Friday, May 23, 2014

A review of Bala Kandam as written in Valmiki Ramayanam, Adhyathma Ramayanam and Kamba Ramayanam

        Two days  back  I completed    the translation of Bala kandam of   “Ramavatharamof Kamban”  which is a book in Tamil. Though this was the original name     given to the book, over years  people  preferred   to call it Kamba Ramayanam.  Earlier I have  translated    The entire Valmiki Ramayanam from Sanskrit and the Adhyathma Ramayana from  Malayalam  has already been translated   by me. The original Adhyathma   Ramayanam is  in Sanskrit and is a part of Brahmanda Puranam.  It is supposed   to be written by Veda Vyasa     himself.
      The Ramayana of Valmiki     is   called the Aadhi kavya in Sanskrit i.e. the first epic. Sage Valmiki     who wanted a great book about a great hero   meets sage Narada    who    tells  to him the story  of Rama in a concise   form.  This is the first chapter  of   Valmiki Ramayana   and is referred to as   “SAmkriptha Ramayana”.  Lord Rama     was a contemporary of sage Valmiki .  Possibly due to this Valmiki   wrote the story “Rama the man”   who was known to him. Except in two places    Rama is not referred   to as God in the entire epic. There are no prayers addressed    to Rama  in the entire book. No character  including Hanuman refers to him as God. .There are no references to temples or prayers done in temples.  The  only prayer in the entire book is the Adhithya   Hrudayam , taught    to Lord Rama by sage Agasthya. There are many stories of several    characters    of Ramayana as well as other Gods  in that great book.
   Adhyathma Ramayana   or the  spiritual Ramayana is supposed   to have been written by Veda   Vyasa himself as a  part of Brhahmanda  Purana. .  It seems he was  greatly attracted  by  the divinity   in the personality  of Rama.  Unlike  the book by Valmiki,   Veda Vyasa wrote    about Rama , the God. . Almost every kandam (book) of the book has several prayers    addressed to Rama  .As soon as he is born , Kausalya his mother prays him . There are prayers of Rama in the book    sung by Asura characters like Khara   and Khabanda.  The bird Jatayu prays to him.  Sabari  the woman saint   prays him and so on.   Apart from that   Adhyathma Ramayana   contains the famous “Rama Gita”, which are   teaching of spirituality    by Rama to Lakshmana.
     Possibly one of the first books that was translated from  Sanskrit to the different languages   in India is the Valmiki Ramayana.  Most of those who attempted    the translation , did not translate verse by verse  of the original book.   Most of them were  not in agreement   with sage Valmiki   because they were all writing    about the God Rama and the Goddess  Sita. Most of them were  poets of  great standing   and wanted to  re write  the story   using their own verse.  One great scholar is of the opinion that    they should be called  as  trans-creations   rather than translations.  As a layman  I tend  to agree with this.  The most famous among these  trans-creations of Valmiki Ramayana are     Kamban’s   Ramavathara  Kathai  in tamil and Thulasidas’s  Ramacharitha Manasa     in Hindi . Kamban , called Kavi Chakravarthi (Poet emperor)  is a great poet. He starts with the premise that Rama is the  incarnation of Vishnu and Sita incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi.  Though he has mentioned in the introductory chapter , that his story   is based on Vamiki’s Ramayana , he follows   the rules of the grammar of Tamil in writing an epic. Because of this, the story  that   he presents appears different. I have not read Rama Charitha Manas and I do not know how it is different    from Valmiki Ramayana.
Till today  I have translated the Bala Kandam   of Valmiki Ramayana, Adhyathma Ramayana    as well as Kamba Ramayana.  I am giving below the differences that I noticed  IN Bala Kandam of these versions.. I have   listed the major turn of events in  the Bala Kandam of each of these  and have given   a summary of what is written in each of these great books:-
My translations   can be found in 
2.Adhyathma   Ramayanam-

Bala Kandam
      Bala Kandam is the first book of Ramayana  . It mainly deals with the Puthra Kameshi Yaga of Dasaratha and ends    with  the return of Rama  along with  his marriage    with Sita   to Ayodhya. This is possibly the only book of Ramayana   which deals only with happy incidents.
1.Number of verses.
