Sunday, 28 July 2013

Kamba Ramayana A study 33, I conclude with Sita

The study offers many more insights, including a comparison to western thoughts and classics.  But I focus mostly on the personality traits and differences as seen in VR and KR. The translation in a poetic form gives a different feel to the episode.

I have not dwelt on the various contests between the two warring groups. They are imaginative and individual powers of both Rama and Ravana are highly exaggerated. Obviously, we all enjoy a good fantasy! But it is also true that humans today, as a species, have developed capabilities for untold damage to themselves and the world. So the poets and seers of the old were not too wrong!

 Description of Ravana in death is impressive .... but the hero's face even at the awful moment wore a look of majesty, surpassing far the splendour even of days when saints and rishis had to flee for safety from his oppressive rule.

This explains why he had to die. The opinion that Ramayana is also the story of Aryans vs Dravidians is interesting. Worth examining further!

One chapter is devoted to Bharata who loved Rama to the extent that he tries to get him back to Ayodhya and does not succeed! He does extract a promise from Rama that he will return after completing twelve years of vanavasa! He also vows to immolate himself if Rama fails to return and is saved dramatically at the last moment by the arrival of Hanuman. It is the story of a decent man with values, who does not accept the kingdom given to him on a platter!

As VVS Aiyar died before he could complete the study, the chapter on Sita is written by others.

As I conclude I quote from the version of Ramayana written by my favourite author Kamala Subramanyam. Valmiki asks Narada, 'I wonder if there is, in this world of men, a single individual, a man blessed with all the many good qualities one can think of.'  And Narada narrates to him the story of Rama as the man who possesses all the good qualities which Valmiki is hoping to find in one man.

 Sita is introduced in an appealing manner in KR.
  'So stood that maiden of rare loveliness and eye caught eye and each the other ate: as quiet they stood, minds into one were fused; the hero looked at her and Sita looked at him. The pair of pointed lances called her glance sank deep in shoulders broad of handsome Ram......Kamban's Sita was of an age to fall in love at first sight .... she suffers the pangs of love... .while not a word has passed between the two.....Rama in turn suffers no whit glance at Sita, the yet unknown  was enough to set aflame the heart of Rama. And mere words about her was enough to enslave Ravana.

Sita had even made a resolve to end her life if it was other than Rama who succeeded in the Swayamvara the next day! Sita is heard to speak rarely. Once when she insists that she is going with Rama to the forest and again when she asks Rama pettishly to catch the golden deer himself for her. Otherwise Sita's liquid eyes alone are the quiver-full arrows, eloquent messenger of love.

Sita does worry about Rama's killing Rakshasas who have harmed the sages, but not Rama directly. She expresses her worries to Rama in VR, but Rama maintains it is his duty to protect the rishis. The transition of Sita's life from that of a princess and a bride to that of a forest dweller while tough would have gone well. After all she was young and was in love!

 Her life changed dramatically when she was abducted by Ravana. She dreaded the daily visits of Ravana, there were moments when she wanted to give it all up, but is saved from the extreme step. There are many moments of highs and lows then on, but nothing prepares us for the cold manner in which she is greeted and treated by Rama after his victory against Ravana. Especially after such an introduction of their first meeting!
 The way Rama treats Sita, especially after a year of separation is shocking!

'You loved the fleshly form, and honor stained; and yet died not, but risked your conduct poor and stayed content one year in the capital of Rakshasas of evil walk of life. With what design have you returned unabashed? Is it that I would cherish you? It was not for you I filled the sea....It was for naught but to redeem my name that to Lanka I came.'

These are moments when I wonder about the claims made by Narada about Rama. It is difficult to understand, except that it was the reflection of the times, thousands of years ago. Or a reflection of human nature itself.  Even Sita resorted to accusing Lakshmana of having designs on her. It could be explained as the only way she could get Lakshmana moving, but it worked as such possibilities were always in the air.

While Sita proves her chastity by going through the ordeal of fire, its effect was short lived as she was sent away when people gossiped about her later! The price she had to pay for being the wife of a public figure. Anyway Ramayana is about ideals and not really a love story!

