Reading Ramayana

Ramayna is one of the most read books in India, but I have recently come to realize that it is still not appreciated enough. My grandmother owned a copy of Tulsidas’ version in Sanskrit with translation in Hindi, and she read it every day. However, she read the same pages because they gave her peace. Although, there is nothing wrong with such a thing, but it can definitely not be qualified as reading a book. She prayed everyday is more like it.

I have myself known of Ramayna in great detail since an early age thanks mostly to Ramanand Sagar and C.B.S.E textbooks. However, reading C.Rajagopalachari’s version was an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. He based his book mainly on Vaalmeeki and Kamban‘s versions but his writing displays his in-depth knowledge of not only this but many other scriptures of different religions and beliefs. His version of the story of the mighty King Rama can be read and enjoyed without any religious connotations, and that is why I loved it.

Besides having the qualities of any well-researched story being retold, his writing is decked with archaic yet simple and beautiful English. He writes in pleasant words strung together to form attractive prose, full of information. It is lyrical without being a rhyme. And I am only talking about the language right now.

Another thing I deeply enjoyed about this book was the logic. Most religious stories are fed to us by our elders whose devotion to the God makes them stick to every word sung in his praise. Dare we question anything which might even remotely sound anti-devotion, we get hushed. As a result, we grow up with many questions; at least this is what happened with me. Therefore, you can only imagine my joy when Rajaji answered all those unasked questions in his book, and he did so with genuine devotion combined with crystal clear judgment and rational.

The author often takes a break from storytelling and talks about why Vaalmeeki or Kamban described such and such in a particular manner. He helps you widen your perspective about the society of a different era, asking you not to judge it by the current social standards. He spells out for you the motivations behind the actions of the characters, and he clarifies the beliefs that one has been blindly harboring because someone said so.

Rajaji regularly draws parallels with other scriptures like the Bible or the Geeta while making a point. This helps the readers to open their mind and widen their perspective. One realizes that it is not the fundamentals that one needs to question, but the human nature and its motivation.

So if you have ever wondered, why a King so great as Rama, Narayana incarnate himself, forced his wife to walk into blazing fire soon after he risked everything to win her back from the evil King, you should read this book.

If you have ever wondered, why a powerful and intellectual King like Ravana resorted to stealing another’s wife, you should read this book.

If you have ever wondered, why the holy Rama, devoted to honesty and dharma, kill Vaali from the back while hiding in the forest, you should read this book.

The beauty of this particular version is that it is told like a coming of age tale. A 16-year old prince who starts off on his endeavors at the beginning of the tale is a learned, experienced, and mighty King by the end of the book.

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8 Responses to “Reading Ramayana”

  1. yes, i really like the ramayana too… although im in the philippines, i also like reading about world literature… 🙂

    • sunshin3girl Says:

      That is the beauty of this version, one can enjoy it as rich literature. I love that it does not preach religion but only humanity.

  2. You should probably give Mahabharata by Rajaji a shot. Its a delightful read.

    I read that in Tamil, however, am sure it is available in English as well.

  3. Palaniappan Says:

    I got this book today and what a great way to start after reading your review. And I have already started liking the book 🙂

  4. S3rioussam Says:

    There is a scholarly spirit that pervades Rajaji’s writing. You get the sense that he is trying to understand more through his retellimg, and that makes it a great experience.

    Rajaji was a nationalist, and it was important for him that the two versions o the story coexist harmoniously. He was also interested in making this a ssrilozwd quest for modern Indian culture, literature and a touchstone in moulding newly independent Indian thinking. Just because of that, it is the most important interpretation of tje epic.
    That the epic is multilayered in its simplicity deserves a post of its own.

  5. I would now suggest you pick up Ashok Banker’s 8 volume version of Ramayana

  6. I would recommend Kamala Subramaniam and Ramesh Menon’s version. I find CR’s version a bit too archaic for my taste, not to mention very shortened.

  7. Please can you help me source out this book? I want to read…

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