kiskiKAHANI (the Ramayana Project)

300 Ramayanas and Counting . . .
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Many Ramayanas

Stories from the hills II: SITA AND SHABRI STAND UP FOR AHILYA

Continuing our series on Stories from the hills…   When women unite, even the gods the ultimate and the all powerful bow to their will. Thankfully, women don’t do so very often. Before the narration of any of the stories, a short poem is sung. These few lines are said to carry the gist of the story to come. As Ram, Sita and Laxman travel through the forest, they reach Shabri’s hut. Shabri, in this version, Shabri is not an Untouchable. (This might be because tribes don’t practice untouchability, or because Buddhism does not accept this kind of discrimination.) She is an old woman, always at loggerheads with her own community but always friendly to travelers. Perhaps this is why she stays outside the village. Traditional Bon beliefs harbour an inherent fear of outsiders and usually, travelers are not allowed to stay the night, except in the Bodh Viharas. Shabri, old and alone, lives in a dirty, tumbledown shack. This is the reason that she is an outcaste, says the narrator. (Kinnauri women take pride in their neat, tidy, spotless mud houses). This untidy, careless old hag, knowing that Ram is on his way and must pass her hut, gathers ‘kulre’, a local berry, to present to him. ‘Kulre’ grows on the sun-baked, steep rocks, where only the sure-footed mountain goats or nimble young girls dare to tread. Ram knows this and in appreciation for the risk that Shabri has … Continue reading

Stories from the hills I: SITA’S ABDUCTION BY RAVANA

This is the primary self-search for an identity and self. What exactly do I believe in? What is, or can be, my faith? Who is denying me the right to paint, colour, act and sing? And in the process, is my right to paint, colour, act and sing that god, the one I am told I must believe in, being taken away? As a result of all these queries, not copying, not running behind or following, and certainly, not reaffirming and agreeing are the only options left for me. Because creativity is always the voice of dissent. However, voicing this dissent is not new. I will elaborate with an example from my latest book ‘The Dancing Lama’. which explores the folklore of the Western Himalayas from the female point of view. As I look for myself in the creations of the past, I discover that in folklore, women assertively define their difference. The examples I am about to narrate here are from the story of Ram and Sita. In my travels through the North-western Himalayas — Spiti and Kinnaur to be precise — I found several versions of the popular tale. I also realised that women have been trying to give their own interpretation and form to these well-known tales, adding the local milieu in which they exist and the culture that they subsist on to the more familiar narrative. Going through these stories and their interpretations, it is difficult … Continue reading

MANDODARI

Enchanting maiden born in the veils of night As celestial in appearance as righteous in blood Loved by a god, cursed by his consort She dwelt in the bowels of a well To heal parched souls Summoned by the use of an ancient spell She cast her charm in the four directions The demon king deep in meditation at first Didn’t notice the mist drifting and swirling Rising, expanding, ravishing his senses With the kiss of tears on his face A woman’s murmur in his ears He chased a fleeing dream She saw herself in the dream, a haunting A changeling, a mother, a daughter Stranger to kin She watched monkeys and mortals destroy her land She taught her magic to her sons Watched them fall too This slip of dappled loveliness Streaking the shadows of mystic science Mourned her husband to rule a kingdom

Menaka Tells Her Story

Listen: Nothing was happening in Indralok. The rakshasas had been subdued, the Naga kings, jeweled hoods folded, were slumbering over their treasures, Lord Indra had laid aside his weapons; his attributes, the thunderbolts lay docilely at his feet over a pile of snoozing storm clouds. He yawned. Lord Indra had been winning at dice for a thousand years and He was hugely bored. That’s when Narada Muni materialized and asked, “God, who among your celestial nymphs is the best dancer? “ Lord Indra devised a competition. His nightly routine was to quaff nine jars of soma, then crash. He decided the apsara who kept Him awake with her dancing till He finished the last drop of the tenth jar would be declared the winner. Since I, Menaka had just returned from a dance sabbatical my colleagues requested me to win; they were tired of dancing for Him. So it was that Tillotama and Rumba dropped out early while Urvashi gamely kept on till the ninth round. “Menaka is Best Apasaraaaa! “ Lord Indra announced, and snored, the tenth jar rolling dry. Down on earth, Sage Vishwamitra was in deep meditation. It was his four hundred and ninetieth year. The heat of his tapas was scorching the lowest of Lord Indra’s Seven Heavens; we heard the denizens there were scampering on tiptoe. It was reported that Sage Vishwamitra would soon gain enough power to rocket into Lord Indra’s throne and topple … Continue reading

