Kamban Ramayana

2010

Kamban

Taoshobuddha
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Kamban Ramayana

2010

Kamban Ramayana
© 2010, Taoshobuddha

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All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the original publisher on the one who has no small seeds knows this is no more as TAOSHOBUDDHA MEDITATIONS.

Cover design and graphics: Anand Neelamber Photography: Taoshobuddha

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Kamban Ramayana

2010

TAOSHOBUDDHA

The word Taoshobuddha comes from three words, ‘tao,’ ‘sho,’ and ‘Buddha’. The word Tao was coined by the Chinese master, Lau Tzu. It means that which is and cannot be put into words. It is unknown and unknowable. It can only be experienced and not expressed in words. Its magnanimity cannot be condensed into finiteness. The word Sho implies, that which is vast like the sky and deep like an ocean and carries within its womb a treasure. It also means one on whom the existence showers its blessings. And lastly the word Buddha implies the Enlightened One; one who has arrived home. Thus, Taoshobuddha implies one who is existential, on whom the existence showers its blessings and one who has arrived home. The Enlightened One!
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Kamban Ramayana

2010

‘ Kamban sang the story of Rama as of god come down on earth to suffer, chasten, uplift, help and guide man apart from this difference in the treatment of the hero there is considerable difference in the poetic form between Valmiki and Kamban. Kamban’s Ramayana is a lyric while Valmiki’s is an epic. The lyrical sparkle of Kamban and Tulsi das goes well with their constant reminder that Rama is Supreme Being himself.’

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Kamban Ramayana

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‘RAMAVATARAM’ KAMBAN RAMAYANA
Ramayana is one of the most popular epic. The epic revolves around the story of Sri Rama as the seventh incarnation of Sri Vishnu one of the Hindu Trinity. The story of Sri Rama is the oldest epic in human history. It is also revered as a Holy Book by devout Hindus. Sage Valmiki, the author of the original epic in Sanskrit, is hence known as Adikavi (first poet). Following his footsteps, many a great poets throughout Asia have retold the story in many different languages since ancient times. In modern period, all Western languages have at least one popular translation of this ancient holy epic of India, and that of humankind. In essence, Ramayana tells the story of Sri Rama, the seventh avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu Himself. Vishnu, at the behest of the devas (celestial gods) and sages, descends on Earth as Sri Rama - the son of King Dasaratha of Kosala kingdom and Queen Mother Kausalya to protect the righteous, to destroy the wicked and to re-establish dharma - the rule of law, virtue and peace. As the atrocities of demon king Ravana increased manifold it was necessary for the divine force to
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2010

descend in human form and once again establish the kingdom of light and awareness. Among the many versions of Ramayana, three stand as tall as the Himalayan Peak itself due to their popularity, devotion and poetic beauty: 1. ‘Ramayana’ by Sage Valmiki (original author) in Sanskrit. 2. ‘Ramavataram’ by Kavicakravarti Kamban in Tamil (9th Century A.D), and 3. ‘Ramacaritamanasa’ by Saint Tulsi Das in Hindi (16th Century A.D). Original Ramayana was written in Sanskrit language by Sage Poet Veda Vyas. This is known as Adhyatma Ramayana. The story was the later narrated by sage Valmiki again in Sanskrit language as Ramayana. Tulsidas recomposed the episode in Avadhi script of Hindi language in 15th century as RamCharitManas. Among the three version the version of Tulsidas is most popular among the seekers and devout Hindus world over because of it language and simplicity. ‘Kamban sang the story of Rama as of god come down on earth to suffer, chasten, uplift, help and guide man. Apart from this difference in the treatment of the hero there is considerable difference in the poetic form between Valmiki and Kamban. Kamban’s Ramayana is a lyric while Valmiki’s is an epic. The lyrical sparkle of Kamban and Tulsi Das goes well with their constant reminder that Rama is supreme being himself.’

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Ramayana was also composed by many regional poets in their language. Among these the Bengali version composed by poet Kritivas as ‘Kritivas Ramayanum’, Tamil version by poet Kamban as ‘Kamban’s Ramayana’ are very famous. However, Ramavatharam or Kamb Ramayanum is different from the Sanksrit original in many aspects - both in spiritual concepts and in the specifics of the story line. The epic is quite well known both in Tamil literary world and in Hindu spiritual world for the color of the poems and their religious value. Kamban was a medieval Tamil poet and the author of the Tamil Ramayanam known as Kamba Ramayanam, the Tamil version of Ramayana. Kamban also authored other literary works in Tamil such as Erezhupathu, Kangai Puranam and Sarasvati Anthati.

