains unstated. Knowing it full well, we still need to rethink about it because it helps in coming a little closer to the Indian culture which prides itself in being one of the most ancient, living, heterogeneous and inclusive cultures, and is based on the principles of purusartha (obligations) and dharma (righteous conduct worthy of upholding at a given time and place), more so in the present time marked by cultural anarchy due to obliteration of distinction among information, knowledge and wisdom. The present endeavour is a tribute to all of those who have enlightened us with their interpretations of Ramayana, and a sincere step towards understanding it further. Hence, what follows is not mine, but what I have heard from others - elders, thinkers and scholars of different inclinations that have lived and contributed to it in their own ways.
The Ramakatha would have existed in folklore in different ways in different regions of the Indian subcontinent before it appeared as a trickle in compositional form: adho ramo savitrih (Yajurveda 29.59). In the course of time, the trickle got transformed into streams like the Mandakinis and the Gangotris, and then they got merged and became Ramayana like the sacred Ganga River with tributaries and distributaries on its way, with every successive version of the Ramakatha as each other's interpretations.
The Ramakatha is a long tradition of interpretations of the katha with Ramayana as the first systematic metre-bound composition. Valmiki's Ramayana is the first composition that celebrates the Ramakatha (Rama's narrative) in epical terms. The subsequent dissemination of the katha led to its multiple avataras in different forms and adaptations. It can be surmised that there were some versions of Ramakatha in Prakrt or the natural languages of the people, and the Sage Valmiki must have had access to them. The air around Valmiki would have been thick with different versions of Ramakatha, He could see through these versions and could weave a meta/mega-narrative by gleaning the best for the purpose. Before standardizing the katha, he would have interacted with other versions, making it a good case study for comparative reception studies. In the Indian bahusruta (much heard), not the English ''well-read'', tradition Valmiki would have accessed the Ramakatha from Sruti tradition in Sanskrit and Prakrt from his teachers, disciples, visitors to his asrama (hermitage), and from his interaction with others including his fellow-seers from different traditions. The creation here included reception of various traditions of the Ramakatha in oral versions in order to prepare a standard recession or version suitable to his creative purpose. Narada who appeared in the beginning of Ramayana before Valmiki, represents the collective oral cultural unconscious of the society and its intellectual make-up that presents before him with the narrative of Rama as a hero. Tried by the Eternal Time (Mahakala) Ramayana became the foundational text for its subsequent interpretations and- translations, as it became Ramakathayana.
In a sense Valmiki's Ramayana is an anuvada, i.e. subsequent discourse, not translation, as it is often used (anu=subsequent and vada=discourse) of different vadas (discourses) of the Ramakathas. His Ramayana as the creation of the finest fruition of the Ramakatha is the first finished product of the process of standardization of knowledge articulated in narrative traditions in which the two complementary traditions, though they at times are seen as antithetical, laka and sastra participated vigourously. Ramayana in this sense is a primordial manifestation of the Ramakatha in Sanskrit in 24,000 s1akas and 500 sargas (sub-divisions of the cantos). The first word of every 1,000 sloka begins with the word from Gayatri-mantra (hymn) which too has twenty-four words.' From Valmiki to different versions and adaptations of the Ramakatha in different languages in India and abroad, from Lassen and Michelet to William Buck in the West, there is an enormous corpus of interpretative erudition on and around the Ramakatha in general and Valmiki's Ramayana in particular.
The chief versions of the Ramakatha in Indian languages include Tulsidas's Ramacaritamanasa in Hindi/Avadhi, Ranganatha Ramayana in Telugu, Ksttivasa Ramayana in Bengali, Madhava Kundali Ramayana in Assamese, Balrama Dasa's Jagmohan Ramayana in Odiya, Girdhar Ramayana in Gujarati, Eknath's Bhavartha Ramayana in Marathi, Kamban's KambaRamayanam in Tamil, Kannassa Ramayanam and Punam Namputhari's Ramayana Campu, Ezhuthaccan's Adhyatma Ramayana along with so many other versions in Malayalam and many oral versions including Bhili Ramayana.
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