Courses

Ramayana 101: An Introduction to India’s Great Epic

  • Yoga Philosophy
  • By
  • Wednesdays, May 25, June 1, 8 & 15, 2022, 7 - 8:30 pm ET

About the Course

The Ramayana, an ancient epic based in thousands of years of tradition, still captivates our popular imagination. In India, court judgments refer to the Ramayana, while advertisements frequently depict the ten-headed villain of this epic, Ravana. The main hero and heroine of the epic, Ram and Sita, are still spoken of as ideals and role models, used to prescribe the way men and women should live and relate to each other. This epic tradition has constructed and mediated relationships between god and man, man and woman, ruler and subject, poet and patron.

The Ramayana has been retold countless times over millennia – in art, performance, and in words – with each storyteller inscribing their own life experience onto the epic and reinterpreting its legacy for subsequent generations. In this course, we will examine how this epic tradition and its complex legacy influence ideas of life, leadership, power, and romantic relationships in India and beyond. The epic tradition still influences the culture, lifestyles, and beliefs of the Hindu diaspora, from the US to Guyana.

This course is designed to accommodate all levels of understanding, including curious non-Hindus who seek to understand the impact that this story has had on Hindu perspectives, history, and culture and enable them to perceive the continuing legacy of this epic today.

The purpose of this module will be to understand the themes, characters, and basic plot of the story, by looking at different visual interpretations of the epic across time. Examples will include the artwork of the nineteenth-century artist Raja Ravi Varma, as well as temple sculptures and the imagery of Ramayana TV series in the 1990s.
In this module, we will take a deeper look at the character of Ram: The exiled prince, the Good King. Ram, as the “maryada puroshottam”, ideal man, has been instrumental in the way kingship, has been defined, in South and South East Asia. We will also look at Ram as an epic hero and understand what he shares with other epic heroes (such as Odysseus) and how his journey reflects the stages of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.
In this module, we will examine the character of Sita and how she has been interpreted in the various versions of the Ramayana. If time permits, we will also look at the other female characters of the epic to understand more deeply, how the epic has shaped gender roles.
In conclusion, this module will examine how storytellers across time have woven themselves into the fabric of the story. A core aspect of every Indian epic is the presence of the sutradhara, the storyteller, who is part of the story he or she tells, and projects their own time and lived experience onto the story. For example, we will see how Valmiki, the author of the Valmiki Ramayana, is not just a poet – but also a character within the story he tells. We’ll look at how storytellers who are ‘excluded’ – women or from marginalized caste – approach the Ramayana in the context of their own lived experience and seek to reclaim the story.

Participants in this course will learn:

  • Understand the Ramayana as a tradition, a multiplicity of narratives.
  • Study the impact of this tradition on history, the idea of kingship and power paradigms in South Asia, and reflect on the role that epics and literary traditions play in the cultural and political imagination.
  • Gain an understanding of how the Ramayana reflects and has helped form, archetypes, and a cultural narrative in the Indian context, which includes exploring how the Ramayana impacts lived relationships, caste, and gender roles. 
  • Examine the relationship between the sutradhar, the storyteller (the reteller of the Ramayana, in this context), and the society they live in, and understanding that can be extrapolated to other literary traditions.

About Samhita Arni

When she was eight, Samhita Arni started writing and illustrating her first book. The Mahabharata – A Child's View went on to be published in seven language editions and sell 50,000 copies. Samhita's second book, Sita's Ramayana, a graphic novel developed in collaboration with Patua artist Moyna Chitrakar, was on the New York Times Bestseller list for Graphic Novels. She is also the author of the speculative-fiction mythological thriller, The Missing Queen. The Prince, her fourth novel, recently won the 2019 Neev Book Award. Samhita lives in Bangalore with two cats and teaches creative writing at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

$97.00 / month

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This Course Only

  • Access to This Course
  • LIVE Monthly Courses
    Top-quality education from premier faculty in both Yoga Philosophy & MindBody Studies.
  • 70+ On-Demand Courses
    Certificate of completion available for all courses (+ earn Yoga Alliance credits & CEs on select offerings)
  • EPTV Streaming Video Library
    Includes 250+ hours of our original series, lectures, talks & workshops—accessible on the website or through our App (Apple TV, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Roku)
  • Premium Web Content Access
    Premium articles, curated content, mini-trainings & practice resources
  • Tarka Journal Digital
    Quarterly issues that include: original artwork and translations + scholarly, devotional, and introductory articles on contemplative studies, wisdom teachings & practices
  • Private EP Community
    Engage in conversation with other Embodied Philosophy Members!
  • Minimum 3-month commitment
    Membership can be cancelled anytime after 3 months
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