I have not seen a temple of Sita and was surprised that there are not many 'only Sita' temples. However there is one in Nepal and a couple of them in India. Not too many! It is said that there is one in Srilanka .

Janaki Mandir Nepal

A temple in India:
According to Indian mythology, Sitamarhi has got immense significance, because it was here that Lord Rama’s wife Maa Sitaji was abandoned, gave birth to Luv & Kush and descended into the lap of Mother Earth forever. The only existing Valmiki Ashram on the banks of the river Ganges is located here. Sitamarhi thus carries deep religious values and significance and is considered a holy ‘Teerth’ like Prayagraj & Kashi. Today, here stands a magnificent and beautiful Shree Sita Samahit Temple visited by thousands of pilgrims everyday with deep faith and reveranice.

 In the Ramayana, Maharishi Valimiki .. very delicately defined the nobility of Maa Sita and her sincerity, devotion and sacrifice which made her an ideal woman. Sitaji’s life is full of pathos, agony and suffering. .. This sacred spot is very near to Valmikiji’s Ashram on the banks of holy Ganges...

.. The Sita Samahit temple stands exactly on the mound where Bhagwati Sitaji descended into Mother Earth. .. Within the campus of the main temple there exists temples of Maa Sita & Lord Shiva. There also stands 108 ft. high statue of Ram Bhakt Hanuman installed on an artificial rock of 20 ft...

One more temple:
The Sītā Māī Temple is an ancient structure situated in the village of Sitamai in the Karnal district of Haryana in North India. It is at a distance of 19 kilometers from Nilokheri and lies on one of the alternative routes available to travel between Karnal and Kaithal. This is perhaps the only temple in the whole of India that is solely dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Sita, the divine consort of Rama of Ayodhya.
The temple is made of bricks and the striking feature is the elaborate ornamentation, which covers the whole shrine. The pattern of the shrine is formed by deep lines in the individual bricks, which seem to have been made before the bricks were burnt. This means that the forms they were to take must have been separately fixed for each brick when the temple must have been originally designed.
The temple stands on the spot where the Goddess Mother Earth split open, to allow Sita to repose in her bosom, in answer to Her appeal, in proof of Her sinlessness.



According to legend, Sita Eliya Temple is believed to mark the spot where Sita, the heroine from the Indian epic Ramayana, was held captive by her abductor, King Ravana. Some people call this the only Sita temple in the world.
The recently constructed complex, which is modelled on a modern south Indian temple, is set in idyllic countryside beside a clear stream. Next to it is another new temple dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey-god, who according to mythology was instrumental in rescuing Sita.
"There is a rock on the opposite bank where Sita sat and meditated. Also, this ashoka forest is a clear indication that she came here when she was brought to Lanka," says GT Prabhakaran, who is in charge of the temple.
Temple workers are keen to show visitors the spot where Sita bathed, the stone she sat on, and where she prayed.  There is also a belief that at a particular point in the stream the water has no taste. "This is the spot she cursed. You cannot drink the water. Drink it further downstream," advises one temple worker.
Distance from hotel: 18 km
 The present MP government has offered to contribute to this project in Sri Lanka.
Travelling time: 1 h

