Fall 2021

Ramayanas in History, Ramayanas as History

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-273  |  History, as HIST-273

Moodle site: Course


Mekhola S. Gomes (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 273 [AS/TC/TS] and ASLC 273 [SA]) The Ramayana is one of the most famous stories in the world. It is a fascinating narrative of intrigue, exile, love, loss, violence, and redemption and is especially well known by people in or connected to South and Southeast Asia. They would have seen, heard, or read versions of the story of Rāma, Sītā, and the battle with Rāvaṇa at some point in their lives. What is less known is that all these stories refer back to Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, the first and most prestigious Ramayana story written in Sanskrit around 2500 years ago. We begin this 200-level course by reading Vālmīki’s Sanskrit composition in translation by Arshia Sattar. Once we are familiar with Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, we move on to explore other Ramayana narratives in Tamil, Hindi, as well as more modern tellings of the Ramayana story including feminist and anti-caste iterations. We will explore how all these versions reformulate Vālmīki’s story in multiple ways to speak to their distinct historical contexts. We will examine Ramayana stories beyond print as well, as performances, songs, and television shows that circulate and influence the world in Bengali, English, Hindi, Tamil, Thai, and Old Javanese. All the while, we will keep in mind the central questions of the course: how do historians interpret literature to write history? How may we think of the relationships between belief, myth and history? We will also critically examine questions of translation, circulation, and adaptation. This course ultimately draws our attention to the global power of stories that animated the distant historical past and continue to enchant the present. Two meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Gomes.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Research, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021