RAVANAMA

Republished from The Fuschia Tree (www.thefuschiatree.com)  How do I begin? A question all too familiar to most of us of the creative persuasion or, indeed, of any persuasion, when we are starting something new. And it is this question that appears to plague Maya Krishna Rao’s character throughout her solo performance of Ravanama. Rao plays an actor preparing for the part of Ravana, the mythological ten-headed rakshas from the Ramayana. The actor struggles to come to terms with her new role: she moves in and out of an almost trance-like state in an attempt to transform herself into her ten headed character. It is as if a battle is taking place within her as different facets of Ravana are revealed. The different facets contradict and contend with each other just like Ravana’s ten heads,which are said to have represented different, often opposing, emotions. Sitting in the audience watching this personal battle unfold is an uncomfortable, voyeuristic experience of watching someone else’s private torment laid bare for all to see. The bare, dark stage with minimal props and a stark spotlight that follows Rao enhances the actor’s frustration and growing panic. The torment of the creative process sends her into a state of near hysteria: Rao’s wide eyed, panicked expressions, her guttural voice and staccato yet graceful movements give us a glimpse of how the art of creating something and getting something right can push a person to the limit— a Lakshman-rekha of … Continue reading

TARA

Churning ocean born dew-eyed damsel Her gentle soul spoke nature’s language Her heart’s monarch was there Through the voyage of white splendour His golden body a temple door to immortal rhythms She flew a bird on the wing through her emerald home Nature’s cyclic greenness murmured its warnings She bade him heed to ominous fate He swiftly kissed her and ruthlessly raced To his second battle veiled with fugitive shadows Vigilant through a sleepless night She listened to Time’s measured tread And in the midst of a motionless trance She saw destiny’s eternal stance Her tearless eyes locked grief and In the quiet reach of a remembered breast She hid a world of storms She faced the cosmic gaze and brought thunder Into the tumultuous darkness of a moonless world Nature stood by in shocked grief As she enthroned her curse in the white flame of her love Never will the cosmic one enjoy a moment of marital bliss And this treacherous deed birth an answering revenge Summoning a rebel courage she seated her love-child Regent in the forest world.  R J Kalpana has published a 3-vol set on Feminist Issues in Indian Literature: Feminism and Family, Feminism and the Individual, Feminism and Sexual Poetics. She has published Temple Dreams, a book of poetry and has won prizes for her poetry which have been published in both national and international journals and anthologies. She was an Editor for the Encyclopedia of Hinduism and has completed … Continue reading

AHALYA

She was Creation’s loveliest mortal Born of Brahma she was of the earth Held secret in her mystic heart Purple passion’s torpid rhythms Her sighs took a million shapes Each taunting and teasing a striving god He descended from Heavens to touch her conscious soul Her vision stilled when ecstasy weighed her lids A King’s body with a lover’s embrace He witnessed a bridal dawn flower in silence His flaming kisses revealed his need His alchemical heat called an answering gift He laid her on the nuptial chambers of her primal home Bade Time’s sentinels to mark the passing He flanked her thighs and drank her essence She welcomed streams of diamond fire She eagerly sought his rhythmic beats Trembled in the wake of a dream She metered every moan from the eternal voice He dwelt in her boundless spaces As she watched swans silver a dark lake She caught the fragrance of moon flowers in the air and the sorceries of their joy When rage-tide burst upon her torn flesh of heat Bewildered she sought a regal modesty Vehemence strode her bacchaic revels Coerced her gentle self in rigid lines Her spirit locked in an adamantine wall of law She sat in mute cloisters awaiting her redeemer.  R J Kalpana has published a 3-vol set on Feminist Issues in Indian Literature: Feminism and Family, Feminism and the Individual, Feminism and Sexual Poetics. She has published Temple Dreams, a book … Continue reading

