Saturday, August 18, 2018

Chitra Divakaruni at Google

Chitra Divakaruni is the author of the amazing novel, Palace of Illusions, which is a popular reading option for this class, so I am excited to share a talk here that she gave at Google about her latest book, Before We Visit the Goddess.

UPDATE: Her novel about Sita, the heroine of the Ramayana, will be coming out later this year!

And you can follow Chitra Divakaruni at Twitter; she shares so much great inspiration for writing!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Free book online: Many Ramayanas

Most of the free books online are public domain books published before 1923, but the University of California Press has a wonderful collection of free books online, and some of them are about India! Here's one you might be interested in:

Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia edited by Paula Richman. See the table of contents below!

  • Introduction: the Diversity of the Ramayana Tradition
  • Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation
  • Ramayana, Rama Jataka, and Ramakien: A Comparative Study of Hindu and Buddhist Traditions

  • The Mutilation of Surpanakha
  • Fire and Flood: The Testing of Sita in Kampan's Iramavataram
  • A Ramayana of Their Own: Women's Oral Tradition in Telugu
  • Seven The Raja's New Clothes: Redressing Ravana in Meghanadavadha Kavya
  • Eight Creating Conversations: The Rama Story as Puppet Play in Kerala

  • E. V. Ramasami's Reading of the Ramayana
  • Ramayana Exegesis in Tenkalai Srivaisnavism
  • The Secret Life of Ramcandra of Ayodhya
  • Personalizing the Ramayan: Ramnamis and Their Use of the Ramcaritmanas

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Featured Author: Jean-Claude Carriere

Last time I wrote about Peter Brook, whose film version of the Mahabharata is one of the viewing options. Peter Brook directed the film, and we also have the script available in book form for you to read on Reserve in Bizzell Library, a script written by Peter Brook together with Jean-Claude Carriere, a French novelist and screenwriter.

In addition to writing the script for Brook's Mahabharata, Carriere wrote the scripts for many (MANY) films. You can read more about his career and achievements in this Wikipedia article; below, I have put some movie posters for just a few of his films — three of my favorites!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Lal-Ded, The Mystic of Kashmir

I thought you might enjoy this lovely article from Sutra Journal: Lal-Ded, The Mystic of Kashmir by M. H. Zaffar.

You will find many of Lal-Ded's verses translated into English in the article; here is the opening paragraph:
Lal-Ded is a rebel saint, a revolutionary mystic of the 14th century Kashmir. We know her only through her verses called 'Vak'; that have come down to us through folk tradition of Kashmir. To my mind to describe Lal-Ded as a poet is a misnomer, notwithstanding the fact that her Vak are the specimen of best poetry. In no way can she be called a poet in the modern sense of the term. Lala-vak is not primarily poetry nor is it mere learned discourse. It is a discourse for the practical purpose of sanctifying and divinizing human nature. 
And here is one of the verses:

Some leave their home, some the hermitage
But the restless mind knows no rest.
Then watch your breath day and night,
And stay where you are.

You can read more about Lal-Ded at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Jataka Tales of India

While the Ramayana and Mahabharata belong to the Hindu tradition in India, the Jataka tales belong to the Buddhist tradition. The reason I've included them in this class is that the collection of the Jataka tales was taking shape at about the same time that the epics were taking shape (around the fourth century B.C.E.), and there is even some overlap between the Jataka tales and the epics. For example, some of the Jataka tales show up in the epics (like the famous story of King Shibi), and there is even a Jataka tale that tells the story of Rama (Dasharatha-Jataka).

So, what are the Jataka tales? The word "Jataka" means "birth," and these are tales about the Buddha's previous births, his incarnations in the past. The idea is that the Buddha would tell these stories to his followers, using them in much the same way that Jesus would tell parables to his followers. The difference is that in the Buddha's Jataka tales, the Buddha himself is a character: sometimes a person, sometimes an animal, and sometimes a tree-spirit or other nature-spirit. You can find out much more about the Jataka tales at Wikipedia.

