The Ramayana has been a perennial source of wisdom and enlightenment down the ages. Maharashi Valmiki's epic is unique in that it does inspire many an other poet to exercise his imagination on its theme and purport.
If you ask why the same Ramayana again, the Jnanapeeth awardee Viswanatha retorted, why the same food and the same family life again and again, day after day and explained that it is the same feeling, the same meditation and so the same contemplation on the Lord, Sri Rama. My devotion is mine, he concluded averring that the paramount thing in the kaavya according to our orientalists' creed is not so much the story as the exemplification of the rasa.
The body is sustained by food, the mind by the human, psychological relations, and the soul by the same Almighty. The delineation of Sri Rama has never been the same at two different hands. The achievement of the Kavisamrat is comparable to that of Valmiki's himself in that it has unravelled to me mysteries and revealed beauties that I failed to perceive till the Ramayana Kalpavriksha opened up before me wide vistas of fresh experience and incomparable ananda.
The Kalpavrisha, literally, is an all-giving tree, a wish-fulfilment miracle of divine blessing. It is in the shade of that tree that I had the good fortune to grow up. The glory of the tree is enchanced by a flood of moonlight-Adi Sankara's Saundaryalahari. The imaginative splendours-of sage Valmiki's Adi Sankara's and the Kavisamrat's together-make a sacred confluence in Sundarakalpavriksha.
In my own way I made a humble attempt to study the Kavisamrat's magnum oous, especially the sundarakaanda with a comparative outlook. I had a tremendous experience of getting into the depths of its meaning. It has ultimate relevance to the day to day life of human beings. I was struck with a delightful surprise when my experiment showed the bliss reflected in the common listener as it did in the learned.
It is fortunate that I began my discourses in Telugu with the exposition of Saundaryalahari under the auspices of Sri Satya Sai Study Circle. Accidentally one that was inspired at that time put his mind to recording the gist in black and white and reporting to ,Indian Express. If I had been an inspiration to my friend Dr.V.V.B. Rama Rao, so has he been to me. I was delighted by the letters of appreciation from the readers all over the state for the paper carried the items in all their Andhra editions. Earlier it had been a vehicle for my discourses on Saundaryalahari too.
A happy blend of Valmiki and Viswanatha found its manifestation in Sundarakalpavriksha. The title coined spontaneously brought the two poets under one shade to give shelter to devotees far and near. If this effort of ours inspires the readers to read the Kavisamrat, it would be a great help for them to derive the best from the original.
Perala Bharata Sarma
February 19, 1988
Sage Valmiki's divine epic, the Ramayana, and the imaginative achievement of the kavisamrat in his Ramayana Kalpavriksha give us the quintessence of Rama katha and Hanumat tatwa. The kavisamrat's rendering of the Sundarakanda taken in consonnance with Valmiki's portrayal offers us an exhilarating flight into the regions of the Supreme, the ultimate in realisation, said Sri Perala Bharata Sarma, Principal Maharajah's Government Sanskrit College, in his introduction to the series of weekly discourses at Vizianagaram recently.
Anjaneya underscores the Sivatatwa in Sundarakanda magnificently. In Kishkinda Kanda, Anjaneya speaks to Sri Rama, Sugriva, Nala, Dadhimukha, and the eight other vaanara warriors – the ekadasa rudras. Sugriva sends Anjaneya to see if Rama and Lakshmana are the ones sent to him in enmity by Vaali Anjaneya sees the divine brothers in his disguise as a Bhikshu. His question electrifies Rama and Lakshmana. They are glory in his very speech. Anjaneya is the master of language and grammar and a master of the Vedas. He is vaanara. Vaanara is the one who lives in the glory of vanaa. Kenopanishad has it that one who lives in Brahma is vaanara.