      Bala Kanda of Valmiki consists  of 77 chapters    with about 2355 verses, The Bala Kanda of Adhyathma Ramayana    consists of only ten chapters  and that of Kamba Ramayanam   consists of 25 chapters   with 1311 verses.
2. Beginning  of the epic
    Valmiki Ramayana    begins    with   the summary narration  of sage Narada   to sage Valmiki  of the story of Rama  , When Valmiki decides    to write the epic, Lord Brahma   tells him that   he would be able to see   the Ramayana as it happened. Valmiki decided  on the meter to be used by  seeing  a hunter kill  one of the Krouncha bird pair. After he composes  it, he teaches it to Lava and Kusha , who go Ayodhya and sing it before Rama.Next two chapters describe  the city of Ayodhya  .
  Adhyathma Ramayana 
        ADhyathma starts    with  the telling of the story of Rama by Shiva    to Parvathi. It tells   how Lord Brahma orders a hunter   Valmiki to write the story. Then Shiva tells the story in detail of God Rama.
Kama Ramayana
      Kamba Ramayana starts with a prayer   to God. Then he  says , how  he is attempting an impossible job.. Tells about how the original story was    written by Valmiki  in Sanskrit. Then he   describes   , the river of Ayodhya, describes the country  , describes  the city  and finally about the    rule of  king Dasaratha.
3,How Dasaratha   got   sons.
  Valmiki Ramayana
      Dasaratha calls his councilors and tells them that   he wants to Aswamedha Yaga to get a son. Simanthra his minister tells him , about what he heard in Deva Loka that   if Dasaratha performs the Yaga    using the  services of sage  Rishya Srunga  .Then he tells the story of Rishya Srunga  . Dasarathathen brings  that sage to Ayodhya.  That sage performs the Aswamedha yaga for Dasaratha, At the end he also performs the Puthakameshti Yaga. Devas request Lord Vishnu to help them destroy Ravana and other Asuras. He says that he would be born to Dasaratha as a son  and requests them to be born as monkeys. A great being comes out of the sacrificial fire   and gives some Payasam to be distributed to his wives. Dasaratha gives half of the Payasam to Kausalya, half of the remaining to Sumathra  and half of what was remaining to Kaikeyi and  Whatever else was remaining     to   Sumathra again. Kausalya begets Rama, Sumithra begets  Lakshmana  and Sathrugna and  Kaikeyi begets  Bharatha, Dasaratha celebrates and gives   charity to Brahmins.
Adhyathma Ramayanam
    Dasaratha   did not have sons. As per the advice of   his Guru Vasishta, he contacts Rishya Srunga and  performs Puthakameshti,The fire God rises from the sacrificial fire  and gave Dasaratha , the Payasa, Dasaratha gave half the Payasa   to Kausalya and half to Kaikeyi  . Kausalya and Kaikeyi give half of what they received to Sumithra,When Rama was born to Kausalya  in the form of Lord Vishnu. Kaiusalya  [rays to that child  and he assumes the baby form.  Kaikeyi begets Bharatha and Sumithra begets  Lakshmana and Sathrugna.
Kamba  Ramayanam
  When Dasaratha tells  his Guru about his sorrow  in not having a son, Vasishta recollects how devas had appealed to Lord Vishnu and how he has promised them that    he would be born as a son  to Dasaratha. He tells   him  and advices him   to get the aswamedha sacrifice done  by Rushya   srunga. He also tells him   in detail    about Rushya Srunga. Dasaratha goes and brings the sage to do the Yaga..One ghost comes out of the sacrificial fire and gives a Pinda to Dasaratha   and orders him to distribute to his wives,DSAsaratha gives  A major portion of it to Kausalya and Kaikeyi and what is left   over to Sumithra. Kausalya begets Rama, Kaikeyi Bharatha and Sumithra begets Lakshmana and Sathrugna.. Here the story of Deva;s approach to Lord Vishnu is narrated.Dasaratha does special worship in temples. Gives lot of money to build them etc.
        It is interesting to note  that   there is no mention of any temple  in Ayodha in Valmiki Ramayana.