Birth and Life
Kamban belonged to the Ochchan or Occhan caste. Traditionally the caste was ‘nadaswaram players’ in southern India. Kavi Kamban was born in the 9th Century in Therazhundur, a village in the culturally rich Tanjavur district in the modern state of Tamil Nadu in South India. The poet belongs to a family who had Lord Narasimha, another avatar of Lord Mahavishnu, Who emerged from Kamba (pillar) to save the child devotee Prahlada, as their family deity. His devoted parents named his as Kamban.
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Kamban was a great scholar of India's two ancient and rich languages, Sanskrit (Indo-European) and Tamil (Dravidian). The ‘Ramavataram’ of Kamban is an epic of 10,000 odd verses, of 4-lines each. Kamba Ramayana is not a translation of the Sanskrit epic by Adikavi Valmiki. Instead it is an original retelling of the story of Sri Rama, as the incarnation of Lord Tirumal (Mahavishnu). The lyrical beauty, brilliant use of rhyme, simile and the astonishing variety of his poetry yet still conforming to the strict classification of verses in classical poems in Tamil language earned him the title, Kavicakravarti (Emperor among poets). He is also known as ‘Kamba Nattalvar’, as he revived the greatness of Tamil language through his work during the medieval period. However Kamban was brought up in the household of a wealthy farmer in Vennai Nellur in South India. The Chola King Rajendra Chola heard of this talented bard, and summoned him to his court where he was honored with the title ‘Kavi Chakravarthi’ or The King of Poets. Kamban flourished in Therazhundur, a village in the culturally rich Thanjavur District in the modern state of Tamil Nadu in South India. Kamban was a great scholar of India's two ancient and rich languages, Sanskrit and Tamil. Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar in a scholarly biography, ‘Kavichakravarty Kamban’ writes in detail about this poet. According to tradition, Kamban's son, Ambikapathi was slain after having fallen in love with the King's daughter and Kamban himself had to flee. In his old age, he was obliged to
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support himself doing manual labor. He was then supported and patronized by his friend Vallal Sadaiyappa Mudaliar.

Kamba Ramayanam
The original version of Ramayana was written by Sage Valmiki. This epic of 24,000 verses tells of a Raghuvamsa prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, a mighty emperor. In Hindu mythology Rama is considered to be the Seventh incarnation of God Vishnu, one of the Hindu holy trinity (Brahma and Shiva completing the trinity). The Ramavataram or Kamba Ramayanam of Kamban is an epic of about 11,000 stanzas as opposed to Valmiki's 24000 couplets. The Rama-avataram or Rama-kathai as it was originally called was accepted into the holy precincts in the presence of the Vaishnava Acharya Nathamuni. Kamba Ramayana is not a translation of the Sanskrit epic by Valmiki, but an original retelling of the story of the God Rama. The poetic work is well known for its similes. Legend has it that the entire episode was written in one night by Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is said to have written the poems that Kamban dictated to him during the night, as Kamban procrastinated the work till the day before the deadline set by the King. There is also a legend that Ottakuthar, another eminent Tamil poet also composed Ramayanam. But

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Kambaramayanam was accepted by other poets. Hence he burnt his composition. However Kamban recovered last two chapters of Ottakuthar composition and added into his composition. Bala kaandam, Sundara kaandam, Yudha kaandam, Ayodhya kaandam are four main parts of six parts called Kaandam in Kambaramayanam.

Kambar's specialty
Many Tamil poets, statesmen, kings, common people all have praised Kamban for his Kamba Ramayanam which has more than 10,000 songs forming a greatest epic of Tamil. Kamba Ramayanam has more than 45,000 lines of sweetest phrases and Poems we could ever see. Often poets would say that, the mill in his house would also sing poem. Such is his ability to catch minds. Also he is so special in singing poems under ‘viruthapa’, One of the ‘kurunila paa’ , central themes of poem. The arangetram or Inagural public rendering of Kamban's 'Ramavataram' was done at the Great Temple of Srirangam, to an assembly of eminent poets, under the auspices of the philanthropist, Sadayappan of Tiruvennainallur of the Chola Kingdom in the Tamil Country on the day of the Uttara star, in the month of Phanguni, in the eight hundred and seventh year of Salivahana saka.

