: Balakanda Aydhyakanda Aranyakanda & Kishkindhakanda
Part II : Sundarakanda & Yuddhakanda
We have great pleasure in bringing out this edition of the monumental work of Sri C.R. Sreenivasa Ayyangar. We had published earlier his Tamil translation of the Ramayana. After publishing this, we had the desire to bring out the reprint of his English translation also. The first edition of the English translation from Balakanda to Sundarakanda with exhaustive notes based on the commentaries was published by Sri C.R. Sreenivasa Ayyangar during the years 1910 to 1932 (Balakanda in 1910; Ayodhyakanda in 1914; Aranyakanda in 1914; Kishkindhakanda in 1927 and Sundarakanda in 1932). The Author could not complete the Yuddhakanda before his life time; it was partly done by him and completed by several other scholars. We have been in search of a scholar of a dedicated service, who can undertake the correcting and editing the age-worn typed manuscripts of the Yuddhakanda and to correct the printer's proofs of the whole book when taken up for printing. It is indeed our good fortune that Dr. N. Gangadharan, Reader, Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras came forward to assist us in this noble venture.
The first edition of Balakanda to Sundarakanda was published with notes; but our this edition is published without the notes. The unique feature of the translation is that it is not a mere translation; but it incorporates the rich cream from the popular commentaries -on the text as stated by the translator himself in his introduction. The rich material contained in the commentaries has been utilised to explain, amplify or reconcile certain ideas in the text according to the need.
The translator has referred to the different recensions, editions Besides those it may be pointed out that a critical edition of the text was brought out-by the Oriental Institute. Baroda, during the years 1960 to 1971. This edition gives a concordance of verses in the different editions. Quite recently. a pada index has been brought out by the same institution.
The Ramayana has been very popular with the public. It has spread to different parts of the country and the world as a whole. It has permeated every class of literature - the sister epic Mahabharata and the Puranas, etc. It could be known from Dr. Raghavan's "Greater Ramayana" published by the All India Kashiraj Trust, Varanasi in 1973. The Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi hosted an Inter- national seminar on the Ramayana in 1975 and the papers presented at the seminar have been published in 1978 in the form of a book bearing the title, "Ramayana Tradition in Asia". A conference devoted exclusively to the study of the Ramayana has become a regular annual feature held at different places of the world. Besides the dramas on the Ramayana mentioned by the translator, we may bring to the notice of the readers that several acts of Rama plays - now not available-have been collected by Dr. Raghavan, in his work, "Some old lost Rama Plays" published by the Annamalai University, in 1961.
We will be failing in our duty, if we do not express our gratefulness to Dr. N. Gangadharan for the pains he had taken for correcting the typed Manuscripts of Yuddhakanda and for his unstinted co-operation and dedicated service in this task.
Although, we had planned to publish this edition in May 1990, to commemorate the completion of our sixty years of service to the public, it has been delayed so long on account of reasons beyond our control.
We are beholden to all those who have helped us in one way or the other in the publication of this monumental work.
May the Benevolence of Lord Sri Rama shower on all all•happiness and prosperity and the entire world be assured of eternal peace and prosperity
The Ramayana of Valmiki is a most unique work.
The Aryans are the oldest race on earth and the most advanced; and the Ramayana is their first and grandest epic.
The Eddas of Scandinavia, the Niebelungen Lied of Germany, the Iliad of Homer, the Enead of Virgil, the Interno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso of Dante, the Paradise Lost of Milton, the Lusiad of Canioens, the Shah Nama of Firdausi are Epics - and no more,• the Ramayana of Valmiki is an Epic - and much more.
If any work can claim to be the Bible of the Hindus, it. is the Ramayana of Valmiki.
Professor MacDonell the latest writer on Samskrita Literature, says: "The Epic contains the following verse foretelling its everlasting fame:
As long as mountain ranges stand
And rivers flow upon the earth,
So long will this Ramayana
Survive upon the lips of men
This prophecy has been perhaps even more abundantly fulfilled an the well-known prediction of Horace. No product of Sanskrit Literature has enjoyed a greater popularity in India down .to the present day than the Ramayana. Its story furnishes the subject of : other Sanskrit poems as well as plays and still delights, from the lips of reciters, the hearts of the myriads of the Indian people, as at the great annual Rama-festival held at Benares. It has been translated into many Indian vernaculars. Above all, it inspired the greatest poet of medieval Hindustan, Tulasi Das, to compose in Hindi his version of the epic entitled Ram Charit Manas, which with its ideal standard of virtue and purity, is a kind of Bible to a hundred millions of the people of Northern India." - Sanskrit Literature, p. 317. So much for the version.
It is a fact within the personal observation of the elders of our country, that witnesses swear upon a copy of the Ramayana in the law-courts. Anyone called upon to pay an unjust debt contents himself with saying. "I will place the money upon the Ramayana; let him take it if he dares." In private life, the expression, "I swear by the Ramayana," is an inviolable oath. I know instances where sums of money were lent upon no other security than a palm leaf manuscript of the Ramayana - too precious a Talisman to lose. When a man yearns for a son to continue his line on earth and raise him to the Mansions of the Blessed, the Elders advise him to read the Ramayana or hear it recited, - or at least the Sundarakanda. When a man has some great issue at stake that will either mend or mar his life, he reads the Sundarakanda or hears it expounded. When a man is very ill, past medical help, the old people about him say with one voice, "Read the Sundarakanda in the house and Maruti will bring him back to life and health." When an evil spirit troubles sore a man or woman, the grey-beards wag their wise heads and oracularly exclaim, "Ah! the Sundarakanda never fails." When anyone desires to know the result of a contemplated project, he desires a child to open a page of the Sundarakanda and decides by the nature of the subject dealt with therein. (Here is a case in point. A year or two ago, I was asked by a young man to advise him whether he should marry or lead a life of single blessedness. I promised to give him an answer a day or two later. When I was alone, I took up my Ramayana and asked my child to open it. And lo! the first line that met my eye was :
"The severed head of Kumbhakarna shone high and huge in the heavens, its splendour heightened by the earrings he wore."