SITA’S LETTERS

This letter is to the beloved consort of Mithila’s Lord Janaka from Sita Devi of Ayodhya. I, SITA, prostrate prayerfully before Amma with a submission. All is well here, and hope it is so with you too. The people and the chariot you sent have arrived. The messengers told us that you have instructed us to come to Mithila for Deepavali. Considering the state of affairs here, I am sure you will understand that it will be difficult for us to visit you now. My father-in-law is always at Mandavi’s mother-in-law, Kaikeyi’s house. My mother-in-law is furious. She conceals it well though, and is engrossed in prayer and serving food to Brahmins. I have to get up early in the morning, bathe and help her with chores. Work fills the day. There is not a moment’s rest. As soon as the wedding ceremonies were over, my brother-in-law Bharathan was taken away by his uncle. You know Shatrugnan, he always tails his elder-brother. Only after they return, can we seek permission for the journey, and after all that, I don’t know if we will be able to reach Mithila before Deepavali. I have great doubts about the whole thing. After thinking it over, your son-in-law has decided that it is best we spend Deepavali in Ayodhya itself. Father will soon receive a letter about this from my father-in-law. Do send the gift of silks to us. Your son-in-law likes only yellow … Continue reading

Sita’s fire ordeal from Kamban’s Iramavataram

Sita’s fire ordeal (Summoned by Rama, through Hanuman, Sita arrives at the battlefield.)   She saw him: his body leaf-green, his mouth coral-coloured, His great bow in his hand. And she who was unblemished, thought, ‘My body is polluted, bereft of life; what is there left for me to desire?’   Surrounded by celestial beings she arrived in her chariot. As if a false body, deprived of dearest life, seeing it again reaches out, so she went to him, her face unveiled.   ‘Now that I worship my lord – my husband through all time, my husband beyond rebirth— were I to forget, fall down and die, or whatever else befall me, yet all shall be well,’ she said, free of sorrow at last.   The lord of all life gazed at her: queen of faithfulness, safeguard of womanhood, beauty of all beauties, essence of all fame the very image and embodiment of dharma’s grace.   Tears streaming down her breasts like rivers, she bowed to him, lovely as a peacock, chastity’s self. And he watched, outraged, like a cobra rearing his head.   ‘You enjoyed your food! Though disgraced you did not die! Fearless, you lived in the great city of the lawless rakshasa, entirely submissive! So why come here now? Did you imagine I should still want you?   ‘It was not to save you that I bridged the sea, cut down to their root these rakshasas with … Continue reading

Stories from the hills IV: HOW RAM REACHED KULLU

Continuing our series on Stories from the hills…  How Ram reached Kullu and became the prime deity Kullu Valley, the most fertile region of Himachal Pradesh, watered by the rivers Beas, Parvati and Sarvari, was ruled by small Ranas, each owning just a handful of villages, with their own palaces and forts built on the secure, highest peaks. They lived lavishly and petty quarrels and skirmishes amongst were common. When Manipal, said to be a defeated and destitute prince from across the Ganga, probably from Bengal, reached Kullu, he sensed that this was a kingdom that might be conquered because of such infighting. However, the Ranas, when faced with an exterior foe, decided to forget their personal enmity and united to give Manipal a sound defeat. On the run, Manipal took refuge in a thick forest. Hungry, tired and frustrated, he saw an old woman squatting under a tree. As he watched her, he saw that she was trying to stand up with the support of the tree. Forgetting his own exhaustion, Manipal walked up to her and helped her to her feet. The old woman then said in a quavering voice: “I have nothing to give you to show my gratitude, but if you get up on my back, a great reward shall be yours.” Manipal laughed out loud at this suggestion, for he was a big hefty man and the woman could hardly carry her own weight. But … Continue reading

Stories from the hills III: SHUPNAKHA THE CHEATED

Continuing our series on Stories from the hills… Shupnakha is in love with Banasur, a powerful demon king of Kinnaur. He is most powerful in the region because he is the sole owner of the only water mill in the area. He is also a great warrior with an passionate dislike for Ravana who, Banasur thinks, is corrupt and split-tongued, like a snake. (Going back on your word is a severe crime in this region even today.) Ravana, on the other hand, yearns to possess Banasur’s land and more importantly, his water mill. He pays Banasur a visit and persuades the reluctant Banasur to marry Shupnakha. On the night of the wedding, just as Banasur is entering the bridal chamber, the massive flower decoration on the doorway falls on him. While he is trying to free himself from the tangled garlands of flowers, Ravana attacks and kills him — all this as Shupnakha watches helplessly. Ravana then falls at his sister’s feet, begs her forgiveness and vows to always look after her and protect her honour. (Even today, the nuptial chamber doorway is decorated with flowers, usually wild roses and rhododendron and the bridegroom tears them down with his sword before entering.) Banasur’s tribe does not believe that Shupnakha was innocent of the murder. They think that the conspiracy was hatched by both brother and sister and refuse to give her the place of honour that is her right as … Continue reading

