Modern day Burmese version of Ramayana and Ravana / Yawana (ရာ၀ဏ) / Datha-giri (ဒသဂီရိ)

Modern day Burmese version of Ramayana and Ravana / Yawana (ရာ၀ဏ) / Datha-giri (ဒသဂီရိ)

In the modern day Burmese version, a novel of the Ramayana by Chit Oo Nyo ခ်စ္ဦးညိဳ, at the archery contest for the hand of Sita / Thida သီတာ, Lakshmana / LetKhaNa လကၡဏာ and Ravana / Yawana (ရာ၀ဏ) / Datha-giri (ဒသဂီရိ)’s turn came ahead of Rama / Yama (ရာမ).

Lakshmana / LetKhaNa လကၡဏာ could lift the bow and was able to string it, but as he was trying, he looked at his brother Rama / Yarma ရာမ and left the stringing of the bow unfinished so that Rama / Yarma ရာမ will gain the hand of Sita / Thida သီတာ.

In Ravana / Yawana (ရာ၀ဏ) / Datha-giri (ဒသဂီရိ)’s turn, he looked at Sita / Thida သီတာ as he was lifting the bow. Although he knew he could lift the bow, he saw Sita / Thida သီတာ becoming worried and decided to stop lifting the bow and went off in his chariot. In this version, Ravana / Yawana (ရာ၀ဏ) / Datha-giri (ဒသဂီရိ) is the hero who suffers for his beloved’s happiness.

The Jain Ramayana focus not on Rama but on the genealogy and adventures of Ravana. Ravana is a noble hero fated by his karma to fall for Sita and bring death upon himself, while he is in other texts an overweening demon.

The Jaina texts express the feeling that the Hindus have maligned Ravana and made him into a villain. Here is a set of questions that a Jaina text begins by asking- “How can monkeys vanquish the powerful raksasa warriors like Ravana? How can noble men and Jaina worthies like Ravana eat flesh and drink blood?

King Srenika goes to sage Gautama to have him tell the true story and clear his doubts. Gautama says to him, “I’ll tell you what Jaina wise men say. Ravana is not a demon, he is not a cannibal and a flesh eater. Wrong-thinking poetasters and fools tell these lies.”

Obviously, the Jaina Ramayana of Vimalasuri, called Paumacariya, knows the Valmiki form, and proceeds to correct its errors and Hindu extravagances. Here Ravana is noble, learned, earns all his magical powers and weapons through tapas, and is a devotee of Jaina masters. To please one of them, he even takes a vow that he will not touch any unwilling woman. He is shaken to his roots when he hears from soothsayers that he will meet his end through a woman, Sita. It is such a Ravana who falls in love with Sita’s beauty, abducts her, tries to win her favors in vain, watches himself fall, and finally dies on the battlefield. In these tellings, he is a great man undone by a passion that he has vowed against but that he cannot resist. Ramayana here is a classical tragedy tale of love and passion.

Jaina even rationalize the conception of Ravana as the Ten-headed Demon. When he was born, his mother was given a necklace of nine gems, which she put around his neck. She saw his face reflected in them ninefold and so called him Dasamukha, or the Ten-faced One.

I wonder whether Chit Oo Nyo had his idea of the plot by himself or whether he had known about the Jain Ramayana.

When I was young, I had read a version of Ramayana in English. It is one of the beginner’s English series. It was an Indian version, but I do not know which one. It mentioned the post script, an episode that occured many years after she was rescued and taken back. After some years, Sita was asked by her ladies in waiting what Ravana looked like and she drew an image of Ravana’s face. When Rama saw it, he became very angry and thought of killing her because he thought that Sita had betrayed him. But Sita made a vow and jumped into the fire and was unhurt. This made Rama understand that Sita was blameless and innocent and they lived happily thereafter.

This clearly shows that Ravana was a gentleman who did not take a woman against her wish even when Sita was in his hands for a long time.

Acknowledgement

I am much indebted to Sourav Roy who had commented on my earlier blog “Ramayana / Yarma LetKhaNar ရာမ လကၡဏာ / ရာမ ဇာတ္ Yama Zatdaw”, thereby enabling me to read his blogs:

Too many Ramayanas: http://souravroy.com/?s=too+many+ramayanas

Ramayana, as I see it…

http://souravroy.com/2010/01/21/ramayana-as-i-see-it-part-ii/

and others at: http://souravroy.com/#

Sourav had done a very extensive research on Ramayana epics and has enlightened me much by his blogs, some of the contents I have used here, in addition to the Wikipedia which is my other reference.

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