THURSDAY, APRIL 11: The birthday of Lord Rama arrives in nine days. In preparation, Hindu devotees begin Ramayana Week today. Literally the “march of Rama,” the Ramayana details Lord Rama’s heroic adventures, tales that are hugely popular to this day. Many Indians use these nine days to enjoy the entire epic once again.
In some areas, temples and Hindu associations organize a non-stop recital of the Ramayana for the entire nine days, gathering devotees to sample the Sanskrit work largely credited with influencing Indian life and culture. For those who would rather watch the events of the Ramayana, some groups host stage productions of the narrative during Ramayana Week.
For the most observant Hindus, Ramayana Week means fasting alongside the reflections on Ramayana; for others, fasting only takes place on Ram Navami (Lord Rama’s birthday).
The story of Lord Rama is often referred to as the original epic, written by Valmiki, one of the first Sanskrit poets. Legend has it that Valmiki was once a robber or hunter who, upon meeting a hermit, was transformed into a virtuous being. His passionate ability to portray the life events of Lord Rama was unmatched, and he met with divine sages to learn what he should write. Though at first confused, Valmiki would go on to compose an epic that would live on for millennia. Historical references date the Ramayana as written sometime between the 4th and 2nd centuries BCE, although scholars still debate the specific date.
CARE TO READ A VERSION OF THE RAMAYANA?
The Ramayana is no longer a single text. The epic tale has branched into many versions and renditions over the centuries. Wikipedia has an entire article devoted to the many global Versions of the Ramayana.
The Sanskrit original is said to be 24,000 verses long! The story is not only long—it is complex. Nevertheless, its dramatic scope rivals the ancient Greek and Roman classics, including a climactic scene in which Rama leads an army of monkeys into battle with an army of demons.
If you turn to Amazon looking for a copy, you will find a bewildering array of versions. We recommend the prose text by famed Indian writer R.K. Narayan. A colleague of Graham Greene, Narayan achieved cross-over success in the West in the middle of the 20th century. In the 1970s, he published his now-classic prose version of the epic. Currently, his version is published by Penguin, titled: The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic.
Want to watch the movie version instead? In our view, you’ll have to wait for DreamWorks and hope that version is well told for Western viewers. So far, the many TV, film and animated versions have been aimed at Indian audiences.
DREAMWORKS ANIMATION PRESENTS: THE RAMAYANA
News is buzzing over a unique venture by DreamWorks Animation, set to hit theatres around Christmas 2015: Mumbai Musical,.
DreamWorks describes the production this way: Mumbai Musical will be the studio’s first-ever Bollywood-style animated musical adventure inspired by the great Indian epic The Ramayana—but told from the point of view of the monkeys. Kevin Lima (Enchanted, Tarzan) is directing and Lisa Stewart (Turbo, Monsters vs. Aliens) and Chris Chase (Enchanted, Tarzan) are producing. Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Prince of Egypt, Enchanted) is writing the lyrics, A.R. Rahman (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire, Bombay Dreams) is writing the music, and both are executive producers on the film. It is being written by David Sussman.