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Kambar Again - Will You Welcome Him? I am Not Sure!

Discussion in 'Saturdays with Varalotti' started by varalotti, Feb 3, 2007.

  1. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Most Gracious Ladies,

    In spite of some bad press I have been receiving for Kambar in these columns, I have decided to post another two gems from the great poet. Kamban had a way with words. The words remained his slaves as he was making this great epic.


    But to just display ones skill with words is like feeling proud of ones dresses. . The dresses may be gorgeous. But there is nothing to clothe them in. And for that you need thoughts, ideas and emotions. When these mix in the right proportion what you have is ecstasy, rapture and if you stay through that, enlightenment. Kamban not only had a rich wardrobe but also a great body to wear all his beautiful dresses.

    The first verse describes Sita's condition in captivity. Surrounded by demons, mentally tortured by their brain-washing tactics, Sita is in a state of despair. Kambar feels her grief when he says,

    விழுதல் விம்முதல் மெய் உற வெதும்புதல் வெருவல்

    எழுதல், ஏங்குதல், இரங்குதல், இராமனை எண்ணி
    தொழுதல், சோருதல், துளங்குதல் துயர் உழந்து உயிர்த்தல்
    அழுதல் அன்றி மற்று அயல் ஒன்றும் செய்குவது அறியாள்

    Falling, sobbing, in a state of feverish frenzy
    Fearing, standing, longing, grieving,
    Praying to her Lord, slackening,
    shivering sighing and crying
    And not knowing what else to do
    Is her pathetic state!

    Lest I should be accused of dispensing tear-jerkers by the dozen, I now move on to another majestic moment in the epic. Vibishana, Ravana's brother has sought refuge in Rama. Rama has accepted him. While Valmiki just views this is a strategic alliance with the enemy's enemy, Kambar goes miles ahead to describe Rama's relationship with his enemy's brother.

    குகனோடும் ஐவரானோம் முன்பு பின்பு குன்று சூழ்வான்
    மகனோடும் அறுவரானோம் எம்முழை அன்பில் வந்த
    அகனமர் காதல் ஐய நின்னோடும் எழுவரானோம்
    புகலருங் கானம் தந்து புதல்வரால் பொலிந்தான் உந்தை

    We were born to Dasaratha, sons four;
    Five, we became with Guhan, the hunter king
    And six was our count
    When the king who lived in the mount
    Came as a brother
    And now another
    You who have come to us with love
    Make us all a complete whole
    Your father Dasarathan sent just two
    To the forest to gain a three!
    And he glows in the glory of all the seven!

    There are several aspects of beauty to this poem. Mu.Raghava Iyengar points out that this is the ultimate on equality. In the social order of those days, if the King was at the top of pecking order, the ones who came in the bottom was the hunters. Guhan was a hunter.


    A king accepting him as his brother is the height of friendship. Now the next adopted brother is from the monkey-clan. Sugrivan, the monkey king. Monkey is lower in the order of evolution compared to man.

    And see who comes in last to complete the list - the demon king, Vibheshana. Ravana's brother. With his addition the total count is seven. God makes a powerful statement that whatever may be your place of birth, what I love is what you are. You may be a king or a demon or an animal. But your love is so dear to me, that I will accept you as my own.

    Vibheeshana is in a state of doubt and anxiety. He has been driven out by his brother, Ravana. He is not sure whether he would be accepted by Rama. Even after Rama accepts him, he has his doubts. Rama pledges his friendship and support by the strongest terms possible - by accepting him as his brother.

    And to cap it all he refers Dasaratha as "your father".


    Dasaratha banished two of his sons to the forest and in the process gained three more.

    Now I am pleased to leave this thread for a "thread-bare" discussion among the most gracious, most learned, most strident and the most vibrant ILites.


    You are welcome into this thread with your microscopes and Greys Anatomy books. But please do not forget to bring your heart along.

    regards,
    Varalotti
     
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  2. Ushakrishnan64

    Ushakrishnan64 Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Sridhar,
    May Lord Rama shower His special blessings on you for your contributions in bringing Kamba Ramayana to our IL forum.
    Your description is picture perfect (be it the Lotus painting on the wall, Dasartha's boon to Rama on his coronation, Sita's lamenting, Rama's magnanimity).
    I am looking forward to your description of Sita, showing her strong personality, her poise amidst the demons in Asoka Vanam.

