The Life of a Text
Performing the <i>Ramcaritmanas</i> of Tulsidas
Publication Year: 1991
The most popular and influential text of Hindi-speaking North India, the epic Ramcaritmanas is a sixteenth century retelling of the Ramayana story by the poet Tulsidas. This masterpiece of pre-modern Hindi literature has always reached its largely illiterate audiences primarily through oral performance including ceremonial recitation, folksinging, oral exegesis, and theatrical representation. Drawing on fieldwork in Banaras, Lutgendorf breaks new ground by capturing the range of performance techniques in vivid detail and tracing the impact of the epic in its contemporary cultural context.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Illustrations
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The poet Tulsidas wisely commenced his epic with a lengthy passagethat has come to be known as the "obeisance to all beings" (samastivandana)—an effective way of discharging the burden of gratitudeevery author feels. If the truth be told, I feel scarcely less comprehensivea debt, but I will refrain from invoking planets, rivers, and mountains...
A Note on Transliteration
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All italicized technical terms from Hindi and Sanskrit and the titles ofliterary works have been transliterated according to the system followedby the Library of Congress, with the exception that for Hindi words themedial and final vowel a, which is usually not pronounced, has beenomitted from most words (thus Ramcaritmanas rather than Ramacari-...
1. The Text and the Research Context
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Anyone interested in the religion and culture of Northern India sooneror later encounters a reference to the epic poem Ramcaritmanas and itsremarkable popularity.1 This sixteenth-century retelling of the legend ofRam by the poet Tulsidas has been hailed "not merely as the greatestmodern Indian epic, but as something like a living sum of Indian cul-...
2. The Text in Recitation and Song
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The recitation of Tulsidas's epic is one of the most visible—and audi-ble—forms of religious activity in Banaras. It forms a part of the morn-ing and evening worship of innumerable households, is broadcast byloudspeakers from the spires of many temples, and periodically, at thetime of major public programs, echoes for hours each day through large...
3. The Text Expounded: The Development of Mānas-Kathā
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The preceding chapter discussed the dissemination, beginning in themiddle of the nineteenth century, of printed editions of the Manas, andthe related phenomenon of the rise of ritualized public recitation. Yeteven today, when inexpensive printed editions are readily available, themajor part of the epic's vast and devoted constituency does not gain...
4. The Art of Mānas-Kathā
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It is not uncommon these days to hear the complaint that kathd hasbecome a business, that performers "sell" their exposition, and that thehigh fees they command reduce the art to just another commodity to betraded in the marketplace. A recent article in a popular Hindi magazinecynically observed that "no intelligent person will deny that now the...
5. Words Made Flesh: The Text Enacted
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The annual reenactment of the Ramayan story as a series of folk plays—the RamlTla—is among the world's most popular dramatic traditions: aform of live theater that reckons its audience not in hundreds or thou-sands, but in millions. Norvin Hein's assertion that "there must havebeen few North Indian villagers in the first half of the twentieth century...
6. The Text in a Changing Society
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An implicit theme of this study has been the inseparability, for the NorthIndian audience, of the Manas text from its realization in perfor-mance—a relationship anticipated in the structure of the text and end-lessly celebrated in the dialectic of its performance traditions. The focusin preceding chapters has been on the stage of epic performance, but we...
Glossary of Names with Transliteration
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Page Count: 450
Publication Year: 1991