Note : I am not sure if the topic fits the post. Also , treat this as a personal view and not as a research. The post is open for comments and critics both. Please do share your ideas. This post will be edited as per any valid suggestion or.aybe i will be inspired for another post 😉
For religious sections , both Mahabharat and Ramayan hold almost the same place, since both are about the role of a Vishnu’s avtaar in the society that time. How they brought the change to the way of things. But if i consider the researchers , the writers , the curious minds and the likes of me who are interested in a story well told , i see so many talks and speculations about Mahabharat and so less on the Ramayana.
To make it more clear , i can tell you that so far i have heard about 3 books on ramayan and read none while i myself have read around 4 on mahabharat with 4 more on my list to read. And that’s just the ones that are popularly referred by book lovers i know. Different versions of mahabharat known to me include the original recitation by Vyasa , the retelling of the same by a professional storyteller Sauti in the nimisha forest ( which is how the Ashok Banker’s series begin and the reason i know of this) , the attempts to re produce the text by early rulers of Indian subcontinent and since then , there has been a lot of time and energy spent to preserve or translate the original text. Apart from this , there are many books and essays written on the epic , a list of which i found here . Not to forget the regional tales and versions of this epic saga which probably was contained in a smaller area than Ramayana’s.
There are different versions of Ramayana too ~ Valmiki’s , kalidasa version , kamban’s tamil version , the jain ramayan ( multiple books) , the tales in the thailand and malaysian ramayan , sanskrit play by bhavbhuti and other regional retellings. Latest addition would be Ashok banker’s series.
What i noticed about all this literature is that while Mahabharat has been re told , written and analyzed from POV of different characters , ramayan has always been one big tale, narrated in third person. But these are not the reasons i feel , mahabharat is subjected to discussions and retellings. What is noteworthy to remember is that both the epics were passed on to next generation by word of mouth for centuries. More than that , both were probably written as verses of poetry and that form for me is most open to speculation and individual perception.
Ramayan for me is a selfless fight of Ram with Ravan. Sita , as we know was more a pawn in the scheme of things ( the story of hiding sita in fire before ravan could kidnap her ) . It is a war of good over evil , so we have the idealistic Ram fighting with the asura Ravan. As soon as one mwntions that Ravan is an asura , we know.that he would have limitless powers , which no human can possess. It is a fight of uneven. In no ways Ram’s sena any close to winning this war if not the faith and god’s will attached to it and of course Vibhishan. All characters are either black or white , each sticking to its role and character from beginning to the end. The versions differ in the way of feelings or the image of some characters., not in a way that anything contradicts majorly with the original. Mahabharat on the other hand is the story of a kingdom , which was caught in a civil war between two princes , two cousins for the occupancy of the throne. It is a war of right over wrong , dharma and adharma ~ any of which is subjective to your interpretation or favouritism for one character.
When you read or consider the story from a single person’s POV , he / she has both good and bad sides. No black and white characters. Every one is manipulative and a victim too at different times. There are so many tales within each tale ( a background story and a previous birth to every karma and character ) , questions within the answers ( like sehdev was asked to reply ) , all human emotions exaggerated and portrayed with the fallout , action , drama , tragedy , love , lust , mistakes , morals , duties and anything that you can think of. I read somewhere , “True or not , vyaas made sure mahabharat has no dull moment”. Plus , ramayan for me has no WOW factor. It evokes more religious sentiments than being able to entertain as a story. Mahabharat is a fluid text , it has so many secrets and layers that unravelling each thread is like time travel. It is a consuming passion and I guess there will be no end to it unless i surrender to this adventure and be lost in this “forest of stories” .