Assamese Ramayana: oral tradition

Assamese Ramayana in Delhi

December 31st, 2007 – 4:19 pm ICT by admin –

By Sanjay Kumar
New Delhi, Dec.31 (ANI): Assam has a rich tradition of Ramayana. The popular version of the epic is the 11th century Ramayana of Sri Madhava Kandali. Scriptures (Shashtras) of Majuli in Assam’s Jorhat District still preserve the great work through oral tradition. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts or IGNCA in New Delhi is now documenting this version of the Ramayana. Many artists have come all the way from Majuli in Jorhat district of Assam to record their version of Ramayana for posterity. They have their own manner of presenting the epic to the people. The all-male group of 20 artists is particular about creating the right ambience, as the believe that the epic has the potential to bring out the common ethos and facilitate cultural cohesiveness between Assam and the rest of the country Janardan Devkush Swami, the Director of the Assam Ramayan Katha Sangha, said: “The performance that we have displayed here is inspired by Saytha Parampara. The main thing is that in Madhav Kandh, our Assamese Ramayana is totally based on real Ramayan and is not away from it.”
Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi, is an autonomous institution under the Department of Culture that is engaged in research, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts. It is now engaged in documenting the oral tradition of Ramayana from different parts of the country. Such effort demonstrates the richness, diversity and unity in traditions. Bhavanand Borbai, a member of the Assam Ramayan Katha Sangha, said: “Spirituality is vital but now-a-days, human bonding is rare. Even among siblings ; there is very little love and affection. To restore order in our society, spirituality is a vital prerequisite. Their performance artists are trying to restore spirituality.”
Athul Kakoti, who enacts Demon King Ravana in they play, said: “We do it out of the spirit of Bhakti (devotion). I read Ramayana during prayers. Devotion or bhakthi has been the font of inspiration for all those who have penned the script like Ram Kothi, Rukmani.”
Mollie Kaushik, in-charge of the Janpath Art division, said: “We are diverse. But we have a certain tradition that we share. We portray this in our own cultural context. In the north-east India, there is definitely a perspective, which is localized but structural, the thematic unity with the basic text remains. That’s what we want to do and preserve.”
The 14th century Assamese poet Madhava Kandali, who rendered Valmiki Ramayana nto Assamese for the first time. Kandali’s patron was the Kachari King Mahamanikya whose kingdom was located in what is present-day Naogaon. (ANI)


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