Tyagaraja Ramayana - Part II

Sangita Kala Acharya T. S. Parthasarathy

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Kishkinda Kanda

The arrival of Rama and Lakshmana in the Rishyamukha area is watched by Sugriva who suspects them to be the representatives of his dreaded brother Vaali. Hanuman is sent, in the garb of a mendicant to collect information about the strangers. The meeting is described artistically in ‘Adamodi Galade’ (Charukesi) with Tyagaraja’s usual wit. “Why this reservation in talking to me O Rama? (I can now understand). When the erudite Hanuman and amsa of Lord Siva approached you did not speak to him but made your brother Lakshmana narrate your antecedents. This Tyagaraja is small fry before you”. In Valmiki, Rama expresses his admiration of the faultless diction of Hanuman, free from grammatical flaws, (Nunam vyakaranam kritsnam anena bahudha srutam).

It is surprising that in no less than eleven kritis Tyagaraja makes mention of the various acts of Rama to save Sugriva from the wrath of Vaali and install him on the throne in Kishkinda .This special focus on Sugriva is only to emphasize that once Rama gives the word ,Protection is assured however undeserving the recipient maybe. There is a sharp contrast between the characters of Vibhishana and Sugriva. The former was a learned Brahmin, with an irreproachable character and once he joined Rama’s side, He proved himself to be a trustworthy ally. Sugriva was a semi-civilized jungle-man, given to sensual pleasure and a cruel way of dealing with his subjects. At first he even doubts Rama’s prowess and ability to kill the mighty Vaali and the latter is obliged to prove them by flinging the skeleton of Dundhubi by his toe and splitting seven sala trees with single arrow. With the arrival of autumn, Sugriva drowns himself in sensualism and forgets his promise to Rama’s consideration for even such a defaulter and punning on the word ‘Sugriva’ he asks in ‘Namoralakimpa’ (Devagandhari) “Am I also not a Sugriva (one endowed with a melodious voice?) In ‘Mannamu leda’ (Hamir Kalyani) he says “Provoked by the words uttered by Sugriva, you crowned him King of Kishkinda instantly.”

Sundara Kandam

Strangely enough ,there are not many kritis dealing with the incidents in this Kanda  but the main point ,viz, the part played by Hanuman is mentioned in some Kritis.In ‘Chesinadella’(Todi), Tyagaraaja asks “Have you forgotten having made Anjaneya the next  Brahma because he brought tidings of Sita from Lanka?”.In ‘O Rama Rama (Nagagandhari) he describes how Rama “clasped Hanuman in an embrace when he brought news of Sita” and in reverse, he describes in ‘’Kana Kana ruchi’ (Varali) how “Sita was thrilled when Hanuman carried Rama’s message to her in her captivity.”

Yuddha Kanda

Rama crosses the ocean with his monkey army and enters Lanka. There are references in Kritis to the crossing of the ocean, Rama quelling the pride of Samudra Raja, and how even the squirrels helped Rama to build the bridge. But the main incident so far as Tyagaraja is concerned is the surrender of Vibhishana and he refers to it in six Kritis. The point emphasized are: (1) Once a person takes refuge in Rama not only Vibhishana, but over Ravana is entitled to protection, (2) The fact that Vibhishana was the brother of Rama’s enemy was immaterial, (‘Evvare’ – Gangeyabhushani). (3) The world had been given that Vibhishana would be made the King of Lanka and he was forthwith crowned by Lakshmana on the sea-shore (‘Ennado’ – Saurashtram). Tyagaraja does not miss the chance to pun of the word Vibhishana in ‘Namoralakimpa’ (Devagandhari) “Where the Rakshasa (vibhishana) surrendered before you, did his words sound sweet like those of a parrot? Are my words terrifying (Vibhishanama?).

Tyagaraja, in ‘Emi Dova’ (Saranga) shows that he is equally competent to describe a battle scene. The madhyama kala sahitya in the charana is full of jingling words and alternation that will do credit to any poet. But the most touching in this kanda is the only to kill and destroy, but also to protect when the time comes. “When Lakshmana was badly hurt by a shower of missiles from Ravana, Rama stood up and struck terror into the hearts of the demons   by twanging his bowstring with the sound of thunder”. This incident has been described in the 59th sarga in Valmiki’s Yuddha Kanda and it is significant that Tyagaraja uses the word ‘Asani’ which is a synonym for Valmiki’s ‘Vajra’ used in this context (Jya sabdam akarot tivram vajra nishpesha nissvanam).

After the killing of Ravana, Tyagaraja in ‘Sarasa sama dana’ (Kapinarayani), expresses sympathy for him for his in glorious end, “What a pity that Ravana, the foremost among the devotees of Siva, did not realize your true form. You tried all the three expedients open to a king against an enemy; conciliation’ the offer of a gift and showing dissensions. You destroyed him only when he was not amenable to any of the upavas”.

There are references in kritis describing how Rama brought back to life the monkeys killed in the war, conferred prosperity on the ruined Lanka, by one glance, traveled by the Pushpaka Vimana lent by Kubera, consoled Bharata on the way and finally ascended the throne at Ayodhya. And Tyagaraja does not want to forget the monkeys who had sacrificed so much for the sake of Rama. Accusing Rama of denying him his usual partiality for his followers, he asks, in ‘Tanavaritanamu (Begada) “Did you not keep the monkeys in the same row with you at your repast? Did you not call each one of them by his name and garland him?”

The Tyagaraja Ramayana is rounded off with ‘Karubaru’ (Mukhari) which describes Rama Rajya, the ideal State. “Has any king ever ruled over his empire as you administered Ayodhya?” asks Tyagaraja and proceeds to describe no “there was prosperity in the country, its citizens were versed in arts and sciences, lived long and above all, were free from pride and ill-will.

Non-Valmiki Episodes

In a few kritis we find episodes which are not found in Valmiki. In ‘Paritapamu’ (Manohari) Tyagaraja describes a scene in which Rama and Sita cruise on the Sarayu river in a golden boat. “Vinana sakoni” (Pratapavarali) describes a game of ‘Pallankuzhi’ being played by Rama and Sita with Bharata and Hanuman overhearing the conversation between the divine couple. The Singili Muni episodes mentioned in ‘kalalanerchina’ (Dipakam) is yet to be unraveled. So is the incident described in ‘Vachamagocharame’ (Kaikavasi) in which Rama shoots a second arrow to smash a first one originally aimed for cutting the tail of chamari deer.

The Ramayana kritis of Tyagaraja provide excellent material for harikatha performers to emblish their narratives. Clothed as they are in unrivalled music, they have a telling effect on the listeners when compared to the original Sanskrit verses. In this respect, Tyagaraja the composer stands unsurpassed.  



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