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
1.Valmiki Ramayanam - http://englishvalmikiramayanam.blogspot.in/
2.Adhyathma Ramayanam- http://rajathathas.blogspot.in/
3.Kamba Ramayanam - http://englishkambaramayanam.blogspot.in/
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.