Konkani Ramayana(s), a Maryada wished by Goans ?

Ramayana is not a story of good v/s evil. Such a dualism was not part of Indian thinking. The number of Ramayana (s)that came in the medieval periods were written under the influence of the Islamic religion where good and evil are central concepts. Hinduism does not have the concept of absolute good and absolute evil. It is said that the telling of Ramayana changed between 13 to 15th Centuries. Ravana’s killing is narrated in the Ramayana only in post-Islamic Ramayana(s). This seems to suggest that Ravana as an absolute personified evil began after the great Tulisdas. None of the Southern states had Ravana Killing in their Ramayan(s). In several other Ramayana(s) in the south as well as other Ramayana(s) from outside India, Sita is the daughter of Ravana and Ravana is trying to save Sita. Thus, for instance, in Kannada folk Ramayana, Sita is born of Ravana who sneezes her out into birth. In the Telugu Ramayana, it is Sita, the avatar of Durga that is Killing Ravana. There is also a Ramayana, where all the characters are Muslims. It appears that Ramayana is told differently in the context of time, place and culture. Ramayana is a story of Dharma, Karma and Karma Balla (capacity). It is a presenting the narrative through which a society is seeking its Maryada. In Hinduism God is time. Shiva is Kaal Bhairav. No one is escaping the Kaala Chakra. It is time that gives the fruit of karma. In order to come to the Indic reading of the Ramayana, we will have to put the present reading of the Ramayana into what we may call a semiotic black hole or in Shrodinger’s Box. This may enable us to rediscover the original message of Ramayana that remains congruent to our Indic civilization. But is this possible today? Perhaps, the best thing that we may be able to do is to assume that each Ramayana is a quest of society to seek its Maryada. Did Goan society seek its Maryada? It seems yes. We can indeed do distinct Goan reading(s) of Ramayana.

Ramayana as well as Mahabharata has its origin in the play/ lila. It has its origin in the story of the bodyguards: Jay and Vijay who were the doorkeepers/bodyguards of Vishnu in his Vaikuntha. The four kumaras, the manasputras of Lord Brahama who looked like little children had come to see Lord Vishnu. Thinking that they were mischievous children, Jay and Vijay stopped them and told them that Lord Vishnu was taking a rest. Angered by the refusal of Jay and Vijay four Kumaras cursed them to be born on the earth. Lord Vishnu also did not take away the curse but promised to take away the intensity. He gave them two options: First to take seven (some say thousand) births as devotees of Lord Vishnu or three births as enemies of Lord Vishnu. After serving any of the two sentences, they were told they will be restored their status as gatekeepers of Vaikunta of Lord Vishnu. Jaya and Vijay could not imagine taking seven ( thousand) births that would keep them away from Lord Vishnu so they choose three births as enemies of Lord Vishnu. Thus, they lost their divine status and were born as Asuras. We have three narratives of their earthly lives. 1. Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, (Hiranyaksha was killed by Varaha, the third avtara of Vishnu and Hiranyakashipu was killed by Narasimha), 2. Ravana and Kumbhakarna, ( Rama Killed Ravana and Lakshmana killed Kumbhakarna), 3. Dantavakra ( Kamsa) and Shishupala, ( both Dantavkra and Shishupala were killed by Krishna, the eight avatara of Vishnu. After this, both Jay and Vijay returned to their original position as gatekeepers. This again shows that there is no concept of absolute evil in Hinduism. The two evil Asuras after their deaths returned to vaikunta. Had they chosen seven (thousand) births as devotees of Lord Vishnu, we may have different Ramayana(s) and Mahabharta(s).

