Indian Epics

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Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:12 pm

Just curious. Anyone here who has actually managed to wade through the Ramayana or the Mahabharata? ;)
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:23 am

pat457 wrote:Just curious. Anyone here who has actually managed to wade through the Ramayana or the Mahabharata? ;)


Any takers? I mean, some people might know the Bhagavad-Gita but has anyone read the epic wherein it can be found?
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby Arlaug » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:35 pm

Unfortunately not even if I'd very much like to. If I ever get across a copy, I'd love to have a reading
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:56 pm

Arlaug wrote:Unfortunately not even if I'd very much like to. If I ever get across a copy, I'd love to have a reading


There's an complete, public domain 19th-century translation of the Mahabharata available: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/

Be warned that the Mb is very long - unabridged it's about ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. Another thing to keep in mind should you ever check it is that Indian storytelling is anything but linear (if you've ever watched an Indian movie, you'd probably know what I'm talking about): the main plot takes quite some time to develop and proceed due to the numerous asides, subplots and stories-within-the-story (many of which have no direct connection with the main story anyway). The Gita is arguably one of these divergences from the main narrative - Krishna takes about 700 verses and eighteen chapter's worth of monologuing just to convince Arjuna not to chicken out of the war. All this while their chariot is parked in the middle of the battlefield between two opposing camps waiting for the signal to kill each other - which Arjuna was supposed to give before he got cold feet.

Here's a more readable summary of the main story: http://www.wmblake.com/stories/mahabhar ... ction.html
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby Arlaug » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:59 am

Thanks but I sincerely doubt I will keep up with e-reading since my previous attempts failed. I wasn't able to read Silmarillion via ebook reader, let alone such bite.
But I am, however little, familiar with the narrative. Closest to IE themselves I read Gilgamesh in highschool as a part of regular bookreports. Also I am more interested in Edda than ex. Ramayana but it would be an interesting journey aswell.
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:04 am

Arlaug wrote:Thanks but I sincerely doubt I will keep up with e-reading since my previous attempts failed. I wasn't able to read Silmarillion via ebook reader, let alone such bite.
But I am, however little, familiar with the narrative. Closest to IE themselves I read Gilgamesh in highschool as a part of regular bookreports. Also I am more interested in Edda than ex. Ramayana but it would be an interesting journey aswell.


If I were ever to summarize the main plot of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in a single sentence it would be like this.

Ramayana - A banished prince (and his brother) rescuing his wife from abduction by a proud Rakshasa king
Mahabharata - Two rivalling groups of cousins of the royal family engaging in a succession struggle which escalates into a massive, destructive war

For those unfamiliar with it, the story of Rama goes like this. (Now note that there are so many versions of the basic story which diverge from each other in details (sometimes wildly), as the tale is constantly told and retold over and over again, with each narrator adapting the tale as he sees fit. I'll just give here a general summary based on the Ramayana of Valmiki, which ostensibly holds a degree of prestige among these other stories of Rama, since many of the authors of the later retellings - Rama-katha in Sanskrit - themselves look upon Valmiki as an authoritative source or a story to which they disagree, and which is the one that has caught the attention of most Western scholars.)

===

BALA-KANDA (The Book of Childhood)

After being childless for a long time, Dasharatha, king of Kosala - the capital of which was the city of Ayodhya - at the advice of his ministers decides to hold a special sacrifice (yajña), which succeeds in causing his three wives to conceive sons. Firstborn among them was Rama, son of Kausalya. His other two queens, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, meanwhile, were the mothers of Rama's half-brothers Bharata and the twins Lakshmana and Shatrughna. The boys are reared as princes of the realm, receiving education from the scriptures and in warfare.

