[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Re: Fwd: Help on mystery painting of Ramayana (?) episode

John Brockington 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 
Dear all

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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