Sri. K. Chandrasekharan (1904-1988)
Born on 19-1-1904; educated in P.S. High School, Mylapore; graduated from the Presidency College with degree in B.A. Honours, 1924; joined the Madras Bar after studying for law in the Madras law College, 1926.
He was carefully nurturing the institutions founded by his father Sri V. Krishnaswami Iyer and was the Secretary and trustee of the Madras Sanskrit College and the Venkataramana Ayurveda College and Dispensary. He was the President of the Samskrita Academy and Samskrita Ranga and Secratary of the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute and the Savitri Ammal Oriental Higher Secondary School – institutions later established in the Sanskrit College campus. He was the Secretary of the Arya Mata Sabha and the T. N.S.S. Patasala, tiruvisaloor. He was the Founder Member and Vice President of the music Academy and also the Founder Member and Vice-President of the kalakshetra. He was Tagore Professor of Humanities, University of madras, for two terms, 1967-68 and 1968-69.
He was a prolific writer in English and Tamil and authored many books in these languages.
Persons and Personalities – 1932; An Approach to Indian Art – 1940; Studies and Sketches-1951; Sanskrit Literature (jointly) -1951; Ramayana Triveni-1954; Waifs and Strays-1954; Tagore –A Master –Mind -1961; Culture and Creativity, 1969; P.S. Sivaswami Aiyar -1969; Sri V. Krishnaswami Iyer -1963; Ananda Coomarasamy-1974.
The Lectures delivered as Professor of Humanities in Tagore Chair were published by Macmillan & Co., under the title ‘Culture and Creativity’ and ‘Golden Harvest’ He has also written two books on law viz. Administrative law (in madras) 1938 and Delegated legislation(1965).
Highly proficient in Sanskrit, he made a deep study of Sanskrit Literature and Philosophy.
In connection with the Birth Centenary of Sri K. Chandrasekharan, the Samskrita academy feels highly privileged to bring out a reprint of the book “Ramayana-Triveni” written by him and published in 1959.
The book though small in size is highly valuable as it contains a scholarly comparative study of the three great works in the Ramayana in three important languages-Sanskrit, Tamil and Hindi. As these works cover the readers of all regions of India, the book is of great importance to the English – understanding readers of entire India.
Sri K. Chandrasekharan is a scholar with an incisive mind capable of a critical appreciation of the works to make the comparative study useful and purposeful. He has authored many books both in English and Tamil and has a good knowledge of the Sanskrit Language.
Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, himself a good scholar apart from being a great administrator and legal luminary has written a detailed foreword paying tribute to the Author’s skill in making the comparative study an interesting as well as a dispassionate portrayal. This foreword has been reproduced, as it is, in the reprint.
Mrs. Sita Sunder Ram, research scholar of the Kuppuswami Sastri Research scholar of the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute and grand-niece of Sri K. Chandrasekharan is to be thanked for the meticulous proof-reading.
S. Viswanathan (Printers & Publishers) Private Limited, Chennai, are to be thanked for giving us permission to reprint the book.
Our thanks are due to M/s Vignesha Printers for their neat printing of the book.
In appraising the value and the significance of Sri Chandrasekharan’s study of Rama’s story as envisaged and recounted by three successive epic poets and in order to adequately appreciate the genuine contribution that has been made, in this brochure, to critical literature, one should keep in view certain fundamental truths. Let me refer to a special characteristic of the Indian genius. Narrative and epic poems of acknowledged excellence have been produced in many countries and Chandrasekharan himself refers to Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aenead, Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Homer dealt with Gods, who were not far removed from humanity in respect of their passions and temptations, and Virgil, though more austere, has narrated a similar tale of semi-divine mortals and very human gods. Dante imported his own political and even personal prejudices into his wonderful narration of the story of the denizens of the Netherworld and even of Paradise. Milton was perhaps the most consciously sublime of the great European poets, but even he was essentially subjective in his treatment of the archangels and Lucifer and Beelzebub. It would not be uncharitable to assert that the attitude of Puritan England and its conflicts with Papacy were reflected in the history of the fall of Adam and the expulsion of himself and Eve from Paradise.