While the vaanaras sit thinking of crossing the ocean, Jambavan tells Anjaneya of the powers the latter does not know he really has Jambhavan is none other than Brahma himself. He knows all. He it is who reminds Anjaneya of his origin. He is the son of anjani (Agnisena Punjikasthala) and Vayu. This makes anjaneya realise that he is Shivatwa in unison with Shakti Kesari, his father, is in quest of Brahma. Son of such parents, Anjaneya is the seeker after Brahma. Not knowing his own greatness he sits at the back till woken up to his merit.
The namaka and chamaka say that Shiva is the Supreme of the Supreme and the lowest of the low. He is the jyashta and the kanishta too. So is Anjaneya. Combining in him the tatwa of both Shakti and Shiva, he goes out on Sri Rama's service. He makes obeisance to the Sun, the eight quarters and the five elements. His attempt to swallow the Sun right after his birth is symbolic of Vajraayudha which only renders his body strong as the diamond.
Like Shiva described in the Namaka and Chamaka, Anjaneya is “Aasusena” as well as “Aasu Radhaa” (Aasu sanayacha, Aasuradhayacha) his armies and chariots are spontaneous. He is one in many and many in one. He is both the chariot and the charioteer. He is strength as well the armour.
While Ravana is all dissonance (apasruti), Rama is all consonance and harmony. Sita is holy hymn. The quest for Devi Sita is the search for harmony and consonance. The sky path which Anjaneya takes is Vishnu path and the journey is symbolic of attaining Eeswaratatwa, the quality of Eswara, through manas.
March 16, 1987
Shiva is the one who knows Rama tatwa best. He is the consummate artist. His art is one of blessing his devotees. All vaangmaya is irradiated with the effulgence of his radiance emanating from His perfect union with Shakti.
Anjaneya is born with Shivamsa. He knows that Devi Sita, the object of his quest is the embodiment of Srividya Like Valmiki the kavisamrat too has a purpose in making Anjaneya pray to the Sun. The sun alone can abbreviate the ocean to the measure of a cow's hoof. None else can evaporate the ocean to that extent. Valmiki's epic is centred upon karuna rasa and the kalpavriksha upon shaanta rasa.
Sri Rama inheres in him Surya, Mahendra and Vaayu. The blessed Anjaneya sees Rama in unison with Devi Sita. For him to see them as separate in unthinkable. With Sita's darshan he feels having had the understanding of Rama tatwa in full.
The description of Anjaneya darting forth is significant. He dashes forth like an arrow shot by Sri Rama. The body is the bow and the soul is the arrow. The namaka and chamaka present an obeisance first to Shiva's anger, then to his arrow, then to his bow and then to arms. Dhanus is Shakti and the string is Shiva. The drawn bow represents geometrically brahmananda. The soul is the “doota” the messenger. The ones who see Anjaneya in his flight are the siddhas and the charanas travelling in the ethereal region.
Sloka 29 of Sarga I in Valmiki's Sundarakanda refers to Anjaneya as maarutatmaja, parvatasamkasah and Hanuman for the first time. Here the great devotee exhibits kumbhaka vidya in a unique way. He roars like a charged cloud. In Valmiki Indra follows Hanuman. Sachi Purandara Rishi goes along with Hanuman in kalpa vriksha.
Air-borne Hanuman looks like the king of birds. He looks like Garuda and he carries with him the tail which is a symbol of kundalini. Vaayu is happy that his son could accomplish the task of controlling the wind force. He is sure of his son's success. Rigveda speaks of three kinds of oceans ; the ethereal, and the watery, with the worldly one (samsaara) in the middle. Hanuman crosses all the three at the same time.
Four qualities are necessary for the success of Anjanaya's quest which is by no means an ordinary one. These are dhriti, drishti, mati and daakshyam. Anjaneya has dhriti as evidenced in his trampling to dust Mahendra Parvata. Drishti is shown in recognising Mynaaka as a friend sent by the devas, mati in becoming thumb-sized to pass through Surasa's gaping mouth opened a hundred yojana wide and daakshyam in identifying. Simhika as the one sent by the demons and smashing it. Wiith his mati he recognises Daakshayani as the one sent by the devas. Thus he exhiits the capacity to overcome the hurdles posed by the trigunas.
