The world's greatest epic poem Valmikiramayana,
composed over 2,500 years ago, is loved by countless
millions of men and women of all religions, in India and
abroad. It is told in every region of India in the language of
the region. It inspires one to be brave, truthful, virtuous, and
kind and compassionate towards all. This is seen not only in
the story of Rama, but also in "the Great Story of Sita" as
the epic calls itself. The present book is probably the first
condensed version in English of the most reliable version of
Valmikiramayana, the Critical Edition prepared by the
Baroda Oriental Research Institute, India.
"In an earlier review of Dr. M R Parameswaran's Studies in
Srivaishnavism, I had occasion to express my admiration
for the author's outstanding linguistic competence in
Sanskrit and Tamil, as well as his critical approach to the
work of some well-known scholars. On the publication of
his latest work, a condensed version of Valmiki's epic, I can
congratulate him on his felicitous English renderings of a
summary of this ancient Sanskrit epic. Dr Parameswaran's
The Ramayana of Valimiki reads well; it reflects the style of
the original and at the same time sounds modern. There are
numerous additional helpful interpretative paragraphs to
explain the background to some scenes".
Klaus K Klostermaier, FRSC and former Director of the Oxford
Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford, UK.
The rsi Valmiki composed an epic poem of about 24,000 verses
about 2,500 years ago. We call it the "Ramayana of Valmiki. It
describes itself as ramaysa caritam (the Story of Rama) and also as
sitayas caritam mahat (the Great Story of Sita), Over the centuries
after its composition, the epic poem spread to all parts of India, and
indeed even abroad to East Asia. The transmission was oral, based
on palm-leaf manuscripts that recorded earlier oral transmissions.
When the difficulty of storing palm-leaf manuscripts and preserving
them over the centuries is taken into account, it is not surprising that
the text of the Ramayana got corrupted, although the main trend of
the story remained intact. The result is that there came into existence
several versions, or 'recensions', each claiming to be the Ramayana
as composed by Valmiki. The differences or discrepancies between
any pair of recensions of the Ramayana are sometimes trivial and on
other occasions quite substantial; sometimes an entire sarga (chapter)
is found in one recension but not in another.
In order to arrive at a reasonable reconstruction of what was most
probably the original text of the Ramayana, the Oriental Research
Institute in Baroda [Vadodara] embarked in the middle of the last
century on a remarkable project. A large number of scholars were
gathered to examine more than 2,000 palm-leaf and other manuscripts
in various scripts like Devanagari, Grantha, Malayalam, Bengali etc.
from all over India and Nepal. Finally, after several years of labour,
the scholars compiled what is called the 'Critical Edition of Valmiki's
Ramayana' (abbr.: CE); modern scholars call it also the 'monumental
text of the Ramayana'. As of today, the CE is the most reliable text of
The superior dependability of the CE in comparison with
recensions of the Ramayana like the Southern or 'Kumbhakonam '
recension (abbr.: SR) is illustrated by a few examples:
(1) The CE, as well as the highly regarded SR, show that Valmiki
repeatedly describes Dasaratha as most virtuous, truthful, who
had conquered his senses and so on; but the SR has some verses
that say that he was infatuated with Kaikeyi, being "smitten by
the arrows of Manmatha" and suggesting that he had neglected
Kausalya; the SR thus contradicts itself. The verses are not
found in most other manuscripts and are among those rejected
by the CE as spurious.
(2) The verses [4.8.17-21]' and [4.5.23-27] in the Southern
Recension have the same import, and cause confusion as to
whether it was in the fifth sarga or in the eighth sarga that Rama
declared that he would kill Vali. Some commentators of the SR
appear to have failed to notice this fact.
(3) The SR has a number of verses (especially [4.16.26, 30-31])
that say that when Sugriva and Vali met in combat for the
second time, Sugriva was in dire straits and on the point of being
worsted by Vali when Rama shot a fatal arrow at Vali. These
verses are contradicted by other verses like (4.16.21-22 [23-24])
and 4.19.2  which say that it was Vali whose limbs had been
shattered and who was tottering, whereas Sugriva, whom the
poet had taken care to describe, just before the fight, as highly
skilled in combat (4.16.17[ 19]: ranapandita ), remained agile.
The verses that say that Vali was on the point of winning are
among those rejected by the CE, rejected by the CE not because
of the contradictions mentioned above, but because most other
manuscripts do not contain them. However, in the years before
the CE was prepared, those verses in the SR appear to have
misled many critics. Ifwe adhere to the CE, many details in the
Ramayana become much clearer. Scholars today consider the
CE to be the most authentic text of the Ramayana of Valmiki.
In these days, not many know Sanskrit and most people even in
India know the story of Rama only by listening to expositions of the
Ramayana, or through versions of it in the regional languages. The
versions disagree among themselves on various points, and none of
them corresponds to the CEo A group of scholars in the west, under the
leadership of Prof R P Goldman, undertook the highly praiseworthy
task of translating into modem English the Ramayana text as given by
the CEo Six volumes have already been published. This multi-volume
RV (Goldman, R P et al, (eds) 1984, The Ramayana of Valmiki,
Princeton University Press), with translations and comments and
annotations, is, as far as I know, the only translation of the CE in any
language. The readily available volumes of the RV are therefore in
fact in danger of being considered authoritative.
The translation and comments in the RV make good reading and
are generally acceptable, although not totally free from errors. The
errors give a slanted and highly distorted picture of the characters in
the Ramayana, almost always tending to deny or diminish the nobility
of the characters in the Ramayana, whether it be Dasaratha, Kausalya,
Sugriva, or even Rama himself.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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