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The scenes in the beautiful Ashoka grove where Hanuman spots Sita are the most important ones in Sundara Kanda. The three poets excel one another with their depictions here, each with his own unique stamp of literary excellence.

Valmiki describes it. Hanuman, seated on the Simsupa tree sees an emaciated woman seated among Rakshasis, ‘wearing a soiled garment, (‘malina-samvItAM’ V-15-18) surrounded by rakshasa women, emaciated due to fasting, looking miserable, sighing again and again, like the pure crescent moon at the beginning of a bright fortnight.’ (V.R. V–15–8). ‘ like an intellect together with doubts, like a cast away treasure, like shattered faith, like frustrated hope, like success together with obstacles, like an impure mind, like fame that has fallen down by a false scandal’ (V–15–31, 32).

Hanuman reasoned: ‘The woman I saw whom Ravana was carrying away was of the same description with large sweet eyes, face like the full-moon, the eye-brows like Manmatha’s bow, black tresses of hair, coral lips and the narrow waist (V–15–26, 27). I believe this lady of golden colour (kanaka varNAngI : Shloka 46) must be the same Sita, Janaka’s daughter. The sari she is wearing is of the same colour, though faded. (V–15– 45). I do not find on her person those ornaments which she had dropped on the Rishyamukha mountain (and picked up by our monkeys). No doubt the existing ornaments are those which did not drop from her person’ (V–15–42).

From the manner of her clothing etc. and from the above arguments, he recognizes her to be Sita, -- even as ‘one is able to decipher with difficulty a text which being devoid of clarity of expression has undergone a change of meaning’:

आम्नायानां अयोगेन विद्यां प्रशिथिलां इव  ((V.R. V–15 -38).

AmnAyAnAm ayogena vidyAM prashithilAm iva” .


The ‘soiled garment’ (malina-samvItAM) expression and the shloka 45 of Valmiki (‘idam cira-gRhItatvAt’ :) get an elaboration in a whole stanza in Kamban that is nothing but beautiful: (Tamil) (K.R. V–336)

துப்பினால் செய்தகையொடு கால்பெற்ற துளி மஞ்சு

ஒப்பினான் தனை நினைதொறும் நெடுங்கண்கள் உகுத்த

அப்பினால் நனைந்து அருந்துயர் எயிர்ப்புடையாக்கை

வெப்பினால் புலர்ந்து ஒரு நிலை உறாத மென் துகிலாள்


tuppinAl ceytha kaiyoDu kAl peRRa tuLi manju 

    oppinAn tanai ninaithoRum neDungkaNkaL ukutta     

appinAl nanaindu aruntuyir eyirppuDai yAkkai    

  veppinAl pularndu oru nilai uRAtha men tuhilAL   


Rama’s profile compares with the black cloud that has arms and legs made of pearl. Thinking of him Sita’s longish eyes overflow with tears that wet her fine clothing. But the wetness dries up by the heat generated by the unbearable sorrow and the consequent heavy breathing. Thus her saree alternates between wet and dry and thereby accrues an uncertain quality.

But Kamban really shines most in this part of the narration in his 18 exquisite verses (340 to 357 of K.R.) under the heading ‘kollum ninaivugaL’ (Killing Memories) and (Recollections of the Past). While sitting and brooding over her thoughts about Rama, Sita recalls several striking anecdotes of the past. Here is a famous one about Rama’s reaction (in truth, the absence of reaction!) to the sudden change in his fortunes by the announcement from within Kaikeyi’s inner apartments made on behalf of his own father – the father, who, just the previous day, made the public announcement of his coronation and scheduled it for the next morning. (K.R. V-348 ௰

மெய்த் திருப்பதம் மேவு என்ற போதிலும் இத் திருத் துறந்து ஏகு என்ற போதிலும்

சித்திரத்தின் அலர்ந்த செந்தாமரை ஓத்திருக்கும் முகத்தினை உன்னுவாள்


Meyt-tiruppadam mEvu enRa pOdilum ittiruttuRandu Egu enRa pOdilum     

cittirattin alarnda sentAmarai ottirukkum mugattinai unnuvAL.

Both when the King proclaimed his ascension to the much coveted Royal throne and when the Queen ordered him to renounce kingship and go to the forest, Rama’s face showed no change and shone like the fully bloomed lotus in a picture.

The significance here is not just in the poet’s imagination of the lotus analogy to Rama’s face – which is common in Indian literature – but in the poet’s further imagination of the lotus as a fully blossomed one in a picture. A real lotus fully bloomed will not remain in that bloom for long. On the other hand the lotus in a picture will remain in the bloomed state for ever! See Valmiki’s rendering of this trait in Rama in 1.11.2.

Again one more among her recollections!: ((K.R. SundarakANDam: 351)

Rama’s acme of friendship finds expression in words uttered to Guhan, the poor boatman who rowed them across the Ganga: ‘My brother is your brother. You are my friend. This Sita is your sister-in-law’.

