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Ashok Das

Hyderabad, February 13


A TELUGU book, which seeks to 'debunk' not only Lord Rama but the entire Ramayana, is going into its seventh print in Andhra Pradesh despite the growing influence of the saffron brigade in the State, following the TDP-BJP victory in the Assembly elections.

The book Ramayana Visha Vruksham (Ramayana- the Poisonous Tree), authored by revolutionary writer Ms. Ranganayakamma, continues to be in demand, notwithstanding the increasing tendency among writers to churn out stuff favourable to the ruling classes. Ms. Ranganayakamma's distributor wants the reprint brought out early to meet the demand.

What is surprising is that the book, a Marxist critique of Valmiki's Ramayana, should find such good response in a state where Rama is widely revered.

Among all gods of Hindu pantheon, Rama is the most popular in this southern state. Almost every village has a Ramalayam and reading of Ramayana is considered a must in many households.

According to Ms. Ranganayakamma, who is a celebrated Telugu writer with over 50 books to her credit. Valmiki's Ramayana is the main form of manifestation of feudal culture, which helps perpetuate inequities and injustices in society even today. That is why a critique of Ramayana is still relevant.

"Whether Rama is real or fictitious is not relevant for us. What is relevant is its impact on society," she says.

The book, quoting elaborately from Valmiki's Ramayana, seeks to prove that Rama is not Maryada Purushottam but rather a hypocrite, whose preachings and practices varied. He is shown as a man of double standards, besides being cruel, anti-women, anti-poor and a male chauvinist. He is the symbol of feudal culture.

The book, which is in three volumes and runs into 700 pages (each volume), is published by the author herself and sold at cost price. The buyers are mostly individuals (not institutions) such as students, teachers, middle class people and cadres of Left organizations.

Most of the sales come from coastal Andhra region, know for its prosperous farming community, which earlier backed the Communist movement and in recent years have shifted their preferences to the saffron party. The author has given 600 footnotes (in all) for the reader to very the sources.

The book, in fact, has gone into more reprints than other works on Ramayana including Gnanapith award winner Viswanatha Satyanaryana's famous 'Ramayana Kalpavruksham' (Ramayana, the eternal tree). Some people even consider Visha Vruksham as a rejoinder to the former.

The author receives letters from readers saying that they have converted into rationalists and Marxists after reading her book.

Ms. Ranganayakamma is, however, not unknown to controversies. The admirers of Ambedkar had kicked up quite a protest over her book on Ambedkar, being serialised in Andhra Jyoti weekly.






(Andhra Jyothi bureau)

New Delhi, May 9: The central government has informed that it sought a report from the state government on the news that 'Ramayana Vishavruksham', written by Ranganayakamma, the famous writer, is being sold on large scale. In response to a question raised by U.V.Krishnam Raju, a B.J.P menber in the Lok sabha, Vidyasagar Rao, the state minister for Home has said that the centre would take a decision in this matter only after receiving the report from the State government. Krishnam Raju, in a written question, brought to the notice of the government a news item, which the famous English daily, Hindusthan Times, published on February 14, that the copies of Ramayana Vishavruksham, which Ranganayakamma wrote ironically criticising Rama and Ramayana,  are being sold on a large scale despite the fact that the popularity of BJP is on its increase after the victory of the alliance of Telugu desham and BJP in Andhra Pradesh. The state minister for Home, however, said that the centre has noticed this news item and it sought a report from the State government on the issue.

[Literal translation of a news item that appeared in Andhra Jyothi, a Telugu daily on page 6 of its issue dated May 8, 2000 in its Hyderabad edition.]

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