The Ramayana Revisited

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While the standard version of the Ramayana is a 14th-century Sanskrit text by Valmiki, the diversity and adaptability of this narrative are extraordinary. Many regions and languages have their own versions of the tale that they consider authoritative. In addition, the basic tale of the Ramayana is continually adapted to new contexts, forms, and media. It is, in one form or another, read, recited, sung, danced, and acted. Yet the vast majority of scholarship on the Ramayana has dealt exclusively with the textual editions, and mainly with Valmiki's Sanskrit version. In this volume, fourteen leading Ramayana scholars examine the epic in its myriad contexts throughout South and Southeast Asia. They explore the role the narrative plays in societies as varied as India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. The essays also expand the understanding of the text to include non-verbal renditions of the epic, with particular attention to the complex ways such retellings change the way the narrative deals with gender. This volume will be useful for courses in the history of religions, Hinduism, Asian studies, and anthropology, all of which teach the Ramayana as a foundational myth of Asian culture.