South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - (Un)doing space and time: ‘Doing’ the Rāmacaritmānas

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Marigold, New Building

Tulsidas’ Śrī Rāmacaritmānas is one of the most popular Rāmkathā texts (tales or lore ofLord Rāma) in North India ever since its composition (in Awadhi) in the 16th century. Away from a devotional view, modern scholarship around Rāmakathā traditions has been concerned with their historicity. Historicity entails specific notions of time and space defined by post-enlightenment European conceptions such as linearity, finitude, and irreversibility. This paper demonstrates the limits of these etic categories of temporality and spatiality and explores alternative, emic notions entailed by one widespread scriptural narrative tradition, the Mānas.

The self-portrayal of Mānas as the lake of glory (suyaś) of Lord Rāma, born of Śiva’s heart and reflected in that of the true devotee’s, also evokes the real Mānsarovar lake in the trans-Himalayas. This makes Mānas a space both within and without the body, implying a location outside and inside of time. Tulsi also frames the narrative as a set of four dialogues (sambād) between gods, sages, and animals vastly separated in space and time. This engenders a simultaneity in the very act of textual creation. These narrative agents also travel back and forth freely through the universe and the ages, collapsing space and time, as it were, suggestive of distinctly non-linear frameworks. Moreover, Tulsi places himself in the same eternal (nitya) tradition of the tale-tellers (kathāvācaks), and, as speech verily embodying the Lord (vangamayasvarūpa), his tale is lent the potential of transcending quotidian time and space like the Lord himself.


Aditya Chaturvedi

Nalanda University, India


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3 - (Un)doing space and time: ‘Doing’ the Rāmacaritmānas

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