The Slaying of Meghanada: A Ramayana from Colonial Bengal

Hardcover | February 27, 2004

byMichael Madhusudan DattaTranslated byClinton B. Seely

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"The poem is rising into splendid popularity. Some say it is better than Milton-but that is all bosh-nothing can be better than Milton; many say it licks Kalidasa; I have no objection to that. I don't think it impossible to equal Virgil, Kalidasa, and Tasso." Michael Madhusudan Datta wrotethis in a letter to a friend about his verse narrative, The Slaying of Meghanada (1861). The epic, a Bengali version of the Ramayana story in which Ravana, not Rama, is the hero, has become a classic of Indian literature. Datta lived in Bengal at the height of what is frequently called the BengalRenaissance, a time so labeled for its reinvigoration and reconfiguration of the Hindu past and for the florescence of the literary arts. It was also a period when the Bengali city of Kolkata was a center of world trade-the second city of the British empire-and thus a site of cultural exchangebetween India and the West. Datta was the perfect embodiment of this time and place. The Slaying of Meghanada is deeply influenced by western epic tradition, and is sprinkled with nods to Homer, Milton, and Dante. Datta's deft intermingling of western and eastern literary traditions brought about asea change in South Asian literature, and is generally considered to mark the dividing line between pre-modern and modern Bengali literature. Datta's masterpiece is now accessible to readers of English in Clinton Seely's elegant translation, which captures both the sense and the spirit of theoriginal. The poem is supplemented by an extensive introduction, notes, and a glossary.

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"The poem is rising into splendid popularity. Some say it is better than Milton-but that is all bosh-nothing can be better than Milton; many say it licks Kalidasa; I have no objection to that. I don't think it impossible to equal Virgil, Kalidasa, and Tasso." Michael Madhusudan Datta wrotethis in a letter to a friend about his verse na...

Clinton B. Seely is Professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is the author of A Poet Apart: A Literary Biography of the Bengali Poet Jibanananda Das, 1899-1954 (1990) and several other books.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 6.3 × 9.21 × 1.1 inPublished:February 27, 2004Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195167996

ISBN - 13:9780195167993

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"This book is a polished gem, a sparkling gift of translation and contextualization from Clinton B. Seely--legendary teacher, speaker, and translator--to all students of Bengal, colonial history, Ramayana studies, and Indian literature. The Slaying of Meghanada, Seely's artistic rendition ofMichael Madhusudan Datta's classic Bengali version of the Ramayana, invites us to understand and feel, with Datta and through Seely, the particularly Bengali pathos of a doomed, humanized, agonized Ravana. Here is a text for our times, where Rama is not the hero.--Rachel Fell McDermott, Asian andMiddle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College