There are many different Jataka reading options you can choose from if you would like to learn more about these Buddhist stories. I have arranged them here based on how long the books are; since the stories are quite short, though, you can use any of these options for just a half-week's reading or one week's reading, even if the collection of stories is very large and good for several weeks. Some of the long collections have hundreds of stories! If you like working with shorter stories for your storytelling experiments, giving more room for your own imagination to expand the story, then the Jataka tales are a great reading option to explore.


Jataka comic books. There are 15 Jataka comic books on Reserve in Bizzell, and each comic book is good for one reading diary post. Here is just one example: Jackal Stories: Jataka Tales of the Sly and the Shrewd. Most of the Jataka comic books are organized by a shared theme or, as here, a shared character: stories about the trickster jackal.

One Week of Reading

Free online: Twenty Jataka Tales by Noor Inayat.
This is a lovely collection of Jataka tales for children, and if you are going to read just one Jataka collection, this is the one I would recommend. The author was a remarkable woman: she was born in 1914 (her father was the famed Sufi musician Inayat Khan), and she published this book in 1939. During World War II she served as an SOE undercover agent for the British, and she was executed at Dachau in 1944. You can learn more about Noor Inayat at Wikipedia:

Free online: Jataka Tales and More Jataka Tales by Ellen C. Babbitt.
This is a children's version of the Jataka tales, and it also has an audiobook version. It's a popular choice as a reading option in the Myth-Folklore class that I teach also! The emphasis here is on the animal Jataka stories (not all the Jataka stories are about animals, but many of them are). The stories here are very short, so you can read Jataka Tales for Reading A during the week, and then More Jataka Tales for Reading B.

Free online: The Giant Crab, and Other Tales from Old India by W. H. D. Rouse.
Although Rouse also published scholarly translations of the Jatakas, he put together this collection for children, and it has some fun illustrations too. Rouse freely alters the stories to make them more like fairy tales and, as he says in the introduction: "I hope no one will imagine this to be a scientific book. It is meant to amuse children; and if it succeeds in this, its aim will be hit."

One or Two or More Weeks (these are long books, but you can read as much/little as want; they are broken up into reading-diary-sized chunks):

Free online: Eastern Stories and Legends by Marie Shedlock.
This is a really nice Jataka collection which I use in the Myth-Folklore class also. Unlike the other one-week books, this is not a book for children, and it provides a really good introduction to the jatakas that are of real interest and importance for the Buddhist religious tradition.

Free online: Jataka Tales, edited by H.T. Francis and E. J. Thomas.
This is a selection of Jatakas chosen from the 6-volume Cowell edition, focusing on the jatakas of most importance. If you have a serious interest in the Buddhist tradition, this is the book to read, and you might also want to look at its detailed introduction as well (appx. 10 pages at the beginning of the book).

Free online: The Gatakamala, or Garland of Birth Stories by Aryasura, translated by J. S. Speyer. This is a collection of 34 jataka stories that were rendered into Sanskrit (from Pali) by Arya Sura, perhaps around the first century C.E. If you are interested in the literary development of the Jatakas, this book is very useful. The Jatakas originally circulated as oral folktales, but over time they became an inspiration for more literary storytellers (much as happened with Aesop's fables in ancient Greece and Rome).

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Dharma

This is a Krishna graphic from Devdutt Pattanaik's version of the Mahabharata for children: The Boys who Fought.

When you can fight for the meek without hurting the mighty, you follow dharma.

The story of the grown-up Krishna is told in the Mahabharata. The story of the young Krishna is told in the Harivamsa which is 1500 years old. Even later, the Bhagavatam or Bhagavata Purana was composed, in which Krishna is described as a form of Vishnu, the caretaker of the world.

Here is a promo video from Penguin India:

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Jatayu Sculpture

There is a gigantic ... GIGANTIC ... statue of Jatayu on the spot where he supposedly fell to earth and took his last breath. You can read more at Wikipedia: Chadayamangalam.

Here is a promotional video about the project: A Nature Park in Kerala Houses a Giant Statue of Jatayu.

And in this photo from 2013 you can see the sculpture under construction: