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Lord Rama

June 30, 1991

Mark Fineman's "The Wrath of Rama" (May 19) has a number of errors and misconceptions that need to be addressed. First, although the name of the god is written pedantically as Rama, it is in fact pronounced as Ram. Thus, Lord Rama is not "familiarly" known as Ram, as Fineman states. Second, Ram is not a demigod. Originally he was a mortal ruler who was made the subject of a poem that through the years snowballed into an epic, whose authorship was attributed to a poet called Valmiki, whose historicity is as doubtful as that of Ram. However, Ram came to be regarded as an avatar of the God Vishnu.

Fineman is also misinformed when he writes that "Rama is an 'everyman' deity, so much a part of village life that peasants greet each other with the words Ram, Ram , instead of hello ." Only in the Hindi belt (confined to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) is it customary for villagers to greet each other "Ram, Ram."

Ram did not figure among the major deities worshiped by the Hindus. The present Hindu hysteria with Ram has nothing to do with religiosity but is a shameless exploitation of religion by politicians to get votes.

PRATAPADITYA PAL

SENIOR CURATOR

INDIAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIAN ART

LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART

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