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Ramayana tales told differently
By Nidhi Chaturvedi

The most popular epic Ramayana has been retold in various countries adopting the local flavor.

Dussehra and Diwali, the two greatest Hindu festivals revolve around the epic Ramayana and are all about Rama, Sita and Ravana.

The Ramayana has remained the perennial source of inspiration down the centuries not only in India but in the whole of South Asia. Valmiki s Ramayana is the oldest work of the legend.

According to a legend, when Narada departed for heaven, Valmiki went to the banks of Tamasa river, not far from the Jahnavi (ie Ganga). The Ramayana started its journey from this place.

The different regional versions of the Ramayana like Kambar's Ramayana in Tamil, Krittivasa's Ramayana in Bengali, Tulsidasa's Ramacharitamanasa in Awadhi, Eluttaccan's Adyatma Ramayana in Malayalam etc, are not mere translations. Instead, they also incorporate the local cultures and legends into the adaptions.

The Tibetan story says that Sita was Dasagriva s daughter (ie Ravana) and was abandoned on the advice of astrologers. She was brought up by the cultivators. Vishnu incarnated as Rama to kill Ravana. And as the plan, Rama abdicated his throne and went to the forest to allow Lakshmana to assume kingship.

In Burma, the legend of Rama goes back to the 10th century. Here, Rama has been described as a pious Buddhist king. Another Buddhist addition is that Rama and Sugriva met under the shade of Bodhi tree.

In Malaysia, most of the manuscripts discovered were written after the advent of Islam. And are thus, subsequently altered in the light of Islamic tenets and believes. In course of this transformation, many new episodes were included. An interesting example is that Allah sent Adam to Ravana, and Adam made the latter the lord of earth, water, nether world and the kingdom of Indra.

King Dasaratha was a great grand son of Adam. He had two wives, Mandudari and Baliadari. Ravana asked Dasaratha to hand over Mandudari, who in turn assumed an illusory form named Mandudasi to become Ravana s wife.

According to the Malaya Rama stories, all chief characters such as Rama, Sita, Ravana, Valin and Hanuman are related to each other. Sita is Ravana s daughter. Laxman and Hanuman have been have illustrated as great characters.

According to the Thai notion, Valmiki s Ramayana finds its roots in Thailand. In fact, the Thai identify themselves so much so that they are not interested to know whether Ramayana was originally written in India.

They believe that Ramayana is their own creation and the Thai Ramakien is the original Rama story. Many places in Thailand have been identified with Ramayana episodes. For example, the city of Ayutthaya ie, Ayodhya has been mentioned as the capital of the kingdom. It is believed that Rama, on his return to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, wanted to reward Hanuman for his services. He shot an arrow and where the arrow fell would be identified as Hanuman s capital.

The arrow fell at the town of Lopburi. The impact of the arrow made the soil white, that is why the soil of the place is white. There is a hill named chayanat, with a flattened top. It is believed that when Hanuman went out in search of certain medicinal plants to save the life of Laxman , he lay on the top of the hill and swept the nearby forests with his long tail for searching out the desired plants and herbs. It was then that the top of the hill was flattened by the body weight of Hanuman. Also included in the epic is a hill named Sarburi with an indent. Folklore has it that when Ravana, after abducting Sita, was driving his chariot very fast, the axle of the chariot dashed against the hill, creating the crater.

The residents of Chonburi attribute the red soil of the place to a bloody fight between Valin, the monkey king and Thorapi or Dundubhi, a mighty buffalow.

Another striking feature of Ramkien is the character of Hanuman. In India, we know Hanuman as a celibate (a bramhacharee). But in Ramakien, Hanuman s marriage has been described in great detail. He had affairs with many women celestial, demonic and human. He even had children.

There are many interesting deviations in the Lao versions of the Ramayana. Ravana is a nephew of king Dasrath. Rama, while roaming in the forest in search of Sita, ate the fruit of a particular tree in the forest and was transformed into a monkey.

He met a Nengsi, who originally a woman who had been turned into a female monkey. Rama married Nengsi and Hanuman was born out of this marriage. Rama, having killed Valin, married the latter's widow.

According to Cambodian Ramaker, Ram was Vishnu s incarnated and Akaingameso, doorkeeper of the God, was born as Rava, i.e, Ravana.

Sita, in her earlier birth, was the wife of Indra, when she was insulted by Ravana. With a view to avenge the wrong, she was born as Ravana s daughter. Ravana, as advised by his astrologer brother Bibhek (ie Vibhishana), shut her in a chest, carried the chest to a distant land and burried it there.

She was later unearthed and discovered by king Janaka. Sugreeva and Valin are two sons of the wife of a sage, by Aditya and Indra respectively. When the wife s infidelity was disclosed, the sage cursed the two sons, as a result of which, they turned into monkeys. Hanuman was born of Svaha (sister of Sugreeva and Valin) and Naray, ie, Narayana.

The Ramaker, however, closely follows Valmiki s Ramayana episodes of Ram s friendship with the monkey chiefs, Hanuman s embassy to Lanka, construction of the bridge, invasion of Lanka by Ram and Laxman, Vibhishana s joining the camp of Rama, fighting with Indrajit and Kumbhkarna, slaying of Ravana, Sita s ordeal by fire and Rama s coronation as king.

There is only one difference that Sita gave birth to a son who was named Ramalaksa by Valmiki. One day, Sita went to the river for a bath with her son when the sage was engrossed in meditation.

When he did not see the child after his meditation, he created another child by his yogic power and he was named as Jupalaksa. The rest is as it is in the Ramayana.

But, the moral of the story is the same in all the versions victory of good over evil no matter what the deviations.



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