I had not the heart to communicate the result to the poor man. His people had made everything ready for his marriage. I could plainly see that his inclinations too lay that way. I could urge nothing against it - his' health was good, and his worldly position and prospects high and bright. Ah me! I was myself half-sceptical. So, quite against my better self, I managed to avoid giving him an answer. And he, taking my silence for consent, got himself married. Alas! within a year his place in his house was vacant; his short meteoric life was over; his health shattered, his public life a failure, his mind darkened and gloomy by the vision of his future, Death was a welcome deliverer to him; and an old mother and a child-wife are left to mourn his untimely end.
The Karma-kanda of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Smritis, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, nay, no other work in the vast range of Samskrita literature is regarded by the Hindus in the same light as the Ramayana. The Karma-kanda is accessible only to a very few, an infinitesimal minority of the Brahmanas - the Purohits who are making a living out of it; and they too know. not its meaning, but recite it parrot-like. The Upanishads are not for the men of the world; they are for hard-headed logicians or calm-minded philosophers. The Smritis are but Rules of daily life. The Bharata is not a very auspicious work; no devout Hindu would allow it to be read in his house, for it brings on strife, dissensions and misfortune; the temple of the Gods, the Mathas of Sanyasins, the river-ghats, and the rest-houses for the travellers are chosen for the purpose. The Bhagavad-gita enjoys a unique unpopularity; for, he who reads or studies it is weaned away from wife and child, house and home, friends and kin, wealth and power and seeks the Path f Renunciation. The Puranas are but world-records, religious histories.
But, for a work that gives a man everything he holds dear and valuable in this world and leads him to the Feet of the Almighty Father, give me the Ramayana of Valmiki.
The Lord of Mercy has come down among men time and oft; he Puranas contain incidental records of it short or long. But, the Ramayana of Valmiki is the only biography we have of the Supreme One.
"Nothing that relates to any of the actors in that great world- drama shall escape thy all-seeing eye - Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, men and monkeys, gods and rakshasas, their acts, their worlds,' nay, their very thoughts, known or secret. Nothing that comes out of your mouth, consciously or otherwise, shall prove other than true". Such was the power of clear vision and clear speech conferred on the poet by the Demiurge, the Ancient of Days.
"What nobler subject for your poem than Sri Ramachandra, the Divine Hero, the soul of righteousness, the perfect embodiment of all that is good and great and the Director of men's thoughts, words and deeds in the light of their Karma?" And this Ideal Man is the Hero of the Epic.
"The cloud-capped mountains, the swift-coursing rivers and all created things shall pass away and be as nought. But, your noble song shall outlive them and never fade from the hearts of men". This is the boon of immortality the poem shall enjoy.
"And as long as the record of Rama's life holds sway over the hearts of men, so long shall you sit by me in my highest heaven". This is the eternity of fame that comes to the singer as his guerdon.
The Hero, the Epic, and the Poet are the most perfect anyone can conceive.
It was composed when the Hero was yet upon earth, when his deeds and fame were fresh in the hearts of men. It was sung before himself. "And the poem they recite, how wonderful in its suggestiveness! Listen we to it" - such was his estimate of the lay.
It was not written, but sung to sweet music. Who were they that conveyed the message to the hearts of men? The very sons of the Divine Hero. "Mark you the radiant glory that plays around them? Liker gods than men! .... Behold these young ascetics, of kingly form and mien. Rare singers are they and of mighty spiritual energy withal" - and this encomium was from him who is Incarnate Wisdom.
What audience did they sing to? "Large concourses of Brahmanas and warriors, sages and saints .... Through many a land they travelled and sang to many an audience.
The opening lines give us a description of the Guru who seeks the disciple to bring light unto him.
He who waits for the disciple to come to him, driven by the fires of Passion and darkness that rage in his heart, is the Guru. He who reads the heart of the disciple better than himself and sees the misery and grief that torture it, whose heart almost breaks at the sight and speeds to him uncalled is the Para-Guru. The word Guru is fancifully rendered as follow:
The darkness of ignorance is denoted by the letter Gu; and the light that chases away that darkness is denoted by the letter Ru; hence a Guru is he who brings the disciple from the darkness to light.
Here the Guru who has identified himself with the work of keeping away with strong hands the veil of darkness that presses upon the hearts of humanity, follows in the footsteps and walks in the path of the Teachers of old who lead the world to reach the old ideals of duty, and wisdom, and comes down into the world to light and shadow, even where abides the jiva who is in the cruel grip of ignorance that has turned his reason astray from the path of right, and who from the beginning of time is absolutely dependent upon the Lord. The word Sita denotes that the jiva sprang from no known origin. Her womanhood denotes that it is ever dependent. The Lord is the Heavenly Man and all the other jivas are but women, his wives, and absolutely dependent upon him and looking up to for everything.
Six are the virtues that enable the, pupil to stand in the presence of Master - pure speech, pure association, all-embracing love and t e grace of the lord. And they reveal the place where the pupil is. The teacher would even ascertain most accurately the steps that the disciple takes to approach the Lord.
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