Delhi University professors, especially “non-Hindus”, may not be capable of explaining the context of A K Ramanujan’s essay on different tellings of the epic Ramayana to their students, one of the experts deputed by the university to assess the text had argued, in a report submitted to the Delhi University Academic Council, before it voted to drop the essay from the BA (Honours) syllabus last week.
The expert was the only one in the four-member committee to have favoured the removal of the text. The other three argued that it should continue in the syllabus of the course ‘Culture in India: A Historical Perspective’ for BA (Honours) students.
A few days back, Manan Ahmed wrote on his excellent Chapati Mystery blog:
Ramanujan’s essay is, in my view, one of the best pieces of scholarship the discipline of South Asian Studies has produced – theoretically rich, innovative and amazingly perceptive about the lived ways in which texts continue to exist – the importance of reading, of listening. It ought to be, if it already isn’t, required reading for anyone working on epic or performative texts in any historical or geographical period.
So, when I hear that the Delhi University has removed the essay from History syllabi, I feel the urge to grab my print copy, a chair, walk to the busiest intersection on campus, stand on the chair and start reading out loud his essay. Every word. Make them listen. They will be transformed. [Read on at Chapati Mystery]
Full texts are available here:
- The celebrated Ramanujan essay: The Lord Takes Many Forms (abridged, in Outlook, 2008, when the controversy over the inclusion of the essay in the syllabus first erupted)
- The full text of the essay, Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, along with Paula Richman's excellent Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia it is compiled in.
From 2008 archives:
- Sugata Srinivasaraju: How Many Ramayanas?
Also read on the current DU decision:
- Nilanjana Roy: Silencing Ramanujan