[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Re: Fwd: Help on mystery painting of Ramayana (?) episode
John.Brockington at btinternet.com
Tue Aug 25 05:23:46 EDT 2015
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Fwd: Help on mystery painting of Ramayana (?)
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 2015 10:14:11 +0100
From: Mary Brockington <mary.brockington at btinternet.com>
Re: [INDOLOGY] Fwd: Help on mystery painting of Ramayana (?) episode
Many thanks to Nityanand Misra for providing such a plausible
identification, and for bringing to our attention yet another source
book to be trawled for our inventory of Rāma narrative motifs. It is
all truly exciting, and yet another lesson to us scholars not to neglect
the influence of non-written sources on visual tellers.
I suppose the black speck in the middle of the dish is the [reflection
of the] bee/wasp. Might the almost-hidden female figure perhaps be
Mandodarī? Is there any explanation for Lakṣmaṇa’s feet being off the
ground? [The cynic in me links it to the requirement to stand for hours
on a pan of boiling oil]
The internationally widespread idea of the separable soul -- that
villains are made all the more indestructible by having their vital
organ located outside their body -- is manifested in increasingly
fantastic ways throughout the Rāma tradition, and attached to several
/rākṣasas/; Mahīrāvaṇa’s soul is also in a bee in the Thai /Rāmakien/,
and is crushed by Hanumān to save the captive Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. The
‘soul in bee’ motif is not confined to the Rāma tradition: other
examples are listed in /The Oral Tales of India/ by Stith Thompson and
Jonas Balys (Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1958) as motif E715.3, so there
is no question of direct influence.
As for the severed hands, either they represent Rāma’s previous
unsuccessful attempts to kill Rāvaṇa (in which case why haven’t they
regenerated?), or (less plausibly) the beginning of his disintegration
at the point of death.
It is intriguing that the hero is shown as Lakṣmaṇa; this is standard in
Jain texts, but unusual elsewhere. His celibacy as a qualification for
special prowess (usually expressed as not having seen a woman’s face
since the exile, and so unavailable to Rāma) is generally associated
with being able to see the invisible Indrajit.
As always, solving one problem only raises other questions! That’s what
makes our profession so compelling and so rewarding.
Mrs M. Brockington
Research Fellow, International Association of Sanskrit Studies
113 Rutten Lane
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