21 September, 2020

Before He Was God: Ramayana—Reconsidered, Recreated

Varma’s intense engagement with his subject yields moving insights, while humorous and tragical interludes lend immediacy.

Before He Was God: Ramayana—Reconsidered, Recreated
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Epics like the Ramayana gain in resonance with every recension. Retired bureaucrat Ram Varma has laboured long and hard to produce his Ramayana, conceived like a “Baramasa” tribute. It follows the course of a seasonal appreciation, from Chaitra and Vaishakha through the searing summer and the rains until Phalgun, where Rama sheds his human form in the Sarayu river. This is a feisty personal appreciation rendered in verse, though rhyme and meter tend to be uneven. Yet, Varma’s intense engagement with his subject yields moving insights, while humorous and tragical interludes lend immediacy.

Varma’s version here discredits and discards Sita’s  “agni-pariksha”. Instead, he has Sita sent into a second exile, then returning to her father Janak’s court for shelter, where she discovers her “real” mother Rohini. Her husband then recalls Sita from the forest to fulfil her ceremonial role in the Ashwamedha yagna. This compassionate resurrection exemplifies the very spirit of bhakti,...

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