28.9.5 : THREE SUNDARAKANDAMS : VALMIKI, KAMBAN & TULSI ---  P.5

We shall close now with this interesting episode unique to Valmiki Ramayana. Hanuman has finally located Sita in the Ashoka garden, met her, talked with her, reassured her, exchanged tokens with her, and taken leave of her. Then he decides to do sufficient havoc to the fruits and trees in the garden in order to attracts attention from the Rakshasas, so that he may be taken to their King, Ravana.. (In Tulsi he takes permission from Sita to eat the fruits from the trees). The Rakshasis go to Sita and ask her who this monkey is, with whom she was seen conversing. Sita replies that she does not know him and this statement of Sita is a constant topic for debate among scholars whether Sita was right in denying knowledge about Hanuman. Her actual words are (Sundara-kanda, 42 - 8, 9, 10):

रक्षसां काम-रूपाणां विज्ञाने का गतिर्मम।

यूयम्-एव-अस्य जानीत योऽयं यद्-वा करिष्यति॥ अहिरेव ह्यहेः पादान् विजानाति न संशयः।

अहम्-अप्यतिभीतास्मि नैव जानामि कोऽह्ययम्।वेद्मि राक्षसमेवैनं काम-रूपिणमागतम्॥

rakshasAM kAma-rUpANAM vijnAne kA gatir-mama // 

yUvam-eva-asya jAnIta yo'yaM yad-vA karishyati / ahireva hyaheH pAdAn vijAnati na saMSayaH //

aham-apy-atibhItAsmi naiva jAnAmi ko'hyayaM / vedmi rAkshasam-evainaM kAma-rUpiNam-AgataM //

What means do I have for knowing about Rakshasas who take forms at will? You alone ought to know who he is and what he is about. Indeed a serpent alone has true knowledge about the feet of a serpent. No doubt about it. I too am exceedingly frightened and do not at all know who he really is. Of course I think he is a Rakshasa who can change his form at will.

We can go on like this enjoying all the three Sundarakandas. Before we end this enjoyment we should point out briefly some more of the unique master-touches of each poet in the narration of the story.

  • Right in the beginning, as soon as Hanuman overpowers Lankini, he debates about how to see Sita all alone one-on-one (‘ekAmekAM’) so that he can report to Rama what she thinks and says. (V.R. V-2-37). This is not in Tulsi or Kamban.

  • Ravana arrives at the Ashoka grove to see Sita. Valmiki simply says he was accompanied by several members of his harem. But Kamban builds on this. ‘Ravana’s entourage consists of the celestial damsels Urvasi, Menaka and Tilottama. One of them carries his sandals, another his sword, another his betel leaves’. Willing suspension of disbelief is necessary to appreciate this extravaganza of Kamban’s depiction!

  • When Ravana pleads with Sita to accept him, he says: “Your husband and brother-in-law are only coward-men who got cheated by just a deer in golden hue”. This kind of ridiculing speech is not there in Tulsi or Valmiki.

  • Ravana explains to Sita why he had to use the ruse of a deer and a consequent isolation of her to kidnap her. He says he could have killed Rama in a fight and could have captured Sita. But in that case Sita would take off her own life and that would beat his purpose! This argument is in Kamban but not in Valmiki or Tulsi.

  • When Ravana finally in anger at Sita’s words, lifts up his sword against Sita, it is Dhanyamalini, one of the women of Ravana, who prevents it by weaning him away from the act. This is in Valmiki. Tulsi says that it was the chief Queen Mandodari herself who did so. Kamban simply says, Ravana had one look at his sword and said to Sita: “The time to take your life has now come down from twelve months to two months. Decide what you want to do” and he left.

  • When Sita decides to take away her own life because of desperation and Ravana’s threatening to end her life in two months, Kamban adds to her logic an extra foresight, namely, the argument that Rama may not accept her even if he wins over all the Rakshasas! (K.R. V – 507).

  • In order to encourage Sita Hanuman says to her ‘mattaH pratyavaraH kaScit nAsti sugrIva sannidhau’ (meaning: There is not a single person in our Sugriva’s army, who is lower than me in prowess); So don’t fear. We shall overcome Ravana. This is in Valmiki, not in Kamban or Tulsi.

  • Go and enjoy the Ashoka vana fruits says Sita in reply to Hanuman’s saying he is hungry and wants to eat the fruits. This is in Tulsi, not in Valmiki or Kamban.

  • When Hanuman was bound by BrahmAstra, he was only apparently bound, says Siva to Parvati in Tulsi’s version. This is not in Valmiki. The fact that he was only apparently bound is in Kamban. Valmiki says the binding became ineffective because he was further bound by mechanical ropes. (V.R. V – 48 – 49).

  • Hanuman sees Ravana in the latter’s assembly in all the regal majesty and splendour and is rightly amazed at the extravaganza, the pomp and transparent power of the King of Lanka. Hanuman frankly appreciates the regality and power of Ravana, through the words: ‘aho rUpaM aho dhairyaM aho satvam aho dyutiH’ (V.R. V- 49 – 17). This is not there in Kamban or Tulsi.

  • When Hanuman was burning the entire Lanka by the flames in his tail, he thinks and regrets he might have burnt Sita also in the process and curses himself. This is in Valmiki, not in Tulsi or Kamban.

  • On the northern side of the Ocean, after Hanuman returns, the monkey army chiefs discuss whether they should go now and invade Lanka or go north and tell Rama about Sita’s presence in Lanka. This is in Valmiki, not in Tulsi or Kamban.

  • On the northern side of the Ocean, when Hanuman returns, he tells the other members of his group about his successful meeting with Sita, but does not tell them, out of modesty, how he fought the Rakshasas and how he set fire to the city of Lanka. This is in Kamban, not in Valmiki or Tulsi.

  • When reporting to Rama Hanuman says the Rakshasis were put to sleep by his mantras. This is in Kamban, not in Valmiki or Tulsi.

  • Kamban delicately handles the way Hanuman breaks the news of his successful mission to Rama in a deftly manner. Before he even begins to talk Hanuman, as soon as he reaches Rama’s location, he turns in the southern direction and bows down with hands joined above his head. This itself indicated to Rama that Hanuman must have seen Sita! This is not in Valmiki or Tulsi.

 

To know Kamban and live along with him in his imaginary excursions of fantasy, it is not possible by those who are only familiar with either Valmiki or Tulsi. Do you want to see before you the war between Hanuman on the one side and the Rakshasas on the other, in all its thrilling ups and downs? Do you want to see Lanka burning before your very eyes? Do you want to have a portrait of Rama for you to draw it minutely? Do you want to witness the gigantic ViSva-rUpa of Hanuman? Do you want to enjoy the literary heights of excellences of poetry, where the ‘what’ is indifferent and the ‘how’ is what matters much? Read Kamban!

 

Do you want to immerse yourself in the depths of devotion to God? Do you want to be mesmerised by the infinite splendour and compassion of Lord Shri Rama and Devi Shri Sita? Read Tulsi.

 

Do you want Hanuman to speak to you in person about his thoughts and vacillations? Do you want to shed tears at the suffering the spotless Sita underwent? Do you want to experience the drama of your own monkeyish mind play tricks with you? Do you want to keep reading an endless epic without being tired out? Do you want to participate in questions of dharma and adharma from great souls like Vibhishana and Hanuman? Go to Valmiki.

Each complements the other two.

Indeed these are three priceless gems

that can be treasured from

the ocean of Indian religious literature.

Om shantiH shantiH shantiH

 

 

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© 2017 by V. Krishnamurthy

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