International Ramayana Conference 2015
Ramayana is everlasting and evergreen. The original Ramayana was composed by Sage Valmiki in Sanskrit hundreds of years ago. In the 16th century, Goswami Tulsidas penned a poetic retelling of the events of the Sanskrit epic, known as ŚrīRāmacaritamānasa, (also spelt as Ramacharitamanasa), in the Awadhi dialect of Hindi, in order to make the story of Rama as accessible to the layman as to the scholar. It may be noted that Tulsidas was a great scholar of Sanskrit.
Considered as ‘the best and most trustworthy guide to the popular living faith of the Indian people’, Ramacharitamanasa as is well known is centered on the narrative of Rama, the scion of the family tree of Raghu of the Sun Dynasty and the crown prince of Ayodhya who is also considered in Hindu tradition as one of the Avataras of Vishnu.
Tulsidas called the epic Ramcharitmanas as the story of Rama was stored in the mind (Mānasa) of Shiva before He narrated the same to His consort Parvati. The story of Rama thus became available to the common man to sing, meditate and perform on. It has also been pointed out that the writing of Ramcharitmanas heralded many a cultural tradition, most significantly that of the tradition of Ram Leela, the dramatic enactment of the text, and a major attraction part of the of International Ramayana Conference 2015 is that a Ram Leela troupe has specially come to Mauritius to perform during that period.
It is no exaggeration to say that Ramayana is an immortal creation. Indeed it has shaped the history, social life and culture of India, pervading as it does the moral and cultural consciousness of India. For over a billion Hindus in India and around the world it continues to be a source of inspiration for the higher values of life with its perennial message which is relevant for any place, period and generation. In fact, the genius of the Ramayana lies in the universality of its appeal, because it has touched both the masses as well as the intellectual class. It is a fact that this work has inspired and will continue to inspire novelists, essayists, artists, poets, kings, scholars as well as peasants not only in Bharat but in many countries. Very well known is the tradition of Ramayana in the performing arts of South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand.
To foster a deeper understanding of the Ramayana, lectures, symposia, seminars and discussions are held regularly. It is in this perspective that Ramayana Centre organised an International Ramayana Conference (IRC) in 2008. IRC 2015, the second one, is being held from 21-24 August on the theme ‘Heal the World Through Ramayana’. It will provide a unique platform for scholars in the field of Ramayana to come together and reflect on new ways of inculcating the teachings and the profound human, social and cultural values which are propounded in this great epic, and which are fast eroding in society. These are the values that will help to heal the world.
Why ‘Heal the World’?
Because, effectively, the world has always been in need of healing – and perhaps more so in these present times.
Consider: A quick look around the world today will be enough to confirm that despite all the material progress that man has made, there are persisting tensions, conflicts and divides for racial, ethnic, internecine, religious or political reasons (amongst others) that are present in countries at all stages of development. In some regions this situation has become endemic with no end in view, displacing whole swathes of humankind for no other reason than because they are the despised if not hated ‘other’.
And so mankind is in great need of healing, a healing that must begin in the heart of man – where, as Mahatma Gandhi said, peace must begin. Many world leaders, both lay and spiritual, are making constant efforts in this direction, but the task is so vast and complicated that all those who can must join in and support this crucial endeavour according to their capacity.
It is in this perspective and with this motivation that Ramayana Centre is holding IRC 2015, convinced that the values enshrined in the Ramayana, if genuinely put into practice by one and all, can lead mankind on a path of peace, happiness and universal brotherhood. Thus only can we secure a safe and sound future for our coming generations, a responsibility which is ours to bear and which we cannot escape, so that we leave a legacy worthy of a humanity that we seem to have lost, and that Ramayana can help us to re-discover.
The sub-themes which will form the subject of scholarly consideration during the Conference reflect this concern. Included are programmes that would appeal to different age groups and bring out the best in everyone as they gain in understanding of Ramayana.
The sub-themes are:
- Country experiences of Ramayana
- Heal the modern family on the Ramayana model
- Guidance for social inclusiveness from Ramayana
- Ramrajya as the ideal objective of politics
- Lessons in green living from Ramayana
- Universal appeal of Ramayana
- Ramayana for spiritual/inner growth
- Impact of Ramayana on various cultures and civilizations
- Ramayana in various regional languages
About 35 international delegates from various countries (India, Malaysia, USA, UK, France, and South Africa) have registered for the conference, and they will be joined by local participants. As mentioned above, a Ram Leela troupe from New Delhi is coming to perform specially on this occasion, on the inaugural evening for the India Festival as well as IRC 2015 at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture, on Friday 21 August. Besides this, however, they will give other two performances, at Mahatma Gandhi Institute and Rabindranath Tagore Institute respectively.
The opening of the academic sessions is scheduled for Tulsi Jayanti i.e. on Saturday 22 August 2015 at the Ramayana Centre, Union Park. IRC is organized with the Ministry of Arts and Culture, and in collaboration with the Indian High Commission. There is no doubt that it is going to be as successful as the first conference that was held in 2008, one year only after the inauguration of the Ramayana Centre.
* Published in print edition on 21 August 2015