One day when Rama and his brothers are already adolescents (and talks of having them get married are just around the corner), the sage Vishwamitra appears before Dasharatha, asking that Rama be lent to him in order to vanquish the demons or rakshasas that constantly disturb his sacrifices. Dasharatha could not bear parting with his son and at first objects (to Vishwamitra's anger), but finally relents. Rama then goes with Vishwamitra, accompanied with Lakshmana. (Rama and Lakshmana are really the two heroes of the story - the other two brothers? They're just mostly in the background. :P) Together they successfully defend Vishwamitra's sacrifice from the harassment of rakshasas such as Maricha and Subahu and clear the surrounding regions of such troublemaking demons.

In the meantime, Rama and Lakshmana receive further instructions from Vishwamitra, and acquire the possession of supernatural, divine weapons - which would later prove crucial in the story. Vishwamitra, Rama and Laskhmana journey towards Mithila, the capital of the kingdom of Videha, where an enormous bow once owned by the god Shiva (the destroyer) is kept. There, Rama wins Sita (the daughter of king Janaka) as his bride by lifting and stringing - and in the process, even breaking! - the aforementioned bow.

AYODHYA-KANDA (The Book of Ayodhya)

Upon retirement, Dasharatha expresses his desire to crown Rama, so beloved by the citizens of Ayodhya, as his successor. On the eve of the coronation, Kaikeyi — her jealousy aroused by a hunchbacked maidservant called Manthara — claims two boons that Dasharatha had long ago granted her. Kaikeyi demands Rama be exiled for fourteen years, while the succession passes to her son Bharata. The king has no choice but to accept, and Rama himself calmly submits to his fate and heads off for the forest, with Sita and Lakshmana tagging along with him. Dasharatha curses Kaikeyi for forcing him to fulfill her self-serving demands and eventually dies out of grief.

Meanwhile, Bharata, who was on a visit to his maternal uncle, learns what has happened upon return to Ayodhya (accompanied by Shatrughna) and would have nothing to do with it, also castigating his mother for her heinous act against Rama. He visits Rama in the forest and requests him to return, but the latter, determined to carry out his father's orders to the letter, refuses to return before the period of exile. Bharata then goes back to Ayodhya with Rama's sandals, and keeps them on the throne, while he rules as Rama's regent.

ARANYA-KANDA (The Book of the Forest)

The threesome journeys deep into the forest southward along the banks of river Godavari, where they settle down, build a hut, and live off the land. One day they are visited by a rakshasi named Surpanakha who falls in love with Rama and boldly offers herself to him in marriage. When Rama refuses she deems Sita to be the obstacle and tries to eat her. Lakshmana cuts off her nose and ears and she flees to her brother Ravana, king of the island kingdom of Lanka. Ravana had gained a boon from the gods that rendered him invincible from any divine or demonic creature (humans being too weak and insignificant to be worthy of any attention) and had used this same power to defeat and harass the gods themselves.

When Surpanakha complains of the cruelty of the two princes and tells of the extraordinary beauty of Sita, her words arouse in Ravana a passionate desire for Sita. By enlisting the aid of a hesitant Maricha (the same one Rama defeated during Vishwamitra's sacrifice; his partner Subahu and the others with them were killed, while he was only knocked unconscious when he was thrown miles away into the ocean by Rama's arrow), who takes the form of a golden deer, Ravana manages to lure Rama and Lakshmana away from their hermitage. Ravana then successfully abducts Sita under the guise of a wandering ascetic and carries her off to Lanka. The two brothers then go on a journey to find the place where Sita has been taken and to muster allies to help them fight against Ravana.

KISHKINDHA-KANDA (The Book of Kishkindha)

Rama and Lakshmana find themselves in Kishkindha, the citadel of ape-like humanoids known as vanaras. There Rama meets Hanuman, minister to the exiled prince Sugriva, who, like Rama, had lost both wife and kingdom. Hanuman becomes a faithful devotee of Rama, and Sugriva and Rama make a pact that if Rama will help Sugriva 'regain' the throne and wife from his brother Vali, Sugriva will in return help Rama in his quest to win back Sita. During a duel between Sugriva and Vali, Rama conceals himsef behind a tree and shoots Vali from his position of hiding with an arrow, an act in violation of the warrior's code. Sugriva, who now has regained what he lost, soon forgets his promise and spends his time in debauchery. It was up to his clever wife Tara to pacify the enraged Lakshmana, and Sugriva sends off search parties in every direction. Finally they receive information that Sita has been imprisoned in Lanka.

