THE RAMAYANA by Elizabeth Seeger


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This, a companion volume to The Five Sons of King Pandu: The Story of the Mahabharata (1967), makes the second of the two great Hindu epics available to American readers of all ages in a fluent rendering illustrated with great panache. Mrs. Seeger has worked from a translation by Hari Prasad Shastri not published here and the result is far more accessible than the one that is currently in print, the old (1899) condensation into English verse by Romesh C. Dutt (Everyman). But what is outwardly a mate is inwardly quite different, a much simpler tale of renunciation and unblemished virtue (according to Aubrey Menen, because it was subsequently gilded by sanctimonious Brahmins--see his unorthodox version, 1955). Be that as it may, this is Rama as he has long been revered--upholding his father's vow to give the throne to Rama's younger brother and send him into exile for fourteen years; living in contentment in the forest with his devoted wife Sita and brother Lakshmana; making an alliance with Sugriva, deposed King of the Monkeys, to retrieve the abducted Sita from Ravana, king of the demons; the final onslaught on Ravana's stronghold, Lanka (Ceylon), the slaying of Ravana, both of them armed with divine weapons; Sita's trial by fire (which proves that she did not yield to Ravana) and the triumphant return--fourteen years being up--to Rama's kingdom and the throne held in escrow by his faithful brother. The monkeys--mischievous and fickle according to their kind-- have the best of it (especially the godly Hanuman, who leaps the ocean to Lanka, then runs wild in Ravana's place, changing his size to suit the circumstances). A valuable accession if a lesser achievement (and less fascinating) than The Mahabharata.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1969
Publisher: Young Scott