Chandra Mohan

Panel 3B Politics of Transcodification
Session 3 – July 2, 11:00 – 13:00

  Politics of Transcoding the Ramayana

Ramayana is an epic narrative that has been retold a number of times. The Sanskrit version by Valmiki is arguably the oldest and most prestigious but there are other well-known versions such as those by Tulsidas and Kamban. Postmodern renditions of the epic have looked at the epic from various perspectives and media, and have brought out contradictory aspects of the tale such as in The Scion of Ikshvaku and Asura: Tale of the Vanquished. Apart from these, there are multiple visual transcodifications of the epic narrative, which highlight the significance of the various characters through their presentation in various forms of media.  This paper proposes to analyse the politics inherent in the transcodification of the epic in various media, including its rendition in comics, visual media and written text. This paper, by means of a survey of the different medial representation of the epic, argues that while the story of epic is narrated from the perspective of Ram, wherein the character of Ravan has been highlighted in order to glorify Ram, as an incarnation of Vishnu.   On the other hand, the story of Meghnad Vadh Kavya’s source is from Valmiki’s the Ramayana but the characters and the incidental ingredients are not so vividly used in this epic as normally expected. In his letter to Rajnarayan Bashu, the author Madhusudan explained his motive about this epic: “In this present poem, I mean to give scope to my innovatory powers (such as they are) and to borrow as little as I can from Valmiki” (Dutta 40). The characters of this epic are from the Ramayana but they are influenced by western characteristics. Meghnad is the favourite Indrajit of Madhusudan. Madhusudan has rewritten the character of a wild, stubborn and heroic general into a beautiful, normal and well model of life in his epic Meghnad Vadh Kavya.  The politics of myth can be understood clearly after focusing on some ignored issues. The foundational version is the one where the Rama presented is kodandaramadharmabhrtdmvarah, “Rama with the curved bow, the chief of the righteous,” and Ravana is always lokaravana, sarvalokabhaydvaha, “He who makes the world weep, who fills all the world with terror.” However, these mythical representation have been shifted over a period of time and postmodern renditions in the form of novels such as Amish’s Ramachandra Series and Asura: Tale of the Vanquished. It is the political valences of the media, which I detail later in this paper, that are its most important distinguishing feature. 


Chandra Mohan, Chair, ICLA Standing Research Committee  for South Asian Literature and Culture General Secretary, Comp. Lit. Assn. of India