SUNDARA-KANDA (The Book of Beauty)

After learning about Sita, Hanuman assumes a gargantuan form and makes a colossal leap across the vast ocean to Lanka and locates Sita in Ravana's palace. After seeing Sita being alternately wooed and threatened by Ravana and his rakshasis, he gives Rama's signet ring to her as a sign of good faith. He offers to carry Sita back to Rama, however she refuses, preferring that Rama himself come and avenge the insult of her abduction. Hanuman allows himself to be discovered and brought before Ravana's court, where his tail is set on fire. (Ravana originally planned to kill Hanuman, but his younger brother Vibhishana invoked the rule of diplomatic immunity, thereby demoting Hanuman's sentence to his tail - deemed to be the most prized part of a monkey's body - being burned.) Hanuman, however, manages to escapes his bonds and, leaping from roof to roof, sets all of Lanka on fire using his burning tail and returns with vital information about the city.
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:05 am

(Continued)

YUDDHA-KANDA (The Book of War)

Faced with the destruction of his own city, Ravana holds a council with his advisors. Most advise him to go to war against Rama. (After all, he was the one who defeated even the gods in battle, so what's he to worry about a mere human?) His brother Vibhishana however has a different counsel: realizing that the welfare of Lanka and its inhabitants are at stake should a war ever take place, he asks Ravana to avoid conflict and simply return Sita back to Rama. Ravana's huge ego however does not allow for this suggestion and so he berates Vibhishana, who deserts to Rama's side. Rama is pleased and appoints him to be king of Lanka.

By now, Rama, Lakshmana and the vanaras have reached the shores of the ocean separating the subcontinent from Lanka. The question is, how are they ever going to get across the vast expanse of water? Vibhishana suggests that the Ocean ("the lord of rivers") itself will help Rama, and so Rama sits on the shore for three days and nights straight, expecting the Ocean to appear. After three days with no Ocean in sight, Rama becomes angry and threatens to use his divine weapons against it - which apparently scares the latter to appear. The Ocean points out that although it could not violate the law of nature for them, they could build a bridge over him that will help Rama's forces to get across to Lanka.

Upon arrival in Lanka, a lengthy battle ensues, producing many casualties, including Ravana's other brother, the gigantic Kumbhakarna, Kumbhakarna's sons, and Ravana's son (and heir to the throne), Indrajit (aka Meghanada). Rama and Lakshamana themselves came near death on a number of occasions: they were only saved through some very handy deus ex machinas (Hanuman and his ability to become a giant and fly across great distances - enough to go to far-off mountains and find the necessary healing herbs - is one). The gods are even on Rama's side: in order to be of equal par with Ravana - who rides his chariot into war - Indra, the king of the gods (in many ways the Indian Zeus), lends Rama his own chariot and chariot-driver. Ravana finally engages in a one-to-one combat with Rama. Rama tries beheading Ravana with his arrows but to his surprise, Ravana kept sprouting a new head after one was cut off. At this point, Indra's chariot-driver Matali advises Rama to aim for Ravana's chest. He does so - using an arrow charged with the highly-lethal Brahmastra (Brahma's Weapon) - and Ravana is finally killed. True to his word, Rama then installs Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka.

On meeting Sita, Rama acts coldly toward her since she had stayed at the rakshasa's palace and makes her undergo the agni pariksha (a 'test of fire'; i.e. walking into a pyre) to prove her purity. At this point the gods led by Brahma the creator appear and reveal Rama's true identity: he is Vishnu himself, the preserver of the world incarnate in human form in order to bypass the loophole to Ravana's boon of near-invincibility. Sita appears out of the flames carried by Agni - thereby proving her purity, the spirit of Dasharatha appears and forgives Kaikeyi and Bharata at Rama's behest, and Rama, Sita and Lakshmana return to Ayodhya after the fourteen-year period of exile has expired. Rama becomes king, and ushers in a reign of peace and prosperity for ten thousand years.

