Ramayana Week: Epic plays begin as India prepares for Lord Rama’s birthday

FRIDAY, APRIL 8: Hindus worldwide anticipate the birthday of Lord Rama with Ramayana Week, a period that begins today and recalls the details of Lord Rama’s heroic adventures. Through April 15 (Ramanavami, or Lord Rama’s birthday), Hindus regale the hugely popular tales of Lord Rama through non-stop recitals. The Sanskrit epic that holds these stories—the Ramayana—is studied throughout the week, as Hindus note the significance of the Ramayana and its influence on Indian life and culture. For the most observant Hindus, Ramayana Week is a time of fasting and reflection; for others, fasting is reserved just for Ramanavami.

Lord Rama’s epic was 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.

The Ramayana is no longer a single text: the epic tale has branched into many versions and renditions over the centuries. The Sanskrit original is said to hold approximately 24,000 verses, and it is as complex as it is long. Yet 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.

Interested in the Ramayana? 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.


The story of the Ramayana has been retold through TV series, cartoons and movies countless times, but three young filmmakers are now aiming to bring that story to a new Western audience, as they adapt the epic to English and aim their story at global viewers. (Read more in The Hindu.) News sources report that the movie will be narrated and adapted for both 3D and Imax, using current Hollywood technology for special effects and costing approximately $50 million to produce—nearly twice the amount of most Indian movies. Despite the high budget, the filmmakers cite their biggest challenge as meeting the expectations of both Indian audiences and those abroad.

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