Turning to India, one finds that hallmark of all great Indian art, whether it be architecture as of the great temples, or sculpture as embodied in Nataraja, Krishna or Durga, or supreme poetry as exemplified by Valmiki, is its objectivity which may almost be equated with anonymity. Although we glimpse how a comparatively unsophisticated person, Valmiki, was by divine grace and the blessings of his Guru turned into the first of all poets, the story itself states that the opening verses of the Ramayana came to valmiki like the breath of Heaven. He was the instrument of a mighty force and not the conscious creator of harmony and ease. In this respect Valmiki Ramayana which is termed the “adikavya” stands on a pedestal by itself. Throughout the thousands of its artless and spontaneous verses, there is an endless series of descriptions of men and women and of natural scenes and of human character and the interplay of opposing temperaments but there is none of that looking within nor the emphasis on the poet apart from his poetry which, for instance, is both the characteristic and perhaps the special attractiveness to the modern mind of that drama of human ambition and misdirected learning, Goethe’s Faust. Another special feature of valmiki’s epic is its comprehensive humanity and balance of judgment. When Hanuman visited Lanka, the first observation that escaped him related to the greatness of Ravana as a monarch, to his devotion to spiritual as well as temporal affairs and to the general happiness, prosperity and religious studiousness of his subjects. As was later manifested by Shakespeare, Valmiki is always able to see the good in evil men and the temptations and the perils to which even high characters are subject. To enforce this lesson, one may advert to the pictures drawn of Dasaratha, a great ruler with one overmastering weakness of kaikeyi, that strange mixture of nobility and ill-regulated ambition ; of Vali and sugriva both possessed of composite characters and even of Kumbhakarana and Maricha, both of whom carry out evil missions out of a sense of loyalty to their chief, though recognizing the error of their ways.
On the other hand, Sita’s bitter recriminations of Lakshmana over Maricha and her aspersions on his motives and Rama’s own conventional fear of gossip which the indignant Sita characterised as ‘un-Aryan’ and, ‘prakrita’ indicate that the chief characters of Valmiki though avataras were regarded not only as partaking of divine qualities but also as essentially human. It is this unerring comprehension of psychology as well as the instinct for beauty which is manifasted in all the appealing and simple descriptions of places and people and those expressions of epigrammatic wisdom, that stamp the Ramayana as perhaps the greatest masterpiece of condensed thought, embodied in limpid verse. No wonder that this work has remained the perpetual inspiration for all succeeding dramatists and poets and may be regarded as one of the high watermarks of poetic achievement. The Mahabharata draws its crowded pictures on a broader canvas and is at once a great epic, a storehouse of philosophy, a compendium of many arts and a manual of political and social conduct. The Ramayana stands apart by reason of its intrinsic unity of design and fidelity to one underlying theme.
Sri. Chandrasekharan has essayed the difficult task of a comparative study of Rama’s life history as narrated by Valmiki and by two other poets Kamban and Tulsi Das who are characteristic products of the South and the North of India respectively. The intrinsic unity of India is often adverted to by philosophers and politicians, though the apparent diversity of India was too often emphasised in the histories and narratives that were produced by Muslim and European historians. That unity is proved by nothing so much as by the universal appeal of Rama’s story to the whole of the Indian sub-continent and by the unmistakable and profound influence exerted by it in conjunction with the Mahabharata and the Puranas on the daily life and outlook of the Indian people from Manasarover to Kanya Kumari, an influence which extends even to the naming of children and the bandying of allusions in the life of the home and of society in India. No other poem in the history of the world has woven itself into the mental texture of a country as valmiki’s epic has done. Though narrower in regional compass yet almost equal in local influence has been the Kamba Ramayanam which in the tamil country has exemplified some, if not all, the characteristics of Valmiki’s work. Not dissimilar has been the vogue exercised by Tulsi Das in his story of Rama. Moreover what Valmiki did to Sanskrit in the metter of making it flexible and expressive,Kamban achieved in Tamil, and Tulsi Das in Hindi. It is a matter of deep satisfaction that a gifted student of Sanskrit literature should at the same time possess a command over Tamil and Hindi, and it has been given to Chandrasekharan to perform a service of great importence and national value by a loving and minute study of these works preceding a comparative review of their characteristics and attributes.
