A Revaluation of Valmiki's Rama ^ ^
It is important to begin with the context, compositional stratification and literacy strategies of the Ramayana before we initiate a discussion of the text. Scholars agree that the composition began around the third century or second century BC. About the 2nd or 3rd century (some think that around the first half of 4th century BC,) the text came to acquire the present shape. Possibly around the 6th century BC, several of its episodes inspired regional ballads in different places. Sometime in the 3rd or 2nd century BC, several of these ballads came together to form a partial structure for the different sections (Kandas) of the Ramayana. About the end of the 2nd century BC, either Valmiki or some other great poet gave them a coherent shape. Within a hundred years of this — that is, between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD — the main narrative, spanning all Kandas between the Ayodhya and Lanka, was enriched with descriptions and literary tropes. Later, the first Brahmanya or Bhargava part was added on. As a result, the first half of the Adikanda as well as the Uttarakanda were completed by the 2nd century AD; the next major addition came around the 3rd century AD and the fourth and final addition or interpolation occurred possibly at the beginning of the 4th century.
There are many differences between the original narrative and the later additions; they are evident in language, grammar, tropes, themes as well as in religions and philosophical values. An analysis of these differences gives us an access to the nature and form of the different strata. The epic has two main parts. One is the original Kshatriya narrative which extends from the Ayodhya to the Lanka Kandas and includes the second, the Brahmanya or Bhargava addition;
that is, the first half of the Adi or Balakanda and the Uttarakanda. In the original narrative, Rama is not divine, he is a human being: he
* Former professor of Sanskrit, Jadavpur University, Calcutta
** Translated by Tanika Sarkar
Social Scientist, Vol. 30, Nos. 1 - 2, Jan.-Feb. 2002