09 November 2011

Ramayana Row Divides India

Ramayana Row Divides India, by Sudha Ramachandran (Asia Times, 10 November 2011)

India's liberal intellectual tradition has received a stunning blow with the removal of an essay that celebrates diversity from Delhi University's BA history (honors) syllabus. The decision marks the "surrender of academic freedom to political pressure", eminent Indian historian Romila Thapar has lamented. The essay in question is the late A K Ramanujan's Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translations. Written in 1987, the essay drew attention to the "astonishing" number of "tellings" of the Indian epic, Ramayana (the story of Ram) over the past 2,500 years in different languages, regions and mediums.

"Just a list of languages in which the Rama story is found makes one gasp: Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian [Khmer], Chinese, Gujarati, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan - to say nothing of Western languages. Through the centuries, some of these languages have hosted more than one telling of the Rama story. Sanskrit alone contains some 25 or more tellings belonging to various narrative genres. If we add plays, dance-dramas and other performances, in both the classical and folk traditions, the number of Ramayanas grows even larger," Ramanujan wrote.
Link: Ramayana Row Divides India