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Epic Literature - The Ramayana (Story of Rama) (lesson)

Mandodari approaches her husband, the demon king Ravana

Mandodari approaches her husband, the demon king Ravana, while Prince Rama and his allies convene outside the palace, from a manuscript of the Ramayana (Story of Rama), 1595–1605. Northern India. Opaque watercolors and gold on paper. Gift of the Connoisseurs’ Council with additional funding from Fred M. and Nancy Livingston Levin, the Shenson Foundation, in memory of A. Jess Shenson, 2003.4.

atayus, the heroic king of the vultures, attempts to prevent Ravana from abducting Sita, from the Ramayana (Story of Rama)

Jatayus, the heroic king of the vultures, attempts to prevent Ravana from abducting Sita, from the Ramayana (Story of Rama). Approx. 400–500. India; probably Uttar Pradesh state. Terra-cotta. Gift of the Connoisseurs’ Council, 1988.40.

Theatrical headdress for the magical deer in the Story of Rama dance-drama

Theatrical headdress for the magical deer in the Story of Rama dance-drama, approx. 1950–1960, Central Thailand. Papier-mache, glass, and mixed media. Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.10.9.

Hanuman’s encounters with demons on his journey to Lanka, from the Balinese version of the Story of Rama

Hanuman’s encounters with demons on his journey to Lanka, from the Balinese version of the Story of Rama, approx. 1900–1950, by I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, (Indonesian, 1862–1978). Ink on paper. Gift of Karen A. Signell, 1998.90.

Objective: 

Students are introduced to the Ramayana (Story of Rama) and recall events by sequencing related art objects on a Story Hill. Then students make connections between artistic and literary depictions of character by comparing Vishnu and Ravana.

Duration: 
60 minutes
Keyword Results: 

Common Core Standards:
SL 3.2: Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
SL4.4: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

Content Standards (California):
HSS6.5.7: Discuss important aesthetic and intellectual traditions (e.g., Sanskrit literature, including the Bhagavad Gita; medicine; metallurgy; and mathematics, including Hindu-Arabic numerals and the zero).

Author: Sarah Willner, Music Integration Specialist.

Materials:
Video: Abduction of Sita; Worksheets: Objects in Focus: Ravana and Vishnu (student worksheet); Story Cards: The Ramayana; Appendix A: Story Summary of the Ramayana; Appendix B: Read Aloud Version of the Ramayana

Procedure:

  1. Engage students with a discussion on contemporary superheroes and elicit the story pattern of heroes and antiheroes. Share examples of stories that have a hero and an antihero counterpart. Relate to comics such as Batman and the Joker, Superman and Lex Luthor, and ask what the hero is often trying to do (bring peace and order to the world). In order to be a hero, there must be an antihero, or opposing force.
  2. Introduce the Story of Rama. Contemporary stories are not that different from traditional tales. Ask if anyone has played a Second Life game or seen the movie Avatar. Discuss the meaning of the word avatar. Explain that one hero that is celebrated by millions of people all over the world is Rama. Rama is an avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu. The Story of Rama is an ancient Hindu story that still inspires popular culture. There is a video game, Rama, and even an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called Resurrecting Ravana. Briefly summarize the story plot and read the story using (Appendices A and B) and/or the video: The Abduction of Sita (see "Related Resources" below)
  3. Retell and Check for Understanding: Project the images on the Story Cards. See if students can identify the events being depicted. Ask students to sequence each image on a story hill as they retell the main events.
  4. Observe: Students complete the Object in Focus worksheet individually or in groups and prepare to discuss their answers.
  5. Discuss and Interpret: Compare and contrast the images of Ravana and Vishnu, and elicit how the artist depicted their character qualities to identify them to a non-literature audience. What do you see? What do you see that makes you say that? What more do you see? How are Ravana and Vishnu similar? How are they different? How does the artist make Ravana appear as a demon-king and Vishnu as a god? Why do you think these two were paired together and placed on a palace? Why do you think images of the demon-king Ravana were on important places like palaces in Bali?
  6. Extend: Was the artist successful in depicting the character of Ravana? Why or why not? What challenges to artists face when trying to tell a story?