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The Adbhuta and the Sītāyaṇa Tradition: Responding to Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa and Other Rāmāyaṇas

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Katie Work
Publication date26/07/2021
Number of pages171
Awarding Institution
Award date26/07/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis reads the Adbhuta Rāmāyaṇa as a response to, and elaboration on,
Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa. As I will show, the Adbhuta’s main distinction from Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa is that it places Sītā at the centre of the story, both as its hero and as a superior deity to Rāma. I will therefore argue that the Adbhuta is an example of a Sītāyaṇa: a text that tells ‘Rāma’s story’ but with a focus on Sītā’s qualities, actions, and experiences. Although other tellings of the Rāmāyaṇa also focus on Sītā, I will show that the Adbhuta is a particularly innovative and unique Sītāyaṇa, both in the ways that it engages with Vālmīki’s text and in the ways that it draws upon other texts and traditions. As I will suggest, the Adbhuta’s unique portrayal of Sītā – particularly in associating her with the warrior goddess, Kālī – has been influential in the characterisation of Sītā in subsequent Sītāyaṇas.

By reading the Adbhuta comparatively with Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, I will show that the Adbhuta engages closely with Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa in a number of ways, including: invoking its authority; reconfiguring and recharacterising its scenes and characters; and incorporating its themes in new ways. By taking a comparative approach, this thesis also shows that the Adbhuta is highly intertextual more generally, introducing themes from the wider Indian literary tradition into its conversation with Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa. The implications of my argument will show the merit of this comparative approach, which acknowledges Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa as an authority in the Rāmāyaṇa tradition, but also pays attention to the unique characteristics of other tellings. As I will show, this comparative approach reveals the Adbhuta’s innovation as a Sītāyaṇa, as well as inviting us to think about Sītā in new ways.