Story of the Ramayan

“So there’s this story of the Ramayan. It’s involves a lot of heroes and stuff. It’s a part of the Bhagavad Geeta. The story revolves around Prince Ram and his Sita, which basically means princess. They’re banished from their kingdom, and the evil king Ravan, who has ten heads, is mesmerized by Sita’s beauty, so he abducts her while distracting Ram. Ravan holds Sita captive. Ram goes through all these different trials to get Sita back. He builds a bridge across an ocean to get to her. He does this thing called Tapas where he becomes really spiritual or something like that. And what he does is he writes something on a rock and when he throws it into the water and it floats so it forms a bridge. So he gets to Sita, and a massive war breaks out. Ram kills Ravan by shooting an arrow through his middle head. So that’s why we have the festival of Diwali.” – SJ.

S is nineteen years old and she is from India. This story is a popular Indian myth, so S has heard versions from many people while growing up in her home country. She says it’s a common tale that most everybody knows. She says she loves this story because of how “dramatic and romantic” it is. There is an official version of the story in the Holy Book, which she has read, but S says there are many versions and variations throughout India.

The piece is clearly religious, and shows how intertwined Indian culture and religion are. Diwali, or the “festival of lights,” is a massive Hindu festival that happens towards the end of every year. Millions of candles and lights are lit, and it symbolizes “good beating evil,” as S says. As one can see, this story also revolves around themes of good (Ram) triumphing over evil (Ravan), which is also an important theme in Hinduism.

S performed this piece for me at late one night at a party. The celebratory mood was perfect this tale, and it aided in S’s performance. She was very animated while telling the story, practically acting out all of the elements of the kidnapping, and stone throwing, and slaying. I could tell that this was a story S knows well. She is clearly fond of it. Furthermore, I can imagine it reminds her of fun memories from her home country. She is studying abroad here at USC, far from India. It was interesting to see how performing a piece of native culture can transport a person back to their home.

I could practically experience S reliving all the memories associated with this tale. The more she told, the thicker her accent got as she jumped between Hindi and English.

While this piece has interesting content, the most striking part of the performance itself was watching S’s enjoyment in telling it. This performance really revealed the importance of one’s native culture, and the powerful emotions that can be associated with a simple story from one’s home.