The Assumptions and Goals of this Volume
Along with Valmiki's Ramayana , there are hundreds of other tellings of the story of Rama in India, Southeast Asia, and beyond. In confronting the diversity of the tradition, we are challenged to find ways of articulating relationships among these Ramayanas . In the lead essay of this volume, Ramanujan takes up the challenge by looking at five different Ramayanas : Valmiki's Sanskrit poem, summarized above; Kampan's Iramavataram , a Tamil literary account that incorporates characteristically South Indian material; Jain tellings, which provide a non-Hindu perspective on familiar events; a Kan-nada folktale that reflects preoccupations with sexuality and childbearing; and the Ramakien , produced for a Thai rather than an Indian audience.
Ramanujan's exploration of these texts suggests several ways to conceptualize the relations between Ramayanas . He urges us to view different tellings neither as totally individual stories nor as "divergences" from the "real" version by Valmiki, but as the expression of an extraordinarily rich set of re-
sources existing, throughout history, both within India and wherever Indian culture took root. Like the set of landscape conventions of classical Tamil poetry, the elements of the Ramayana tradition can be seen as a source on which poets can draw to produce a potentially infinite series of varied and sometimes contradictory tellings. Ramanujan likens the Ramayana tradition to a pool of signifiers that includes plot, characters, names, geography, incidents, and relations, arguing that each Ramayana can be seen as a "crystallization":
These various texts not only relate to prior texts directly, to borrow or refute, but they relate to each other through this common code or common pool. Every author, if one may hazard a metaphor, dips into it and brings out a unique crystallization, a new text with a unique texture and a fresh context.
Creation of Ramayanas , Ramanujan's metaphor implies, involves both constraints and fluidity: while certain sets of codes structure expression, the fluidity of tradition accounts for the diversity of tellings. Like Thapar, he also calls attention to the fact that Ramayana tellings take shape in particular contexts. They may be influenced, for example, by the beliefs of individual religious communities, the literary conventions of regional cultures, and the specific configurations of social relations.
In responding to Ramanujan's suggestion that we explore Ramayana tellings in light of their structure, diversity, and context, the contributors to this volume have both reconsidered familiar Ramayanas and explored lesser-known tellings of the story. Those familiar with Ramayana scholarship will recognize the extent to which we have used and built upon the careful research of earlier studies that trace the historical and literary peregrinations of Rama's story. We are grateful to those who preceded us, scholars of extraordinary patience who meticulously charted the many tellings of the tale.  Our present goal is somewhat different: to consider the logic that informs, and the relations that exist between, selected tellings of the Ramayana , as well as the cultural contexts of those tellings.
The essays share five assumptions about the plurality of Ramayana tradition in India and Thailand. First, we deem all the incidents connected with the story of Rama and Sita equally worthy of our attention. Philological scholarship on Valmiki's Ramayana has argued that the Balakanda (the first book, which tells of Rama's youth) and the Uttarakanda (the last book, which tells of the events that transpire after Rama's rescue of Sita, including her banishment to the forest) are "late" additions. Their status as possible interpolations into Valmiki's text, however, has had little effect on the popularity of their contents in Indian culture. Whether these events from Rama's early life and from the end of the story were original to Valmiki's text or not, the contributors to this volume treat them in the same way as they treat incidents from other periods in Rama's life.
Second, we accept the idea of many Ramayanas and place Valmiki's text within that framework. Some scholars assume, either implicitly or explicitly, that Valmiki has written the definitive Ramayana . Hence, the diverse non-Valmiki Ramayanas —the "other Ramayanas "—have often been assessed against that standard, according to their angle of divergence from Valmiki's version. While Valmiki's importance is undeniable, we learn more about the diversity of the Ramayana tradition when we abandon the notion of Valmiki as the Ur -text from which all the other Ramayanas descended. We need instead to consider the "many Ramayanas ," of which Valmiki's telling is one, Tulsi's another, Kampan's another, the Buddhist jataka yet another, and so forth. Like other authors, Valmiki is rooted in a particular social and ideological context. His text represents an intriguing telling, but it is one among many.
Third, in part to offset the prevalent attitude toward Valmiki, the contributors seek to foreground non-Valmiki Ramayana texts in order to set out the key assumptions informing different tellings of the story. For example, although in many cases Valmiki and Kampan adhere to the same basic outline of events, Kampan's rendition of particular incidents is shaped by the Tamil bhakti tradition, which gives radically different religious nuances to those events. Kampan's Ramayana is not a divergence from Valmiki; the two are different tellings. Their differences intrigue us because they testify to the diversity of Indian culture, indicating that throughout history multiple voices were heard within the Ramayana tradition.
Fourth, in addition to analyzing textual diversity, we want to emphasize the diversity and significance of renderings of the Ramayana in other genres. Recent scholarship on Indian Ramayana dramas and public culture testifies to the vitality and social significance of epic-related performances. Building on this research, this volume highlights Ramayana tellings found in puppet theater, debate, song cycles, and iconographic traditions. These tellings possess their own logic, their own intended audience, and their own richness.
Finally, we seek to demonstrate that the telling of the Ramayana in India has included stories that conflict with one another. It is true that particular tellings have attained various degrees of dominance and/or popularity (Valmiki, Tulsi, the televised Ramayana ). Nonetheless, there have always been contesting voices. Where Hindu Ramayanas have predominated, Jain and Buddhist Ramayana poets have criticized or questioned those texts by producing their own tellings. Where male dominance has been prescribed in textual traditions, women's Ramayana songs have expressed alternative perspectives that are more in keeping with women's own concerns. Our essays suggest that the Ramayana tradition permits endless refashioning of the story, sometimes in actual opposition to the ways in which the story has previously been told.
The influence of two competing sets of religious tellings of the Rama story are examined in the essay by Reynolds. He points out that, despite wide-
spread privileging of Hindu tellings of the Ramayana , Buddhist tellings of the story form an ancient, continuous, and coherent tradition in South Asia and beyond. He then goes on to show how both Hindu narrative elements and Buddhist values have influenced the composition of the complex and sophisticated Thai Ramakien , shedding light on the ways in which that text has been shaped by the multireligious diversity of the South Asian Ramayana tradition.