Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Introduction to my translation

Valmiki  Ramayanam – An introduction to my   Translation



“Ramayana”  means the story of Rama  and according to Hindu beliefs it was the first epic written in Sanskrit by a great sage called Valmiki , who was  a contemporary of  Rama.
  Valmiki was a hunter who was transformed in to a sage by  sage Narada. The restless Valmiki wanted to write an epic  and sage Narada requests   him to write about Rama. He agrees and Lord Brahma blesses  him saying that he would be by  his intuition able to see   every incident that took place in the life  of Rama. He was confused as to which metere  he should adopt   for writing this great book. One day he  sees a  hunter killing the male bird  of  a bird couple and the female bird cries   for its mate .Valmiki is moved and tells  a poem
 Maa Nishada Pratistham Tvam agamah sāsvati Samaa
Yat Krauncha mithunaad ekam Avadhi Kaamamohitam

Oh hunter, you killed one of the pair of Krouncha birds in love,
And so for  years   to come you would never   be alive.

In the Anushtup metere.. And this poem (curse)  born out of intense sorrow  becomes the model   for the entire epic of Ramayana. Naturally  the first chapter of Ramayana  , is the story of Rama in a nutshell as told by Narada called  Samkshepa Ramayanam . The entire story of Rama  is   divided  in  to six books  (kanda) and each Kanda  is further divided in to Sargas.

1.Bala Kanda ( Book of Youth) [77 chapters]
2. Ayodhya Kanda (Book of Ayodhya) [119 chapters]
3. Aranya Kanda (Book of Forest ) [75 chapters]
4. Kishkindha Kanda (The Empire of Holy Monkeys) [67 chapters]
5. Sundara Kanda ( Book of Beauty ) [68 chapters]
6. Yuddha Kanda ( Book of War ) [128 chapter)

The chapters in these books  have many slokas(verses)  all written in Anushtup meter. The chapters are of differing length and so too are the books. There   are 24,000  slokas  in the Ramayana. The shortest book with about 2000 slokas is the  Bala Kanda and the biggest book is   Yudha Kanda  with nearly 6000 slokas . Sage Valmiki is an expert in use  of Simile and metaphor  and almost throughout the narrative  , these are used .Valmiki  also  tells every  incident in great  detail as he loves to describe. The description of the four seasons in the forest, the great description that Sugreeva gives his monkeys about  the path that they have to follow  in search of Sita, the  descriptions of  the fauna and flora   throughout the path of Rama  are examples of these. Sage Valmiki prefers to concentrate  on the story that  he is telling about and rarely relates us  stories within stories. The  exceptions to this is the story of  Ganges  and birth of  Lord Subramanya   in the Bala Kanda, stories of the lineage of certain   sages like Viswamithra , Rama himself , Ravana etc. It is interesting also note that  for valour  , Valmiki most of the times quotes Indra or the Trivikrama  or Narasimha as the model.  He never mentions the great wars which sage Parasurama  another incarnation of  Vishnu fought. The poet rarely tells in any part of the book   about Rama being  an incarnation of Vishnu or Lakshmana  as an incarnation of Adhisesha etc  or refer to for one chapter  except in the  BalaKanda and another chapter in the Yudha Kanda. Both these chapters  do not properly merge with the narrative  and are contradicted immediately . Valmiki prefers to cut off reference to a character  which  he thinks as not important. For example , not a single word in the entire epic   is spoken by the wives  of Lakshmana, Bharatha  or Sathurugna and  Sumithra, the mother  of Lakshmana rarely speaks. Not much is spoken by Kaikeyi after Dasaratha dies and so on. He also uses different styles of expression for the characters of his narrative. For example  even Rama and Lakshmana do not talk in the same style. The Talk of Sita is always sharp and impetuous and so on.  Valmiki is supposed to have composed this epic  in the  Treta Yuga ie 869113 years ago . It is clearly mentioned in the Ramayana    that the sage taught it to Lava   and Kusha, who were the sons of Rama who were living with him and these two lads sing it in the assembly hall in front of Rama.  But modern scholars think that Valmiki Ramayana was written only in the 3rd or  4th century BC. In the book  itself the author claims that   it is the first epic ever written.

