In the story of men at war and all the violence that’s in the Ramayana, there are stories of women characters that haven’t been elaborated or articulated. In the stories that we have come across in popular culture, it is Ram’s story, his exile, his heroism, his sacrifice.
For some time now, there have been many retellings of epics such as the Ramayana, which remain faithful to the culture of storytelling where each iteration of myths adds or creates a new version, a new protagonist, changes the lens, changes the plot, too.
Women like me have wondered about main and minor characters, their positions, their stories in such mythologies and have asked about them, and sometimes have created a greater space for them in the narrow space marked for them as pushers of the plot, to then go into the shadows as characters who are never whole but only parts, which are then perpetuated and promoted. A differential treatment of the politics of body and caste and class and beliefs about chastity and gender roles is important as epics like the Ramayana have been instrumental in shaping new histories and perhaps sealing marginalisation in the larger politics of differentiation. Retelling, an interventionist approach, is to bring out these other voices, these other stories. In this issue of Outlook, we look at the women of the Ramayana as an interrogation of dominant narratives.
(This appeared in the print as 'Retelling The Epic')