UTTARA-KANDA

Continuing rumors about Sita's chastity causes Rama to banish the now-pregnant Sita from his kingdom. She finds refuge with the sage Valmiki (traditionally considered the author of the epic) and in his hermitage gives birth to twins named Lava and Kusha, who are brought up in ignorance of their identity. Later, Rama holds a ceremony during the royal horse sacrifice, which Valmiki, with Lava and Kusha, attend. Lava and Kusha sing the Ramayana, taught to them by their teacher, in the presence of Rama and his vast audience. When Lava and Kusha recite about Sita's exile, Rama becomes grievous, and Valmiki produces Sita.

Sita, however, chooses to abandon this world and return to the bosom of the earth, from which she originally came. Rama then learns that Lava and Kusha are his children, and later hears from a messenger of the gods about his divine origins (each of the four brothers have been endowed, to various degrees, with the essence of the god Vishnu, who opted to become human to bypass the boon given to Ravana; yeah, Rama gets to be told of his real identity twice for some reason). Bereft by Sita's loss, Rama entrusted the affairs of his kingdom to others and 'drowns' himself in a river - thereby casting off his human form and revealing his true identity as Vishnu. (Lakshmana had earlier done so.) Vishnu - now with all four brothers reverting to their original form - returns to his heavenly abode accompanied by all his faithful subjects who gave up their bodies in the river like him and were then immediately reborn as gods. And that is where the story ends.
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby Arlaug » Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:56 am

Oh my. If there were an option of giving karma poins, you'd have a 1000 at least for me. Such a swift and fulfilling answer. 1/14 of a treasure to you :) :hug:
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:43 pm

Arlaug wrote:Oh my. If there were an option of giving karma poins, you'd have a 1000 at least for me. Such a swift and fulfilling answer. 1/14 of a treasure to you :) :hug:


Thanks! :D

Another tidbit: most characters in Indian epics usually have a lot of names and titles. In fact, it's pretty common for one character to be addressed by different names, at times even within the same sentence. Rama, for example, is known as Raghava ('Scion of Raghu'; Raghu was an ancestor of Rama, whose exploits were so famous that the Ikshvaku dynasty - named after its founder Ikshvaku, aka Suryavamsha or the 'Solar Dynasty' - to which Rama etc. belonged to were sometimes also called Raghuvamsha 'Raghu's Line' or Raghukula 'Raghu's House' in his honor), Kakutstha ('Scion of Kakutstha' - another ancestor), Dasharathi ('Dasharatha's son'), 'Kausalya's son', 'Lakshmana's/Bharata's elder brother', etc. Sita is variously known as Janaki ('Janaka's daughter'), Vaidehi (after Videha, her kingdom of origin), or Maithili (after Mithila). Ravana is Dashagriva, Dashakandhara, Dashakantha, Dashasya, Dashanana - all virtually meaning 'the Ten-Necked' or 'the Ten-Headed', 'lord of the Rakshasas', etc.

Here's an example. When Hanuman returns and reports about his encounter with Sita first to the other monkeys (Sundara-Kanda, 56.75-90):

