When someone takes up the Ramayana as his subject, the language he uses automatically becomes deva basha. Such is the transformative power of the tale.
Tirukudanthai Andavan was a renowned scholar in Sanskrit and Tamil and a matchless expounder of the scriptures.
Several decades ago, he gave a series of 30 lectures in Tamil on Valmiki’s epic at the Krishna Temple in Malleswaram, Bangalore. Mathoor Krishnamurti wrote them down in Kannada and published them as ‘Sri Ramakatha Sara.’ For Prof. Anantha Raman, it was a labour of love and devotion to translate them into English.
Thus the present volume is a witness to Rama’s story sparkling through Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada and English.
The striking point about Srimad Andavan’s discourses is the shower of interesting information that inundates the telling.
For us, who have known only Sumantra, it is good to have the names of the other seven ministers in King Dasaratha’s cabinet: Dhrushti, Jayanta, Vijaya, Siddhartha, Arthasadhaka, Asoka and Mantrapala. Typical of a Kalakshepa from a fabulous Vaishnava scholar immersed in Valmiki’s epic, you never know what will come next. The hymns of the Azhwars criss-cross the telling.
When one studies an epic in its entirety, a couple of episodes become bathometers to gauge the poet’s approach to the concept of Dharma. The slaying of Vaali is one such in the Ramayana. Srimad Andavan says that though Vaali was born to aid Rama in his war against Ravana, he had preferred to become friends with the King of Lanka. Since this would be harmful to the gods, Rama killed him. Other reasons, familiar to us, are also given. Yet we remain unconvinced like the knotty problem of dharma in Rama’s rejection of Sita.
There are innumerable sublime moments in the epic to underline the importance of Dharma. One such is Jatayu’s passing away after his heroic stance against Ravana, the kidnapper. The Vaishnava world loves to recall the scene.
“A bird itself became the example to prove that one should walk on the path of dharma. In doing so, the bird gave up its life. By this deed, Jatayu got the noblest result. Rama could not attend to the last rites of his own father, Dasaratha, even though he was the eldest son. But he attended to the last rites of Jatayu by lighting the pyre.”
However, these intricately fashioned events show that the path of Dharma is subtle (sookshma). Acceptance of Rama’s avatarhood with full faith is the best way out for the teacher and the disciple and the world of scholarship. In spite of its poor binding and print-mistakes, the world of sahridayas is sure to welcome Prof. Anantha Raman’s sincere attempt.
SRI RAMA KATHASARA
Lectures on the Complete Ramayana by Sri Vedanta Ramanuja Mahadesikan;
Kannada version by Dr. Mathur Krishna Murthy.
Edited and translated into English by Prof. N.S. Anantha Raman; Asoori U.Ve. Madhavachariar Swamy, 21, North Chittirai Street, Srirangam 620006.2011. Rs. 350