Every time I heard a discourse on Ramayana, the emphasis was on a man having to kill the Rakshasas. Of course it has been interpreted, intellectualized, philosophized, but each time I felt what was missing was the essence of the avatar, the human element.

The ideal king, the obedient son, yes but all unpleasant aspects of his character which makes him Manava or human is missing.

Until I came across chitravarna Ravana by Helavanakatte Giriyamma, where she describes Shrupanaka in the guise of a Kuravanji, coming to meet Sita, and asking her about Ravana, she convinces Sita to draw the picture of Ravana, refuses, and finally agrees to draw Ravana’s toes, gradually the Kuravanji succeeds in getting Sita to draw the entire image of Ravana, except for the eyes.

The Kuravanji then sends Sita out on a ruse and fills in the eyes making Ravana life like, or rather alive. Sita is worried about Rama’s reaction so she hides it beneath the bed, the picture pops out when Rama sits on the bed.

Rama orders Sita to destroy this image, she refuses because the drawing is her creation which is her child.  This leads to Rama wondering if Sita seriously nourished a passion for Ravana. He then uses the dhobi’s allegation to banish Sita.

I thought Giriyamma was being bold, but I realized that Telgu folklore had a similar tale.

The central idea of sitadukham in Malayalam was also the same. The only difference being that here instead of Shrupanaka, it the queen mothers who ask Sita to draw the picture with the intention defaming her to Rama as they were jealous of the importance he gave to her.

Essentially it means that the folk traditions, which were not of institutional origin, Rama remains, human, with human failings who is accepted with it, but appreciated for the good he had in him too. The folk versions are also less Aryan in their approach as they do place values on Sita, her emotions and reactions.

Probably the folk version would also document the desi—impact on the Margi text.

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