The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe

The Ramayana is a heroic epic, an important Hindu scripture and a cultural touchstone for the peoples of South and Southeast Asia. Over the millennia, it has inspired poets, artists, dramatists, dancers and, more recently, movie directors and video game designers. In The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe, San Francisco's Asian Art Museum explores the Ramayana as both story and social model, using art objects created over a period of 1,500 years from many different countries.

Rather than overwhelming an audience unfamiliar with the sprawling epic, The Rama Epic focuses on the four characters who stand at its heart: Rama; his wife, Sita; the monkey-god Hanuman; and the demon Ravana. Each character is the subject of two thoughtful essays. One examines the changing nature of the character's role as hero, heroine, ally or foe; the second examines the character's basic iconography. The end result is a visual feast that allows readers to engage with and make the Ramayana their own. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

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