Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Vlmki (vol-MEE-kee) is not known for anything other than his poetry.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Indian tradition credits Vlmki with having invented poetry. Particularly in the Punjab section of India, the Vlmki sect of Hinduism worships him as divine and considers his writings to be scriptures; he is, at minimum, revered throughout the Indian community. The Ramayana has been extraordinarily popular for millennia, helping to establish cultural ideals. Its stories have been staples of Southeast Asian dance, drama, and painting. Adaptations of it in the major languages of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand’s Ramakien, have themselves become influential classics. Ramayan (1987-1988), a television series based on The Ramayana and produced by Ramanand Sagar, was the most-watched series in Indian history. American adaptations of The Ramayana include Virgin Comics’ Ramayan 3392 a.d.(2006), written by the best-selling author Deepak Chopra and the filmmaker Shekhar Kapur. The Ramayana has inspired video games, action figures, and such animated films as the Indo-Japanese anime Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (1992). Among the classics of Yoga and Advaita Vedanta (monistic Hindu philosophy), Vlmki’s The Supreme Yoga is the longest and possibly the most prestigious.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Bose, Mandakranta, ed. “The Ramayana” Revisited. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. This collection of essays both documents and engages in many facets of the reinterpretation of The Ramayana throughout Southeast Asia, particularly concerning the epic’s attitudes toward gender and caste.

Chatterjee, Asim Kuma. A Historical Introduction to the Critical Edition of the Rmyaṇa. Calcutta: Rajyashree Bhattacharya, 2007. This valuable supplement to the 1960-1973 critical edition not only examines the historical context of The Ramayana, but also the history of its influence.

Khan, Benjamin. The Concept of Dharma in Valmiki Ramayana. Delhi: Munshi Ram Manohar, 1965. In addition to its main subject (the epic’s presentation of ethics), Khan also summarizes considerable scholarship on Vlmki and the epic.

Leslie, Julia. Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions: Hinduism and the Case of Valmiki. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2003. Beginning with a twenty-first century controversy in the United Kingdom between Hindu worshipers of Vlmki and Hindus criticizing him, Leslie searches for roots of the conflict through an analysis of works traditionally attributed to Vlmki and their historical development.

Sena, Nabant Deba. Alternative Interpretations of the Rmyaṇa: Views from Below. New Delhi: Centre for Women’s Development Studies, 2001. Part of the J. P. Naik Memorial Lecture Series, this volume exemplifies a feminist approach to The Ramayana in modern India.

Vlmki. The Rmyaṇa of Vlmki. 6 vols. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990-2009. A multivolume translation of most of the epic. Contains background information, scholarly introductions, and copious notes. Translators and editors include R. P. Goldman, S. S. Goldman, R. Lefeber, S. I. Pollock, and B. A. van Nooten.

Yardi, M. R. “The Rmyaṇa,” Its Origin and Growth: A Statistical Study. Poona, India: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1994. This examination of changes in the writing style comes to similar (but slightly more conservative) conclusions than the consensus view of The Ramayana’s textural history. For example, Yardi considers part of the first book to have been written by someone other than the poet who wrote the epic’s earliest version.