kiskiKAHANI (the Ramayana Project)

300 Ramayanas and Counting . . .
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An Interview with Romila Thapar

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Are we seeing, over the last few decades, a change similar to that described by Sukthankar, of a group of people deliberately trying to create these definitive versions of Hindu sacred literature?

Yes, in fact there’s this move to make Hindu belief and worship very much based on the idea of the sacred texts.

Ramanujan also discusses some international variants…

South East Asia, for example, where the Ramayana is an absolutely fundamental text of culture, but it’s their own versions, not the Valmiki Ramayana. It is a fundamental part of the story in many versions in South East Asia, that Sita is the daughter of Ravan and Ravan doesn’t know this, because she was secreted away. So what do you do? I mean, are these people going to go bash up the universities in Jakarta and all those places because they’re teaching these versions?

And this in a time when we want to spread, and globalise Indian culture.

I find it ironic that you have this incident taking place in Delhi the same week as the Minister of HRD is sitting in the United States trying to persuade the top universities to set up campuses in India. Ramanujan was one of the most respected faculty members of the University of Chicago and the Ministry of HRD would give its left hand to have the University of Chicago set up campus in India. Now if Ramanujan had been alive and the University had a campus in Delhi, and this had happened, as is perfectly feasible, what would have been the reaction? The whole thing is bizarre.

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