Posts Tagged ‘Ramayana’

A modern rendition of Ramayana

March 16, 2008

In the Journal of Asian studies, Paula Richman writes about a short story of Pudumaippiththan titled Narada Ramayanam in an essay titled A Tamil Modernist’s Account of India’s Past: Ram Raj, Merchant Raj, and British Raj:

The Ramayana, one of Hinduism’s two preeminent epics, has been retold in diverse ways over the centuries, but one modern rendition is unique: Narata-Ramayanam(?). Its author, C. Virudhachalam (1906–48), wrote in Tamil under the pen name Pudumaippittan, meaning “one who is mad about newness.” Narata-Ramayanam(?) presents colonialism as a continuation of the Ramayana narrative, showing how an ancient South Asian narrative can serve as an imaginative framework for modern Indian writers. The text mounts an astute critique of the notion of perfect rule, Ram Raj, and suggests that such a utopian ideal fosters the veneration of a glorified past that never existed. The text’s modernist literary ploys encourage scrutiny of culturally constructed concepts such as nationalism, consumerism, and narrative coherence. This unusual Ramayana reveals how narrative resources can be used to question both ancient and modern ideologies.

I guess A K Ramanujan would not have been averse to add the Pudumaippiththan version to the three hundreds he talks about in his essay.

The piece also reminds me of the pleasures of reading Pudumaippiththan’s short stories: Aatrangaraip-pillayar, which is actually a short story rendition of Indian history, and Paalvannampillai which is about an authoritarian father at home but a very mild mannered man at the office are a couple that comes to my mind immediately. We read those stories so many times that we knew them almost by heart, and had great pleasure in reciting our favourite sections and sentences to one another!