Lanka Buddhist Forum wants Ravana statue before Sita temple

10th June 2013 07:49 AM
Ravana  Balaya, a militant Sinhalese-Buddhist organization, has urged the Sri Lankan government to erect a statue of the ancient Lankan king Ravana, before letting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to build a temple for Sita in the country.
“Before allowing the Sita temple, the Lankan government should honour Ravana, the first Lankan king to resist a foreign invasion. If Sita is a Goddess for the Hindus, Ravana is a God for us,” Ravana Balaya chief, Ven Iththakandhe Saddhatissa Thero, told Express.
The Buddhist monk was responding to reports that the BJP leader and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, had announced that the Lankan government would help the BJP build a temple for Sita at Divirumpola in Central Sri Lanka, where Sita had gone through the Agnipariksha or the Fire Test, to prove her chastity to Lord Rama.
Ven Saddhatissa Thero suggested that India should help erect Ravana’s statue in Lanka, “to help cement India-Lanka ties”.
The Hindus should have no difficulty in accepting this idea as the Sinhalese Buddhists had been very accommodative towards Hinduism, he argued.
“All Buddhist temples in Lanka have, within their precincts, shrines for Hindu Gods like Ganesha, Vishnu and Hanumantha,” he pointed out.
Need for Ravana
Asked why he was promoting the Ravana cult, Ven Saddhatissa Thero said that the Ravana Balaya, which had come into being to promote Lankan nationalism, saw Ravana as the first major Lankan king to resist a foreign invasion.
Besides that, he was a man of many talents and virtues.
“Ravana fought Rama’s powerful army very hard. It took Rama eight years to defeat him.
“Although Sita was in his custody, he did not molest her. The Lankan government should revive memories of such kings, who had fought for the country and not betrayed it,” Ven. Saddhatissa Thero said.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Kamba Ramayana A study 32, Ravana

 The author says; Ravana's cheif characteristic is his unholy passion for women.  But he is much else besides. Learned in vedas, handsome with the handsomeness of strength, who with great austerities has acquired immense strength and invincibility......Even the supreme trinity desisted from interfering with him, for austerities must always have their full effect till their strengths are exhausted, and his austerities were not ordinary.

He says that VR also depicts him as a hero proud and fierce and full of authority that comes from supreme power. Every one obeys Ravana's slightest word. Only Shurpanaka has the temerity to criticise him after she was maimed by Lakshmana. 'Wilt thou absorbed in pleasure, still pursue unchecked thy selfish will; nor turn thy heedless eyes to see the coming fate that threatens thee?'

However she is more respectful to her brother in KR. While all Lanka was thus immersed in grief as she walked along, she reached the audience hall of Ravana and fell at his feet as a cloud settling at the foot of a hill. Darkness fell over the universe as a pall. Adishesha was terrified.., mountains of the earth shook. The Sun was beside himself with fear and the devas concealed themselves in fear.

With smoke rushing through his mouths even as he bit his lips...with his teeth giving out the sheen of lighting when he ground them in anger, he thundered out, 'whose deed is this?' ...Shurpanaka narrates the story and extols Sita's beauty and  after rousing Ravana's passion for this unseen beauty reveals her motive and tells him: 'Possesses her, immerse thy soul in love, while all the world will sing in joy thy marriage song, a guerdon now I  claim, put forth thy valor and, defeating Ram, wed me to him, for, him I as life  .... and adds ..'Tis such a fair that  I did try to bring for thee, when Lakshman the brother of Ram attacked and wounded me.

 Kamban then describes the pangs of the rakshasa filled his lustful thoughts...Shurpanaka looking at his condition suggests: 'Thou art the undisputed master of the universe. Why art thou then hesitating to act? Go to the place where she is, and capture her for thyself!'

Kamban's Ravana as he looks at Sita thinks that his twenty eyes are not enough and wishes he had thousand unblinking eyes. His passion for Sita is not the vulgar lust of a depraved heart, but the tender and delicate desire of a heart that desires reciprocal affection. He wants to win Sita's heart and win her willing love. He does not desire to force her hand. ..And so the words that he address to Sita are full of a rare delicacy..No death, no defeat-- death of even his nearest and dearest--will induce him to part with her or give up the hope of making her own.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Kamba Ramayana A study 31, Hanuman

Vali carries no ill-will against his younger brother and accepts that there was indeed an higher order which ruled him guilty. Even Sugriva does not gloat when he sees blood sprouting from his brothers chest and in fact faints. Before he dies Vali ensures that there is peace between Sugriva and Angada. Unlike in VR, he does not recommend Tara to either Sugriva or Rama. Tara comes on the scene only after his death. Vali also forgives Hanuman and speaks well of him to Rama. The Vanaras definitely come across as civilized beings.

