The Modernization of MythologyRaghu Godavarthigodavar@gmail.com
It is no breaking news to anyone who has been reading the Indian dailies for the past few weeks.Dandakaranya is home to the Naxalite-Maoists, who, as Ms. Arundhati Roy tells us
, call it DK.It has also been home for aeons to the Adivasis, in one of the mineral-rich belts of India
. For awhile I could not identify it accurately in the mythological context, although I was aware of some connection. I did what anyone would do
Google. Dandakaranya, says the Wiki
, “is aspiritually significant region”. The article goes on to translate from the Sanskrit, and tells us thatDandakaranya is “the forest of punishments”.
It figures prominently in the Ramayana: it is herethat Surpanakha loses her nose; it is here that Raavan kidnaps Sita. It is here that the demonshave their stronghold, and here Ram shows his might. All of that is mythology.But the question that I ask is whether this mythology has any echoes in modernity. Of coursethere are such
echoes. Our filmmakers haven’t had their fill of mythology, and extrapolations/
interpretations thereof are still making the rounds. But is there more to a film than merelyinterpretation? I present to the reader some facts that churn disturbingly. Consider the latestcinematic adaptation of the Ramayana: Raavan, directed by the accomplished Mani Ratnam
.From the outset this movie was linked to Naxalite influences, despite statements to the contraryfrom the cast
. Yet, if not the Naxal version, then the mythological is certainly all aboutDandakaranya. Consider also one of the major points of divergence from mythology. The
character of Hari (Veera’s younger brother) –
ostensibly a modern-day Vibishan
is sent tobroker a peace accord with the SP, and dupl
icitously killed. This would be mundane if it didn’teerily foreshadow the death of Rajkumar Chemkuri (Azad), the spokesman for the “extremists”
who was killed outside Dandakaranya even as he was set for peace talks with the Home Minister,P. Chidambaram through the intervention of the Arya Samaj leader, Swami Agnivesh. The film
ends with the death of Raavan, but also the “defection” of Sita. Ram wins the war, but loses the
moral high ground. Is this too a prophecy, Mr. Ratnam? That we will live in an India where thepeople cannot
trust the state to be a do-gooder?Sheldon Pollock, commenting on the riots that engulfed India post the demolition of the BabriMasjid
, wondered if “any other text in South Asia has ever supplied an idiom or vocabul
Arundhati Roy, “Walking with the Comrades,” March 29, 2010,
Dandakaranya (region, India) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia
Dandakaranya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Raavan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raavan.
Code Red - The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata),http://ww.telegraphindia.com/1100711/jsp/7days/story_12670028.jsp.
Ramayana and Political Imagination in India,
The Journal of Asian Studies
52, no. 2 (May 1993):261-297.