Kishkindha revisited

Sugriva’s cave Bright eyes look down from atop a boulder. I smile at the mischief glinting in them. They take it as an invitation and in a flurry of swishing tails and graceful limbs, the monkeys leap from one precariously perched rock to another. Standing where I am at Hampi in Northern Karnataka, it is not hard to imagine that this could be the birthplace of one of their most famous mythical ancestors – Hanuman. For Hampi, the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, is also supposed to be Kishkindha, the land of the monkeys in the Ramayana. In the epic, Kishkindha is the monkey kingdom ruled by the brothers Vali and Sugriva. Rama reaches here, en route his quest for his abducted wife Sita. He and his brother Lakshmana meet Hanuman who leads them to Sugriva, the ousted king of Kishkindha. Sugriva takes them to a cave where he shows them a set of jewels that Sita threw down from the flying chariot or the Pushpak Vimana Ravana abducted her on. Later on, Rama kills Vali and restores Sugriva to the throne. Rama and Lakshmana then take refuge in Kishkindha while Hanuman flies across to Lanka to search for Sita. In the minds of the locals here, there is no doubt that Kishkindha and Hampi are one and the same.  Hampi is the Kannada derivative of the ancient name Pampa Kshetra, and Pampa the olden name of the River … Continue reading

The Hanuman Chalisa

The Hanuman Chalisa is a 16th century devotional song written by Tulsidas, a poet-saint in the Vaishnava tradition. Written in Awadhi, the poem has 40 verses, whence it get it’s name, the Chalisa. The poem has a simple structure — an opening and closing doha bracketing a series of  –  is extremely popular in northern India and is usually chanted on Tuesdays, Hanuman’s day. Legend has it that Tulsidas went to meet the Moghul Emperor in Delhi., In the royal court, he was challenged to show Rama to the people gathered there. When Tulsidas replied that it was impossible to see Rama without true devotion, he was imprisoned. During his days in captivity, Tulsidas wrote the Hanuman Chalisa. On the day he compelted it, the city of Delhi was over run by monkeys, so many that even the armies of the mighty Moghul could not control them. Finally, the Emperor realised that the monkey menace was a manifestation of the wrath of Hanuman, the Monkey God. He released Tulsidas.   Shri Hanuman Chalisa   Doha Shri guru charan saraj raj, Nij manu mukur sudhare | Barnau raghubar bimal jasu, Jo dhayak phal chare || Budhihien tanu jaanke, Sumerao pavan-kumar | Bal budhi vidhya dehu mohe, Harhu kales bikar ||   Chopai Jai hanuman gyan gun sagar | Jai kapise tehu lok ujagar || Ram dut atulit bal dhama | Anjani putra pavan sut nama || Mahabir bikram bajragee | Kumati … Continue reading

Book review: Holy Graphics

Rajashree Gandhi’s review of the much talked about Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel. Guess who’s the latest to get a drastic makeover? Rama! Yes, Rama, along with the entire crew of characters from the ancient Indian epic Ramayana, have got a graphic makeover, with strong colours, bold angular edges and a rather chic Pixar-esque look in Sanjay Patel’s graphic novel, Ramayana: Divine Loophole, published by Chronicle Books in 2010. The graphics, spread over 184 pages, are accompanied by write-ups of various episodes of the Ramayana. Though Patel doesn’t claim any authorship over the stories or their content, as they are shortened but unchanged versions of the original/traditional Ramayana (if there is a single one), he wants his artwork to do most of the storytelling and they do manage to create an animated film on our retinas. The style is almost linear, yet draws upon Indian folk painting/carving arts. While the colours provide a code to the characters -  all the demons are black, brown and dirty green; Rama is blue, Hanuman is white and quite unusually, Sita is dark brown – the relative sizes of the figures in various scenes denote the power relations between them, be it good over evil, or humility over ego. Interestingly, the design of the palaces of Ayodhya, Mithila and even Lanka, as Patel shows it, seems to have been borrowed from Mughal architecture, and it is a tiny bit shocking to see Dashratha smoking a hukkah. Not only have the graphics got a new avatar, but even the words, phrases, titles, … Continue reading

