Dharmic Debates on Gender and Hierarchy and the Work of the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa
This chapter, on resistance to the idolization of Rāma, suggests that the undercutting of the ideological positions within Valmiki's original narrative that modern studies in the Rāmāyana identify as a powerful force in alternative Rāmāyanas is incipient in the original text itself. Noting the formative influence of the great epics of India on the construction of the South Asian ethos, especially on formulations of gender and power, it is shown how the authority of Valmiki's text is modulated by its rhetorical strategies. In a study of episodes from Valmiki's original narrative, and of the symbiosis of their rhetorical and conceptual texture, the narrative process by which ideologies of gender and power are formed are uncovered. It is argued that “forensic encounters” between the major characters of the Rāmāyana work toward enforcing adherence to the ethical and political ideals that emerge as dominant directives.
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