Moily’s Ramayana weaves current realities into epic

July 1st, 2010 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) Union Law and Justice Minister M. Veerappa Moily, also a Kannada scholar-poet-playwright, has woven burning contemporary realities into his modern re-telling of the 2,000-year-old Indian epic - Ramayana.
In his “Shree Ramayana Mahanveshanam”, Sita is anguished when she finds an “alcoholic husband harassing his wife”, king Rama vows to “work tirelessly for the poor moved by their exploitation at the hands of oppressors” and Sugriva “incorporates total literacy in the development plan of his kingdom”.

Lakshmana is the real hero of Moily’s epic for helping older brother Rama to fight evil and standing by him for 14 years. The younger sibling pines for wife Urmila and Moily “describes the deep love between the estranged couple in his book”.

The English translation of his book published by Rupa & Co was released by Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia in the capital Wednesday in a star-studded ceremony graced by politicians and Supreme Court judges.

The function was presided over by Jnanpith winner Satya Vrat Shastri. The book, published in two volumes, has been translated by a team of five translators led by B.A. Viveka Rai.

It has 47,000 lines and the volumes run into 1,700 pages. Most of the book is in verse.

Hailed as a landmark in modern Kannada literature, the book has earned Moily the prestigious Moortidevi award.

The book explores the principles of “Ramatattva” or the true principles of Ram from a secular and modern perspective.

Moily said he has introduced several new characters in the epic and at the same time has “tried to retain the essence of Valmiki’s Ramayana”.

The minister said he has drawn freely from the “Jaina and folk traditions”.

Lakshmana, and not Rama, is the hero of the work. It is he who finally defeats and kills Ravana.

In the book, neither Rama nor Lakshmana is monogamous, both have numerous wives, C.N. Ramachandran, chief editor of the translated edition, says.

“Interestingly, in almost all oral-folk versions of the Ramayana, it is Lakshmana, and not Rama, who is the hero of the work,” he said.

“Lakshmana was responsible for driving the Ramayana. He is the real hero. Without Lakshmana, Rama would not have been able to move. That is the reason, I adore him. My Ramayana should have been named Lakshmanayan,” the minister said.

Ravana is not evil like Satan. He comes across as “noble, virtuous - the fatal attraction for Sita being his only weakness”.

The Vanaras such as Bali, Sugriva and Hanuman and the “rakshasas (demons)” like Ravana and Vibishana are not apes and demons, but they belong to a race called Vidyadhara - “who have many superhuman powers, including the ability to fly”.

But the essence of his work, as the minister described, “is a quest for the principles governing a Ramrajya - the welfare state”.

“It is a dream of mine… now I have placed the dream before you,” he said.

Moily is currently composing an epic poem on Draupadi, the leading lady of Mahabharata. “Her character is equally important and more complex. The poem is titled ‘Srimudi Parikrama’,” he said.

Moily, who was born in coastal Karnataka, battled poverty to “educate himself”. He studied law in Bangalore and served as the chief minister of Karnataka between 1992 and 1994.

The minister is also working on the third book in his four-part “Unleashing India” series that explored the country’s agriculture and water scenario.

“The third volume is about the power situation in India. We expect to publish it this year,” Kapish Mehra, publisher of Rupa & Co, told IANS.

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