HINDI 1909 Special Topics: Many Ramayanas - Tradition and Diversity in Modern India

In 2012, two Bombay High Court judges scolded a woman for refusing to live with her husband while he was stationed in the Andaman Islands; Ajay Singh had filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion. Although Anjali Singh’s lawyer argued that her refusal to live with her husband lay in his mistreatment of her, Justices Mohta and Majumdar referenced the Ramayana, saying “A wife should be like [the] goddess Sita, who left everything and followed her husband Lord Ram [sic] to a forest and stayed there for 14 years.” This reference highlights the blurry lines that exist between the modern legal system and time-honoured customs.

The importance of the Ramayana, an Indian epic first told over two millennia ago, is twofold: for one, it is a living epic, having endured across time to address social, political and religious issues, manifesting in myriad regional, folk and oral Ramayanas. Secondly, the Ramayana has played a central role in the rising tide of Indian ultra-nationalism, with a call for a return to Ram-Rajya's fabled rule. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the richness of what scholars have come to call the “Ramayana tradition” and its role in India today. This course is offered in the spring 2018 term.

  • Anthony Verardi

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