Ramayana Stories in Modern South India

Ramayana Stories in Modern South India

An Anthology
Compiled and Edited by Paula Richman
Distribution: World
Publication date: 2/7/2008
ISBN: 978-0-253-00015-6
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While some religious texts may remain static over time, the Ramayana epic has been retold in a variety of ways over the centuries and across South Asia. Some of the narrative's most probing and innovative retellings have appeared in print in the last 100 years in the region of South India. This collection brings together, for the first time, modern retellings translated from the four major South Indian languages and from genres as diverse as drama, short stories, poetry, and folk song. The selections focus on characters generally seen as stigmatized or marginalized, and on themes largely overlooked in previous scholarship. Editor Paula Richman demonstrates that twentieth-century authors have used retellings of the Ramayana to question caste and gender inequality in provocative ways. This engaging anthology includes translations of 22 primary texts along with interpretive essays that provide background and frameworks for understanding the stories.

Author Bio

Paula Richman is William H. Danforth Professor of South Asian Religions at Oberlin College. She is editor of Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia and Questioning Ramayanas, a South Asian Tradition.


"This collection makes a unique contribution to scholarship on Indian literature. It is clearly organized around provocative themes that are not the usual focus of Ramayana studies, illuminating not only the 'text' of the Ramayana, but aspects of South Indian history and culture as well." —Elaine Craddock, Southwestern University

". . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty interested in South Asian literature and religion." —

"A refreshing addition to the scholarly and literary works in Indic studies. . . . The organization of the book successfully fulfills the needs of all who are interested in learning more about Indian society, its literature and culture, and about Ramayana. One does not need to be familiar with Ramayana or Ramkatha to appreciate this book. . . . Richman's work is an excellent study with a rich selection of writings and viewpoints on the ancient epic Ramayana. All of the works featured in the book are thought provoking and reach out to readers and scholars in a variety of disciplines, including but not limited to the fields of folklore, anthropology, women's studies, comparative literature, film, and theater." —Journal of Folklore Research

"On the surface. . . it might appear challenging for an anthology of Ramayana Stories in Modern South India to tell us something new about the epic. This is, however, precisely what Paula Richman has been able to do through this lively and engaging volume. . . . The translations . . . are lucid and of consistently high quality. . . . The utility of this book for active undergraduate learning cannot be overstated." —H-Asia

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Table of Contents

Preface: On Compiling Ramayana Stories in Modern South Indian Languages
Note on Transliteration and Translation
Introduction: Whose Ramayana Is It?
Part 1. Sita in Context
1. Asking Sita: The Questions Return, by Vijaya Dabbe
Translated from Kannada by Shashi Deshpande and Pratibha Nandakumar
2. Sartorial Dilemmas: Letters from Lady Sita, by Kumudini
Translated from Tamil by Paula Richman
3. A Mother-in-Law's Support: Sita Locked Out, a women's folksong
Translated from Telugu by Velcheru Narayana Rao
4. Sita's Powers: Do You Accept My Truth, My Lord? a women's folksong
Translated from Kannada by Leela Prasad
5. Talking Back: Sita Enters the Fire, by Gudipati Venkata Chalam
Translated from Telugu by Sailaza Easwari Pal
6. The Pensive Queen: Sita Immersed in Reflection, by Kumaran Asan
Translated from Malayalam by Rizio Yohannan Raj
7. Choosing Music: Forest (excerpt), by Ambai
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom
8. Forest of Possibilities: Reunion, by Volga
Translated from Telugu by Krishna Rao Maddipati
9. Union with Nature: Prakriti and Sovereignty in Aravindan's Kanchana Sita
Film analysis by Usha Zacharias
10. Struggling with an Ideal: In the Shadow of Sita, by Lalitha Lenin
Translated from Malayalam by Rizio Yohannan Raj
Part 2. Stigmatized Characters
11. Transforming a Brahmin: Shudra Tapasvi (excerpt), by Kuppalli Venkata Puttappa
Translated from Kannada by Girish Karnad and K. Marulasiddappa
12. Shambuka's Story Anew: Basavalingaiah Re-presents Shudra Tapasvi
Performance essay by Paula Richman
13. Ahalya Later: Woman of Stone, by K. B. Sreedevi
Translated from Malayalam by Gita Krishnankutty
14. Consequences of a Misdeed: Deliverance from the Curse, by Pudumaippittan
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom
15. The Nature of Stone: Ahalya, by S. Sivasekaram
Translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmstrom
16. Domestic Abuse and the Neurologist: Ahalya, by N. S. Madhavan
Translated from Malayalam by Rizio Yohannan Raj
Part 3. So-called Demons
17. Gender Reversal: The Horns of the Horse, by C. Subramania Bharati
Translated from Tamil by Paula Richman
18. Male Rivalry and Women: Shurpanakha's Sorrow, by Kavanasarma
Translated from Telugu by Alladi Uma and M. Sridhar
19. Marriage Offers: Mappila Ramayana of Hassankutty ("the Mad"), collected by M. N. Karassery from T. H. Kunhiraman Nambiar
Translated from Malayalam by [John] Rich[ardson] Freeman
20. Sita Creates Ravana: Portrait Ramayana (excerpt), by H. S. Venkatesha Murthy
Translated from Kannada by Manu Shetty
21. Ravana's Letter from Heaven: Come Unto Me, Janaki, by K. Satchidanandan
Translated from Malayalam by Rizio Yohannan Raj
Epilogue: Meta-narrative
22. Everyone Has Anxieties: Lakshmana's Laugh, a women's folksong
Translated from Telugu by Velcheru Narayana Rao
List of Contributors