75. “Seeing Sītā’s dreadful situation, I quietly mused by could not shake off my anxiety.
76. “Then I devised a means whereby I might converse with Jānaki: I began to extol the dynasty of the House of Ikṣvāku.
77. “When the queen heard me recite those words, sanctified by the names of those royal seers, she answered me, blinded by her tears.
78. “ ‘Who are you? How and why have you come here, bull among monkeys? What is the nature of your relationship with Rāma? Please tell me that.’
79. “When I had heard those words of hers, I said these words, ‘My Queen, your husband, Rāma, has as his ally Sugrīva, the mighty and valorous lord of the monkeys, whose valor is fearsome.
80. “ ‘Know that I am his servant Hanumān. I have come here dispatched by your husband, tireless Rāma.
81. “ ‘The majestic tiger among men, Dāśarathi himself, gave me this signet ring as a token of identification for you, illustrious lady.
82. “ ‘I wish to do what you command, my queen. What must I do? I can take you back to Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. What is your reply?’
83. “When she had heard that and reflected upon it, Sītā, the delight of Janaka, said, ‘Let Rāghava destroy Rāvaṇa and then take me back himself.’
84. “Bowing my head to the noble and blameless queen, I asked her for some token that would delight Rāghava’s heart.
85. “Addressed in that fashion, the fair-hipped lady in great agitation gave me a splendid jewel and entrusted me with a message.
86. “Bowing to the princess, with a focused mind, I reverently circumambulated her with my thoughts intent on my return there.
87. “Reaching some decision in her mind, she replied further, ‘Hanumān, please relate my tale to Rāghava.
88. “ ‘You must do so in such a way that when Rama and Lakṣmaṇa hear it, those two heroes will come at once with Sugrīva.
89. “ ‘Otherwise, I have but two months more to live. Then Kakutstha will never see me again, and I will die with no one to protect me.’
90. “When I heard those piteous words, anger overcame me; and I perceived at once that there remained an additional task for me to do.


Note that within this quote, Rama is referred to using at least four names: Rama, Dasharathi, Raghava, Kakutstha, plus the epithet "tiger among men" (Sanskrit: puruṣa-vyāghra, 'man-tiger' - i.e. 'best/foremost among men').* Sita's calling Hanuman "bull among monkeys" (vānara-puṃgava) has the same connotation (i.e. 'best of the vanaras'). Sita, meanwhile, is called Sita, Janaki, "queen" (devi, literally 'goddess'), "the delight of Janaka" (Janaka-nandinī; also 'daughter of Janaka'), "fair-hipped" (varārohā), and "princess" (rāja-putri, lit. 'king's daughter').

* Slight digression: "Man-tiger" - puruṣavyāghra, naravyāghra, naraśārdūla - is a stock title describing a distinguished or eminent person (whose valor is compared to a tiger's fierceness). Animals like lions - narasiṃha, puruṣasiṃha ("man-lion," i.e. "lion amongst Men") - or bulls - nara-puṃgava, puruṣa-puṃgava - are also used for comparison.
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby siddharth » Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:22 pm

Being from India, I will say yes. ;) :D

I have a project in mind for a fairly distant future to translate and modify the Mahabharat for the non-Indian readers. It's too classic a story to miss out on. And on par with the Illiad and Odeyssey (well, I like them less than but I am being humble :P )
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby siddharth » Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:27 pm

Arlaug wrote:Thanks
but I sincerely
doubt I will keep up with e-reading since my previous attempts failed. I
wasn't able to read Silmarillion via ebook reader, let alone such bite.
But I am, however little, familiar with the narrative. Closest to IE
themselves I read Gilgamesh in highschool as a part of regular
bookreports. Also I am more interested in Edda than ex. Ramayana but it
would be an interesting journey aswell.


You know, there aught to be some abridged english versions too ( I have seen some here).
If you want to read the story like a novel, it's not any larger than say the whole LotR.
But if you consider reading the translation of the original poem youre in trouble. :D it's the lengthiest poem in the world after all.

In all fairness though, the Ramayan is a much easier read. :D
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby siddharth » Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:32 pm

pat457 wrote:
Arlaug wrote:Unfortunately
not even if I'd very much like to. If I ever get across a copy, I'd
love to have a reading


There's an complete, public domain 19th-century translation of the
Mahabharata available: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/

Be warned that the Mb is veyry long - unabridged it's about
ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey
combined. Another thing to keep in mind should you ever check it is that
Indian storytelling is anything but linear (if you've ever watched an
Indian movie, you'd probably know what I'm talking about): the main plot
takes quite some time to develop and proceed due to the numerous
asides, subplots and stories-within-the-story (many of which have no
direct connection with the main story anyway). The Gita is
arguably one of these divergences from the main narrative - Krishna
takes about 700 verses and eighteen chapter's worth of monologuing just
to convince Arjuna not to chicken out of the war. All this while their
chariot is parked in the middle of the battlefield between two opposing
camps waiting for the signal to kill each other - which Arjuna was
supposed to give before he got cold feet.