March 25, 1987
As the one bearing the chudaamani, the token for recognition. Hanuman proves his capacity to interpret insignia. He understands the nature and intent of Simhika by seeing her reflection in the ocean as a chaaya graha.
Strongly determined like a diamond he cuts through her entrails and kills her. Though his body is reduced in size, it did not become any lighter. The kavisamrat describes the corpse of Simhika. Hanuman, having scoured out the vitals, made the huge corpse of the demon float on the ocean for the serpents in the sea to cling to it.
Having leapt the hundred-yojana wide sea, Hanuman sees the wood lined coast. He sees the faces of the wives of the ocean, the points where the rivers become one with their lord, Saagara. Here comes an important revelation. Hanuman looks at himself, within himself and around. In order not to rouse suspicion, he condenses himself to his natural appearance. Anyone who has attained aatma jnaana would shed moha. Restraining himself. Hanuman becomes the normal being that he is.
The Kavisamrat gives a detailed description of the process of Hanuman's thinking. In his normal size he becomes indistinguishable. The pride-drunk and over-confident demons do not notice Hanuman's descent on to the Trikuta mountain. While sage Valmiki speaks of “Sacharu naanaa vidha roopa dhaari” just suggestively, the kavi-samrat elaborates it.
Hanuman appears for some time like a kapi, for some time a lion, for some time as an eagle, a lion and a horse to mislead the possible vigil of the demons. His assuming different forms is an effective camouflage with extensive practical sense. The exegesis is very significant.
His eyes appear like the Sun and the Moon and his body a ball of fire. Like the king of birds, Khaga Raaja, Hanuman descends on to the Trikuta Parvata. The very stones in the mountain experience an indescribable thrill. Vayudeva is happy that his son has accomplished a heroic deed and makes the waves of the sea send forth a spray in appreciation of the achievement.
Lanka appears as another Amaravati to Hanuman, with emergence of the true devotee there. Lanka will erelong be the abode of amaraas, the immortal ones.
The purpose of the epic is to make man humane. Rama is the perfect being, the poorna purusha, Man's efforts should be to become “Nara” shedding the tail by removing the “Vaa” before nara. Even a born demon can become humane if he learns the lesson of becoming humane as exemplified in Vibhishana. The devotee and the lover of god should try to become a kapeeswara by mastering the monkey in him.
March 26, 1987
The Sundara Kanda spans a 24-hour period from evening to evening. Hanuman lands in Lanka in the evening and brings back Sita's ring the next evening.
Hanuman with his tendency of a monkey sees the beauty of the gardens of Lanka suggestive of the chaitra radha of Kubera and Nandanavana of Indra.
The flight to Lanka has for him a three-fold purpose ; bringing about Ravana's ruin, looking forward to seeing Sri Rama's glory, and having a darshan of Sita. He is perfectly calm and composed. The poet describes Hanuman's frame of mind in a wondrous phrase; “Swasto dadarasaha”. He quickly realises that Lanka would render ineffectual the four traditional upaayas. An impeccable doota with infinite powers and infinite restraint he decides that the most important thing is to have a darshan of Sita first. He assumes the small shape of a cat to go about unseen. While he looks at the wonders of the constructions in the city, dusk falls. Suddenly he encounters the city's demon (commonly called Lankhini) who keeps observing him – he doubles his size and this makes her angrier. In Kavi-samrat's rendering she calls him 'Takkari Koti' (mischievous monkey) and “Alpishta Maayakruti” (mean and insignificant magical shape). Hanuman coolly tells her that he is only a Saakha Mruga and that the beauties of the city are meant to be seen. In a fury she slaps his face and opens her mouth like yama's portico. Hanuman does short work of her hitting her face with his palm. She fails down shattered. Out of pity he lifts her up in his arms. She tells him that she has been told by Brahma, the creator, that the demons would be destroyed when a monkey comes there, She tells him that he would have an easy victory.
