Chronological Layers of The Ramayana
Findings by J.L Brockington (1984)
Basically it is an epic about the victory of good over evil. Revolving around the life and times of protagonist Rama, the ruler of Ayodhya and his battle with Ravana, the Demon King of Lanka, the Epic involves a vivid array of characters, places, cultures and there references to the Hindu Mythology.
Here is the briefed analysis of the stages
The epic started as an oral composition during the 5th and 4th Centuries B.C. It emphasized on the heroic elements and its geographical horizons were limited. The material and social culture depicted here were simple and the religious values were similar to those of the Vedas and the Puranas.
Stage II [3rd Century BC to 1st Century AD]
This stage marked a shift from the heroic to the aesthetic elements. Geographical awareness of the text was expanded into the Lower Ganges Valley.
There were more social and economic references like
· The chastity of Women
· Descriptions of cities and trade suggested an increase in class stratification and women subordination
· Emphasis was laid in the power of the king
· Elaborate warfare was depicted
The whole story was now imbued with a religious significance.
Stage III [1st -3rd Century AD]
The four Varna were
· Kshatriyas : The Warrior Clan and the Ruler Class
· Brahmans: The Priest and Preacher Class
· Vaisyas: The Working Class
· Shudras: The Low lives or the outcastes
The king was exalted as a protector of people and preserver of social order. Subordination of women increased.
Books I and VII were added to the Epic during this period.
Stage IV [4th- 12th Century AD]
Religious and aesthetic emphasis increased. Pre-eminence of the Brahmans was emphasized along with the low position of the Shudras.
Vishnu and Shiva emerged as supreme Gods in a religious milieu marked by temple and idol worship and tough pilgrimage.
Stage V witnessed the strengthening og the trends in Stage IV from 12th Century AD onwards.
Differences in Opinion
Brockington presents a transformation of a heroic epic to religious epic. However, Pollock (1952-91) argues that the Ramayana was about the divinity of Rama right from stage I.
The sole problem with literary sources is that when analyzed, different Historians come up with different opinions and reaching a uniform conclusion becomes difficult. But then these sources provide us with facts about the rich heritage which existed across the timelines of world history.