Here's a more readable summary of the main story:
http://www.wmblake.com/stories/mahabhar ... ction.html



I would like to point out that the Gita is considered to be an individual piece in itself which was later included within the Mahabharat.

And yes, the story is not linear because there is no single hero to vouch for. There are the Pandavas, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Krishna.
As mythologies work (well, excepting the Greek works) they all are given histories of their own within the text. (kinda like LotR too. No? )
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:48 pm

siddharth wrote:I would like to point out that the Gita is considered to be an individual piece in itself which was later included within the Mahabharat.

And yes, the story is not linear because there is no single hero to vouch for. There are the Pandavas, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Krishna.
As mythologies work (well, excepting the Greek works) they all are given histories of their own within the text. (kinda like LotR too. No? )


Yes, that's part of that. People would usually say that the reason why the Mahabharata is so...well, non-linear is because it is essentially a compilation of different stories. Of course there's the main plot describing the heroes, but along the way you also have stories, discourses and anecdotes that seem to bear no or at best, a tangential relation to the main narrative (say, the stories of Shakuntala or Arvavasu and Paravasu). The Mahabharata itself claims that at its core is a much shorter, simple poem titled Jaya (Victory) describing the Kurukshetra War proper, to which various persons had added and interpolated framing narratives - the end result of which is the Mahabharata as we know it. (Of course, the various manuscript traditions also added in further interpolations.) Earlier European scholars would view these interpolations in a bad light - in their minds what could have been a simple, powerful story was spoiled by layers of overblown, philosophical and religious mumbo-jumbo. Some more recent scholars however have defended the non-linearity of the epic. arguing that these 'narratives', despite seeming to be extraneous, are crucial to the story itself. (Oh yeah, about the Gita: scholars are divided as to whether it is is a text composed in the context of the epic or a later text that crept into the story.)

The Ramayana by contrast is more easier to follow than the Mahabharata - the only place where it meanders through various seemingly unconnected legends and genealogies - ostensibly presented in-narrative as stories Vishwamitra tells Rama and Lakshmana as they pass through various locations on the way to Mithila - is mainly in the first book (the Bala-kanda) and the seventh (the Uttara-kanda), and those two usually considered by most scholars to be later interpolations to the original story composed by Valmiki, which is thought to comprise mainly of books two to six - from Ayodhya-kanda to the Yuddha-kanda (along with perhaps a parts of book one). A theory even has it that the stories and other material were brought together by bards under the influence of the Mahabharata. The Mahabharata claimed to be virtually a repository of all knowledge (even boasting that 'whatever is found in it is found elsewhere; what is not in it is found nowhere else'); ancient bards retelling Rama's story, wishing to give the Ramayana the same level of prestige and air of legitimacy as the Mahabharata, added the narratives in. There's also the theory that Rama was originally a semi-legendary heroic ruler (perhaps the leader of a certain clan) who was gradually raised in status to national hero and then god, and eventually, identified as an incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu. It is said that Vaishnavites (devotees of Vishnu) added in elements to the story to make the connection between the two more explicit - and in fact, Rama is identified with Vishnu more overtly in the first and last books than in the main narrative.

That's really what separates the Ramayana from the Mahabharata: one is (mostly) more linear, with a single focal foint, while the other is multiplex, polyphonic and multilayered. That's probably why it's easier to read. ;)
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby pat457 » Thu Feb 06, 2014 11:51 pm

Oh yeah, I mentioned that there are different versions of Rama's story in existence; there's even a condensed, 18-chapter-728-verse version within the Mahabharata's third book (Vana Parva) - the so-called Ramopakhyana (3.258-75; chs. 272-290 in the Ganguli translation). The exact relation of the Ramopakhyana in the Mbh and Valmiki's Ramayana is a little unclear and quite controversial: is one derived from the other (i.e. is the Ramopakhyana an abridgement of the Ramayana, or is the Ramayana an expanded version of the Ramopakhyana?), or are they independent retellings of the same story? Complicating the issue is that while the two versions tell pretty much the same story, a number of differences in detail exist.