The issue of many Ramayana(s) and Mahabharta(s) should not be a problem. If it is a problem, it only suggests that we are reading Ramayana through the lens of absolute good and evil which is foreign to Hinduism. Now at first glance, Konkani Ramayana of the 16th century Goa will indicate that it being the work of missionaries of that period coming from the West is influenced with the absolute notion of good and evil. But may we have to pause. The original Konkani Ramayana that is attributed to Krishnadas (Khrushnadas) Shama of Quelosi has to be discovered to literally trace whether it was post-13th century, to decode whether it has already come under the influence of good/ evil binary under our Islamic experience. Prof. Olvinho Gomes indicates that the Konkani version of Ramayana is distinctly Konkani and shows no influence of the Portuguese. He says that it might be composed in the Konkani Kandvi script of that time in the 15th or 16th century before the arrival of the Portuguese. It cannot be before the 13th century. This is because of the conversion of a large section of Shiva Brahmins into Vaisnavism under the Vijay nagara empire in Goa. Already, Prof. Olivinho Gomes who did the transliteration of the Romanized version of the Ramayana into Devagri tells us that the Konkani version of Ramanyana is different from the prototype of Valmiki like the manner in which more populous and powerful modern sister languages like Tamil (which is classical language like Sanskrit to correct Olivinho), Bengali and Hindi. Olivinho tells us that the Konkani version of Ramayana narrates a fascinating incident of young Rama being abducted and brought down to Goa to the village Khola (meaning the deep) by a demon. Olivinho identifies the village as close to the Dabolim airport of today. Rama is set free by Varshita, his guru who tracks him down. We are told that Indrajit attacks, both Rama and Varshita and takes them to Murmugao ( Mungrubhuim). It is fascinating to find that both Rama and Varshita meet the ganvkars of Majorda and Utorda and come to Chicalim (Chicolna) and return to Ayodhya. Different Ramyana(s) respond to different challenges of the context of the time and place. Therefore, it might be important that we try to understand the context of Konkani Ramayana. It may have a powerful message for us as Goans. Rama being a maryada purushottam and each version of Ramayan being human effort to bring them to the maryada that their society desires to have. What would be the Maryada that Goan’s wished to have may be decoded through the context analysis of Konakani Ramayana? I with deep humility and full respect to all concerns would say that it may have to do with ‘Ram’ in the Vaisnavas being trapped in the battle with the Shaivas of Goa of that time and is an effort to peace to the land of Goa by bring about the maryada of unity. ‘Ram’ in our society is still trapped in several divisions. We need the maryada of unity of Goykarponn even today.

Besides the Ramayana of the 16th century, we have several other ways Konkani Ramayana is visible and active in the lives of the Goan people. This means there are other Ramayana(s) that remain in the oral traditions in and through rituals, festivals, dances, and singings. Among the dances it is fugdi, dhalo and Chovrong that keep Ramayana enacted in the lives of our people. These Ramayana(s) are enacted by the people in Ranmalyem. There is one devotional song (Jot) which stands out in this context as it presents Sita as a daughter of Ravana. It has a tired Ravana whose sweat falls on a ‘frog’ (manki …Mandodari ) and the frog-ress conceives and gives birth to Sita. These several Ramayana(s) that are living in the lives of simple people guide their daily life. The performance of the several aspects of Ramayana with several local twists has meant that Ramayana has deeply entered the local identity and culture of our people. These performances are done to the tune of local musical instruments like ghumot and kasalem. Ramayana is enacted through song and lyrics which also articulate the biodiversity of Goa and the actors use special wooden masks whenever required. Besides, the cultural and religious ethos of the people that is visible in the enactment of Ramayana, one can also trace angst about the present socio-political reality through the use of satire, wit and parody. This is how simple people of the villages have been continuously enacting the Maryada that they had sort for their communities for centuries. Goa also has seen another important milestone in our days. We now have the entire Ramayana of Valmiki in Konkani. It has been the fruit of the tremendous genius and hard work of Manikrao Naik Gawanekar and publisher Dinesh Manrekar . It being a great land mark of Konkani literature, it has an equal responsibility to embrace all the pre-existing Konkani Ramayana(s). This is the maryada of the new enterent complete Konkani Ramayana of Valmiki in our society. Although, this great Konkani Ramayana will serve our Goan Society with great distinction, yet we have its duty ( maryada) to sustain the voices of our plural Konkani Ramayana(s) from going into voiceless silence.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao