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– Painting ‘Draupadi’ by Ruby Jagrut | Part of the series Pratidhwani – an echo

Reading Indian Epics together

Why is it that characters from epics loom so large in our cultural imaginations? They become figures of speech, cultural metaphors, linguistic short-hand. Why do we tell these stories over and over again? Is it to understand¬†them better, or to see ourselves in them or because we want to “correct” the ways in which they portray women and the relationships¬†between men and women?
Together, we will think about these and other related questions when we read two contemporary retellings of Sita and Draupadi, women we have become familiar with through reading the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In both ‘new’ stories, the original story is present as a shadow, a felt presence, a ghost.

Focus

  • Explore and deepen your knowledge of Indian Epics

  • Explore the question of how we think about ourselves in the world

  • Consider how we think about love, about memory and how we seek to fill the gaps in our cultures

  • Explore how we look for justice and redemption in the stories we re-tell.

Who is it for?

For open minds eager to explore, ask questions and share their reflections

Reading materials

Please read the following texts to prepare for the event.

The Palace of Illusions
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

This text refers to a well-known episode in the Mahabharata. In this modern novel, it becomes a description of Draupadi’s life after she marries the five Pandava brothers.

The Missing Queen
by Samhita Arni

This text places Sita at the heart of a detective thriller where a young woman journalist sets out to look for a queen who has mysteriously vanished from her own life and been erased from public memory.

Background reading

  • The Ramayana | Valmiki, Penguin Classics, translated with an introduction by Arshia Sattar
  • Mahabharata for children, Juggernaut Books, India, by Arshia Sattar
  • Ramayana for children, Restless Books, New York, by Arshia Sattar

Programme

10 hours (incl. breaks) over 3 days. Our time together will be one of story telling and reflection. The sessions consist of a close reading of the texts and inspiring interactive discussions.

Friday
18.00 – 20.00
Saturday
14.30 – 18.30
Sunday
13.30 – 17.30

Guest Teacher

Arshia Sattar

Arshia Sattar has a Ph.D. from the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She has worked with myth and epic and the story-telling traditions of India for over 30 years. Her abridged translation of the Sanskrit epic, the Valmiki Ramayana is considered a contemporary classic. Arshia teaches and writes about Indian literatures in her home country and abroad.