A close reading of the Uttarakāṇḍa of Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa demonstrates that its author has composed a carefully and logically structured work, one that is haunted by themes of sexual transgression. Not only is the first half of the kāṇḍa occupied with the history and genealogy of Rāvaṇa, who is no less than the sexual predator par excellence, but its latter half tells of Rāma’s seemingly heart-wrenching decision to banish Sītā based on rumours of her own supposed infidelity. Similar themes are reflected in a number of the kāṇḍa’s sub-stories—both those that are understood to be part of the main narrative and those that belong to the so-called ‘purāṇic’ narratives—and highlight sexual aggression against women. This article examines a specific and unusual subset of such narratives that permeate the kāṇḍa, those that deal with explicit rape, with an eye towards further understanding why, uniquely in this kāṇḍa, such stories appear, and what lies behind their popularity and longevity.
Studies in History – SAGE
Published: Aug 1, 2018
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