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An epic trilogy recreated

Ranee Kumar
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Book Ramavarapu Sarat Babu penned Telugu versions of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavatam, all within one year. Ranee Kumar

Book releaseThe launch of the trilogy at Ravindra Bharati.Photo: Suhani Gupta
Book releaseThe launch of the trilogy at Ravindra Bharati.Photo: Suhani Gupta

There are any number of regional language versions of our epics – the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavatam. But so far, is there anyone who could produce all the three in one go, in a matter of just one year? Well, veteran man-of-letters, Ramavarapu Sarat Babu has done it- he actually penned the three mythologies, within twelve calendar months, viz. June 6, 2010-June 6, 2011 after which it took a year more to get the books in printed form.

Speaking just before the inaugural of the books, says, “I would like to explain that the three books were written by me simultaneously in one single year.

There is a saying in Sanskrit which I followed when I took upon myself this onerous task. It says, Bharatam should be read in the morning ( prathoha rhyuta prasangena ); Ramayana in the afternoon ( madhyanhe stri prasangena ) since it is the epic of a woman called Sita and finally Bhagavatham for the night ( raatre chora prasangena ) where ‘chora’ refers to Lord Krishna.”

This apart, I should say, I derived my inspiration from my guru Vishwanatha Satyanarayana who would dictate four novels at a time to four different scribes to pen them. But for Srimad Ramayana Kalpa Vrukshamu , most of his novels were dictated by him and written by his disciples. I too was one such scribe for his novels. I must have imbibed this art of penning three epics simultaneously, from him without my design or knowledge.”

Are the Telugu versions as voluminous as the originals? “Frankly speaking, who has the patience and time to read these epics in their full form? I took a look around this new global village and felt that our Indian youngsters, out there on foreign soil are fast losing out on their identity because they have no clue of our ancient texts or our culture.

After all our ancient seers said the world has to be Aryanised. Aryanised here means knowledge of the highest order.”

These books of mine, the epics in Telugu are aimed at the present generation; hence they are abridged.”

How do you abridge these epics? Don’t they lose their original flavour? And what are the originals you followed, are some questions that come up spontaneously.

Sarat Babu is humility and patience personified as he gently clarifies, “I followed the Sanskrit epic of Valmiki for Ramayana; the Telugu kavi trayam’s Mahabharatam and finally Pothana’s Bhagavatam. For Ramayanam and Bhagavatam which do not have stories within stories ( upaakhyana ), I decided to edit unnecessary descriptions, etc. keeping the essence and sequences intact; but for Bharatam, there are any number of upaakhyanams which do not have a direct relevance to the main story; these I cut out providing just a reference for those interested to delve further.”

I have used spoken language but unlike present day writers, I have not compromised on grammar except in unavoidable circumstances which I have mentioned in my foreword. Of late, I feel sorry to admit, that in an attempt to simplify Telugu, scholars have deleted certain consonants which play an important part in diction and the result is pathetic.”

The Ramayana is called Srimad Ramayana Samhita (Samhita means compilation that preaches good) running into 390 pages ; the second book is Mahabharatha Manjusha (Manjusha is a casket where treasure is kept) runs into 570 pages and the third is named Bhagavata Bharathi (after Pothana’s praise of goddess Bharati/Saraswati) is 425 pages.

The trilogy published by the famous Vavilla press (Vavilla Ramaswami Shastrulu & Sons) is priced at Rs. 1000 package. Individually the Ramayanam and Bhagavatam are Rs. 300 each while the Bharatam is for Rs. 400.

The author, a doctorate in Sanskrit and post-graduate in both Telugu and English retired as head of Theatre Arts department of Andhra University.

He is credited with being a dramatist (AIR serials), literary scholar and able academician.

The books were released recently under the aegis of the AP Dept of Culture and Kinnera Art Theatres at the Ravindra Bharathi auditorium.

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