There's also a Buddhist version of Rama's story found in the Jatakas (ca. 4th century BC): Dasaratha-Jataka (no. 461). This version is particularly striking because it's so different from the 'canonical' version: here, Dasharatha is the king of Benares (Varanasi) - rather than of Ayodhya - who had sixteen thousand (!) wives. Rama and Lakshmana (Pali: Lakkhana) are full-blood brothers (being both sons of the queen consort); in fact, Sita is their biological sister rather than Rama's wife. (Note: no Shatrughna in this version.) The queen consort eventually dies, so Dasharatha sets another woman in her place. Rama's 'exile' (here lasting twelve years) is more of a precautionary measure under Dasharatha's orders for fear that his new wife - who wanted the kingdom for her son Bharata - might do harm to the two brothers. (You know, the quintessential evil stepmother figure. :D)

In course of time, the queen-consort died. At her death the king was for a long time crushed by sorrow, but urged by his courtiers he performed her obsequies, and set another in her place as queen-consort. She was dear to the king and beloved. In time she also conceived, and all due attention having been given her, she brought forth a son, and they named him Prince Bharata.

The king loved his son much, and said to the queen, "Lady, I offer you a boon: choose." She accepted the offer, but put it off for the time. When the lad was seven years old, she went to the king, and said to him, "My lord, you promised a boon for my son. Will you give it me now?" "Choose, lady," said he. "My lord," quoth she, "give my son the kingdom." The king snapt his fingers at her; "Out, vile jade!" said he angrily, "my other two sons shine like blazing fires; would you kill them, and ask the kingdom for a son of yours?" She fled in terror to her magnificent chamber, and on other days again and again asked the king for this. The king would not give her this gift. He thought within himself: "Women are ungrateful and treacherous. This woman might use a forged letter or a treacherous bribe to get my sons murdered." So he sent for his sons, and told them all about it, saying: "My sons, if you live here some mischief may befall you. Go to some neighbouring kingdom, or to the woodland, and when my body is burnt, then return and inherit the kingdom which belongs to your family." Then he summoned soothsayers, and asked them the limits of his own life. They told him he would live yet twelve years longer. Then he said, "Now, my sons, after twelve years you must return, and uplift the umbrella of royalty." They promised, and after taking leave of their father, went forth from the palace weeping. The Lady Sītā said, "I too will go with my brothers:" she bade her father farewell, and went forth weeping.


Dasharatha missed his children though so he dies in the ninth year of their absence - three years before the appointed deadline. The mother tries to bring her plan to fruition, but the royal court would not bend to her will. Bharata goes to the forest, intending to make Rama king:

Said Prince Bharata, "I will fetch back my brother Rāmapaṇḍita from the forest, and raise the royal umbrella over him." Taking the five emblems of royalty, he proceeded with a complete host of the four arms to their dwelling-place. Not far away he caused camp to be pitched, and then with a few courtiers he visited the hermitage, at the time when Lakkhaṇa-paṇḍita and Sītā were away in the woods. At the door of the hermitage sat Rama-paṇḍita, undismayed and at ease, like a figure of fine gold firmly set. The prince approached him with a greeting, and standing on one side, told him of all that had happened in the kingdom, and falling at his feet along with the courtiers, burst into weeping. Rama-paṇḍita neither sorrowed nor wept; emotion in his mind was none. When Bharata had finished weeping, and sat down, towards evening the other two returned with wild fruits. Rama-paṇḍita thought—"These two are young: all-comprehending wisdom like mine is not theirs. If they are told on a sudden that our father is dead, the pain will be greater than they can bear, and who knows but their hearts may break. I will persuade them to go down into the water, and find a means of disclosing the truth." Then pointing out to them a place in front where there was water, he said, "You have been out too long: let this be your penance—go into that water, and stand there." Then he repeated a half-stanza:

"Let Lakkhaṇa and Sītā both into that pond descend."

