Regional Compositions of Sri Ramayana, Part Five

BY: SUN STAFF - 1.2 2018

Akal-Bodhan of Rama descripted in Krittivasi Ramayan 
Painting by Surjo Roy

Serial presentation of the preeminent versions of Sri Ramayana.


The Krittivasi Ramayan was composed by the 15th Century Bengali poet, Krittibas Ojha. This rendition, also known as Krittibasi Ramayan or Sri Ram Panchali, is a rendition of the Ramayana in Bengali. Written in the traditional Ramayan Panchali form of Middle Bengali literature, the Krittivasi Ramayana is not only a re-translation of the original Indian epic, but also incorporates a vivid depiction of the society and culture of Bengal in the Middle Ages. This Bangla text is also notable for its exploration of the concept of Bhakti, later distributed to Bengal, and the world, by the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His early Vaishnava associates.

The total number of manuscripts, or puthis comprising the Krittivasi Ramayan is approximately 2,221. Most of these contain only fragments of the text.

Over the four centuries after it was produced, Krittivasi Ramayan underwent various changes at the hands of puthi scribes. The current version of the epic was revised by Jaygopal Tarkalankar and published in 1834. Later 20th century editions were published based on Tarkalankar's version.

Extant manuscripts are presently stored in a number of West Bengal universities and libraries, in the British Museum, etc.

The epic of Krittivas has had a profound impact on the literature of Bengal and the surrounding regions. Tulsidas, the 16th c. Hindi Ramayana translator, was deeply moved by the theme of Bhakti, just as Krittivas was. The story of Rama as depicted by Krittivas Ojha inspired many latter-day poets.

In the 16th century, the Assamese poets Madhav Kandali and Shankardev jointly rendered the Ramayana into old Assamese, somewhat akin to Bangla. In the 17th century Adbhut Acharya (Nityananda) composed the version known after him as Adbhutacharya Ramayana. Though this version became quite popular in north Bengal, it did not surpass that of Krittivasi Ramayana.

The 17th century saw many other Bengali poets translating Sri Ramayana. In 1792, Ramananda Ghosh translated the Ramayana, describing himself an apostle of the Buddha. In 1790, Jagatram Banerjee of Bankura and his son, Ramprasad Banerjee, jointly composed yet another Bangla Ramayana. These Bangla Ramayanas are far more than translations; each contains the peculiarities of its own author. Nor do any of the latter versions compare to the Krittivasi Ramayana in Bengali which, despite deviating from the original text in certain areas, has had an abiding influence on Bengal's religious culture.



Paschimbanga Gazette, Government of West Bengal, Krittibas Memorial Issue, February 2006, p. 82; Banglapedia; Wikipedia