 Hanuman a Vanara is highly revered as a god is as popular as the trinity. The most outstanding feature of Hanuman is his devotion to Rama. At the very first meeting with Rama and Lakshmana, his hearts melts with love for them. 
  He tells Sugriva that Rama is Vishnu himself worshipped by the devas. He accepts Rama as his lord, does what he is asked and more if it helps. He motivates other vanaras in their search for Sita and flies across the sea to locate her. He is constantly at the service of Rama and Lakshmana and brings essential drugs to save their lives.

He does not expect anything in return! Rama as they part after the coronation, turning full on him his eyes that rained affection and love said, 'There's none like thee......what guerdon can I give thee for the help invaluable that thou hast rendered me in the past? Embrace me my hero brave!'

What better reward indeed can be greater than embracing the sacred body of Rama says the author. But Hanuman's modesty and devotion would not allow him to put himself on a plane of equality with his master. He just hung down his head and stood  aside---- thus showing the world that true merit always effaces itself avoiding public recognition. 

I guess while there would be some who emulate Hanuman, happy to serve! Most I believe would aspire the position of Rama and hope for one or more Hanumans around them.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Kamba Ramayana A study 30, Vali and Sugriva

This episode is an aberration in Ramayana. Slaying Vali was politically expedient, though, against 'dharma'! For all his rectitude Vali had to be satisfied with salvation! He was magnanimous enough to attain that state by his own merit. So even Rama had to indulge in politics...Raghunath.

When Vali heard Sugirva's challenge his anger against his brother was such that.. 'he now appeared like the ocean boiling for the final deluge on the day of the dissolution. The mountain on which he stood shook..When he smacked his arm with his palm thunderbolts of heaven dropped down. The very hill on which he stood split into pieces. Even the god of death was terrified by his aspect....'

As he strode out to answer the challenge, his wife Tara tried to stop him. She tells him that while Sugriva alone cannot face him, he has now an ally strong enough to give him hope. Vali laughs and reminds her of his powers. It was entirely his strength  that moved the churning rod as asuras and devas tried to churn the sea of milk and adds, 'Even god of death  doth tremble at my name.'

But Tara tells him that she has heard that Ram is his brother's ally and 'who for his sake has sworn to end thy life to-day'. Vali who had heard so much of Rama's nobility that he had come to look upon him as an ideal hero does not believe her. In fact, he stops her from speaking and tells her 'knowst thou not Ram is born to show the way of virtue to the world that has forgotten dharam? But thou art a woman and hast in ignorance erred, thou should have died for this blashpemy....Can dharma falsify itself, that is born to save all living kind?'

Soon the two mighty brothers are at each other. While Rama is amazed at their strength, Lakshmana is sad to see them fight and wonders whether one who treats his brother as a foe could be trusted, 'what can be his loyalty to strangers, brother?'

As V V S Aiyer says, for once even Kamban's Rama speaks like a cynic. 'Can we  expect ideal morals from these foolish apes?....Wherever thou go, the lovers of virtue are few. We have to take men as they are, and brother is there a man of whom we can say "lo here is a man without a single flaw?"

As the fight continues Rama waiting behind the trees finds an opportunity and shoots Vali. A very surprised Vali pulls out the arrow as it bores into him and discovers from the markings on the stem that it belongs to Rama and as writhes in pain muses, 'perhaps this also may be an act of virtue, who knows?' .And he asked himself, 'If he swerves from the right what can we say of the common run of men? Verily he has acted worse than myself.' He had many questions for Rama and so would many, but finally is convinced, by Rama's arguments, that he deserved to die because of the unpardonable wrong he had done to his brother.

Vali was punished because he threw his brother out and stole his wife. Rama does not accept the argument that dharma was different for Vanaras  and reminds Vali that he is in fact son of Indra. And that he, Rama, has vowed to help the oppressed, the poor and the forlorn.

While there are no answers to the question why he hid behind a tree there are many reasons! The one given by Lakshamana is 'He feared that thou too, should he show his face to thee, might haply wish to save thyself and fall a suppliant at his feet...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Kamba Ramayana 29, A study. Answers to my questions and Vali and Sugriva

I had said:
I keeping asking myself, where are the gods and the rakshasas !

