Too many Ramayanas- the doordarshan impact

January 25, 1987, to July 31, 1988- the period when Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana was aired on Doordarshan. This show rose to hold the world record of being the world’s most viewed mythological serial. It was primarily based on Valmiki’s Ramayana and Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas. It is also partly derived from portions of Kamban’s Kambaramayanam. The televised Ramayana did, however, disturb some observers, who worried that the Doordarshan version might come to dominate other tellings of the story. Among them was Romila Thapar.

According to Thapar, Doordarshan presented a Ramayana telling that reflected the concerns not of the vast majority of Indians. In the past, many performances of the Ramayana have been sponsored by those in political power, but never before had a Ramayana performance been seen simultaneously by such a huge audience through a medium which so clearly presented itself as authoritative. The homogenization of any narrative tradition results in cultural loss; other tellings of the Ramayana story might be irretrievably submerged or marginalized.

To be continued…

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