Rama beyond Ramayana: Stories from other sources

With scholarly notes, Gaurang Damani’s new book retells legends from Puranas

GN Bureau | May 8, 2023


#Culture   #Religion   #Literature   #Ramayana   #Society  
Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana at the Hermitage of Bharadvaja: in Kangra style, ca. 1780 (Image courtesy: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/37955)
Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana at the Hermitage of Bharadvaja: in Kangra style, ca. 1780 (Image courtesy: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/37955)

Untold Stories of Ramayana
By Gaurang Damani
194 pages, Rs 300

The Ramayana is one of those two epics – the other being the Mahabharata – that most Hindus/Indians do not read as such; they are rather part of a collective consciousness. Notwithstanding those who do a ‘parayan’ reading of the Ramayana, especially during the two Navaratris, most of us have not picked up a voluminous edition and yet known the narrative, the characters and the teachings of this scripture, from hearing about them in childhood or from popular culture.

Having a good idea of what it is about is, for many, an obstacle to picking up a copy of it – not one of the many modern abridged renderings but the original Valmiki or Tulasidas work in full translation, and getting immersed in it. Gaurang Damani, a Mumbai-based engineer and citizen activist [see diehardindian.com], has written a book that can serve as a bridge, a preparation for taking up the main volume.

As it happens, it is the kind of book that can serve equally well those too who have already read the full work. ‘Untold Stories of Ramayana’ is a collection of tales taken from other sources such as Skanda Purana, Padma Purana and Garuda Purana. The tales include: How Shiva destined the downfall of Ravana, what Sita was before Janaka found her, how the curses of two parrots and Rishi Bhrigu led to Sita’s banishment. Few would know about Rama’s sister Shanta who married a sage.

While these tales, told in simple language, are entertaining in themselves, they also bring the Ramayana close to our day-to-day lives, and show us how this scripture can help us navigate the vicissitudes of life. On that count, especially relevant would be the chapter on ‘The Philosophy of Yoga Vaasishtha’. This scripture, also known as Maha Ramayana, is considered a unique work of spiritual guidance, and Damani had devoted a chapter to it in his previous work, ‘Essence of the Fifth Veda’ [read its review here: https://www.governancenow.com/news/books-ideas/an-inquisitive-readers-guide-to-ramayana-mahabharata-and-the-puranas]

Like that earlier book, ‘Untold Stories of Ramayana’ too shows the author’s rich scholarly findings, including several maps of geographical locations of places mentioned in the Ramayana and other scriptures. The same scholarly rigour is noticeable in the full bibliography and the index at the end.

 

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