After certain general observations describing the pivotal ideas of the Ramayana not only in the region of art but as a many sided message, he rightly stresses the universality of the epic and its achievement in revitalising life by the aid of puissant ideals. The Ramayana is not only a religious scripture but a commentary on life in its manifold aspects. The brochure begins with a description of filial love so greatly symptomatic of Chinese and Indian culture and rightly regards the story of Rama as a prime illustration of the redemption by a son of a father’s promise. It proceeds to point out how the same idea has been amplified and modified in details by Kamban and by Tulsi Das in accordance with their own temeraments and environments. The author shrewdly points out that Valmiki has not given an unrelieved picture of Rama as a perfect being. The reactions of Dasaratha’s conduct as impinging on Bharata and Lakshmana are treated differently by the three poets. Nextly Chandrasekharan deals with the married life of that ideal pair-Rama and Sita. Kamban’s description accords with the Tamil genius of practicality and shrewd commonsense. Janaka in Valmiki Ramayana exhorts Sita to the life companion and devoteeof her husband. Janaka in Kamban’s epic blesses the pair thus: “Even as the fertility of the soil and wealth from commerce and trade have to be united to make a land prosperous, so may you be united together!” Tulsi Das dealing with love developed between Rama and sita describes it quite differently from Valmiki, and Chandrasekharan skilfully recounts the different points of view. Whereas the swayamvara of Sita is narrated simply and directly by Valmiki, both Kamban and Tulsi Das elaborate the topic in their own several ways. By Valmiki, Rama is not regarded as having fallen in love with Sita before the marriage. Kamban furnishes romantic setting to the first meeting of the couple and sings of the solitary pining of the two for each other. Tulsi Das conceives of Sita’s meeting with Rama in a palace garden on her way to the temple of Girija. Departing from the simple narrative of Valmiki’s account of Sita’s marriage, both Kamban and Tulsi Das expatiate at length on the scene of the marriage fastivities. Chandrasekharan is especially successful in analysing the episode of Maricha in the form of a golden deer luring away Rama. Valmiki’s account of the deer and its gambols furnishes one of the climaxes of descriptive poetry but the whole episode of Surpanakha and Maricha is comparatively simple in Valmiki. Kamban, on the other hand, is full of elaboration and, as the author emphasises the manner in which Ravana is instigated by Surpanakha’s description of Sita to send Maricha on his mission is remarkable as a literary tour de force. The author also acutely perceives that Tulsi Das in this, as in all other episodes, is not so keen on individual scenes but concentrates on all possible accasions on the picturing of Rama as a perfect avatara. Ravana, according to Tulsi Das, when he decides on abducting Sita, is supposed to say to himself:”If God can become incarnate in Rama, then I should lose my life at his hands so as to escape further transmigrations.”This is supposed to be his main motive in sending Maricha and in taking Sita.
Chandrasekharan then describes the somewhat mixed character of Vibhishana who was compendiously characterised by Sugriva as ‘one who covets a kingdom.’Valmiki does not delineate him as uniformly selfless. Kamban, on the other hand, treats Vibhishana as an example of prapatti or complete surrender. Though in a different way, Tulsi Das takes the some line. Very appositely from this point of view Vibhishana when he first meets Hanuman is made by Tulsi Das to say: ”My condition is that of a tongue between two rows of teeth; yet I am not friendless, and the divine Rama will show me favour.”
In a few well chosen episodes, Chandrasekharan exemplifies the diversity of details coexisting with unity of fundamental approach that marks the three poets of whom he has, in short compass, attempted a rapid penpicture. I am sure that the readers of this little volume will be as grateful to the author as I am for an enthusiastic, though carefully critical, appreciation of the different modes of approach to the same ancient and familiar themes. It is impossible to rival the picturesque simplicity and the wide sweep of the Adikavi, but we are indebted to Chandrasekharan for a revelation of the differing and yet authentic glories of two stars in a galaxy, that have been surpassed in brilliance only by the Sun of Valmiki.
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