Molly Kaushal | When Lakshman undertakes the fire ordeal to prove his chastity: Ramayana among the Gonds of Central India
Lecture | April 29 | 4-6 p.m. | 341 Dwinelle Hall
Molly Kaushal, Professor of Performance Studies and Head of Janapada Sampada Division, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts
Robert Goldman, Professor of Sanskrit and Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor in South & Southeast Asian Studies
Join us for a talk by Molly Kaushal on an unusual Gond folk version of the Ramayana, illustrated with paintings by Gond artists.
The Gond Ramayani is composed of seven tales, which bear little resemblance to the popular versions of the Rama story and are thematically and generically very different from it. The Gond Ramayani begins where the plot of the canonical text ends. There is a strong possibility that the appellation Ramayani came to be attached to this cycle at some later stage, which is otherwise known as Lachhman Charit. Lakshman is the hero of these tales and in each of these he sets out on a journey at the behest of Sita to seek a bride for himself. He gets kidnapped, is turned into a Billy goat, undergoes a fire ordeal, seeks refuge in mother earth but remains chaste tale after tale- a mirror image of Sita. In these tales notions of temporality and corporeality are set aside and characters move freely from one time zone into another, travelling in space via the medium of dreams. The world that these tales build for its listeners is full of magic, wonder and enchantment. Powerful visual imagery is used to depict moods, emotions, physical appearance, expressions and action that transform the narrative into a compelling tangible experience. The talk will introduce some these tales and discuss its unique positioning among the Gonds. The Gond painters rendered a set of 35 paintings based on these tales in a specially organized workshop. Some of these painting will be explored during the talk in a comparative framework within the idiom that has come to be called the Gond painting tradition.
About the Director
Molly Kaushal is Professor of Performance Studies and Head of Janapada Sampada Division for Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts , where she teaches on Indian folklore and conducts research and documentation projects. She is the academic director and principal investigator of the project Living Traditions of Ramkatha and Mahabharata and has made significant contributions in the field of folk and tribal traditions, building a massive audio-visual archive, bringing out translations and other publications, and creating a platform for dialogue between artists and scholars. She has also done extensive research among the Gaddi community of Himachal Pradesh and has published a number of papers on spatial and temporal processes, including a film titled Landscaping the Divine: Space and Time among the Gaddis. Her current research is on migrant communities in megacities, tentatively titled Changing urbanscapes and emerging ritual spheres in the context of formation of regional and political identities.
The event is FREE and OPEN to the public.