Social Scientist. v 18, no. 203 (April 1990) p. 61.


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BOOK REVIEW

Willem Stutterheim, Rama-Legends and Rama Reliefs in Indonesia, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, 1989, Rs. 600.

This study of the Rama legends in Indonesia was first published in German in 1925. Its circulation was therefore limited to scholars. That it is now available in English is important for two reasons: one, that there is a scholarly content to the book with which those working on any version of the Rama legend should be familiar and two, it further endorses the fact that there are many variants in the Rama story and that these variants require to be examined in terms of the diversities which they portray rather than, as has often been the case, the mere reiterating of similarities. The second reason has a topical significance given that there is an attempt these days to maintain that the Valmiki and the Tulasi versions of the story are the nationally acceptable versions.

Stutterheim's analysis attempts a co-relation between the written texts and the oral transmission of the story. There is a detailing of the Malay and the Javanese versions, such as the Hikayat Seri Rama and the Serai Rama. A comparison is then made between these two versions and the sculptures and panels at two major sites, the Lara Jongran complex at Prambanan and the temple at Panataran in eastern Java. Stutterheim maintains that the model was not the Valmiki version nor the better known ones from regional centres in India such as the Kamban Iramavataram or the Hanuman-nataka. He comes up with the unexpected suggestion that perhaps Gujarat was the source of these versions. He emphasises the significance of the oral versions in that they differ not only from the textual but also from each other and therefore represent local traditions, an idea strongly underlined by D.C. Sen's work on the Rama legends.

Stutterheim also sees these versions as part of the process of acculturation in which indigenous and imported elements were interwoven. This is most frequent in the names of the characters which are clearly a garbled rendering of names taken from the Indian stories and local names. Thus Ravana's mother is called Raksha Pandi and is the daughter of Dati Kavaca. The Javanese version introduces the Nabi (Noah), Devi Uma and Bayu (Vayu). Hindu deities are sometimes given an Islamic geneology; thus Siva's ancestry is traced back to Adam. Such changes are reminiscent of the Bengali mangala-

Social Scientist, Vol. 18, No.4, April 1990



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