The Ramayana Revisited

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Preface

Like other pervasive presences one grows up with, until recently the Ramayana was for me a part of life I took for granted with no expenditure of conscious effort. The passage of years, the repositioning of the Ramayana in present-day public life, and conversations with friends, colleagues, and students have increasingly drawn me to a more critical engagement with what I see as a foundational text of South and Southeast Asian societies. My studies through the past five years have led me to organize several scholarly gatherings, out of which a modest volume of essays by diverse hands has already appeared in print and the present, fuller collection conceived. In bringing these essays together, my aim was to offer the reader some of the most informed and imaginative work currently under way in major areas of Ramayana studies, including its design, ideology, and performance. The crop of Ramayana scholarship in the past two de-cades has been singularly rich, not only in expanding and developing the fields of research but in questioning received wisdom and discovering fresh instruments of inquiry. In like manner, the present volume attempts to press ahead with revaluations and rediscoveries that, I believe, will animate what I suspect will be a continuing debate on the Ramayana for a long time to come. The two great epics of India, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, have the distinction of never having turned into dead if revered classics, and remain embedded in the living cultures of many Asian peoples, including those in the various Asian diasporas. The essays presented here recognize this contemporaneity of the Ramayana and engage with it on the many levels of its existence.

Among an editor's many tasks the pleasantest is the acknowledgment of debts, both personal and professional. I have been particularly fortunate in the varied and consistent help I have received from institutions, colleagues, friends, and family, and I take this opportunity to thank them all. I have been fortunate to have received support from many corners, including my colleagues and friends. I would like to acknowledge them all. My first debt of gratitude is to the University of British Columbia for providing research grants that enabled me to make research trips, organize conferences, and publish conference proceedings. My thanks are due in particular to the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia for its generous funding, and to its director, Dr. Ken McCrimmon, who believed in me, helped me finance and organize two international Ramayana conferences, and gave me invaluable practical advice. Both the past and present directors of the Institute of Asian Research, Dr. Terrence McGee and Dr. Pitman Potter, have helped me beyond the call of mere institutional duty, providing resources for an entire Ramayana conference and an exhibition, "The Ramayana in View"; without their support I could not have generated the interest in the Ramayana at this university that it enjoys today. I must also acknowledge the unfailing support of Dr. Frieda Granot, Dean of Graduate Studies, in all my research ventures. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia helped me to organize performances of the Ramayana on several occasions, and I am grateful to the Museum's director and staff. I would also like to acknowledge with much pleasure a very substantial research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada that has allowed me to enlarge the scope of my work on the Ramayana.

I record with equal gratitude and much personal warmth the support I have received and continue to enjoy from my students, Tanya Boughtflower, Nandita jaishankar, Nicki Magnolo, Amandeep Mann, and Daniel Winks. Photographs of temple sculptures were provided by Michael Dowad, for which I am grateful to him. Other photographs that accompany the articles have been mostly provided by the authors, and some are from my personal collection, including reproductions of painted scrolls that I have acquired through the years from village painters of West Bengal. I take this opportunity to thank these often obscure but always vigorous artists.

My husband, Tirthankar Bose, has provided constant help by going through every stage of the book with me meticulously. Without his help this book would not have seen the light. I am grateful to Margaret Case and Rebecca johns-Danes for their meticulous copyediting. Finally, I would like to thank Cynthia Read and Theodore Calderara of Oxford University Press for taking on the task of steering this book through the complex publication process with patience and understanding.

**Contents and Sample Pages**