He has also written in Yudha Kanda

“Whichever person of this world   reads or listens    to this  first book  which is endowed with Dharma  
Would  be blessed with fame  and longevity   and it would fetch victory to the kings  and this first book was written by    sage Valmiki.                                                                                           128.107-128.108
Any person hearing   about the crowning of Rama  , if he needs son he will get son  , if he needs wealth  he will get wealth  , the king would win over earth  and would become a  master over his enemies.
Like Kausalya having Rama, Sumithra having Lakshmana  , Kaikeyi having Bharata , women would become mothers to long living sons   and they would be always happy  and live with sons and grandsons.  
Any one hearing    Ramayana   would get very long life   and one who reads about victory of Rama will never fail in any of his actions.                                                                                                       128.112
He who hears     this epic which    was composed long ago  by sage Valmiki   with attention and with control over anger  would be able to cross over all difficulties with ease.                            128.113
 He who hears   this epic    which was composed long ago   by sage Valmiki   would meet all his relatives after a long journey      and would become happy with their relatives.                                128.114
By the grace of Raghava , all the boons that they pray for would be realized   and all gods   would be pleased     with those who listened to it.                                                                                     128.115
To those living in their home , all  obstacles would be removed  , a king would win over earth   and a man who lives outside his home would become comfortable.                                              128.116
“Menstruating women    hearing this would get  matchless and   excellent sons   and one who worships it and reads it   gets relieved of all sins     and would live long.                                                 128.117
The Kshatriyas with bent head    should salute and listen to it   and the Brahmins    should read it every day regularly   and there is no doubt   that the listener and reader   of the entire Ramayana   will get  immeasurable wealth  and birth of a son.                                                                    128.118-128.119
 Rama is indeed Lord Vishnu who is eternal .  Rama , the chief of Raghu clan  is the primeval God  , the very strong Hari , the lord Narayana   and Lakshmana is Adhisesha  .  Rama  would  always love  you on reading this.                                                                                                                                                    128.120
Please narrate   this great story    which occurred long- long ago  without any fear  . You would be safe.  Let the power of Lord Vishnu increase.                                                                                                    128.121
By   analyzing and listening to this epic  all Devas would become happy with you   and by listening to Ramayana , your manes would get pleased.                                                                                         128.122
To those persons who write  this  collection on Rama written by great sages   with devotion  , residence in heaven is assured.                                                                                                                                 128.123
By listening   to this auspicious work  of literary merit   one   gets  increase in family prosperity  ,  increase in wealth, grains  , superior  women   , great happiness   and acquisition of wealth in this earth.
This great work    should be listened   to by good people seeking wisdom  ,long life  , heath  , fame  , love from brothers , intelligence   , welfare   and splendour.                                                                   128.125

