Though the scholars in the country have tried to trace the genesis of the Ramayana from the Vedic and post-Vedic literature, with the fragments of the story of Rama found scattered in these texts, but the most important job in the composition of the story of Rama was done by the sage Valmiki, who happened to be the foremost of the Indian Sanskrit poets. He composed the work on the basis of the brief of Rama’s story provided to him by the sage Narada, as well as the figments of the story collected by him with the extensive travelling of the country which immensely added to its popularity with the masses. After the sage Valmiki, several subsequent poets brought out Ramayana texts in Sanskrit as well as in the regional languages. The work composed by Madhava Kandali in Assamese language happens to be one of the earliest works of medieval period, having been composed in the fourteenth CCflttll3’ Al). The Ramayana of K4ttivasa was composed in the fifteenth century, while the Ramacaritamanasa by Tulasidasa in the sixteenth century AD. The work of Madhava Kandali was composed on the basis of the Valmiki Ramayana, though some variations are noticed here and there. The present work is an English translation of the Madhava Kandali Ramayana in Assamese.
Shanti Lal Nagar served in a curatorial capacity in the Central Asian Antiquities Museum, New Delhi and Archaeological section of Indian Museum, Calcutta. He has to his credit the scientific documentation of over fifty thousand antiquities. He was awarded a fellowship in 1987 by the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi for his monograph, The Temples of Himachal Pradesh. He has authored several works.
“Those who understand really that “I am myself” and also speak it out, they cannot be called the worldly people. Indeed they possess the form of Rama. There is no doubt about it. This is Upanisad. The one who knows about it, he achieves salvation. Thus spoke the sage Yajnavalkya.”
—Si Ramottaratapini Upanisad; Ramarahasyopanisad
HE story of Rama has been popular with the masses in the country from the time immemorial, the fragments of which have been traced by Nilakantha, the great Sanskrit scholar of his time from the Rgvedic texts.
The collection by him of Vedic hymns which are 157 in number points to the important events in the Ramayana, composed by the sage Valmiki at a considerably later stage of the Indian history. As to the Vedic origin of the Rñrnàya2a it may be pointed out that though the entire story of Rama could not be made out from the Vedic texts, duly supported by the conclusive evidence, but evidently the story of Rama was quite popular in fragments in the country, the germination of which could be available in the Vedic texts. In this connection, it may be pointed out that the correlation between the story of Rama and the Vedic literature cannot be completely ruled out be- cause according to the Valmiki Ramayana it was the great seer Narada who inspired the sage Valmiki to compose Ramayana on the basis of the brief of the story he conveyed to the sage. Now the sage Narada happened to be the son of Brahma, the custodian of the Vedas. It could, therefore, be inferred that Brahma, who was the reciter of the Vedas must have conveyed the brief of the story of Rama to Narada, in the full background of the Vedic hymns, which in turn was conveyed by Narada to Valmiki, who composed the Ramayana in the background of the brief of the story provided to him by Narada incorporating several fragments of the story in vogue in the contemporary society. But the number of such fragments was so large and widespread, that the sage Valmiki could take care of only a limited number of them and many fragments of the said story were still left out and some of them were patronised by the poets of the subsequent times, while composing their respective works. In this connection it may be kept in view that Nilakantha has tried to trace most of the characters and events of the Ramayana in the Rgveda.
1. The Seers
First of all we consider the case of the seers, who frequently not only appear in the Ramayana but also play important roles in the development of the story. The seers commonly available in the Ramayana and Rgveda are listed hereunder:
Seers – Brief Vedic references
1. Agastya – Rgveda, VII.33-10
2. Atri – Ibid., fifth Mandala
3. Bharadvaja – Ibid., VI.13.3
4. Bhargava – Aitareya Brahmana, VII.21, Kausitaki Brahmana, XIII.4
5. Gautama – Satapatha Brahmana, IV.1.5.1
6. Narada – Atharvaveda, V.19.9
7. Rsyasrnga – Jaiminiya Upanisad Brahmana, III.48.1
8. Vasistha – Rgveda, seventh Mandala
9. Visvamitra – Ibid., III.35.5
10. Vibhandaka Kasyapa – Vimsa Brahmana
11. Ahalya – Satapatha Brahmana, III.B.4.18
Besides the countries like Kaikeya and Kosala are also found mentioned in the Vedic and post-Vedic literature.
2. Royal personalities
Some of the kings of the Ramayana are found mentioned in the Vedic texts, though it would not be that easy to fully re cognize them as the personages of the epic:
Name – Vedic texts
1. Rama – Rgveda, 1.93.14
2. Dasaratha – Ibid., I.126,4
3. Iksvaku – Ibid.
4. Janaka – Taittiriya Brahmana, 3.10.9, of Krsna Yajurveda; Satapatha Brahmana, XI.3.1-2
5. Laksmana – Atharvaveda, IV.141.2
6. Raghu – Rgveda, V.45.9
7. Bharata – Ibid., III.9.22, 24,33
8. Sita – Ibid., IV. 57.6-7
9. Hanuman – Ibid., X.79.1
10. Satru – Ibid., I.33.13
3. The Demons
1. Kabandha – Rgveda, V.85.3
2. Ravana – Though his name as such is not to be found in the Vedic literature but several events connected with him have been brought out by Nilakantha in Mantra Ramayana.
Though it has not been possible to trace the names of the demons like Ravana, Meghanada and Kumbhakarana in the Vedic literature in the true sense of the term, but Nilakantha has tried to interpret some of the Vedic hymns which indirectly mention about them. A few such events are quoted here:
1. The hymn VI11.33—1 6 of the Rgveda has been interpreted by Nilakanthha to project the scene where Surpanakha is desirous of possessing Laksmana, and Rama tells her that Laksmana neither moved according
to the command of his brother nor her, and they were all under his command.
2. The hymn X.14.2 of the I5gveda has been interpreted to mean that the
gods offer prayer to Rama after the killing of the demon Khara.
3. The hymn X.80.7 of the Rgveda, has been interpreted to project the
prayer of the sages after the killing of Marica, the illusory deer by Rama.
4. The hymn X.34.12, of the Rgveda has been interpreted to mean that
Sita issues a warning to Ravana (who had approached her for forcibly
taking her away) that she would destroy the demon race.
5. The hymn X.34.12 of the Rgveda is interpreted to project the creation
of illusory Sita, by the god Agni known as shadow Sita, taking the real
Sita into his fold. The same hymn is believed to project the abduction of
Sita by Ravana.
6. The hymn X.55.5 of the Rgveda projects, according to Nilakai3tl a, the
scene in which Jatayu tries to create obstruction for Ravana while forcibly carrying Sita and killing of Jatayu at the hands of Ravana.
7. The hymn X.55.7 of the Rgveda is interpreted by Nilakantha to project
that the gods like Indra and others were ordained to be born on earth
in the form of animals for helping Rama.
8. The killing of the demon Kabandha by Rama has been visualised by
Nilakantha in hymn V.85.3 of the Rgveda. The demon Kabandha is clearly
9. The friendship between Rama and Sugriva is believed to have been projected in the Vajasaneyisamhita (111.50) by Nilakantha.
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