The Ramayaona Revisited

The Ramayaona Revisited

The Ramayaona Revisited

The Ramayaona Revisited

Synopsis

The Ramayana is one of India's foundational epics, and it demonstrates a continuing power to influence social, religious, cultural, and political life. Brought to textual life in Sanskrit by the legendary "first poet," Valmiki, over the ensuing centuries the tale has been recycled with extraordinary adaptability and diversity through the varied cultural heritages of India and other parts of Asia. The basic tale of the Ramayana is continually adapted to new contexts, forms, and media. It is read, recited, sung, danced, and acted in one form or another, and renewed so constantly by changing times and values that it demands constant revaluation. The Ramayana Revisited presents the latest in Ramayana scholarship. Fourteen leading scholars examine the epic in its myriad contexts throughout South and Southeast Asia. They explore the role the narrative plays in societies as varied as India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. The essays also expand the understanding of the "text" to include non-verbal renditions of the epic, with particular attention to the complex ways such retellings change the way the narrative deals with gender. This volume will be invaluable to students and scholars interested in mythology, Hinduism, Asian studies, and anthropology.

Excerpt

Like other pervasive presences one grows up with, until recently the Rāmāyaṇa was for me a part of life I took for granted with no expenditure of conscious effort. the passage of years, the repositioning of the Rāmāyaṇa in present-day public life, and conversations with friends, colleagues, and students have increasingly drawn me to a more critical engagement with what I see as a foundational text of South and Southeast Asian societies. My studies through the past five years have led me to organize several scholarly gatherings, out of which a modest volume of essays by diverse hands has already appeared in print and the present, fuller collection conceived. in bringing these essays together, my aim was to offer the reader some of the most informed and imaginative work currently under way in major areas of Rāmāyaṇa studies, including its design, ideology, and performance. the crop of Rāmāyaṇa scholarship in the past two decades has been singularly rich, not only in expanding and developing the fields of research but in questioning received wisdom and discovering fresh instruments of inquiry. in like manner, the present volume attempts to press ahead with revaluations and rediscoveries that, I believe, will animate what I suspect will be a continuing debate on the Rāmāyaṇa for a long time to come. the two great epics of India, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, have the distinction of never having turned into dead if revered classics, and remain embedded in the living cultures of many Asian peoples, including those in the various Asian diasporas. the essays presented here recognize this contemporaneity of the Rāmāyaṇa and engage with it on the many levels of its existence.

Among an editor’s many tasks the pleasantest is the acknowledgment of debts, both personal and professional. I have been par-

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