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Since many things in Hinduism vary and vary tremendously from one culture to another and there are very few sources to cite from and more importantly very few online sources. How can we handle these situations?

In the book Three Hundred Ramayanas, A.K. Ramanujan has tried to compile various versions of the Ramayana from various parts of the world, which include Jain, Buddhist, and versions from Indonesia as well apart from various Hindu traditions.

How has he done that? Has he cited some sources? Can we use the same approach?

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There is no dearth of sources to cite; just dearth of people capable of citing them.

Most Hindus today do not learn Sanskrit and do not read texts even in translation. They just answer from personal experience / anecdotes / speculation, and I'm afraid this site is turning into something similar.

As just an example, for the specific case of the Rāmāyaṇa you mentioned, see for instance

  • V. Raghavan (ed.), The Ramayana Tradition in Asia (Papers presented at the International Seminar on the Ramayana Tradition in Asia, New Delhi, December 1975), Sahitya Akademi, 1980.

Its a 700+ page book that includes 44 scholarly articles by various authors on the Rāmāyaṇa in various regions of India and Southeast Asia.

There are many many such high-quality sources; one just has to look! And on this site at least, we should strive to refer to reliable sources, not just rest on hearsay.

We can encourage this by upvoting answers that cite sources, and encouraging answers that don't to do so.

  • I agree to what you are saying.. but there's also an unwritten tradition in Hinduism, which you cannot sideline or negate. What about those voices? – Vineet Menon Jul 20 '15 at 12:32
  • @VineetMenon I agree about the importance of the oral tradition, but I think you'll be surprised how much has been written down by now (especially in regional languages). In any case, if you heard it orally, you can cite it as such: "I heard Swami XYZ say in a speech at ABC in 2009..." or "According to my grandmother and aunt, ...". Either way, it's important to know where something comes from. – ShreevatsaR Jul 20 '15 at 19:40

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