The Retellings of the Rāmāyaṇa and the Idea of India: Culture and Society (2010-2020)

Activity: Supervision


The epic Rāmāyaṇa is one of the most important tales in several parts of Asia, even though it is not as well-known in the non-Asian English-speaking world as other Asian narratives. Due to the profusion of editions for children, it is probably the Arabian Nights that comes to mind to most Western readers when thinking of representations of Asia in ancient Asian literature. Nevertheless, the Arabian Nights has to a great extent been a creation of European authors, compilers and translators and the book has never achieved in the Middle East the literary position it has held in Europe (Irwin, 2010 [2004]). Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) once remarked that great literature ultimately becomes children’s literature (quoted in Irwin, 2010 [2004]: 290). This idea would apply to the Arabian Nights, which, in its bowdlerised versions without the most violent and sexually suggestive parts, has travelled the world over, including back to Asia. Borges’ description would also apply to the Rāmāyaṇa, but not in the West, where children versions of the tale have been scarce and relatively unknown. In India, the Rāmāyaṇa has been one of the few narratives that has existed in many versions for children, not only as prose literature, but as comics, animated series, films, oral stories told by adults, etc...
Period29 Oct 2020Sept 2023
Degree of RecognitionPhD