The ethical grandeur of Kamban


"Among the poets that we know of , we haven't seen the likes of Kamban,Thiruvalluvan and Ilangoon this earth' so declares Subramanya Bharathi, the evergreen poet of last century. In the previous issues of this newsletter we have seen quite a bit of Valluvar.I now propose to discuss about the beauty of Kamba Ramayanam., which is a famous literary treatise.V.V.S.Iyer the great Indian revolutionary states"the Ramayana is at once a legend,history, a poem,unmatcheably, sublime and magnificently dramatic.There are very few lovers of Tamil literature who haven't been attracted by the beauty of expression and richness of imagery of Kamban.

Adopting the story from the Valmiki Ramayana in Samskrit which has 24,000 verses, Kamban wrote his Ramayana in Tamil in 12,000 verses.The story is divided into six cantos which narrates the exploits of Rama from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka and finally ending with his coronation.The story is popular among all East Asian countries and enacted in dances dramas in many places

Kamba Ramayanam opens with a prayer song offering to surender to Lord Almghty who plays the eternal game of Creation,Protection and Destruction and declares unequivocally that Almighty is our leader and to Him we surrender.This is the underlying principle of Vaishnavism

Ramayana finds an ideal man in Rama The coming together of Rama and Sita is beautifully descibed in their exchange of which they devour each other. There is humour in the story when Surpanaga proposes marriage to Rama or in the alternative with his brother Lakshmana.There is heroism in the story when Rama and Lakshmana fight battles with Asuras and kill thousands of them.There is agony in the story when Jatayu tries to protect Sita from Ravana and is mercilessly killed.There is bon- ami in this when Rama an emperor in exile befriends a boatman, a monkey and an asura and decares that they are his brothers !

There are ever so many characters in Kamba Ramayanam that the interplay among them is fascinating. This gives good scope to compare and contrast them and provides ground for Patti mandrams and discussions.

Kamban Vizha is a festival unique in Tamil- speaking areas .Chennai city has held more than 60 such festivals and I have attended at least 20 of them,There are persons who come from distant places with packed food sit for the whole day and watch the proceedings.Ballets and classical dances are presented on the themes of Ramayana.It can thus be seen that Kamban's contribution is much for Tamil and Tamil Nadu,

February 2009