The people in the pictures

Imran Ali Khan thinks about Sourindo Mohun Tagore’s Ramayana. Continue reading

Retelling the Ramayana

The first two poems in this series, Princess in exile and Random Access Man tell the story of Sita from a feminist perspective. Rightwing narratives of the Ramayana, portray her as the ideal, obedient wife whom all women must seek to emulate. Reading between the lines of the epic, one realizes that she is in fact the first woman to literally “Step across the line.” She not only crosses the Lakshman Rekha (a Line of Control that she was asked not to leave), but she also chats up with a stranger, the King Ravan in disguise. When her husband and his brother return, she is no longer home. Sita is reunited with Ram after a massive war is waged to win her back. In the epic, it is said that she was abducted. I try and imagine a scenario where she might have walked out of her own free will. When Sita exercises her civil rights—her freedom of speech and her freedom of movement—I exercise my freedom of expression. In the third and final poem, Traitress, I look at the Ramayana from the perspective of another victimized woman, Shoorpanaka. She is Ravan’s sister, and she has her ears, nose and breasts cut off when she proposes to Ram and his brother Laxman, whom she meets in the forest. In the traditional narrative, Ram’s fidelity to his wife is upheld and he gets cast as a superhero in spite of (or … Continue reading

Heroes & Anti Heroes at Play

Paula Richman’s lecture at Central University of Kerala, Kasaragod Continue reading

Githa Hariharan and Ramanujan

Githa Hariharan discusses the multiplicity within cultural spaces as depicted by Ramanujan’s essay which has come under criticism by the right-wing and the Academic Council of Delhi University.
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Ramayana with Arshia Sattar

Arshia Sattar talks about reading the Ramayana in the 21st century at the Azim Premji University Colloquium Series, in Bangalore on January 12, 2012 Continue reading

Picture this

The Ramayana Educational charts, in all their brilliantly coloured vibrancy, are an established part of the Indian schooling system, sold everywhere, from bookshops to pavements. They cover every imaginable subject, from maths and language to ‘good’ behavior and moral/religious instruction. In a largely non-literate society, the visual potency of these charts remains an effective communicator. Organised into simple tabular formats with minimal verbal clues, they allow the reader to layer the images with their own interpretations. The chart presented here, simply titled Ramayana, is a wonderfully un-selfconscious retelling of some of the main events from the epic. It begins with an episode from Dasharatha’s own life, the killing of the young ascetic, Sravana, on the banks of the Sarayu river. It becomes, in many ways, a cautionary tale about arrogance in one’s abilities and carelessness with one’s skills. Sita’s abduction and subsequent rescue make for good story telling and the uncomfortable agnipariksha at the end of the war is deliberately left out. Recalling a film set from the 70s, with the bright pink curtains heavily scalloped and the thrones of gold, the body language and expressions assigned to the characters indicate to the reader whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, godly or plebian. Rama is always in the foreground, blue-tinged and godly, Lakshmana always smaller and a step behind. Sita follows the visual tropes of the dutiful wife, often depicted with one knee bent submissively. This image has been taken … Continue reading

Revelation Space

R J Kalpana’s  retelling of the Ramayana It was deathly dark inside the Hub. It was meant to be, for an order had been given to extinguish all lights. Everybody in the Hub and outside waited with hushed expectancy, eyes nervously flitting between Tosa’kanth and the door that remained firmly shut in their faces. Pip’ek was nervous too but he hid it well. He moved across the members of the Council, smiling encouragingly. He, too, awaited the opening of the door and the sound that would emit forth. He didn’t know yet if it was for the good or for the bad but until he saw for himself, he wouldn’t be able to tell. He hoped things would change now. The luck of Langka would once again shine forth. He was tired of playing hopscotch with giant stars and hiding in galaxies. The people of his Race were tired too, he could sense that. He tipped his head back and drank deeply, working his muscles strongly. The door opened and a clamour of voices reached everybody’s ears. And the Medic finally brought out a small bundle wrapped in a Zero-Point Energy suit that the uninitiated ones are required to wear as per Space Regulations. Proudly she placed the bundle in Tosa’kanth’s arms and said, “Here is your new-born. It’s a girl.” Everyone crowded around Tosa’kanth, trying to get the first glimpse of the baby girl. Pip’ek waited his turn. He … Continue reading

