In my previous post, I had mentioned that there exist many versions of Ramayana, and confronting one over the other will only narrow down our perspective and eventually lead to great cultural loss.
One point of difference among these different tellings of Ramayana, is the intensity of focus on a major character! Valmiki focuses on Rama and his history. The Jain Ramayana focus not on Rama but on the genealogy and adventures of Ravana. Here, Rama is only an evolved Teerthankara who is in his last birth and so does not even kill Ravana (Jainism is about ahimsa- and hence Lakshmana kills Ravana). Ravana is a noble hero fated by his karma to fall for Sita and bring death upon himself, while he is in other texts an overweening demon. The Thai epic also holds similar grounds, but it picturises each character as fair a mix of good and evil.
According to A. K. Ramanujam, the Santhals say Sita was unfaithful- she was attracted towards both Ravana and by Lakshmana! In Southeast Asian texts, Hanuman is not a brahmachari with a monkey face but a ladies’ man and is very handsome! Kampan and Tulsi say Rama is god. The Kannada village telling focuses on Sita, her birth, her wedding, her trials. The Jain text and most south Indian texts say that Sita was Ravana’s daughter! That is how they have justified Ravana not laying his hands on Sita.
I’ll be writing more on it in my coming posts.