Reinterpreting Ramayana Art Exhibition by Anand Gadapa at The Club, Botanika, Gachibowli, Hyderabad
There are at least 250 versions of the epic Ramayana negotiating the idea of good and evil. The didactic function of the saga is limited to connote a comprehensible distinction between the dichotomies. However, as an artist, I made an effort to re-contextualize 'myth’ and to distinguish Ravana of Lanka from Ravana of Valmiki’s Ramayana as a whole in a modern way, where Ravana is not only vindicated as a figure of immense moral and physical strength, but also appears as the chief protagonist of the Ramayana. The character of Ravana was portrayed as a monster or ‘Moorkha’ (fool?), as described by Valmiki, the author of The Ramayana, but certainly, there is another side to the coin. The definitions of ‘good’ and 'bad' must reach a compromise in order to redefine them in today’s context.
By analyzing a few versions of Ramayana, I tried to show the hidden side of Ravana’s personality as people tend to restrict their purview to Ravana’s nefarious character. Many traits of Ravana signify his personality that I have highlighted in my work. Though Ravana is looked upon as a cruel demon, which annoyed the innocent, he is also known as a great intellectual in the history of Hindu mythology. Ravana himself was a Brahmin but he learned the expertise and techniques of Kshatriyas. Under the guidance of his father, Vishrava (the son of sage Pulatsya and the grandson of Lord Brahma, the Creator) Ravana grasped vast knowledge of Vedas. He mastered holy scripts and was well versed in 64 arts (chatusshasti kala). According to Dosthora Mudalihamy Warnasuriya, a SriLankan author and a renowned herbalist, who wrote '‘Deha Dhamma"1: Guardian of Divine Body Care Principles, a 6,000 year old Sri Lankan Herbal Science reveals that Ravana was a royal herbalist*. He was a social reformist and established peace among different tribes in Lanka. He was a divine pharmacologist and a Dhyana yogi. Some stories say Ravana was a demon and some stories say he had ten crowns and was the historical King of Heladiva’. 1 am informed by going through some of the books like Mahapandit Dashanan by Arun, Ravana Brahma by S.Vachaspati and some Telugu books on Ravana that Ravana is also a noteworthy personality of Vedic religion as was an ardent devotee of Shiva, a pundit (intellectual/learned Brahmin), and an alchemist. Moreover, he was the author of many books on astrology, ayurveda and many more*. He was a greatest astrologer of his time, and he was aware of esoteric practices similar to black magic, command over planetary influences. Once, he even said to have captured all nine planets and vehemently made all of them to be in lagna bhava against nature in order to make Meghanatha, his son mortal and the greatest.
The postures, in my paintings are derived/inspired from the Indian traditional sculptures and puppetry of Southern India.
The paintings created here are to portray his versatile personality. The puppet like vibrant figurations here are neither to
romanticize Ravan nor to ridicule his personality. It is to investigate the superior qualities of the King that were sidelined
by various ideological underpinnings. Here, the effort is to redefine Ravana as a Jnani, (scholar) otherwise was considered
Demon only due to his bad conduct.