Appreciating Kamban --- A few select stanzas from Balakandam


The epic story of Ramayana, which is a part of the Indian collective consciousness,has been retold in many of the regional languages.Pre-eminent among them is the 12th century Tamil version of Kamba Ramayanam.Son of a temple drummer, Kambar had mastered both Tamil and Sanskrit in his younger days.He immersed himself totally in Valmiki Ramayanam as he was fully drawn by Rama's character.He wanted to do the story in Tamil.Though he acknowledges his indebtedness to the original, he differs from Valmiki in significant ways. For Valmiki,Rama was a Purushottama (the best among men), Kambar on the other hand, could never forget that Rama was an Avatar of God.

The beauty of Kamban is the richness of the literary value of his work.He stands out as a lover of nature a la Wordsworth, Shelley or Kalidasa. I give below one of the descriptions of Kamban on Ayodhya.

தண்டலை மயில்கள் ஆட, தாமரை விளக்கம் தாங்க,
கொண்டல்கள் முழவின் ஏங்க, குவளை கண் விழித்து நோக்க,
தெண் திரை எழினி காட்ட, தேம் பிழி மகர யாழின்
வண்டுகள் இனிது பாட, -மருதம் வீற்றிருக்கும் மாதோ.

Kambar brings before our mind's eye a beautiful picture.The peacocks in the garden dance in ecstacy. The lotus in the ponds light up the scene.The clouds roar and it looks like playing drums to the orchestra.The tiny flowers kuvalai open their eyes in wonder. The waves in the waters from the south splash.The bees that move up and down sing a divine note. It is in this divine setting that the kingdom of Ayodhya is perched. Kamban says that Ayodhya was situated in marudham which refers to arable land, obviously fertile.

Viswamitra escorts Rama and Lakshmana with the apparent aim of slaying Thadaha to bring relief to the Rishis performing Thapas (yagam) in the forests. There is also a hidden reason in this action.He wants that Rama and Sita should meet, so that the divine marriage could be performed.Viswamitra is wonder struck at the valour of Rama.As the 3 of them walk towards Mithila, a strange thing happens.As soon as Rama's feet touch a stone ,a beautiful woman stands in front of him. It was the miracle of a stone turning into woman.

Sage Viswamitra narrates the story behind this incident.Ahalya who was the wife of sage Gautama once falls a prey to the viles of Indira.Her husband who comes to know of it,curses her to turn into a stone.When Ahalya pleads guilty and asks for a 'sapa vimochana' Gautama says that when Rama's feet touch the stone, she will spring back to life. Viswamitra says that he could see valour of his hands the other day while slaying Thadaga, and the valour of his legs now when he gave life to Ahalya.

இவ் வண்ணம் நிகழ்ந்த வண்ணம்: இனி, இந்த உலகுக்கு எல்லாம்
உய்வண்ணம் அன்றி, மற்று ஓர் துயர் வண்ணம் உறுவது உண்டோ ?
மை வண்ணத்து அரக்கி போரில், மழை வண்ணத்து அண்ணலே! உன்
கை வண்ணம் அங்குக் கண்டேன்; கால் வண்ணம் இங்குக் கண்டேன்.' அகலிகை இராமன் பாதம் பணிந்து செல்லுதல்

Rama was the most charming and handsome person that one could think of! As he passed through Mithila, the land of Sita ,people who saw him started admiring every part of his body. Those who saw his shoulders couldn't taketheir eyes off that part! Those who saw his lotus flower like feet had also a similar experience.His long extensive hands also produced a similar reaction.By looking at each and every part of the body everybody had a similar experince.The whole stanza describes the unparallelled charm of Rama who was the ultimate answer to masculine grace!

தோள் கண்டார், தோளே கண்டார்; தொடு கழல் கமலம் அன்ன
தாள் கண்டார், தாளே கண்டார்; தடக் கை கண்டாரும், அஃதே;
வாள் கொண்ட கண்ணார் யாரே, வடிவினை முடியக் கண்டார்? -
ஊழ் கொண்ட சமயத்து அன்னான் உருவு கண்டாரை ஒத்தார்

The following stanza discusses the exchage of glances and the romance between Rama and Sita.Viswamitra escorts Rama and Lakshmana along the streets of Mithila.Sita is playing in the balcony along with her friends.The sage and the 2 brothers pass by at that time.The glances of Rama and Sita meet at that time. Before this Vishnu and Lakshmi were together in 'Par kadal' In the new avatar as Rama and Sita, they are meeting after a long time.How are they seeing each other? Kamban says that their looks are so engrossed and so penetrative, that each other's eye balls would eat away the others!It is not the meeting of eyes only! Their emotions also merge simultaneously!

எண்ண அரு நலத்தினாள் இனையள் நின்றுழி,
கண்ணொடு கண் இணை கவ்வி, ஒன்றை ஒன்று
உண்ணவும், நிலைபெறாது உணர்வும் ஒன்றிட,
அண்ணலும் நோக்கினான்; அவளும் நோக்கினாள்.

In this stanza Kamban traces the history of Sita and Siva danush .Janaka got both of them while tilling the land.The fate of both these were inter-twined.The public of Mithila were immensely happy that they got them as a gift of Ganga and God Himself!

சித்திரம் இங்கு இது ஒப்பது எங்கு உண்டு-செய்வினையால்
வித்தகமும் விதி வசமும் வெவ்வேறே புறம் கிடப்ப,
அத் திருவை அமரர் குலம் ஆதரித்தார் என, அறிஞர்!
இத் திருவை நில வேந்தர் எல்லாரும் காதலித்தார்!

Panguni uththiram is the most auspicious occassion for the Gods as well as humans.It is on this day that many marriages are perfomed Vasishtar,who was the Rajaguru for Dasaratha and the Ishvahu vamsa performed the official marriage ceremony.When the happy occassion for the wedding dawned it was so for Rama's brothers also.Dasaratha and his family stayed in Mithila for some more days before they left for Ayodhya.

பங்குனி உத்தரம் ஆன பகற்போது,
அங்க இருக்கினில், ஆயிர நாமச்
சிங்கம் மணத் தொழில் செய்த திறத்தால்,
மங்கல அங்கி, வசிட்டன் வகுத்தான்.

Sita Rama kalyanam is the most auspicious event for the Hindus world over

May 2009