Re-figuring the Ramayana as Theology

A History of Reception in Premodern India

By Ajay K. Rao

© 2015 – Routledge

156 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415687515
pub: 2014-10-13
US Dollars$145.00

About the Book

The Ramayana of Valmiki is considered by many contemporary Hindus to be a foundational religious text. But this understanding is in part the result of a transformation of the epic’s receptive history, a hermeneutic project which challenged one characterization of the genre of the text, as a work of literary culture, and replaced it with another, as a work of remembered tradition.

This book examines Ramayana commentaries, poetic retellings, and praise-poems produced by intellectuals within the Srivaisnava order of South India from 1250 to 1600 and shows how these intellectuals reconceptualized Rama’s story through the lens of their devotional metaphysics. Srivaisnavas applied innovative interpretive techniques to the Ramayana, including allegorical reading, slesa reading (reading a verse as a double entendre), and the application of vernacular performance techniques such as word play, improvisation, repetition, and novel forms of citation. The book is of interest not only to Ramayana specialists but also to those engaged with Indian intellectual history, literary studies, and the history of religions.

Table of Contents

1. Two Conceptions of Divinity 2. Translating Pearls into Coral 3. Double Reading 4. Rama in the Imperial Capital 5. Conclusion

About the Author

Ajay Rao is Assistant Professor in the Department of Historical Studies (UTM) and the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto, Canada. His areas of research include South Asian religions and Sanskrit literature and intellectual history.

About the Series

Routledge Hindu Studies Series

This series, in association with the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, intends primarily  the publication of constructive Hindu theological, philosophical and ethical projects aimed at bringing Hindu traditions into dialogue with contemporary trends in scholarship and contemporary society. The series invites original, high quality, research level work on religion, culture and society of Hindus living in India and abroad. Proposals for annotated translations of important primary sources and studies in the history of the Hindu religious traditions will also be considered.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Hinduism / General
RELIGION / Hinduism / Sacred Writings
RELIGION / Hinduism / Theology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General