One word sufficed, into the water they went, and stood there. Then he told them the news by repeating the other half-stanza:

"Bharata says, king Dasaratha's life is at an end."

When they heard the news of their father's death, they fainted. Again he repeated it, again they fainted, and when even a third time they fainted away, the courtiers raised them and brought them out of the water, and set them upon dry ground. When they had been comforted, they all sat weeping and wailing together. Then Prince Bharata thought: "My brother Prince Lakkhaṇa, and my sister the Lady Sītā, cannot restrain their grief to hear of our father's death; but Rama-paṇḍita neither wails nor weeps. I wonder what can the reason be that he grieves not? I will ask." Then he repeated the second stanza, asking the question:

"Say by what power thou grievest not, Rāma, when grief should be?
Though it is said thy sire is dead grief overwhelms not thee!"

Then Rāma-paṇḍita explained the reason of his feeling no grief by saying,

"When man can never keep a thing, though loudly he may cry,
Why should a wise intelligence torment itself thereby?

"The young in years, the older grown, the fool, and eke the wise,
For rich, for poor one end is sure: each man among them dies.

As sure as for the ripened fruit there comes the fear of fall,
So surely comes the fear of death to mortals one and all.

"Who in the morning light are seen by evening oft are gone,
And seen at evening time, is gone by morning many a one.

"If to a fool infatuate a blessing could accrue
When he torments himself with tears, the wise this same would do.

"By this tormenting of himself he waxes thin and pale;
This cannot bring the dead to life, and nothing tears avail.

"Even as a blazing house may be put out with water, so
The strong, the wise, the intelligent, who well the scriptures know,
Scatter their grief like cotton when the stormy winds do blow.

"One mortal dies—to kindred ties born is another straight:
Each creature's bliss dependent is on ties associate.

"The strong man therefore, skilled in sacred text,
Keen-contemplating this world and the next,
Knowing their nature, not by any grief,
However great, in mind and heart is vext.

"So to my kindred I will give, them will I keep and feed,
All that remain I will maintain: such is the wise man's deed."

In these stanzas he explained the Impermanence of things.

When the company heard this discourse of Rāma-paṇḍita, illustrating the doctrine of Impermanence, they lost all their grief.


Bharata begs Rama to take over the kingdom, but Rama (true to form) refuses, citing the fact that the term of exile is not yet over. He instead gives his slippers (here made of straw - unlike the golden footwear he wore in Valmiki) to Bharata, and "for three years the slippers ruled the kingdom. The courtiers placed these straw slippers upon the royal throne, when they judged a cause. If the cause were decided wrongly, the slippers beat upon each other, and at that sign it was examined again; when the decision was right, the slippers lay quiet." At the end of the exile, Rama returns and takes the kingship with Sita as his queen-consort, reigning for sixteen thousand glorious years before finally going on "to swell the hosts of heaven."

The tale closes with the Buddha (who has been narrating the story) pointing out that Rama was his past life, that his parents (Suddhodhana and Maya) were Dasharatha and the first queen-consort, that his wife Yasodhara (identified simply as 'Rahula's mother') was Sita, and Ananda (one of his foremost disciples) was Bharata.

You might have noticed the crucial difference in the Buddhist Rama story: there is no Ravana, no abduction of Sita, no war to claim her back. In fact, the Jataka's Rama is a near-enlightened figure who is above such emotions such as grief (whereas Valmiki's Rama is a very human character who feels sorrow and anger). Instead, the climax of this version is in Bharata's relaying the news of Dasharatha's death and Rama's subsequent discourse on the impermanence of things.
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Re: Indian Epics

Postby Koniec12 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 12:26 am

Really nice pieces to read.
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