Reading about India: The Ramayana

Epic. Archetypal. One of the most influential works of literature in the world.
All of those things apply to The Ramayana – and yet I just got around to reading it. The American educational system needs to try a little harder…and obviously, so do I.

There are innumerable versions of this story, in many different languages and forms; I chose an English-language, modern prose version by Ramesh Menon.

I’m of two very strong minds about The Ramayana.

On one hand, I was thrilled and mesmerized by it. The universe created in the story is beautiful, the battles are fantastical and breathtaking, and some of the characters are timeless. I came out of it wanting to know Hanuman – every time he made an appearance, the book felt almost alive to me.

Hanuman Mistakes the Sun for a friut
Hanuman Mistakes the Sun for a fruit
(Image by Balasaheb Pant Pratinidhi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

On the other hand, it was impossible to overlook the bad treatment of women, and the rationalization of the caste system. Taken on his own, Rama was sometimes difficult for me to like – he was made much better by his supporting cast, and by his very intriguing enemies. (Kind of holds true for all of us, huh?)

Lakshamana fights Indrajit
Lakshamana fights Indrajit
(image via Wikipedia)

Overall, I found the experience exhilarating; it’s been hard for me to get immersed in another book since. I think my journey with The Ramayana has just begun. I’m now primed to read as many versions, from as many perspectives, as I can. I also will be reading The Mahabharata, ASAP!

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