Today is one of my favorite Hindu holidays - Dussehra. I spent a semester abroad in India last year, and one of my favorite moments was the burning of a giant paper Ravana statue near our neighborhood temple. The story of Dussehra references Lord Ram's vanquishing the demon Ravana in the epic Ramayana. There are many different versions of the Ramayana across India, all reflecting unique local traditions and culture. It's a good example of the way in which culture might alter the ways in which religion is practised. The Ramayana is taught in some Legacies of the Ancient World courses at Colgate, as well as in Religion and Asian Studies courses.
The Ramayana is interesting not only because there are so many Indian interpretations, but also because there are interpretations of it from around the world. Nina Paley, an American, made a feminist version called Sita Sings the Blues. A group of web designers in Indonesia made an online web comic reinterpreting Ram's story in the context of Google Plus which can be found at ramaya.na. It's always interesting to say the way narratives might be interpreted across cultural boundaries, with profound differences in their meaning.