Mohini gave me an answer:
Hi Nidhi uncle,
I am quite convinced they are within each of us...i'll talk about the gods first as i like to focus on them! :-) 

the gods reside at the subtle centres ( chakras) that correspond with our major nerve plexuses; and they bestow qualities that we appreciate in them and sometimes see in ourselves-- e.g innocence of a child, akin to Ganesha, who resides in the mooladhar chakra, which is at the base of the spine; creativity such as that of Brahma and Saraswati who reside in the swadishthan; generosity and satisfaction as that of Lakshmi and Vishnu in our nabhi; joy and security that like that Shiva and Parvati in the Anahat;  diplomacy such as that of Krishna's in the vishuddi; forgiveness such as that of Jesus in the agnya and a sense of integration with the whole at the Sahasrara like that when the Devi  unites the jeev atma with the paramatma...all these deities i see as energies in their pure form...all distortions from reality (because we move from the absolute to the relative) leads to the creation of rakshasas.

Adi shankaracharya; gnaneshwara and many other seers have experienced and written about this. This realisation is within our reach too now.... Love Mohini

In fact, my question had elicited some more answers. Sriram sent me three articles to read, Science and Spirituality: Two Aspects of a Single Reality; Religion and Metaphysics; The impact of science on society. 

Mohan also had a suggestion:
Hello Nidhi Uncle,
There is an another angle to the Devas, Rakshasas. It is to do with the Aryan migration and the conflict with the local populace, who had animistic traditions. Aryans came in with an organised & codified religion - thus leading to the conflict between the ethnic populace (Rakshasas) and the Aryan invaders.
Some more light on this would be appreciated...Regards NSM

It is good that while being pulled in different directions, this uncle is being educated as well :-)

Getting back to the study, we see Vali and Sugriva as brothers who unfortunately hated each other due to a misunderstanding. Vali is depicted in KR as one with valour and power, endowed with generous and noble qualities but was extinguished by Sri Rama for a single delinquency.

Rama met Sugriva and pitied his helpless condition and impressed with his generous nature swore eternal friendship with him. When Rama learns that Vali had taken away Sugriva's wife, his eyes grew red with rage and swore to Sugriva that he would kill Vali with his bow and restore his wife to him and make him king of Kishkinda. In order to give Sugriva confidence in his strength, Rama destroyed seven Sala trees with one arrow!  Sugriva now convinced agreed to challenge Vali with the understanding that as Vali and Sugriva were engaged with each other, Rama would shoot an arrow and kill Vali.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Kamba Ramayana 28, A study. Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada

Why go too deeply into this? They make good story material and illustrate social truths. Let's leave it at that. Logic will not solve the conundrum. ...Raghunath

Kambar picks the story of Hiranyakashipu from Bhagavata. He gives touches of his own to this well known story. Hiranyakashipu is colossal and all powerful. The waters of the rivers were too little for his colossal body. He had the combined force of all five elements of creation. He would rule the sun and the moon. Drunk with power he would usurp the functions of the elements, rule the winds and the storms, direct the motions of the oceans. His tread would crush the heads of thousand headed Adisesha - the primeval cobra that bears the earth on his shoulders. .. 

Not only the universe we see, but the one beyond also acknowledged his sovereignty and only his. Devas, yogis, rishis and even The Supreme Three-- all were his vassals and would live only by praising and blessing his name. By intense tapas he had obtained this awful power....he was ruling tyrannically over the universe without a second or a rival. Many ages passed thus and at length a child was born to him whom he named Prahlada.

While still in womb, Prahlada hears sage Narada, the great Bhakta, teaching his mother that Narayana was the one supreme god and the only true salvation here and hereafter. This message stays with him and he becomes a bhakta of Narayana from the moment of his birth. At five he is sent by his father to study with the royal guru.When the guru begins with a worship to Hiranya as ordained, the child shocks his guru by chanting, aum namo Narayana.