ஆழ நீர்க் கங்கை அம்பி கடாவிய ஏழை வேடனுக்கு எம்பி நின் தம்பி நீ

தோழன் மங்கை கொழுந்தி எனச் சொன்ன வாழி நண்பினை உன்னி மயங்குவாள்


Azha nIrk kangai ambi kaDAviya ezhai vEDanukku embi nin tambi nI    

tozhan mangai kozhundi enacconna vAzhi naNpinai unni mayanguvAL.

The words here remind one of an almost similar sounding song (with the same meaning) of Tirumangai Alwar (8th century C.E.) in his ‘Tiruvarangam: 5’, Song No. 1418 of the Four Thousand prabandhams : ‘Guhan, a non-entity, stranger, of low-class’ without thinking of such thoughts, Rama affectionately told Guhan ‘This Sita is your friend, this Lakshmana is also your brother and you are my friend’ .    

Tulsi transfers all sentiments to Hanuman’s mouth when he reports to Rama, on returning to him, in reply to Rama’s question on how Sita is sustaining her life. (T.R. V- 30)


nAm pAharU divas nisi dhyAn tumhAr kapAT /      

locan nija pad jantrit jahi prAn kEhi bAT //


Your name keeps watch night and day while Her continued thought of You acts as a pair of closed doors. She has Her eyes fastened on Her own feet; Her life thus finds no outlet whereby to escape.


These are excellent lines. Sita’s stay in the Ashoka Grove in Lanka is in the style of a prapanna, that is, of one who has surrendered to the Lord. These immortal lines of Tulsi must surely have had their inspiration from Valmiki’s own lines, which however occur in the scene where Hanuman is watching her from the top of the tree and admiring her divine devotional fidelity to Lord Shri Rama (V.R. V -16 – 25, 26):

नैषा पश्यति राक्षस्यो नेमान् पुष्प-फल-द्रुमान्।भर्ता नाम परं नार्याः शोभनं भूषणादपि।

एषा हि रहिता तेन शोभनार्हा न शोभते॥


naishA paSyati rAkshasyo nemAn pushpa-phala-drumAn /     

bhartA nAma paraM nAryAH shobanaM bhUshaNAd-api /         

eshA hi rahitA tena shobhanArhA na shobhate //


She is not seeing the Rakshasis, neither the flowers, fruits nor trees; with a single heart She is meditating only on Shri Rama - this is sure. Husband is indeed the greatest adornment for a woman greater than jewellery; this Sita though deserving of decoration, is not looking charming without Shri Rama.


Valmiki’s words ‘naishA paSyati’ are the key words here which prompted Tulsi to write those immortal word-combination of his, ‘nAma pAharU’. Valmiki has already used this concept of Right Vision being that which sees Rama and is seen by Rama; the occasion is in Ayodhya, when the preparations for the coronation are fully on and Rama is walking over to Kaikeyi’s apartments on the monumental call from father Dasaratha, which turned the course of events all the way around. The relevant shloka is famous (V.R. II -7-14). The whole world blamed the one who did not see Rama and the one who was not seen by Rama. Such a person would blame himself of it.

यश्च रामं न पश्येत्तु यं च रामो न पश्यति। निन्दितः सर्व-लोकेषु स्वात्माप्येनं विगर्हते॥ 


yaSca rAmaM na paSyettu yaMca rAmo na paSyati /

ninditaH sarva-lokeshu svAtmApyenaM vigarhate //


This chain of ideas also reminds one of the famous Bhagavad Gita shloka where the Lord says : He who sees Me everywhere and sees all in Me, to him I do not get lost, nor does he get lost to Me: (B.G. 6 – 30)

यो मां पश्यति सर्वत्र सर्वंच मयि पश्यति। तस्याहं न प्रणश्यामि स च मे न प्रणश्यति॥ 

yo mAM pashyati sarvatra sarvam-ca mayi pashyati /  tasyAhaM na praNashyAmi sa ca mE na praNashyati //


Kamban naturally waxes eloquent in these scenes. Just one stanza on this. (K.R. V – 403):


Did dharma keep vigil over Sita? Or is it the sum total of the good deeds of King Janaka? Is it the vigil of Chastity itself? Wonderful! Who else can protect oneself like this except Sita Devi? This greatness of the Devi cannot be described by words by such ordinary persons as I am.


There are more feathers to Valmiki’s cap here. Hanuman’s thoughts go on. Hanuman, the eye witness to the present status of this chaste and pure sita Devi, questions himself , sitting on the tree top, as to how Rama happens to live without this Sita who is so devoted to him. “This is She for whose sake Rama tormented in four ways from compassion from pity from grief from love; (thinking that) a woman has disappeared from compassion, depending on him from pity, wife has been lost from grief, a dear one from love.” (V -15 – 48, 49) “Although bereft of Her that Lord Rama is doing an impossible task by retaining His body and not being depressed by sorrow,” thinks Hanuman (V.R. V – 16 – 27) and (V – 15 – 51)

   दुष्करं कुरुते रामो हीनो यदनया प्रभुः। धारयत्यात्मनो देहं न दुःखेनावसीदति॥


                    dushkaraM kurute rAmo hIno yad-anayA prabhuH /  dhArayatyAtmano dehaM na dukhenAvasIdati//


                                                                                        CONTINUED IN 28.9.4

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