Viswamithra and  Rama
 Valmiki Ramayana
      Viswamithra comes to the court of  Dasaratha    for requesting him   to send Rama along with him to protect his Yaga. Dasaratha was reluctant. Urged by Vasishta   , Dasaratha sends Rama and Lakshmana    with Viswamithra.Viswamithra teaches them Bala and Athibala so that they can ward off    their hunger  and sleep. When they reach  God Shiva’s Ashram, Viswamithra tells them the story of Lord Shiva and the burning of Gpod of love by him. He also tells him about   the story of river Sarayu. As well as the Yakshi  ogress called Thataka . When  Rama was reluctant to kill THataka  , He quotes instances of Indra and Vishnu killing    women for the  good of people. Thataka is then killed by Rama. Indra requests  Viswamithra to give   him some great weapons which were   his ancestors. Viswamithra gives  Rama several divine weapons. The sage also gives Rama the control   of the weapons which were his ancestors and    told their   story. They reached the place where Mahabali  did his Yaga. and Vishnu did his penance.  Viswamithra then  tells   him the story of Mahabali and Vamana and starts  Yaga there. Viswamithra starts  his Yaga, For six days and six nights  no one comes. Asuras come to spoil the Yaga. Rama kills Subahu and throws Mareecha for a long distance  . Viswamithra completes   his Yag. Then Rama along with Viswamithra starts  to Mithila.
Adhyathma Ramayana
    When Dasaratha is reluctant    to send Rama along with Viswamithra, , Sage Vasishta tells  about the story of previous   birth of Dasaratha and tells him that Rama is lord Vishnu himself. Dasaratha sends Rama and Lakshmana along with sage Viswamithra. Viswamithra teaches them Bala and Athibala. They reach the forest of Thataka    and kill her. AS soon as she was killed she became a Yakshi   and wanted to go back to world of devas. Viswamithra taught several divine arrows to Rama. They reach Sidhasrama    and protect the Yaga   of Viswamithra.Rama killed Subahu    and   threw Mareecha to a long distance  . Mareecha surrendered to  Rama and became his devotee. There isa mention that Viswamithra     told them several stories. Then they started  towards Mithila.
Kamba Ramayanam 
    Viswamithra comes to Dasaratha    and requests    for help of Rama. He is reluctant. Viswamithra flies in to a rage  , Vasishta calms him down     and persuades   Dasaratha to send Rama along with the sage, They reach the hermitage  of Kama.  Then they all reach a desert. There is a detailed explanation of desert and its enviorment. Just by his look  that sage taught them two chants which made the desert cool for them.There they meet Thataka. Viswamithra   tells about her to Rama and requests to kill him.  Rama obeys his orders     and kills Thataka. Indra  appreciates   the act of Rama and requests him to give Rama  divine weapons. Viswamithra starts  the Yaga after giving him those divine weapons.  The asuras come. Rama  kills Subabhu  and throws out  Mareecha. After that they start  to go to Mithila.
Freeing Ahalya from the curse.
Valmiki Ramayanam 
Rama is told about     the Yaga being conducted by Janaka and also about Shiva’s bow  possessed by the king. When they take  rest, as per the request of Rama, Viswamithra tells about  His forefather Kushanabha   and his family up to his father Gadhi.  He also tells about his sister Gauthami who is a river. He further tells about river Ganga and her three branches, the birth of Karthikeya  , King Sagara, And king Bhageeratha who were his forefathers , They reach the town of Vaishali , where Viswamithra tells them the story   of churning of the ocean to get nectar, the story of Maruths . They reach  very near Mithila , There they see   a deserted hermitage  .  Viswamithra tells   the story of Ahalya. Indra who wanted to posses her badly came one day taking the form of her husband. Ahalya   , whose husband was an old man,  made love him inspite of her knowing that   it is not her husband. Gauthama comes and curses  Indra, to loose  his scrotum and testicles. He also cursed   Ahalya to become  invisible and live in that Ashram without food. Viswamithra tells Rama that  if Rama enters the hermitage Ahalya    would be purified.   The devas  graft   the testicle of a Ram    to Indra . Rama enters    the hermitage    and   frees Ahalya from her curse and rejoins her  with her husband.
