Did 40 elephants march on Kumbhakaran's belly to wake him up?

Published: Mar 24, 2010, 07:37 IST | Ishita Sharma |

Yes, that is, until now. On the occasion of Ram Navami, a new book and art exhibition together question the exaggerated stories of the most loved mythological figures

Yes, that is, until now. On the occasion of Ram Navami, a new book and art exhibition together question the exaggerated stories of the most loved mythological figures

Cut to 1986. Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana was a staple Sunday watch. Hundreds would gather around a single television set, and bus and train services would be rescheduled to accommodate it's broadcast. The legend of Rama, Sita, Hanuman and Laxman is so deep-rooted in our socio-religious ethos that for many, it would be blasphemy to imagine that an epic like Ramayana could actually turn out to be a blatant exaggeration.


The epic on canvas: Ram and Sita in Chitrakoot

But a new-age author, who shares his name with the most influential protagonist in Hindu mythology, presents a different viewpoint. Ram Verma teamed up his book with a painting exhibition by daughter Vandana Sehgal to probe into some basic secrets of the making of the Ramayana, and came up with startling revelations.

OTT myths
Ram Varma's rendering 'Before He was God, Ramayana, and Reconsidered, recreated' claims to be refreshingly different from Valmiki's version, where Ram is a mythological figure like Krishna or Buddha. His re-creation is supported by latest textual, sociological and archaeological researches. "The story recited by the well-meaning pundits of Puranic times was a senseless exaggeration. To start off, it claimed that Dashrath ruled Ayodhya for 60,000 years before he passed on the mantle to Rama, who in turn ruled the kingdom for another 11,000 years!" he  quips. "Kumbhkaran's tale of how he woke up from deep slumber after 40 elephants were marched on his belly is another exaggeration," he adds. Explaining his motive behind the endeavour, he clarifies, "These are not my observations, but a plethora of scholars and researchers have commented on it. My aim is simple. Rama was a god no doubt, but he was more or less a historical figure like Gandhi or mother Teresa, who in due course of time became god by their own standing."
 
Roving with Rama
Daughter Vandana's collection of 65 paintings captures her inspirations in monologues, which, according to the artist, encapsulate the soul of the epic.
 "Ramayana is such a strong theme that one is absorbed into it with a force that is difficult to comprehend. And when I had gone through my father's book and thoughts, I was compelled to take up the subject. He believes that apart from meeting Vasishtha, Vishwamitra and Gautama, Rama met other great diviners like Bharadwaja during his sojourn in Dandakaranya. I got inspired and thought of depicting this story on my canvas. He lived in their ashrams, saw them perform yajna and recite the hymns," she says. "It has been a spiritual journey -- these 65 paintings, which took up six months, are also a parallel journey with Rama," she concludes. 

Before He was God, Ramayana, and Reconsidered, recreated
When: Today, 4 - 7 pm
Where: The Lalit (near Bengali Market)
Ring:  4444 7777

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