His guru tries to correct him, but Prahlada is steadfast in his belief and in fact tells his guru, O master of mine, this is the highest good: I pray to thee, bow to him. Very scared, the guru runs to the asura king and says 'thy son has uttered words I cannot pronounce'. Afraid for his life he is unable to even mention the name of Narayana openly. A confused father sends for his son and learns why his teacher is upset.

He patiently explains to Prahlada that he is now the lord of the universe and that Narayana has fled unable to face him. And tells his son lovingly 'I pardon thee thy childhood's prattle' and advises him to listen to his guru. But Prahlada is obstinate and even tries to convert his father. Tells him ' And as I feared, father, that thy vast power, and thy life itself, might vanish by thy contempt to the supreme lord. I sang his praises that thy days may be long and thy power be lasting!'

When Prahlada finished, Hiranya's rising  rage burst into a flame, throwing the very sun out of his sphere and the heavens out of their foundations. His eyes dropped blood. And to the terror of all worlds, he thundered out fierce words.....

 Finally he ordered; 'Put him to death'. When deadly weapons failed, they tried to throw Prahlada into the raging fire and failed. Then the king ordered an elephant be brought to crush him to death. God Indra himself  in fear supplied Airavata, but even that failed and so did many other attempts.

Finally Hiranya wants see the god who is protecting his son. A man-lion appears and there is a colossal battle and the ten thousand million asuras are killed and ultimately Hiranya meets his end as the man-lion takes hold of Hiranya's leg and turns him round and round and in the end places the body on his thighs and tears open the entrails.

It is again a story of the victory of good over evil. In the story we knew the man-lion came out of a pillar and devoured the asura. The story was much simpler and made for a good school play! I guess with today's animation techniques Kambars imagination which has run-riot will find a true dramatic representation!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Kamba Ramayana A study 27, It is all about Gods, Rakshasas and Vanaras!

Not surprisingly Kumbhakarana is depicted by Kamba as a tragic hero, similar to Bhishma or Karna. One, while able to discriminate between good and bad, who was unable or unwilling  to change. But his younger brother Vibhishana, born a rakshasa had nobler sentiments. So a rakshasa also could have human values. But on the other hand we know a human could easily turn out be a rakshasa!

When I said this, Raghunath agreed. I wonder if you know that on the way from Nagpur to Jabalpur there is statue of Kumbhakarrna, who is revered there! With all these examples we have to contend with our politicians.

But basically Ramayana is a story of a conflict between gods and rakshasas. Humans are incidental, Rama and Sita are avatars of the supreme gods and vanaras are minor gods who took birth to help Rama in vanquishing Ravana. While human race was relevant in this particular instance, I guess they did not amount to much those days. However the rishis were useful as they performed rituals and sacrifices to please gods and in turn hoped to benefit; themselves, the kings and others who provided support! It is said that gods also benefited in some ways!

The relationship between Humans and Gods is complex and Rakshasas made it more so. I quote from VR, Visvamitra said "Noble king of the mighty Ikshvaku dynasty guided by Vasishta you alone can speak thus. Let me now tell you the purpose of my visit, and may your pledge to do my will be redeemed! Engaged in performing certain rituals I am facing great hindrances, from the rakshasas Maricha and Subahu who have been raining flesh and blood on the sacrificial altar. These demons whose magical powers allow them to take any form at will, disrupt my efforts at all times and I have come away in despair. I cannot unleash my wrath upon them either, for the ritual is such that it forbids my uttering of curses while it is being conducted. 

I can relate to this frustration of Vishwamitra, he had the power but he was constrained.  He can be compared to the present day brahmins, I mean it not as a caste, but as a group of people who understand but are helpless in stopping the wayward present day rakshasas. 

The author brings in the story of an asura Hiranyakashipu, stronger than Ravana who was killed by an avatar of Narayana, the man-lion. Vibhishana narrates his story but is unable to convince his brother to give up Sita and leaves his brother a dejected person. A sad reflection of our present day values that one who is deemed to be a saint by many is branded a traitor by some!