Chheleder Ramayan [The Children's Ramayan]
Chheleder Ramayan

Title: Chheleder Ramayan [The Children’s Ramayan]

Author: Upendrakishore Raychaudhuri

Publisher: The City Book Society, No. 64, College Street, Calcutta.

Printer: Sri Purnachandra Das of Kuntalin Press, 61 & 62 Bowbazar Street, Calcutta

Date & edition: 1907, 2nd edition (improved and enlarged)

Price: 8 anna, Decorative edition 12 anna

The book retells, in an abridged form the story of the well known Indian epic. Following the main narrative through the first six cantos of the epic, - Adikanda, Ayodhyakanda, Aranyakanda, Kishkindhyakanda, Sundarkanda and Lankakanda, the author focuses on the crucial incidents to highlight the drama and action in the heroic narrative. The simple yet powerfully evocative language maintains the richness of the text and captures the epic magnitude. The narrative voice deserves special mention. While telling the story in the first person to his young readers, the narrator uses conversational inflections and idiomatic speech patterns (after the traditional oral storytelling methods commonly known in Bengali households) to generate feelings of awe, wonder, delight or breathtaking suspense. The various feats of Ram, the epic hero, especially those involving encounters with devilish and oppressive monsters are described in great detail. One such instance is Ram's chance meeting with Viradh: "Till now, in their days of exile in the forests, Ram, Lakshman and Sita had not met an ogre. This time they came upon quite a fiendish one. Standing in the forest, the monster towered like a hill." The author digresses to inspect Mr. Monster's breakfast, which is "a modest affair, consisting of three lions, four tigers, a couple of rhinoceroses, ten deer and an elephant's head." One of the best story-tellers that Bengali children have ever known, Upendrakishore never misses a chance of enthralling his audience.
Relating the tale of Ram's heroic battle to rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of Ravan, the ten-headed demon-king, the book ends with the restoration of harmony and order following Ram's coronation at Ayodhya: "Even today, when people praise a good king, they are wont to say 'A king like Ram'."

The book carries fantastic illustrations of fabulous monsters, larger than life heroes and grand battles. All of these are in black and white except the frontispiece illustration depicting the fight between Bali and Sugreeb. No illustrator mentioned. [Upendrakishore Raychaudhuri].

In the ‘Granthakarer nibedan’ [author’s preface] dated 18th Ashwin 1314 in the Bengali calendar (1907), Upendrakishore mentions having written a ‘Chheleder Ramayan’ earlier. The present publication, the author says, though a second edition of that earlier work, is in effect, a new book. The author gratefully acknowledges Rabindranath Tagore's contribution to the volume, his encouragement and constant support had hugely benefited the publication. Tagore had amended the manuscript and had checked the proof of the book, rectifying many mistakes in the process.

The book drops the final canto of the epic - Uttarakanda or the aftermath, which somewhat complicates the linear progress of the tale and disturbs the stability and happiness following Ram's crowning ceremony at the end of Lankakanda.
The earlier edition of ‘Chheleder Ramayana’ that Upendrakishore is referring to in the preface had been the first of his many books for children. Published in 1897 (a part of this earlier version was first published in the contemporary children's periodical Mukul in 1896), its contents were enlivened with excellent illustrations by the author himself. However, when the book came out of press, the illustrations were found to be badly distorted due to the poor quality reproductions of wood-block printing. This was a major disappointment to the author. The volume becomes historically significant in that it is said to have motivated Upendrakishore to perfect the process of half-tone printing - a research in which he had been dabbling for the last six or seven years. Upedrakishore's pioneering work in perfecting the half-tone printing technology through inventions and innovative techniques like the Sixty-degree Screen, the Screen Adjustment Process and the Ray Tint Process brought 'mathematical precision to process camera work'. By rendering in print a faithful reproduction of the naturalistic shade gradations of the illustration, his methods infinitely improved the book illustration scenario in Calcutta. The nine articles that were published in the Penrose's Pictorial Annual (1897-1912), reflecting his research on process cameras and half-tone blocks had also won him international acclaim.

Pages: 160

Genre: Epic (retold in prose)

Source: The National Library, Kolkata

Shelfmark: 182.Jc.907.3

Pages from the Book:
1. The fight between Bali and Sugreeb
2. Page 1, Adikanda [The Beginning]
3. The imprisoned Hanuman being led away by the rakshasas

References consulted for this entry
1. Addhya, Hemantakumar. Upendrakishore Raychaudhuri.
2. Ghosh, Amitava. ‘Some Eminent Indian Pioneers in the Field of Technology’.
3. Shastri, Shibnath. Atmacharit.
4. Mitter, Partha. Art and Nationalism in Colonial India 1850-1922: Occidental Orientations.

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