Absolution

Ahalya was banished into invisibility by Gautama, the sage, her husband. Her crime? Giving into Indra’s guile and demands when he stood before her, disguised as her husband. Did Ahalya play with fire knowingly or was she a victim of deception? The myth gives rise to endless questions. Sucharita Dutta-Asane explore the possibilities.. ‘Then Gautama cursed his wife. “You shall be invisible to all creatures as you do penance in this hermitage! You shall be purified only when Rama, the invincible son of Dasaratha, comes to this forest. Wicked woman, when you offer hospitality to Rama, you shall be freed of your lust and passion. You shall regain your earlier form in my presence!” Gautama left the hermitage …’*   The Act  When he had finished with what he came for, I lay back and let him sate himself on my beauty. I heard the milkman ring the bell twice. I let the cats slurp on the milk they had clawed out of the bag. Let them gorge too, I thought. He sat up in bed scratching his handsome cheek still besmeared with the redness of my lips. He turned away from my limp arms. ‘What about your husband?’ My husband? What sort of a question was that? Hadn’t he come into the house using my husband’s voice, with his ardour, and with his own unquenchable thirst for what he had lost when my husband whisked me away with his … Continue reading

Searching for Sita

Ten years after the return of Ram and his victory at Lanka, Ayodhya is prospering. A journalist tries to discover the truth behind the dissatisfaction at the heart of this regime. But most importantly, where is Sita? In this extract we revisit Ayodhya in a unique piece of speculative fiction by Samhita Arni Chapter 1 It was already dark when I was ushered into her private parlor. She was barely visible, shrouded in shadows. She moved and the shadows slithered away, unwrapping her desiccated frame. “I prefer the darkness,” she had said. “In one’s old age, darkness is far kinder than light.” She was dressed impeccably – fashionable in a classic black chiffon sari, a simple strand of pearls clasped around her neck. But her sagging flesh and heavily rouged face spoke another, sadder story. I had begun with the cliché list of questions I had prepared. She yawned, bored, and answered politely. But at some point, a question provoked a response. She rose, and walked towards the windows, posture erect and graceful despite her age. She paused at an open window, and lit a cigarette. The moon glinted in the sky. “The city was burning that night,” she spoke loudly, grandly. “The night he returned. He had a hero’s welcome. While I… I was less fortunate. The people were in high spirits that night, and someone flung a molotov cocktail into my dining room. I had moved out of … Continue reading

Test of fire

Fellow Styonkars, As SigEv just transmitted to you, the experiment has failed and I have returned. Yes, three hundred and four kosos before I was due. But remaining on Earth would only have wasted waste precious time. The Planet of Colour did not meet the criteria and I was compelled to ask Dharti to carry me back. We must begin the search for another, more worthy race. I intimate you now, before the official sabha meeting due in the eighth hissa, because it is best we resume the archive searches, choose from the volunteers and draw plan layouts. The time of the bequest approaches and another deserving race must be identified before the 444th Chakker of Larissa around Styon. And this time we must choose more carefully, lest our trial fails, like it did with Earthlok. For the first time since the Rounds of the Bequest, a race has been denied what it should have easily earned. Certainly you will want to know why – particularly the Mantris, whose fate it is now to scout for the next beneficiaries. The matter however, will be much discussed at the sabha, and it is futile to delve into details in so short a correspondence. It’ll suffice for now to know that our side of the test went on without a hitch, but they faltered repeatedly. Their last act proved them clearly unfit for such a historic revelation. Mercifully though, they will never … Continue reading

Urmila

Pervin Saket’s Urmila is the story of a contemporary woman in a small town of India whose husband left her to follow his older brother for fourteen years. If it sounds familiar, it’s surprising since Urmila’s story hasn’t really been told. Continue reading

The Ramayana translated by Romesh C. Dutt

An excerpt from The Ramayana condensed into English Verse By Romesh C. Dutt (1899). Continue reading

The Ramayana translated by Ralph Thomas Griffith (1870-1874)

An excerpt from Ramayana of Valmiki byRalph Thomas Griffith, Principal of Benares College(1870-1874) This is the first complete public domain translation of the Ramayana to be placed online. Continue reading

Sita Sings the Blues

Two women separated by several centuries find their stories coming together in Nina Paley’s animated comedy-drama. Having moved to India to be with her husband, Paley’s cartoon becomes fascinated with the Ramayana. Meanwhile several centuries earlier Sita the beautiful daughter of King Janaka, Rama’s wife is kidnapped by the evil King Ravana. Sita’s story is two visual interpretations at once — a visually striking abstract version and the other uses a whimsical, cartoony approach with recordings of jazz singer Annette Hanshaw for Sita’s voice. As the film travels through time, jumping back and forth, Sita and Paley’s character find their own freedom. Continue reading