The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India.

Author:Richman, Paula
Position:Book review
 
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The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India. Vol. 6: Yuddhakanda. Translation and annotation by ROBERT P. GOLDMAN, SALLY J. SUTHERLAND GOLDMAN, and BAREND A. VAN NOOTEN. Introduction by ROBERT P. GOLDMAN and SALLY J. SUTHERLAND GOLDMAN. Princeton Library of Asian Translations. Princeton. PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2009. Pp. 1655 + xviii. $210 (cloth), $75 (paper).

The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India. Vol. 7: Uttarakanda. Introduction, translation, and annotation by ROBERT P. GOLDMAN and SALLY J. SUTHERLAND GOLDMAN. Princeton Library of Asian Translations. Princeton: PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2017. Pp. 1522 + xxii. $175 (cloth).

The two volumes under review culminate a mammoth seven-volume project, whose first volume appeared in 1984. A team of North American scholars, spearheaded by Robert P. Goldman at the University of California, Berkeley, have translated into English the critical edition of Valmiki's Sanskrit Ramayana produced by an Indian team of scholars, spearheaded by V. S. Sukthankar at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Poona between 1933 and 1970. Volume 6 recounts the war between the armies of Rama and Ravana, Sita's agni-pariksa (fire ordeal), and Rama's coronation. In addition to some stories not directly related to the main narrative, Volume 7 deals with Rama's reign including Sita's banishment, a sudra's beheading, and Rama's return to heaven. Now that the project is complete, scholars of Sanskrit, South Asian Studies, History of Religions, and Comparative Literature--as well as general readers--can consult Valmiki's Ramayana in a fully annotated, accessible English translation that also incorporates the latest scholarship in the field.

The last two volumes are the largest of the seven. The Yuddha [War] kanda [book, canto], the longest kanda in Valmiki's entire text, includes the most (and most elaborate) battles: monkeys attack with fangs and claws; Indrajit launches serpents transformed into arrows; Lord Indra lends Rama his own chariot for part of the battle; Kumbhakarsa consumes monkeys by the thousands; Hanuman fights with unmatched valor; in high-stake duels, Laksmana slays Indrajit and Rama slays Ravana. For different reasons, the Uttara [Final] kanda also looms large: most Indologists argue that a later hand, rather than Valmiki, composed substantial parts of this kanda; its style, tone, and linguistic usage differ notably from Valmiki's middle books (volumes 2-6). Thirty-six sargas...

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