Interpretive Decisions Made in the Ramayana Comic

Interpretive Decisions Made in the Ramayana Comic


InterpretiveDecisions Made in the Ramayana Comic


The epic poem of Ramayana has a lot to offer in learning the Hinduliterary history, culture and religion. It depicts the Hindu way oflife in particular illustrating human relations, leadership, familyunity, the role of traditions, and most of all celebrating Hindumythology and beliefs. Given that this poem has lot to offer, it hasbeen reproduced and interpreted differently by various authors. Thecomic book Valmiki’s Ramayana, one of the popular reproductions,has compressed, interpreted the poem and presented comical images togo along with narration in a manner that points to crucialinterpretive decisions. However, there are numerous cases ofomissions and exaggerations especially in Rama’s banishmentreunification with his wife Sita. At this juncture, the comic bookdecisively omits major cultural issues and poetic language andinstead replaces it with compressed wording intended to createdramatic effect to match with the images and enhance understanding ofthe original text for the target audience.


The conversation between Sita and Hanuman at the time when Sita wasstill held captive by the Raksasas clearly illustrates the place ofvirtue and morals in that society. Sita, despite having beentormented by her handlers does not wish revenge upon them but tellsHanuman “A superior person never requites evil on the part ofevildoers with evil” (Ramayana Vol. 2,101:35) and adds that“one should not harm the Raksasas, who can take any form at willand take pleasure in injuring people, even when they do evil”(Ramayana Vol. 2,101:35). This concept of virtue andforgiveness addressed by Sita in the epic text is conspicuouslymissing in the comic book. Instead, the comic text portrays Sita as avengeful person who wishes death upon her abductors when she says toHanuman “Is Rama anxious on my account? Does he continue to carefor me? Will he rescue me? Will he strike down this vile creature whowishes to defile me?” (Ramayana comic p. 70, bottom left).This helps the comic text version to capture drama and Sita’sdesire to be rescued and also portray her belief in her husbandstrength and power.

This emphasis on drama in the comic text is also clearly visible inthe comic text in narrating the experiences of Hanuman in theterritory of the Raksasas. In the epic text, Hanuman did not engagein a fight with Ravana’s women who were guarding Sita nor was hetemporarily abducted. In fact, “When he had spoken in this fashionto Sita, who was as radiant as Sri incarnate, the immensely swiftHanuman returned to where Raghava waited” (Ramayana Vol. 2,101:43). The happenings after Hanuman’s and Sita’s meeting ishighly exaggerated in the comic text to create drama and attain theentertainment effect intended for the target audience. In the comictext, Hanuman sought the attention of the guards by uprooting trees(Ramayana comic 72).He fought with guards and the army and wasonly captured when he was rendered blind by the son of Ravana. He wasthen taken to see Ravana court from where his tail was set on fire.He managed to escape by shrinking his size in order to free himselffrom the ropes that tied him. He further used his blazing tail to setfire on the city before escaping (Ramayana comic, p. 74). Allthese details have been added in the comic text and are not presentin the epic text.

Again on culture, the two texts have different views on the Hinduculture in terms of gender relations and the place of women in thesociety. This happens after Sita is rescued and she is about to beintroduced to her husband Rama. The epic text captures Vibhisana’sreluctance to let Sita to be seen in public by monkeys as he waspushing them back after they had defeated the (Ramayana Vol.2, 102:23). In response, Rama reprimands him and says “Moreover, there isnothing wrong with a woman being seen in public during emergencies,periods of hardships, in time of war, at a ceremony of choosing herhusband, during a sacrifice, or at a wedding ceremony” (RamayanaVol.2, 102: 27). The comic text on the other hand ignores thisaspect of culture in term of gender relations. The comic text doesnot address the prohibition of women being seen in public except inspecial occasions. In fact, the comic ignores this issue completelyand places just a caption on one image that says “Later, when Ramaand Sita met each other” (Ramayana comic, p. 93, right center). Tothe comic text, the cultural context in the meeting is ignoredtotally.

After the meeting of this separated couple, the issue of genderrelations in the society is also captured in the words of Rama. Shebelieved that Rama had waged a war against the Raksasas just torescue her for he loved her that much. However, Rama makes it clearto Sita that all these efforts were aimed at restoring Rama’srespect as a leader of his people. Specifically, Rama says to Sita,“Bless you, but let it not be understood that it was not on youraccount that I undertook the effort of this war, now brought tocompletion through the valor of my allies” (Ramayana Vol. 2,103:15). “Instead I did all this in order to protect my reputationand in every way wipe clean the insult and disgrace to my illustriouslineage” (Ramayana Vol. 2, 103:16). However, when Sitasuggested a pyre test, Rama does not object. In fact, Rama’sintentions to go ahead with the test to prove Sita’s purity “werebetrayed by his facial expressions” (Ramayana Vol. 2,103:16). This way, it shows that Rama is a prisoner of his culturebut deep down he is a mortal man, capable of falling in love. Thoughin the face of culture he acts manly and cold, his facial expressionsbetray him. On the contrary, the comic text portrays Rama at thisjuncture as a man devoid feelings and incapable of love. The comictext creates a macho man strictly guided by the culture of hispeople. In fact, the comic text does not capture any aspect offeelings but phrases Rama’s words to say that “Forgive me, Sita.I knew you were blameless. But a king’s wife must be abovesuspicion. That is why the test had to be undergone” (Ramayanacomic, p. 94, upper left). This way, Rama comes out as asuperhuman without the weakness of love.


In summary, it is clear to see that there are major differences inthe epic text and the comic text. Major interpretive decisions madeon the epic text by the comic text bring about major creates notabledifferences in the narration. In the case of culture and genderrelations dictated by the Hindu culture, there is greater emphasis inthe epic text but are ignored in the comic text. Again, there isapparent exaggeration on the part of the comic book on theexperiences Hanuman in the Raskasas territory. It is clear thatthough the comic text narrates the same story as the epic text,interpretative decisions have been made to achieve other objectivessuch as entertainment and drama.


Ramayana comic

Ramayana Vol.2