Hanuman's Tale: The Messages of a Divine Monkey

Hanuman's Tale: The Messages of a Divine Monkey

Hanuman's Tale: The Messages of a Divine Monkey

Hanuman's Tale: The Messages of a Divine Monkey

Excerpt

This book project, like the posterior appendage of its beloved subject, has grown longer and longer and has hung around for a considerable time. The inspiration for it first emerged during my research, mainly in the Banaras region in 1982–84, on the performance of the Rāmcaritmānas, the popular Hindi retelling of the tale of Rama and Sita by the sixteenth-century poet-saint Tulsidas. This research led not only to my book The Life of a Text (1991) but to my growing realization that, in the experience and practice of many people, the most vibrant and endearing character in the story wasn't Rama, but rather Hanuman. Given that scholarly literature seemed virtually unaware of this (a circumstance I discuss further in chapter 1), I resolved to write a book that would give Rama's simian associate the prominence he had long achieved in everyday life.

Initial research was carried out under a senior research fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies in 1989–90. During this year I was frequently on the move, collecting images, interviews, and popular and scholarly publications from sites in North, central, and South India. The materials I brought back to the United States kept me busy for years, and kept growing as I made return visits to India (several with support from the University of Iowa) and as friends around the world sent me books, news clippings, posters, and (more recently) e-mail messages and Web site addresses featuring everyone's favorite monkey. I made significant progress in organizing and interpreting my "Hanuman archive" during summer vacations and two semesters of developmental leave funded by the

* Praśasti (Sanskrit): the eulogizing of patrons and benefactors.

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