Camille Bulcke’s Ramakatha-Utpatti aur Vikas: An Important Reference Work for Scholars in the Field of Ramayana Studies
It can be said that of the multiple historical and cultural threads that bind India to the countries of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the most enduring and pervasive are those of the epic Ramayana. For more than 1500 years, both regions have shared the ancient stories of Rama and Sita in a vibrant tradition that is alive even today. The depth and complexity of this legacy continues to be explored by a growing body of scholarship from many countries and in several languages.
Our chapter will discuss an important addition that was made to the existing field of Ramayana studies by Camille Bulcke, a Belgian scholar working in India more than 60 years ago, who documented the phenomenon of multiple Ramayanas in a monumental work of research titled ‘Ramakatha—Uttpati aur Vikas’. This learned treatise in Hindi first published in 1950 is perhaps the most comprehensive scholarly work to discuss the literature of all Ramayanas known at that time, Indian and foreign, including those written in Southeast Asia. It not only examines the origins and evolution of the Rama story but provides a meticulous summary of innumerable Ramayanas composed in multiple languages. Scholars of Ramayana can find comparative references in the Indian narrative tradition going back to Vedic and Puranic literature and important insights can be gained from the various and often dramatically different ways that episodes and characters have been depicted at different periods in the Rama stories of India and Southeast Asia.
Although scholarship on the subject has advanced considerably since the last edition of ‘Ramakatha’ appeared in 1971, it still offers significant resource material to facilitate further research. The authors of this chapter are in the process of translating Bulcke’s work from Hindi into English.
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