    This great story has been in summary form repeated in almost all the eighteen Puranas   as well as in Mahabharatha   as well as Bhagwatha,. Only in Brahmanda Purana it is written in extenso and that version   written by  sage Vyasa  is called the Adhyathma Ramayana  or the spiritual Ramayana. I had the good fortune  of translating it from Malayalam   to English
 Sage Vyasa from the beginning assumes that Rama is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and there  are large number of prayers addressed to God Rama by various characters  in the book as against no prayer addressed to Rama  in Valmiki Ramayana. In this version  Rama who knew Sita   would be abducted asks to her to live  in fire  for that year and the Sita whom Ravana abducted was a mere  image . Possibly   at this very time another book called Adbutha Ramayana (Wonderful Ramayana )  also came out .People believe that  it was written by Valmiki himself . It is much smaller   and has only 27  chapters. It is supposed to be narrated by  Valmiki to sage Bharadwaja. (
Another version of Ramayana called Ananda Ramayana is   also credited to be written by  sage Valmiki.
Unlike the usual names  of books it has  a different names  to the books of the narrative. Here also Rama is considered as God and there   are several prayers  addressed to him.
     I do not know when the   translation of this very great epic was started. In almost   all the Indian languages    there  is a translation available. One reason possibly is that people   already assumed that  Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu  and he lived the life of an ideal man(Maryadha Purushothama.). Here   is a partial list   of all those great  translations. Most of the translations did not agree   with Valmiki , that  Rama was a human being. They   also could not tolerate   a Rakshasa  carrying away Sita, physically touching her , as   she was a goddess.
Tamil Nadu - The Tamil Kambaramayanam, a popular version, written by poet Kamban in the 12th century.
Karnataka - The Kannada versions of the Ramayana – the Kumudendu Ramayana(a Jain version), written in 13th century and the Kumara-Valmiki Torave Ramayana, written in the 16th century. There is another version titled Ramachandra Charita Purana written by Nagachandra during the 13th century. Two prose works by Nanadalike Lakshminarayana ('Muddanna') entitled Adbhuta Ramayana (1895) and Ramaswamedham (1898).[14]
Assam - Saptakanda Ramayana, The Assamese Katha Ramayana or Kotha Ramayana in 14th century by Madhava Kandali.
Bengal - The Bengali Krittivasi Ramayan written by Krittibas Ojha in 15th century.
Orissa - The Oriya Dandi Ramayana or Jagamohan Ramayana was adapted by Balaram Das in the 16th century.
Maharashtra - The Marathi Bhavartha Ramayana written by Eknath in the 16th century. There is also reference of a Ramayana being translated into old Marathi during the 12th or 13th century.
Goa - Ramayanu written by Krishnadasa Shama in 15th century in KardalipuraGoa in Konkani, manuscripts found in Portugal.[11][12]
Awadh - The Ramcharitmanas written by Goswami Tulsidas in the 16th century is the Ramayana version popular in North India.
Kerala - The Malayalam language Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilipattu written by Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan in the 16th century and "Mappila Ramayanam." among the Muslims. There is also a Kannassa Ramayanam   which is much earlier to these.
Gujarat - The Tulsi-Krta Ramayana is a Gujarati adaptation of Tulsidas' Ramcharitamanas in 17th century, by the poet Premanand Swami.
Urdu version called the Pothi Ramayana was written in 17th century.
Jammu and Kashmir - The Kashmiri Ramavatara Charita was written in 19th century.
Andhra Pradesh - The Sri Ranganatha Ramayanamu was adapted by Buddha Reddy and is the Telugu version of the Ramayana. The Molla Ramayanamu was adapted by poetess Molla.
Nepal - The Nepali language Bhanubhakta Ramayana written by Bhanubhakta Acharya in the 19th century. The Nepal Bhasa Siddhi Ramayana was written by Siddhidas Mahaju in the 20th century.

             I was  requested to do this translation by Sri Lakshmanan , who  is running a commercial firm called Celextel specializing in supplying  Hindu religious  items and ,  also maintains   a great web site of  the spiritual library  of  Hindu religious works. I was little reluctant   because of my age (at that time 73) but he assured me that God  would take care of it .  I who believe that  all my  works are  done by God , using me as an instrument  started with the job about a year back. I found that  already several translations of this great book was available   in the web. I decided to read them and  do my own translations based on my understanding of those  great translations. Here are the translations that I used:-

             Since   the people of India    were charmed by the   story of Rama  , there are very large number of prayers   where Ramayana  is given in a nutshell. The most famous is the Eka Sloka Ramayana

Aadho Rama thapo vananu gamanam, Hathwa mrugam kanchanam,
Vaidehi haranam, jatayu maranam, Sugreeva sambhashanam,
Bali nigrahanam, samudhra tharanam, Lanka pureem dahanam,
Paschad Ravana Kumbha karna madanam, Ethat ithi Ramayanam

Once Rama went to forest,
He chased the deer,
Sitha was kidnapped,
Jatayu was killed, There were talks with Sugreeva,
Bali was killed,
The sea was crossed,
Lanka was burnt,
And later Ravana and Kumbha karna,
Were also killed.
This in short is the story of Ramayanam.

          The next well known prayer   containing   the Ramayana is the  very famous  Nama Ramayana.
 Apart from there  are  very many other great  prayers giving  Ramayana in a nutshell. Some of them are

    My deep sense of gratitude    to all those  great people   who have done this labour of love . I acknowledge all of them.I might have used some words and also some whole sentances from these great works.  My translation totally depends   only  on their translations.

      My God,  you dictated me to do it  and you did it and I have been an instrument in your hand. How can I ever repay  this great  blessing from you. You all  can now read  my translation in to English  of Valmiki Ramayana in  my blog 


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  2. Great effort and contribution. My humble namaskarams to you sir.

    Could you possibly speak to various Ramayanas in South East Asian countries and far east? Ravana and sita are related differently in these countries.

    Also, there are many stories regarding life after pattabhishekam. Any historical references would also be great.

    I grew up with Rajaji's translation in Tamil. Look forward to reading yours.

    Thanks and once again, let me touch your feet and offer my respect.

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