kiskiKAHANI (the Ramayana Project)

300 Ramayanas and Counting . . .
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Rama in the forest
What's this illustration?

The home among the trees

When it came to building a home for themselves in the forest, Lakshmana, whose love for Rama knew no bounds, asked his brother where he would like their new home to be built. Rama looked around the dense forest and saw a spot by the Godavari, lined with trees.

“Lakshmana, that is where we must build our new home. There is a pond close by that shimmers like the back of a peacock. It’s surafce is covered by the bluest lotuses and you can smell the flowers from those creepers that seem to weigh the trees down. And look!  Deer and peacocks wander freely. Nothing would make  me happier than living in this place.”

Rama, Lakshmana and Sita in the Forest was printed in 1920 at the Raja Ravi Varma Press.

What's this illustration?

The story of Ahalya

Deep in the forest stood the ashram of the mighty sage Gautama and his beautiful wife Ahalya. One day Gautama went, as he always did, to the river, to practice  austerities, leaving Ahalaya behind. Indra, the king of the gods, was so enamoured by her beauty that he took the form of her husband and came to the ashram. He said, “I want to make love to you.” Ahalya ecognized Indra beneath the disguise, but she was overcome by desire for the king of the gods and agreed to make love to him. When she was quite satisfied, she sent him on his way.

As luck would have it, Gautama returned to the hermitage just then. Knowing full well what had just happened, he cursed the pair. “You, Indra, king of the gods, you took my form and did what no man must do! May your testicles fall off! And as for you, Ahalya, you will become a frigid stone, breathing and living only on air, rolling in ash and invisible to all! Only when Rama, the son of Dasharatha, comes here, will you be free of this curse!”
Many years later Rama did come and free Ahalya, and as for Indra . . . well, the other gods gave him a pair of ram’s testicles!

What's this illustration?

The curse of forgetting

Hanuman was a monkey, and like all monkeys, he could never be quite still. He swung from branches, jumped over rocks and swam through streams . Every time he saw a Brahmin praying, he found ways to distract him. If the Brahmin was offering water, Hanuman would drink it, if the Brahmin was praying by a fire, Hanuman would douse it, if a Brahmin had a beard long enough, Hanuman would pull it.

Finally the Brahmins had had quite enough, so they got together in a secret hiding place where they lit a fire and prepared a curse: that Hanuman would forget the truth about himself and his powers until he was reminded of them at the time when he needed them most.

Panchamukhi Hanuman pataka, gouache on cotton. Jodhpur. 19th century and Hanuman in the 20th century, taken from a temple wall in Madhya Pradesh.

The birth of Rama, Lakshmana, Shatrugana and Bharata
What's this illustration?

The birth of Rama, Lakshmana, Shatrughna and Bharata

In a kingdom quite far away and in a time quite unlike our own, there lived a mighty king, so mighty that he was called Dasharatha — kind of the ten chariots. While Dasharatha had everything and his people loved him, he did not have an heir. So, as all wise men do, Dasharatha performed many sacrifices to appease the gods. During one such sacrifice, as the ghee was poured into the fire and the flames rose higher and higher, almost as high as you can see, a magnificent figure rose up from flames, shining like the noon-day sun, brilliant as a constellation of stars, holding a golden bowl. In a voice as deep as the deepest ocean, he said: “Take this bowl, mighty Dasharatha and let your wives eat the payasa from it. They will be blessed with sons.” Unable to contain his joy, Dasharatha accepted the bowl and distributed the gift between his wives. Some months later, the city of Ayodhya was decorated with the brightest flags and banners and poets and musicians and farmers and cobblers celebrated the birth of their new princes, Rama, Lakshmana, Shatrughna and Bharata.

This image is taken from the Bala Kanda of a manuscript produced in Udaipur, India in 1712.


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Past Events

  • Kiski Kahani: Personal Journeys with the Ramayana
  • Katha
  • Shadow Theatre: A Review

  • PhotoEssay

    Traveling with Kabir


    People and places: Our journey with the Ramayana

    Shwetank Powar and the Ram temple, Pune

    Essays + Articles

    Ramnamis: Individualizing the Ram Story

    The Ramnami Samaj is a religious movement founded by Scheduled Caste Ram devotees (bhaktas) in the late nineteenth century in what is now central and northern Chhattisgarh.[1]  The samaj has the twin goals of social upliftment for members of their caste community and the spread of the chanting of Ram.  To accomplish the latter, Ramnamis focus both on the chanting of the Name and also on recitation of verses from its “official” scripture, Tulsidas’s Ramcaritmanas.  The text is the Hindi telling of the Ram story written in the sixteenth century. Over time, the Ramnami relationship to the Manas, as the text is commonly known, has become both complex and creative.  This article takes a brief look at the evolution of this relationship and how the text and the Ram story itself currently fit into the religious life of the Ramnamis. Central India is one of the primary geographical centers of Ram bhakti, and knowledge of the many events and tales in the Manas has long been integrated into the mythological and cultural ethos of the region.  Consequently, from the early formation of the samaj, its members were already familiar with Tulsidas’s version of the Ram story even though most were and still are illiterate. These early Ramnamis would memorize individual verses from the text by hearing them being chanted and would then integrate and intersperse these into their own chanting of Ram, often with little or no understanding of the … Continue reading