Sunday, March 8, 2015

India’s dazzling literary history

Many gods, many voices: the Murty Classical Library is uncovering India’s dazzling literary history:
Two texts have surmounted these challenges: the epics the Ramayana (5th to 4th century BCE) and the Mahabharata (from before 300BCE to after 300CE). The historian A K Ramanujan once said that no Indian ever hears the Mahabharata for the first time. Both epics have an extraordinary penetration into the Indian mind, with vernacular versions over the centuries, public readings and recitations, performances of dramatised episodes, films, children’s books (I first read the epics in beautiful Bengali versions made for young readers by the film-maker Satyajit Ray’s grandfather), the Amar Chitra Katha comics (to which I owe more than half of my knowledge of the Indian classics and mythologies) and spectacularly popular television series keeping them alive. The epics of Homer, Virgil and Ovid just do not have this kind of purchase on the European mind.

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