Avatar's links to Ramayana & Ramkin

We have seen and admired quite a few science-fictions on the silver screen. There is no need to find either logic or reason in them, nonetheless they give enough stimulus to think beyond our physical perception.

‘Avatar’ offers much more than entertainment. Allegory blends well with breathtaking visuals. The hero starts his inner journey along with the change (avatar) of his physical form from human to a sentient humanoid with the genes of a Navi.

Cameron takes us to a world of pure souls called Navis living in a far away planet, Pandora. The long plates and tails of Navis inadvertently take our minds to the Hanuman clan of Ramayana. Hanuman’s kinfolk are not just a brand of monkeys. They walk around on two legs. They are called ‘Va-naras’ in Sanskrit which means ‘Are they humans?’ (‘naro va?’). Hanuman is described by Valmiki as a well read person, who spoke flawless language.

Vanari with tail
There is no explicit reference of tails for the female partners of Vanaras in Valmiki Ramayana. Accordingly, all our paintings, sculptures and films show them as beautiful damsels in perfect human form — obviously without tail. But, a beautiful sculpture of a Vanari in the palace of Bangkok has tail.  Dr Vartak, author of ‘Vastava Ramayana’ says that their tails were a sort of flying devices, which they could fix to their back while flying.
Anyway, it is interesting to watch Naviyatiris of Avatar fancying their long tails to connect them with the Nature. It may not be the intention of Cameron to search answers for the unsolved questions of the modern age. But, his film makes us to speculate whether our Hanuman clan were the missing link between monkeys and homo sapiens.

There is a striking resemblance of facial features of Navi clan with the artistes of Ramayana ballets in Thailand and Indonesia. Thai poets have added a couple of enchanting episodes to their Ramayana called ‘Ramkin’. They believe that their land was ruled by Ravana. Hanuman, known as a great celibate in India, falls in love with the daughters of Ravana and Vibhishana in their Ramkin!

One can also recognise many of our traditional beliefs in the film, like the mountains that are floating in air and glowing herbs. There is an explicit reference about the flying power of mountains in times of yore in Valmiki Ramayana. Valmiki has given a detailed note on the glowing herbs called Sanjivini, which had the power of bringing the dead into life. It is very easy to dismiss many such legendary ideas translated into computer graphics by Cameron as a mere coincidence or be proud of the perception of our ancient thinkers.
The tall figures of Navi clan remind us of the unusual tall stature of Revathi, wife of Balarama. The blue colour of our divine figures symbolises the infinite universe and purity. Navis in ‘Avatar’ are depicted as the pure souls. Our mind wishes to fly like them on the eagle like birds which remind us of Garuda, the mighty eagle of Vishnu. It is hard not to remember Nandi, the mighty bull whilst watching Navis riding on giant animals.
In conclusion, one can say that Cameron has definitely drawn inspiration for the structure and characters of ‘Avatar’ from Ramayana, be it Valmiki’s or Thai’s Ramkin, but surprisingly, he has not given due credit for the same. However, his film reminds us that we are indeed human-monkeys, ‘Naravanaras’ who hop to grab the fruits from anywhere and everywhere to satisfy our hunger.

(The writer is a Vedic research scholar)

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