Adhyathma Ramayana
     Viswamithra takes Rama to the lustrous hermitage  of sage Gauthama on their way to city of Mithila to see the bow of Shiva   which king Janaka has.He tells the story of  Ahalya, the daughter of Lord Brahma and wife of sage Gauthama.  Indra falls in love madly with her and goes to the hermitage when the sage is removed from the hermitage by a trick and possessed Ahalya.  The sage curses him that   he would have one thousand   generative organs all over his body. HE cursed Ahalya to become a stone and do penance.  He also told her that when Rama steps on her , she will regain her form. Rama stepped on the stone and she regained her  form. She then recites a prayer addressed to Rama. She was reunited with her husband.
Kamba Ramayanam
Rama along with the sage enters the  pretty Mithila. Near the gate of the town they had a strange experience  in giving  redemption to Ahalya.  Ahalya    was created as the most pretty lady by Brahma and given to sage Gautama  in marriage. Indra   fell in love with her.  So when the sage was away he came to his hermitage he made love to Ahalya.  She too realized that it was not her husband but permitted it. Sage Gautama came back , caught them red handed and cursed that Indra should have 1000  woman’s private parts on his body and Ahalya would become a stone. When Rama  was walking that way  , the dust of his feet touched that stone and she regained her form.  Sage Viswamithra took  Ahalya to the hermitage  of sage Gautama and  reunited Ahalya with him.  Then they proceeded to MIthila , the capital of king Janaka.
Marriage  with Sita
Valmiki Ramayanam
  Viswamithra and reaches the  place where  Janaka is performing his Yagna. Viswamithra introduces the lads to king Janaka, SAthananda the Guru of Janaka , who is the    son of Ahalya tells Rama about the story of the greatness   of  sage Viswamithra. Next day king Janaka tells how he   found Sita  and also the  the Shiva’s bow.  He told them when he put a condition   that those who want to marry her    should break Shiva;s bow, They are came to fight with him. Since he drove them away there are no  good suitors to the hand of Sita. Fifty hundred strong people drew that bow kept in a cart  and dragged the cart to that place. Rama easily strings the bow and breaks it. Messengers reach Ayodhya    and Dasaratha along with his teachers, ministers and army reaches Mithila.(He did not  bring his queens,) . Next day after his arrival    the marriage is celebrated. Before the marriage  Vasishta gives a detailed account of the clan of Rama     to Janaka and his relatives,. Then king Janaka tells about his clan and about his brother Kusadwaja. He offers  his daughter Urmila in marriage to Lakshmana   and the two daughters Mandavi  and Sruthakeerthi respectively to Bharatha and Shatrugna. The offer    is accepted. Meanwhile the  maternal uncle of Bharatha  Yudhajit who had gone to Ayodhya to see Bharatha reaches Mithila. The rites preceding the marriage   are  performed by the grooms as well as the brides.  Grains are put  in earthen pots to sprout. Janaka then gives  Sita in marriage to Rama to travel with him in the journey of his life like his shadow. Similarly  other brides also marry their grooms.
Adhyathma Ramayana.
   Sage Viswamithra   takes Rama  and Lakshmana and introduces   them  to king Janaka. Janaka wishesd that Rama is able to string the Shiva’s bow and get married to Sita. The tryambaka bow is brought by five thousand servants. Rama strings the bow and breaks it. Sita is decorated and she places the garland on the neck of Rama. King Dasaratha is informed about the marriage engagement.. Dasaratha   arrives along with his queens and younger brother of Rama. Janaka offers Dasaratha his other three daughters    to his other three sons.  Dasaratha   agrees to the proposal  . Janaka then tells them about the story of Sita. HE tells them that she is Yoga Maya . Janaka then recites a prayer addressed    to Janaka. After wards  Dasaratha  with all   his family members   starts   to  Ayodhya.
