Too many Ramayanas- women’s Ramayana

According to my teacher– “fiction has one narrative but fact has many”. Ramayana is probably the most fascinating story India has created, and every other man has his own story to tell, and women are not far behind! One such telling is by the Brahmin women of Andhra who sing approximately twenty-five popular Ramayana songs.

It is not known whether these songs were composed orally and then preserved in writing, or were originally written compositions. Judging from the feelings, perceptions, cultural information, and the general attitudes revealed in the songs, it seems that these songs were women’s works- says Velcheru Narayana Rao.

In these verses, events of interest to women are prominently portrayed which receive detailed attention: pregnancy, morning sickness, childbirth, the tender love of a husband, the affections of parents-in-law, games played by brides and grooms in wedding rituals. The usual events are hardly mentioned here. The woman’s Ramayana, has an important place for Shanta- Dasaratha’s daughter. In Brahmin families, an elder sister is allowed to command, criticize, and admonish her younger brother. As Rama’s elder sister, Santa often intervenes on behalf of Sita in these songs.

Why do women sing these songs? Edwin Ardener has proposed a theory of muted groups, who are silenced by the dominant structures of expression. India’s lower castes and women fall in this category. However, muted groups, according to Ardener, are not silent groups. They do express themselves, but under cover of the dominant ideology. It is an interesting study indeed!

I’ll be concluding my research tomorrow.


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