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Different Versions of Ramayana

RANGASWAMY_at_plh.af.mil
Date: Fri Jan 31 1997 - 10:48:56 PST

Dear Members of the List,

It is true that there are several versions of the Ramayana due to the 
work of several poets. Mani correctly observed that each poet dwelt 
upon his personal favorite aspect of Lord Rama and poured out his 
feelings in the ensuing Kavyam. 

In this post, I would like to focus on some aspects of the different versions.
The striking similarity between Valmiki and Kamban is their thought process
in describing Hanuman's words to Rama, Lakshmana and Sugriva upon his arrival 
in Kishkinda after locating Sita. Both poets are cognisant of Lord Rama's 
anxiety to hear about Sita Piratti and thus carefully chose to put the 
words "Seen have I the Godess of Chastity" through the mouth of Hanuman.
(Kandain Seetai and DhrushtvA Seeta). The glory of Hanuman is brilliantly 
described in the Hanuman Chalisa of Tulsidas' version of the Ramayana.

Thyagaraja has rewritten the Ramayanam through his musical compositions. 
This is another endless ocean in itself and I shall focus on a couple of 
important Krithis. Pancharatna Krithis deserve a special mention since 
they represent the most important contributions of Thyagaraja. The Krithi 
Jagadananda Karaka has 108 names of Lord Rama and can be used to perform 
Pushparchana. The Ragam of this composition is Natai which denotes 
auspiciousness or Shubam. In Gowlai, Thyagaraja confesses to his short 
comings and pleads to Lord Rama for succour. The Arabhi krithi SAdinchane is 
devoted to the Anubhavam of both Ramavataram and Krishnavataram with the 
emphasis being on "Hare Ramachandra Raghukulesha...." which describes the 
majesty of Lord Rama. The Varali Krithi, Kanakana Ruchira,  
reflects considerable sadness on the part of Thyagaraja while the Sriragam 
Krithi Endaro Mahanubavulu concludes the Pancharatnam composition on a 
happy note. 

It is interesting to note the oscillatory behavior of the 
"Rishaba" swaram in the Pancharatna Krithis. Rishabam occupies its natural 
position in the Natai Krithi and reaches its nadir in Gowlai and oscillates 
between a crest and trough in Arabhi and Varali, respectively before 
attaining "steady state" in Sri Ragam. The Mohanam Krithi Mohana Rama 
is devoted again to the glory and majesty of Lord Rama. Nannu Palimpa in the 
same ragam was composed on the occassion of his daughter's marriage. The 
line "NA PrANa Natha" is indicative of this event. In the Arabhi Krithi 
Namoralanuvini, Thyagaraja asks of Lord Rama "What is it that I have done 
for you to stay away from me. Have I used deadly weapons like Tomara? 
What bribe did the elephant king (Gajendra) give you for you to rush to his 
rescue? What property did Draupadi give you for you to come to her succour 
when she was being disrobed in the Sabha?" The line "Raga SArayutha Prema 
Bhakta Jana Rakshaka Thyagarajarchita" is indicative of Sadguru Thyagaraja's 
Mahavishvasam in Lord Rama. In the Mayamalava Gowlai krithi Meru Samana, 
Thyagaraja emphatically declares that there is no one equal to you. Another 
Krithi in the same Ragam, Tulasi Dalamulache Santoshamuga was composed on 
the occassion when a Tulasi Mala (which used to be offered everyday 
for Lord Rama during Aradhana) could not be offered to Lord Rama during the 
Nitya Aradhana. Tulasi is also referred in the Kedara Gowlai Krithi 
Tulasi Bilva. 

In the Maruva Dhanyasi Krithi MrudubhashaNa, Thyagaraja dwells on 
the gentle nature and softspoken attributes of Lord Rama. In the Dhanyasi 
Krithi Sangita Jnanamu Bhakti Vina, Sadguru Thyagaraja dwells on the important 
truth "Of what use is musical knowledge bereft of Bhakti?". Thyagaraja then 
declares in this Krithi "I know that the six enemies (Kama, Krodha, Lobha, 
Moha, Mada and Matsarya) born from the body (Kayaja) can be conquered through 
the path of music". The beauty of the Sapthaswarams is described in the 
Jaganmohini Krithi "Shobillu Sapthaswara" (How beautiful the seven swaras 
are?). The line "Nabhi Hruth Kanta Rasana..." refers to the role of the 
Nabhi, heart, throat and tongue in producing the musical sounds. In the 
Shuddha Bangala krithi Rama Bhakti Samrajya, Thyagaraja emphasizes and 
offers eulogy to Rama Bhakti. In the Punnagavarali Krithi Tava Dasoham,
Thyagaraja declares that "I am your servant" and dwells on the Dasyam 
aspect of Nava Vidha Bhakti. 

As a young boy, my mother used to take me to the Ramayana Katha Kalakshepams 
of Sri Thoopul Lakshmi Narasimhan, who used to relate the Raghuveera Gadyam 
to passages from Valmiki Ramayanam. Sri Sadagopan performed a great service 
in translating for our benefit the RG, which helps me appreciate and enjoy 
Swami Desikan's Mahavira Vaibhavam all the more. An important reference to 
Sri Rama Padhuka is contained in the line "Padhukagriyabisheka Nirvartita 
Sarvaloka Yogakshema". Swami Desikan very succinctly describes the Mahima 
of Sri Ranganatha Divya Mani Padhuka through this salutation.

Sita Lakshmana Hanumaht Sametha Sri Ramachandra ParabrahmaNe Namaha,

Muralidhar Rangaswamy