Aaron Sherraden, "Śambūka's Death Toll: A History of Motives and Motifs in an Evolving Rāmāyaṇa Narrative" (Anthem Press, 2023)


According to Vālmīki's Sanskrit Rāmāyaṇa (early centuries CE), Śambūka was practicing severe acts of austerity to enter heaven. In engaging in these acts as a Śūdra, Śambūka was in violation of class- and caste-based societal norms prescribed exclusively by the ruling and religious elite. Rāma, the hero of the Rāmāyaṇa epic, is dispatched to kill Śambūka, whose transgression is said to be the cause of a young Brahmin's death. 

The works surveyed in Śambūka's Death Toll: A History of Motives and Motifs in an Evolving Rāmāyaṇa Narrative (Anthem Press, 2023) this study include numerous works originating in Hindu, Jain, Dalit and non-Brahmin communities while spanning the period from Śambūka's first appearance in the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa through to the present day. The book follows the Śambūka episode chronologically across its entire history--approximately two millennia--to illuminate the social, religious, legal, and artistic connections that span the entire range of the Rāmāyaṇa's influence and its place throughout various phases of Indian history and social revolution.

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Raj Balkaran

Raj Balkaran is a scholar of Sanskrit narrative texts. He teaches at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and at his own virtual School of Indian Wisdom. For information see rajbalkaran.com.

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