I don’t remember the days when I narrated Ramayana and Mahabharata to my children. As a matter of fact, I don’t actually remember if I ever did. Perhaps, our parents did that job for us or they grew watching them on the television. However, today, as I write this post, I am deeply content to have vividly narrated the story of Ramayana to my 5-year old grand daughter. And it wasn’t just a simple narration; it had illustrations too. And not just simple illustrations; it was a grand feast of foody illustration with McCain snacks.
Join our feast and listen to this granny if you really want to know briefly about what happens in each of the seven kandas (books) of Ramayana.
“What’s Diwali, Ma (that’s what she calls me)?”
“Diwali is the festival of lights.”
“Hahn, why do we celebrate Diwali?”
“Okay. Diwali has a story behind it. Rama returns back with Sita and Laksman after their 14 years of exile. That’s what we celebrate as Diwali.”
“Who is Rama? What is exile? Why 14 years?”
That’s how it all started!
Children are a store house of questions. Our grandchildren’s constant questioning ability often make my sixty years’ of life experiences and knowledge go dry. But for once, I was happy that she asked me about something that I knew well. It gave me an elated feeling of self-worth that I am able enough to justly answer her question. Yeah, a moment of triumph!
I’ve been her story-teller since she was two-years old and yes, she’s been the cross-questioner since then, catching me red-faced every now and then. However, most often she would doze off before I would complete the story. Once, for almost two months, I had tried to tell her the thirsty crow story but she was never awake to hear the crow drinking the water 😆
So, this time, I managed to do an interesting illustration of the story since I didn’t want her to miss hearing the great epic. I chose her favourite McCain snacks – French fries and Veggie Nuggets! I made two packets of McCain veggie nuggets and french fries. The best part was that it was quick and easy to make them. No need to thaw and I knew when exactly to drain them from the oil – yes, 3 minutes! In addition, 0% cholesterol and no trans fat! After the frying, I dried using paper napkins to make sure they are made oil-free as much as possible. Okay, I used the nuggets for circles and french fries for lines and that’s all is required to depict Ramayana! I can’t believe it too!
I would make some figures with these to explain a particular scene and after the narration, I would change the arrangement of the nuggets and fries to make a new scene. With every change of the shape of the french fries and nuggets, my grand daughter jumped in joy to see a new illustration appear. And yeah, we did a lot of munching in between! It was a fun time for all of us at home and I am confident that she shall never forget Ramayana for lifetime. I had formed several images using McCain snacks and had described the epic in less detail for her age. However, in order to maintain the brevity of this post, I am including one significant illustration for each kanda.
I explained to her that Ramayana includes seven books called kandas, each describing a part of Lord Rama’s life.
Rama was born to Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya. Rama and his brother Lakshman learn from sage Vishwamitra, the art of combating deadly demons. Janaka, the king of Mithila, arranges a swayamvara for his daughter, Sita. It was only Rama who could break the heavy bow, which was the test of strength and power for the bridegroom, and eventually marries Sita.
I made a figure using McCain french fries (as limbs) and nuggets (as torso) with black pepper corns (for facial features) to depict Rama. A bow and arrow made of french fries, placed next to Rama’s figure forms the swayamvara scene.
When king Dasharatha becomes old, he decides to commemorate Rama as the king of Ayodhya. However, on the eve of the ceremony, his step-mother, Kaikeyi cunningly makes her son, Bharatha to the throne and also sends Rama and Sita to exile into the forest for fourteen years. Thus, Rama and Sita along with Lakshman move to the forest. Sadly, king Dasharatha passes away after this incident. When Bharatha hears about the happenings, he goes into the Panchavati forest to find Rama. He pleads forgiveness and requests Rama to come back. However, Rama refuses to break the law.
I made a hut and trees using french fries that forms their place of dwelling in the Panchavati forest. I’ve made three figures – Rama, Sita and Lakshman. Sita stands in between the two.
At the forest, a rakshashi called Surpanakha, Ravana’s sister, enters their place with evil intentions. However, Lakshman cuts off her nose and ears to warn her and also kills Khara, Surpanakha’s brother who comes to attack them. Ravana is enraged by what happened to his sister and brother. He sends a rakshasha called Maricha to attack Rama. Maricha disguises in the form of golden deer to trap Sita. However, Rama finds Maricha’s intention and chases the deer away. One day, when Rama is away, Sita insists Lakshman to find for Rama as she feels Rama is unsafe somewhere. Reluctant to leave Sita alone, Lakshman draws a white line beyond which, he instructs Sita, not to go. Then comes Ravana in the form of a sadhu, asking for food. Sita, unfortunately, decides to cross Lakshman’s line in order to offer food for the sage and gets kidnapped by Ravana who takes her across the ocean, to Lanka. The vulture, Jatayu tries to save Sita but fails. When Rama and Lakshmana return, they hear the news from Jatayu.
With the hut and trees made of french fries at the background, Sita stands within the boundary of Lakshman Rekha. Ravana is the figure on the right. He comes disguised as a sadhu asking for alms.
Rama and Lakshman go in search of Sita. They meet Sugriva and Hanuman, the monkey people. The whole of Kishkindha kanda is about what happens at Kishkindha, the place ruled by Valli, Sugriva’s brother. Rama helps Sugriva is killing Vaali so that Sugriva becomes the king. In exchange, Sugriva promises to find Sita.
Rama kills Vaali from behind a tree in order to help Sugriva claim the throne of Kishkindha.
The initial search for Sita yielded no results from the North, Eat and West directions. Later, Hanuman learns from Sampati, Jatayu’s brother, that Ravana has taken Sita to Lanka.
I tried to make the figure of a flying Hanuman using nuggets and fries. And the triangle is the mountain that’s always seen carried by Hanuman 🙂
Hanuman takes in charge of crossing the ocean to Lanka. He finds Sita at Ashokavanam. Ravana persuades Sita to marry him. But Sita refuses as she considers Rama as the only man of her life. Hanuman gets caught by Ravana’s warriors who set fire to his tail. Hanuman escapes the battle and reaches back to Kishkindha.
Sita is seated at the Asokavana that’s made of the french fries trees. Hanuman peeps in from the tree on the top right.
Rama’s army along with Hanuman cross the ocean to attack Lanka. After the fierce battle between Rama and Ravana, Rama kills the ten-headed Ravana and brings Sita back. Their exile time gets over and they return back to Ayodhya where Rama becomes the king. Their return is what celebrated as Diwali.
The ten-headed Ravana stands fierce to be slashed by the mighty Rama soon. Faces of Veggie nuggets were a delight!
Uttara Kanda was not a part of the original Ramayana. It was added later. After Rama becomes the king, the moral values of Sita are rumoured bad as a result of which Sita is sent exile to the forest. Sage Valmiki gives her shelter in the forest. Sita begets twins Lava and Kusa who are mentored by Valmiki. Valmiki teaches them the Ramayana. Once, Rama conducts Ashvamedha yagna during which Lava and Kusa recite the Ramayana, revealing their identities to Rama. Soon after both Rama and Sita leave the world as their purposes of birth is gets fulfilled.
Lava and Kusa are depicted in sitting postures, next to each other, in front of the Ashvamedha yagna.
My grand daughter’s shrills and laughter continued till I finish. Yes, I was happy she didn’t doze off; happy that after all this old lady wasn’t a boring story-teller for the first time 😆 And of course, there were unimaginable questioning sessions every now and then, however my Ramayana knowledge saved me from turning red every time.
Ha! A great family togetherness to rejoice. Some simply heart-warming smiles to relish. Thank you, Lord Rama and of course, McCain Snacks!