Valmiki portrays Lakshmana as the epitome of dedication.
Next to Sri Rama, Valmiki turns the spotlight on Lakshmana to portray him as an embodiment of Kainkarya as what Rama is to dharma - (‘Ramo Vigrahavan Dharmaha') and (‘Lakshmano Bahi Prana Ivaaparaha'). His role extends from birth to the end of the kavya even spurning offer of the status of a Yuvaraja after Rama's coronation.
Sri Tyagaraja has epitomised Lakshmana's service in one sentence in the kriti (‘Lekanaa Ninnu') in Asaveri.
(To Sita the ravishing beauty of Rama is all-encompassing and to Lakshmana to read Rama's mind from the latter's eyes).
All the other references in his songs to Lakshmana are the way he lived up to this role. His life's journey as dealt with by Valmiki is co-terminus with Rama's fortunes. It was the way Rama held Lakshmana as his own shadow.
‘Nahi Thena Vina
Nidraam Labhthe Purushottamah
Mrishtam Annam Upaaneetham
Asnaati Na Hi Tham Vina'
(Rama does not sleep or take food without Lakshmana by his side)
The same sentiment gets expressed when Guha relates to Bharata how Lakshmana served Rama by preparing a bed of grass under a tree and brought him water to drink and observed upavasa. Lakshmana drank the left over water.
‘Lakshmanena Yat Aaneetam
Peethvaa Vaari Mamayasaaha
Aupavasyam Tada Akaarsheet
Lakshmanopi Akarto Tada'
This fact of Lakshmana's kainkarya has so fascinated Sri Tyagaraja that he has picturised this scene in the Kalyani kriti, ‘Evara Madugudu Raa.'
‘Vaaramu Needu Manasu
Neramulekanu Aahara Sushuptulanu Nivaaranamu Jeyu Parichaaraka Bhaagyamu
Alankariyagu Sumithra Kumaaruni Paalanaiti'
(Everyday, understanding your mind, without fail, discarding sleep and food - the way Lakshmana served you, Rama, you have been completely his property – what boon can I ask of you?)
So moved is Kausalya by Lakshmana's dedication to Rama that on seeing the oblation to Dasarata by the sons at Chitrakuta, she exclaims
‘Itaha Sumitre Putras They
Sada Talam Atandritaha
Swayam Harathi Sowmitri
Mama Putrasya Karanaath'
(For the sake of my son, Lakshmana is put to this job)
This sentiment of Kausalya has to be seen in the light of what Sumitra advises her son on the eve of the departure to the forest,
Rame Pramaadam Maa Kaarsheehi
Putra Braathri Gajjati'
(Lakshmana! You are born to do Kainkanya to Rama throughout his vanavasa. Do not fail in this responsibility)
While this is a factual assessment of what Lakshmana has to do, more is implied in it the play of destiny (‘Shrishtatvam Vanavaasaaya')
Sri Tyagaraja is quite aware of the invincibility of Destiny in strapping pain or prosperity on human beings according to past karma. In the case of Lakshmana he considers it a great boon when he says in the Divyanama
‘Sri Rama Jaya Rama Sringara Ramayani
Thanivaara Paricharya Seya
Tapamemi Jeseno Teliya.'
(I am unable to realise what penance Lakshmana did to be a servant of Rama to his heart's content).
Perhaps keeping this in mind he has tabulated what rewards purva-karma bestows on mankind. In the Kannada song ‘Ninnadanela.'
‘Karmaniki Taginatlu Kaaryamulu Nadicheni Dharmaniki Taginatlu Deivamu Brocheni Siddhaniki Taginatlu Siddiyu Galigeni Vittaniki Taginatlu Veduga Nadicheni'
(Events take place according to past deeds; dharma ensures God's protection; spiritual path confers siddhi; happiness comes according to wealth).
Sri Tyagaraja is so enraptured by Lakshmana's technique of service that he assures Rama in the Kuntalavarali kirtana: ‘Chentane Sada Yunchukovayya:'
Thalacheena Panulanu Ne Telisi
Thalato Nadachi Santasillu Dura
Palumaru Balka Paniledu Rama.'
(Whatever is in your mind, I will execute it. There is no need for you to tell me what to do).
Considering all these aspects of Lakshmana's Kainkarya, Sri Tyagaraja envies his role in the kirtana ‘Sowmitrhi Bhagyame Bhagyamu.' In fact, the saint considers only the two souls in the whole of Ramayana whose fortune is fortune – one Lakshmana and the other Sabari. Both are exemplars of devoted service – Lakshmana to Rama and Sabari to Matanga Maharishi. Has Lakshmana's role stopped with attending to ensure the comfort of Rama in the forest? While Valmiki described Lakshmana as ‘Bahi Praana Ivaaparaha' the truth of this has to be fully understood in Lakshmana's words when he drew the arrows in the bow to kill Indrajit. He proudly proclaims.
Ramo Dasaratihi Yadi
Powrushe Na Apradowandaha
Sarainam Jahi Ravanhim.'
Lakshmana invokes Rama's valour to stand by him while releasing the arrow at Indrajit.
Not only in Kainkarya, but in valour too Lakshmana stands up to ‘Prana Bahischaraha.'
This particular identification of Lakshmana with Rama is so steadfast that when he is struck by Ravana's sakti weapon Rama is grieved beyond consolation. He mourns:
‘Dese Dese Kalatrani
Dese Dese Cha Bhaandavaaha
Tham Tu Desam Na Pasyami
Yatra Braath Sahodaraha.'
(In every country devoted wives can be found; in every country devoted relations: I do not find that country where a brother is like Lakshmana).
Sri Tyagaraja in the Saveri kirtana ‘Rama Bana Charanam' describes how Rama was moved to act on behalf of Lakshmana.
‘Thammudu Badalina Vela Suraripu
Themmani Chakkara Panchyakagani
Sammadito Nilabadi Kodandapu Jyaagoshamulana Jesitaa.'
(When his brother was hit by Ravana and the latter reacted with glee, Rama sounded his Kodanda to mark his presence.)
This provides a contrasting picture of Rama praising Lakshmana for the parnasala he built at Panchavati and Lakshmana reiterating his life's objective as service:
Thvayi Varsha Satam Sthithe'
(As long as you live, Sri Rama, I am only your dasa).
Deeply moved by Lakshmana's kainkarya particularly during Rama's exile in the forest, Sri Tyagaraja pleads to his Ishta Deivata in the Thodi kirtana ‘Daasukovalena.'
‘Nemamuna Parichaya Nerpunu Pogaduvela
Sowmitri Tyagarajuni Matabalkite'
Sri Tyagaraja is firm in the belief that when Rama praised Lakshmana's services, he would have put in a word on behalf of Tyagaraja that his devotee was as close to Rama as Lakshmana himself. If Valmiki Ramayana is a ‘Kavya of Dharma' as exemplified by Rama, it is equally a ‘Kavya of ennobling Kainkarya - of the kind Lakshmana exhibited.