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T. Shankar – A Ramayana Research Scholar

No one exactly knows there are how many versions of Ramayana in the world. T. Shankar is an independent research scholar and an avid student of the Ramayana, who explores the stories in various different versions of Ramayan.

Puspha Chari talks to T Shankar about the various versions of Ramayana in the The Hindu.
There is only one, yet many Ramayanas have been composed through the millennia. What do you think is the reason?
Valmiki’s Ramayana and the subsequent versions were written in Sanskrit. I think poets felt the need to focus on the local language to take the great epic to the people. The subsequent Ramayanas were trans-creations and, therefore, reflect changes over time.
Could you tell us some of the similarities as well as the differences of the many Ramayanas?
The broad story is the same. Though Valmiki is acknowledged as aadhikavi, every writer of the original Ramayana is a poet and philosopher. And every Ramayana is a master piece. As for differences, in Valmiki’s Ramayana, Sita and Rama meet only when Rama breaks the Siva dhanush, while Kamban devotes many verses to Rama and Sita’s prenuptial meeting in a garden, immortalised in the couplet ‘Annalum nokinaan, Avalum nokinaal.” They are seen here as Vishnu and Lakshmi, while Valmiki sees Rama as a man with the 16 qualities of Purushotam, as described by Narada. The famous ‘Lakshman rekha’ is not mentioned at all in the works of Tulsidas, Valmiki, Kamban and Ezhuthachan. Kritibhasa Ojha in Oriya and the Bengali Ramayana speak of the ‘Lakshman rekha’ while Ranganath Reddy’s 13th century epic refers to seven ‘rekhas’!