The Ramayana, one of the longest epic poems in world literature and a foundational Hindu text, recounts the life of Rama, a legendary prince. The story tracks the prince’s life from birth in the foothills of the Himalayas to his banishment in the south and everything in between. The Ramayana is not just a story: it presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and ethical elements. Since it was first recorded in 300BC by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki, hundreds of renditions have been created. Its stories are retold and performed in ceremonies and festivals all over India, and it’s been adapted for TV, animation, video games and even social media.
Franco-Tamil photographer Vasantha Yogananthan is following Rama’s mythical journey, travelling the length of India to create A Myth of Two Souls, an ongoing project documenting the omnipresent nature of the text in everyday life. The project is formatted as seven photobooks; four published; three forthcoming, one for each chapter of the epic poem. Yogananthan’s interpretation of the Ramayana is unique as he blends the gaze of a foreigner, looking at India through Western eyes, with his family connection to Sri Lanka. “My Dad is Sri Lankan,” he says “South India and Sri Lanka have an interesting history, and I was drawn to making work in that part of the world. I never felt like this project is an exploration of my heritage. The Ramayana just really resonated with me. I saw its legacy manifested everywhere in Indian life. Its pervasiveness was palpable.”