The Ramayana by R. K. Narayan: Book Review

The Ramayana by R.K. Narayan Book Cover

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The Ramayana by R.K. Narayan Book Cover
Title: The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic

Synopsis from GoodReads:

A sweeping tale of abduction, battle, and courtship played out in a universe of deities and demons, The Ramayana is familiar to virtually every Indian. Although the Sanskrit original was composed by Valmiki around the fourth century BC, poets have produced countless versions in different languages. Here, drawing on the work of an eleventh-century poet called Kamban, Narayan employs the skills of a master novelist to re-create the excitement he found in the original. A luminous saga made accessible to new generations of readers, The Ramayana can be enjoyed for its spiritual wisdom, or as a thrilling tale of ancient conflict. 

My Review:

I don’t even know how I first came across this title but I added it to a list of possible books to read for a classics challenge I’m participating in. I had to read Beowulf and The Epic of Gilgamesh in high school so I wanted to read some epics from other cultures. Somehow I found The Ramayana. Then I realized that this version is a “shortened modern prose version.” I’m not a big fan of abridgements so I looked into that a little more. The original is, as I understand it, thousands of pages long. I’ll never read that much epic poetry. At least this version is adapted by an Indian author who grew up listening to his family tell these stories.

I’m glad I read it. I was familiar, at least by name, with some of the gods mentioned–Vishnu, Shiva, Hanuman, Brahma–but completely unfamiliar with Rama’s adventures. He defeats monsters and demons, saves those who need saving, and just sort of generally sets the world to rights.

This version feels like a “good parts” version, to appropriate a phrase from The Princess Bride, and I decided that I’m okay with that. I felt that I got the action and pertinent bits of the story while eliminating too much unnecessary description. The author sets the scene beautifully then moves on with the plot.

I enjoyed familiarizing myself, at least a bit, with Rama and Sita, Lakshmana, Ravana, and Dasaratha.

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  1. Looks fascinating. I’m familiar with some of those names too and have read a little but I’m obvsiouly vastly uninformed on Indian religion and mythology. I was just reading about Gilgamesh as well recently in a comparative religion context, so this is timely. 🙂

    1. I felt bad as I wrote this, realizing exactly how little I know about Hinduism. I wasn’t even sure whether to consider this a sacred text or mythology. The author wrote that it can be seen as either. That wasn’t much help! 🙂

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