The purpose of Ramavataram

Saint Tyagaraja. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam  

The mark of a genius is his gift to sublimate the source of his inspiration with his introspective experience. In this aspect every song of Sri Tyagaraja is Valmiki reinterpreted for us.

Among the many analytical approaches to Valmiki, the one that is pronounced is, the Ramayana Kavya, by the rishis and for the rishis. From the beginning to the final destruction of Ravana at every stage the rishis have carried forward the purpose of Ramavataram.

Valmiki poses the question to sage Narada to profile the impeccable man of perfection. He says:

Yethat Aham Srothum

Param Kowthoohalam Hi Mey

Maharshe Thvam Samarthosi

Gnaatum Evam Vidam Naram

(I am anxious to hear from you of such a man because you are the most knowledgeable).

In this sloka Sri Tyagaraja takes the vital word ‘Thvam Samarthosi' and expands the significance in the kirtana ‘Narada Guruswami' (Darbar). The line reads:

Dyuti Jita Saradabra Ninu Vina

Muni Yatulaku

Evaru Saligey

(who else has the capacity to guide and give advice and protection to yatis and rishis?)

It is one example of the saint's sensitivity to pick up any word or a sentiment for expansion through his song.

Viswamitra enters Dasaratha's palace to seek the assistance of Sri Rama to protect his yagna. Here are the words of Valmiki:

Ramam Satya Paraakramam

Kaakapaksha Daram Veeram

Jyeshtam Mey

Daatum Arhasi

(Please send Rama, your first son, with lilting locks and unexcelled valour) to kill Maricha. After much hesitation Dasaratha accedes.

Sri Tyagaraja takes up the word ‘Kaakapaksha Daram' to build the Madyamavati kirtana and reveal the valour of Sri Rama.

Cheluvu Meeraganu Maareechuni

Mada Manache Vela

Alakalella Laataga Gani

(How well did the heart of Viswamitra heave on seeing the play of Rama's forelocks as He threw Mareecha to a distant ocean through a Manavastra?)

After Viswamitra's admiration of Rama's valour the next stage in Rama avatara moves to Janaka's palace.

Here are the words of Valimiki. Introducing Rama and Lakshmana to Janaka he says:

Drashtu Kaamow Dhanu Shreshtam

Yat Thvayi Thishtathi

(The sons of Dasaratha have come to see the bow lying in your palace) and on being brought to the assembly hall Viswamitra signals Rama calling him ‘Child Rama.'

Vatsa Rama Dhanu Pasya

And what follows is

Thath Bhanja Dhanur Madhye.

(See the bow and Rama breaks it at the middle)

Sri Tyagaraja is so overjoyed on visualising this scene that in the same Madhyamavati kirtana he recalls the incident:

Muni Kanu Saika Telisi

Siva Dhanuvunu Viriche Samayamuna.

(Taking the cue from Viswamitra's eyes, Rama broke the bow) Viswamitra's ecstasy is described by Sri Tyagaraja Aaranmuni Etu Pongeno.

So runs Sri Tyagaraja's excitement of Valmiki's accounts.

But here one inference is vital. Sage Narada inspired Valmiki to compose Ramayana in the form of slokas as well as songs through handing over to him Swaranubhava, a treatise on music.

The saint acknowledges this with gratitude in the Sankarabharanam song

Swara Raga Sudha Rasa

Swaraarnava Marmamulu

Vijayamugala Thyagarajuderugey

Viswasinchi Telusuko

(Tyagaraja who imbibed the contents of the treatise, Swararnava, put faith in him and understand).

This is for our enlightenment, but to sage Narada he bows in the Darbar kirtana again:

Saregu Sangeetha Yoga


Paaraangatu Daina

Parama Pavana (Narada Guruswami)

(Narada, an embodiment of the yoga of music)

The parallels between Valmiki and Sri Tyagaraja are extraordinarily subtle.

The scene shifts to Dandakaranyam. Here the group of rishis seeks Rama's help to protect them from the disturbances created by the rakshasas. From Balakandam he moves to the Aranyakandam.

The sages make this appeal:

Nyasta Dandaaha

Vayam Rajan

Jitakroda Jitendriyaha

Rakshitavya Tvaya

(You must protect us, who have conquered anger and have controlled our minds.) Rama promises them and later Sita objects to Rama harbouring hostility to the rakshasas who have done him no harm

Na Katanchana Saa

Kaarya Griheeta

Dhanusha Tvaya

Aparadam Vina Hantum Raakshasan

Dandaka Sritan

Like Rishis' role, the purpose of the avataram is also propelled by three promises (1) Vishnu's promise to the devas to take birth as Rama (2) Rama's promise to Dasaratha to stand by his word (‘Janaka Vachana Paripaaluniki') as Tyagaraja extols in a mangalam in Nadanamakriya) and the third and described as the maha pratigna the assurance to the sages.

Rama's reply to Sita is firm and unbending:

Apyaham Jeevitam Jahyaam

Tvaam Vaa Site Salakshmanam

Natu Pratignaam Samsrutya

Brahmanebyo Vishestaha

(I will give up my life, you Sita and Lakshmana, not the promise made to the rishis in particular).

Valmiki's account of the conversation between rishis and Sita led Sri Tyagaraja to compose one significant line in the Subhapantuvarali song

Ennaalu Urake

Korika Munulaku

Gona Saaga Ledaa

(Haven't you fulfilled the promise you gave to the sages?)

The final stage of the epic is the contribution of the sage among sages Agastya who on the visit of Rama to his hermitage hands over to him Vaishnava dhanus and other invincible weaponry.

This is reflected when Ravana faces Rama before his destruction. Ravana looks at Sri Rama with the Kodanda almost brushing the sky.

Sa Dadarsha Thatho Ramam

Thishtantam Aparajitham

Aalikantam Iva Aakaasam

Avashtabya Mahat Dhanuhu

This was the intention of Agasthya when he gave to Rama the Kodandam and arrows. Ravana could not realise the prowess of Rama when He decimated Ravana's moolabala.

This momentous stage has filled Sri Tyagaraja with wonder and he exclaims in the kirtana ‘Rama Bana' in Saveri and again in the Darbar song ‘Ela Teliyalero.'

In the former he is wonder struck by the power of protection that Rama held in himself.

Ravana Moola Balamula

Nela Goola Jeyu

Rama Bana Thraana

Sowrya Emani Pogadura

In the Darbar song he feels sorry what previous karma kept Ravana blind to the destruction of the moolabala.

Naalgu Oka Padivela

Kanchu Rataala Suraripu

Moola Balamula Leelaga

Oka Kolanesi Kaala

Yamapuri Paala Jesina

Nin Ela Teliyaleru

Poorva Karma

To a Ramabhakta like Sri Tyagaraja, it is not strange that he visualised the welfare of the world brought about by the sages of the forest in bringing Rama to earth and thereby facilitating Valmiki and Sri Tyagaraja himself to compose the Ramayana in slokas and songs.

Having said much about his total surrender to Rama, Sri Tyagaraja cherishes in his heart of hearts, Valmiki and Valmiki alone as his Ishta Acharya. In the great Pancharatna ‘Jagadaananda Karaka' he makes this explicit.

Kaveena Bilaja Mouni

Krita Charitra Sannuta

Sri Tyagarajanuta ( Jagadaananda Karaka)

(The great charitra of Rama, composed by Valmiki, before which Sri Tyagaraja prostrates.)

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 8:32:06 PM |

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