Lankhini is the “manas” of the raakshasa puri. The upanishd speaks of manas as Kapi. With the entry of Hanumaa a new idea emerges extinguishing the earlier one. As such the city is in the dominating grip of Kapi.
Sarga 4 describes Hanuman's seeing of the city and its citizens.
In sarga 5 there are wonderful descriptions of the moon. In his descriptions of the moon, the Kavisamrat goes deep into the poetic imagination of Sage Valmiki and makes things explicit.
The moon appears like a lion in the sky. Sita appears like a lion in the cave of mandhara parvata. She also appears like the moon in the jaws of Raahu. The suggestion is that she would emerge victorious overthrowing evil.
The moon appears as prakaasa bindu, truth or brahman, vimarsabindu, its reflection as Shakti and finally as misra bindu, the reflection coming back from the mirror.
The description of the moon has to be related to the story at the surface level. At the deeper level, it has infinite metaphysical significance.
It was early evening the time we call pradosha veLa and asura sandhya, a time for prayers for the good-and for the evil ones to indulge themselves in lascivious revelry. The time inheres in it the evil that enveloped Ravana's mind as reflected in his disastrous carnality.
The most important revelations in the epic are the daivi pravritti in Sita, muni pravritti in Sri Rama and raakshasa Pravritti in Ravana.
April 4, 1987
Hanuman begins his search in the fifth sarga which has significantly the number of slokas, perhaps to coincide with the stars in the nakshatramaala. The sarga begins with a description of the moon and ends with the grief of Hanuman for not having been able to have the darshan of the Divine Mother. He does not see the real moon of Sita's face.
The seeker imagines how Sita would look. She would appear like a barely visible crescent moon. Grime covered golden-creeper, an unhealed would which appears healed outside and like a wisp of cloud tossed by the wind. The most significant is the reference to the unhealed would inside Sri Sita's mind. With the passage of time outwardly she maintains majestic calm and silence.
The sixth sarga depicts Hanuman passing through the royal thoroughfares of Lanka. He is described as Lakshmivan on having entered Ravana's palace. We find in the descriptions here the conscious artist's deliberate effort to produce an effect. A great radiance encircles the palace. Ravana years to equal the glory of Sri Rama. He snatches the latter's consort and in everything he vies with the Lord ultimately to his own doom and destruction.
We say that the face is an index of the mind. So too, the house is the index of owner's personality. While sage Valmiki made use of adjectives to describe the house of Daanavas like Kumbhakarna the house of Vibhishana was just mentioned. While others look ostentatious it looked simple.
The seventh sarga describes the pushpaka vimaana and the place of Ravana. On the pushpaka were seen designs and pictures of mountains, trees, flowers and others. The pollen is symbolic of re-creation and cyclical action. With Lankhini won over, the Kapi dominates the spirit of the city.
The pushpaka which plays such a wonderful role in the epic is also a beautiful symbol. Hanuman sees it as “agryamudaamalayam”, the most beautiful abode of the happiest.
It is the one capable of giving the greatest joy to those capable of enjoying the loftiest aananda.
Taittreya Upanishad calibrates a 12-point scale of ananda starting from manushyaananda compared to that of an emperor. The next point is joy raised a hundred-fold called pitrudevataananda and so on in geometric progression. Ultimately to Brahamanaananda-which is Brihaspatiaananda raised a hundred fold.
The pushpaka should have been possessed by none else than Sri Rama. But it was in the possession of Ravana. It looks more beautiful than anything, it is a symbol of Sita too for it spreads not only joy but also fragrance.
The ninth sarga describes the cook house. The fragrant air personified invites Hanuman to come nearer. Raavana paalita the Sala, invites Hanuman to come and eat Ravana himself.
Saga Valmiki's greatness lies in the description even or earthly things which one normally thinks escape the seer's notice. Lanka is real and Lanka is within us. Man is enjoined by the divine to transcend it by coming out victorious from the trammels that hold him down.
April 13, 1987
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