Brockington, Mary: When Rāma Met Viṣṇu: Problems of Transforming a Heroic Narrative into a Devotional Text, in Bornet, Philippe und Cattoni, Nadia (Hrsg.): Significant Others, Significant Encounters: Essays on South Asian History and Literature, Heidelberg: Heidelberg Asian Studies Publishing, 2023, S. 3–16. https://doi.org/10.11588/hasp.1155.c16206

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ISBN 978-3-948791-50-6 (PDF)
ISBN 978-3-948791-51-3 (Hardcover)




Mary Brockington

When Rāma Met Viṣṇu

Problems of Transforming a Heroic Narrative into a Devotional Text

In this contribution I plan to examine the metaphorical “encounter” between the view of Rāma as supreme warrior-king presented in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, and the understanding of him as a god in various more developed sectarian instructional treatments. This process often amounted to a collision between the inherited narrative (too popular to be discarded) and the new religious context. Some changes could be absorbed without too much difficulty; as a minor example, the human Rāma’s original final departure to the world of Brahmā left very few traces in the text when it was replaced by his triumphant return as Viṣṇu—but the identity and nature of his wife Sītā is much more complicated, often producing a view of Rāma at odds with the original concept. The ways needed to accommodate such a wide-ranging transformation had profound and sometimes startling consequences on the well-loved traditional narrative.

Keywords Rāma, Rāmāyaṇa, Viṣṇu, Sītā