Kamba Ramayanam
    Viswamithra    along with Rama enters Mithila.  They pass near the home of royal maids.  Sita happens to see Rama and Rama sees Sita They fall in love. Sita and Rama suffer a lot due to love sickness. Then there is a very pretty description  of the city of Mithila. Rama and Lakshmana are  introduced to Janaka and his Guru Sadananda who is the son of Ahalya. Sadananda tells them the story  of  Viswamithra  and Vasishta. Sage Viswamithra then tells about the clan of  Rama. Next day sixty thousand servants bring the Shiva’s bpw. Sadananda then tells them about the story of that bow . Rama breaks the bow   King Janaka  , the sages and Devas   become happy. One of the friends of Sita runs and informs her about   the breaking of the bow. After hearing from her friends , Sita concluded that the person who broke the bow must be the one whom she loves, Janaka sends emissaries to Janaka with a proposal off  marriage.  Then there is   a very detailed description of  the travel of Dasaratha’s  people to Mithila. This contains detailed   description of all the people as well as    the  land through which they travelled. The queens and large   number of  ladies travelled with Dasaratha. Janaka receives them.  Rama and Lakshmana unite with their parents.  A  well decorated Sita meets   Dasaratha and his Guru. She is happy that she is going to marry some one whom she loves. The marriage is fixed for the next day. Great arrangements are made for the marriage by people of Mithila.  Rama gets married to Sita, The rituals  that are   followed are   that of a south Indian marriage . There is no mangalya dharana.   Rama’s mother    was not present during   the marriage  . Rama and Sita go and salute them later.  Next day the younger brothers of Rama marry the cousins of Sita. (their names are not  mentioned.   After some stay Dasaratha starts   home along with his family   and army.
Destruction of pride of Parasurama.
Valmiki  Ramayanam
    Sage Viswamithra leaves to Himalaya mountains to do further penance .  Dasaratha  starts with his family towards   Ayodhya. Janaka showers them with numerous presents. They saw that birds were crying out of fear . All animals went in clock wide direction around them . Vasishta tells  Dasaratha , that  omens are bad but would lead to good ending,  The fearful sage Parasurama appears    before them with  his axe as well as a fearful bow. The saints  offer him hospitality   and he started speaking to Rama. Parasurama told about his story as well as that of the Shiva bow.   He said Viswakarma made   another  similar bow and  gave it to Vishnu   and that was given to his forefathers.According to him the Shiva bow which was given to ancestors of Janaka had been damaged. He wanted Rama to  string his bow and shoot an arrow   with it. Dasaratha was scared. Rama easily bends the bow and keeps an arrow on it. He asks Parasurama whether it should damage his legs or take away  the effect of all good deeds done by him  Parasurama chooses   the later, He then salutes Rama and goes   back to Mahendra mountains. Afterwards   Dasaratha along with his people reaches Ayodhya comfortably.
Adhyathma Ramayanam
     While on his way back to Ayodhya Dasaratha     sees bad omens, Dasaratha asks Vasishta about them.. He said soon he would be scared   but later he would get over it.  The furious Parasurama makes his appearance then.  Dasaratha saluted him and also praised him. Parasurama claims that he is a superior Rama and challenges   Rama   to bend his Vishnu bow , Otherwise he asks him to be ready for battle. Rama with humility accepted  the challenge , bent the bow and  kept am arrow in it and requested Parasurama     to  show   the aim to that arrow. Parasurama then tells his story and said that Lord Vishnu had told that he would be born as Dasaratha’s son  .  Parasurama then  recites a stotra  praising Rama  ,He gave all his Punya’s as aim to Rama’s arrow    and goes   to Mahendra mountain for penance. Yudhajit the uncle of BHaratha takes Bharatha and Sathrugna along with their brides to Kekaya. Dasaratha  and Kausalya lived happily with their son and daughter in law.
Kamba Ramayanam
   Daratha with his army and people start to  Ayodhya. On the way , Peacocks   went round  them in Clock wise direction   and crows flew on their left side. The Omen reader was summoned and he told some thing bad will come but everything will turn out to be good.  At that  time Pasurama   a saint who has scared all  kings came before them. Dasaratha fell at his feet and requested him not to do  anything bad to Rama. Parasurama had brought the Vishnu’s bow.   He told the story of  how Shiva’s bow was damaged by Vishnu’s bow.  He wanted Rama to bent his bow and   shoot an arrow. If he was not able to it, he was required  to  fight with Parasurama. Rama easily did it and with Parasurama’s consent made   all the good deeds done by him as its aim.  Parasurama realized  that Rama was Vishnu himself   and left that place ,. Rama entrusted that divine bow to Varuna who had come  to witness the battle.  After Dasaratha and family reaches   Ayodhya, BHaratha and Shatrugna  leave to Kekaya country of their Grand father.
Once I complete the translation of other kandams   of  Kamba Ramayana , I proposed   to write    comparative reviews    and put them before you.