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6th Century Ramayana Found in Kolkata

Stuns Scholars

A 6th-century manuscript of Ramayana, which focuses on the separation of Rama and

Sita and portrays them more as humans, has been found tucked inside a Purana at a
Sanskrit library here. It is markedly different from the more accepted 4 BC Valmiki
Ramayana. The 12th-century rendition by Tamil poet Kamba is generally considered the
second oldest among the more popular versions. However, now that may change.
The 6th-century manuscript was discovered purely by chance. Scholars working on the
6th-century Vanhi (fire) Purana at the Asiatic Society library were puzzled to find that the
manuscript seemed incomplete. They began looking through the Catalogus Catalogorum
a global repository of Sanskrit manuscripts compiled by German scholar Aufrecht
and realized two more identical manuscripts existed.One was preserved at the India
Office Library, London; the second at the Kolkata-based Samskrita Sahitya Parishad, a
100-year-old research institution.
The scholars scoured the archives and found the complete version of the Vanhi Purana
manuscript. When they were analyzing it, they stumbled upon the Dasa Griba Rakshash
Charitram Vadha, which did not have any bearing with the Vanhi Purana. For some time
they could not understand why the slokas of the Purana suddenly started telling another
story albeit a familiar one, as the main characters were Rama, Sita and Ravana. Before
long, they realized it was a 6th-century version with many interpolations.
Interestingly in this version, there are just five kandas (sections) instead of the accepted
seven. There is no Balakanda the part that deals with Ramas childhood or
Uttarkanda. This Ramayana ends with the return of Rama and Sita from exile and his
ascension to the Ayodhya throne, said Anasuya Bhowmick, lead scholar of the Asiatic
Society, who is working with the manuscript. This Ramayana does not begin with the
curse that drove Dasarath to send his son to exile.
Instead, it begins with a curse that befell goddess Lakshmi when Shukracharya got angry
with Narayan for killing Shukracharyas wife.
The other curse falls on both Lakshmi and Narayan when Dharitri cannot bear the pain of
the constant battle between gods and demons. In both cases, Laxmi and Narayan are told
they will have to bear the pain of separation.
Ram here is more human than God, with follies like anger and failure. Some interesting
details like the ages of Sita and Rama at the time of marriage and the date when Sita
was abducted by Ravana -are in this version, said scholar Manabendu Bandyopadhyay.