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Structure of the epic
The book is divided into six chapters called Kandam in Tamil. 1. Bala Kandam (Chapter: Childhood) 2. Ayodhya Kandam (Chapter: Ayodhya;) 3. Aranya Kandam (Chapter: Forest) 4. Kishkinta Kandam (Chapter: Kishkintha) 5. Sundara Kandam (Chapter: Beautiful) 6. Yutha Kandam (Chapter: War) The Kandams are further divided into 123 sections called Padalam in Tamil. These 123 sections contain approximately 12,000 verses of the epic.

Compilation
As with many historic compilations, it was very difficult to discard the interpolations and addendum which have been added over a period of time to the original. This task was taken up a committee of scholars headed by Prof. T P Meenakshi Sundaram called the Kamban Kazhagam or Kamban Academy. The compilation published by this committee in 1976 is what is used as the standard today.

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Literary Significance
Kamban's use of Virutham (Tempo) and Santham (Tune) in various verses is effective in bringing out the human emotion and mood setting for storytelling. He achieves the Virutham and Santham by effective choice of words.

Religious Significance
Till date, this epic is read by many Hindus during prayers. In some house holds the entire epic is read once during the Tamil Month of Aadi. It is also read in Hindu Temples and other religious associations. This epic is the living proof that the worship of Rama started in Tamilnadu. On many occasions, Kamban talks about surrendering to Rama, who is a manifestation of Vishnu. The chapter, Sundara Kandam, is considered quite auspicious and is the most popular. The chapter talks about the hardships faced by the main characters in the epic, their practice of restraint and hopes for a better tomorrow. Justice M. M. Ismail, an erudite Tamil scholar especially in Kamba Ramayana, brings out the uniqueness of Kamban in the following statement: "Kamban sang the story of Rama as of God come down on earth to suffer, chasten, uplift, help and guide men. Apart from this difference in the treatment of the hero, there is considerable difference in the poetic form between Valmiki and Kamban.
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Kamban's Ramayana is a lyric, while Valmiki's is an epic. The lyrical sparkle of Kamban and Tulsi Das goes well with their constant reminder that Rama is the Supreme Being Himself." ‘Rama walked majestically towards Siva's bow, putting even the lion, the bull, the golden Meru, and the elephant to shame. With ease and elegance, Rama took the bow which lay on the ground like a big golden mountain... They just saw Rama taking the bow in his hand and instantly heard the sound of the breaking bow!’ - Kamban The Ramavataram or Kamba Ramayana of Kamban is an epic of over 10,000 verses, of 4-lines each. Kamba Ramayana is not a translation of the Sanskrit epic by Valmiki, but an original retelling of the story of the God Rama. The poetic work is well known for its simile. Simile is an Italian musical term meaning ‘similarly’; it indicates that the performer should continue to apply the preceding directive, whatever it was. For example, a series of dynamic changes to be repeated in many measures would make the music crowded. Legend has it that the entire episode was written in one night, and Kamban procrastinated the work till the day before the deadline set by the King. There is a saying that Kamban veetu kattu thariyum kavi paadum, loosesly meaning, Even Kamban's kettle can pen a poem.

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The great writer was also influenced by the Vaishnavite literature before time where the story of Rama has been emphasized. Kamban like Bhakti saints had the supreme command over the art of versification. He was a master of characterization and description. Other than the major characters, even the minor characters like mantra etc are brought to the fore by his magic touch. He was also adept in the technique of stage management. It was no small measure due to Kamban’s Ramayana that the story of Rama became very popular in the ancient Tamil country. This also succeeded in reviving great the greatness of the Tamil language. It is known as Ramavataram, an epic of 10,000 odd verses of 4 lines each. Kamban used his own lyrical beauty brilliant rhymes, similes and the astonishing variety of poetry yet still conforming to the strict classification of verses in classical poems.

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‘ Kamban sang the story of Rama as of god come down on earth to suffer, chasten, uplift, help and guide man apart from this difference in the treatment of the hero there is considerable difference in the poetic form between Valmiki and Kamban. Kamban’s Ramayana is a lyric while Valmiki’s is an epic. The lyrical sparkle of Kamban and Tulsi das goes well with their constant reminder that Rama is Supreme Being himself.’ However, Ramavatharam or Kamb Ramayanum is different from the Sanksrit original in many aspects - both in spiritual concepts and in the specifics of the story line. The epic is quite well known both in Tamil literary world and in Hindu spiritual world for the color of the poems and their religious value.

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