One of the greatest Indian epics of all times, the Ramayana, or ‘The Journey of Rama’, is ostensibly the story of Rama of Ayodhya—the prince who spent fourteen years in exile to honour his father’s wish—the many battles he valiantly fought to overcome Evil in various shapes and forms and, last but not the least, the heroic choices he made in order to always remain on the path of righteousness.
‘Adi-Kavi’ Valmiki presents a Rama who is more human than god-like, driven by loss and sorrow as he loses his beloved Sita first to the evil designs of Ravana, whom Rama later defeats in a terrible battle, and then to Mother Earth, who opens up to enfold Sita forever after the Agnipariksha she is made to go through to prove her chastity.
While Rama embodies all that is good and honourable, a vast array of characters ranging from celestial beings to demons to wondrous talking animals populate the epic, each with its own raison d’ etre, adding complexity to an apparently simple tale of Good vanquishing Evil.
Valmiki Ramayana, multilayered and often symbolic, encompasses the most important aspects of ancient Indian culture—a value system based on honour and duty, the burdens of kingship, social and filial ideals—and has at its heart the concept of Dharma.
With its ample use of quotations, explanations of style, technique and imagery, this translation by Rajendra Tandon succeeds in bringing out the beauty and majestic sweep of the Ramayana. Poetry, prose and illustrations combine to make this volume a book lover’s delight.
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