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Tribal Ramayana In India – Ramayana Stories Of Indian Tribes

Aboriginal traditions in India have their own versions of the epic Ramayana. The tribal Ramayana stories in India have woven numerous subplots into the main story. Indian Tribes of Bhils, Mundas, Santhals, Gonds, Sauras, Korkus, Rabhas, Bodo-kacharis, Khasis, Mizos and Meiteis have their version of the Ramayana. Interesting stories are woven into the main theme based on the occupation and culture of the tribes. In some versions, Ravana is given the status of a hero.
Deccan Herald writes 

The greatest of  Ramayana narrators Valmiki was a Kirat tribal. 

In a Malayalam tribal version, Hanuman insists on sitting at Rama's feet, so that when Rama sneezes, Hanuman can wish him long life (as per tradition) – and the sneeze marks that even Rama is subject to the bodily needs of a human. 
In Assam, where hill women have specialised in weaving, Sita is characterised as a fine weaver. In puppet shows among the tribals,  some are Ravana upasakas (worshippers). As such Ravana can never be killed. The legend states that Rama killed only the  chaya ( shadow) of Ravana and not the real demon king. 
In fact, during the puppetry recital three curses are showered on Rama for killing Ravana-- Brahma Hatya (killing of a Brahmin), Bhakta Hatya (Sambuka, Ravana) and Chaya Hatya (killing of a singer – Ravana). Many tribal traditions believed in Ravana and not Rama. Ravana puppet does not have to endure manipulation and the puppet of Ravana is complex or beautiful. His satwa (good) character is created in puppetry, which must look like a hero. 
Physical and socio-cultural landscape acquires a unique native character and defines the sacred geography of the region, tribals reside. Linking the Ramayana with local geography and rituals; by incorporating songs and narratives from the native repertoire; and by making the characters follow moral and ethical codes of the community, each tribal group renders its version of Ramayana. 
Gonds from Madhya Pradesh have their own Ramayana, which reflects their local traditions and is closely linked with their oral narrative repertoire. They are also known for their distinct folk painting tradition. The entire Ramayana was transferred on to the canvas by the Gonds in the IGNCA exhibition at New Delhi in 2008. The Gond Ramayana has been translated in Hindi and 500 folk songs based on Rama theme have been documented in Madhya Pradesh with the support of Adivasi Kala Parishad, Bhopal.

Mizo tribes of the North East also have tales influenced by Rama legend. In Manipur, Ramayana is performed in Wari-leeba (traditional story-telling), Pena-sakpa (ballad singing), Khongjom parva (narrative singing accompanied by Dholak) and Jatra (folk-theatre) styles.

Again in the tribal versions, there are Buddhist and Jain variations. In the Tai-phake community in the North-East, Rama is a Bodhisattva. One of the most spectacular tribal dance forms used for Ramayana in Odisha is known under the generic name of Chau and it has three distinct styles: Mayurbhanj Chhau of Odisha, Purulia Chhau of Bengal and Saraikela Chhau of Jharkhand. Purulia and Seraikela Chau dances are known for the use of elaborate masks and even today many dance troupes perform the complete Ramayana in 28-long sessions.

Again Rama may be a nayak or an avatar, a nomadic cultural hero, or a king. But his brother Lakshman becomes the main hero in many tribal tales. He is a jati, and, therefore, the most powerful character of the story. In some, he is a calm, cool and wise young man, devoid of any aggressive behaviour.

Among the Baiga tribe in Central India, there is an interesting episode in which Lakshman has to undergo a fire ordeal to prove his chastity. In many folk and tribal versions, Sita takes the avatar of Kali and kills Ravana and other demons. Again, Mankali tribal dancers  of  Kerala, the whole tribal troupe only depicts the episode of Sita getting enamoured of Maricha the golden deer. 

 




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