India's Great Epics Revisited

Tales of love and war, demons and gods. We look at the ancient epics that still drive rising India.

An artist wearing a mask of demon king Ravana waits to perform at a Ramleela, a theater based on the Ramayana in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009. (AP)

It’s 2010, and the hottest movies in India this summer are based on stories two thousand years old. Tales of love and war and gods and demons, plugged straight in to the politics and passions of today.

To an extent that might amaze Americans with a hazy sense of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Beowulf and Gilgamesh, contemporary India is still fully attuned to the characters and lessons of its ancient epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

This Hour, On Point: we’ll go to the great epics, and cultural messages, that still drive a rising India today.


Wendy Doniger, Sanskrit scholar and expert on Hinduism and mythology. She’s a professor of the history of religions at the University of Chicago, and author of many books and translations. Her latest is “The Hindus: An Alternative History.”

Arshia Sattar, translator and author. She translated the “Kathāsaritsāgara” and the “Ramayana” for Penguin books. She teaches narrative and screenwriting at the National Institute of Design and the Film and Television Institute of India.

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