    Regards
    USHA
     
  3. Vidya24

    Vidya24 Gold IL'ite

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    Varalotti,

    Welcome back,Kambar and Varalotti. Thanks for more on Kambar. Again, two well selected versions. And your translations are really good. It takes a lot to render such work.

    But do I detect a smack of male upmanship here? Seeta's frothing description vs a composed Rama's description?

    In the second verse,I love your translation more than the original. Being a Keralite, any notion of socialism and equality appeals to me. And Ramar has developed the family sense well. It could be easy to dismiss it as strategy ,diplomacy,condescending acceptance, army building.But in the end,it teaches us why Ramar is a Purushottama whereas the rest of us are not. In those days and times, to accept a hunter, a primate and a demon as His own, as Their own, is a divine act.

    Varalotti- also reminding you of Bharathi's Parasakthi.If possible, could you post his slokam on Kali?

    Thanks for another scintillating translation.
    regards
    Vidya

    PS: This 'socialist' Rama- is far removed from Rama of 'lotus painted on wall'. I would get the Superstar Mohanlal to play this Rama. For fellow Mallus- think of Mohanlal in Lal Salaam (Red Salute)
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2007
  4. vmur

    vmur Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Varalotti,

    Is it because of Kambar's beautiful verses that your write-up is so enchanting or is it because of your translation that Kambar's verses sound soo beautiful?

    Again, a very beautiful translation of two tear-jerking verses from Kamban, one of distress and one of magnanimity.

    On the same lines of Lord Rama giving "equality" status to all, I would like to quote from HH MahaPeriava's Deivathin Kural (Part 4, Chapter Kannan poojitha Gananaathan - Jambavan).

    When Lord Rama leaves his mortal body in Sarayu and leaves for Vaikuntam, he takes every body with him except Anjeneya, Jambavan and Vibheeshana. The truth that if a person chants "Rama Rama" all the time then this world filled with sorrows and sins will feel like Vaikuntam, was well known to the three of them. So to show and prove this truth to the world, Lord Rama thought it fit to let Jambavan, Anjeneya and Vibheeshana live as "Chiranjeevees" in this world.

    "naNmaiyum Selvamum naalum nalkume,
    thinmanyum paavamum sidaiththu theyume,
    Janmamum maraNamum indri theerume,
    Raama endra irandhu ezhuthinaal. "

    One important point to note here is that, though we speak highly of human evolution, Lord Rama gifted the "Chiranjeevi" status during his Avataar to one from an Asura clan, Monkey clan and Bear clan, and to none among the humans, because He thought the humans did not have the "yogyathaamsam" or the Staunch Bhakti to chant His name forever.

    Ashwaththaama balir Vyaaso Hanumaamchcha VibheeshaNa |
    Krupa Parashuraamachcha Sapthaithe Chiranjeevina ||

    The above sloka says that there are 7 Chiranjeevis (Jambavan is not mentioned here, but he is among the Chiranjeevis too)

    So Vidya, are you going to be up against arms with Lord Rama for not granting "Chiranjeevi" status to humans ? ;-) Just kidding.

    Warm Regards
    Vidya
     
  5. Vandhana

    Vandhana Silver IL'ite

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    Dear Sridhar,
    Another good selection from you. Like Vidya said, it does take a lot of TLC to come up with a translation that matches the original. I liked the second verse better than the first. Mainly because I do not agree with kambar portrayal of Sita here. I think she was made of mightier stuff than to just :
    "Falling, sobbing, in a state of feverish frenzy<?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = O />
    Fearing, standing, longing, grieving,
    Praying to her Lord, slackening,
    shivering sighing and crying
    And not knowing what else to do
    Is her pathetic state"
    The way he has portrayed her, the logical conclusion would be that she would have gone with Anjenayer when he came to Lanka and asked that she come with him. But being made of sterner stuff, she chose the right path. of course she herself is Goddess Lakshmi reincarnate. The first verse does show her in a weaker light.

    Vandhana
     
  6. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Warm Welcome....

    But to just display ones skill with words is like feeling proud of ones dresses. . The dresses may be gorgeous. But there is nothing to clothe them in. And for that you need thoughts, ideas and emotions. When these mix in the right proportion what you have is ecstasy, rapture and if you stay through that, enlightenment. Kamban not only had a rich wardrobe but also a great body to wear all his beautiful dresses.

    These above words of yours got me instantly Sridhar! When writing, I feel like that often. Words words words...but if you do not have significant ideas and emotions, what good are they for?

    The same 'words' cannot lament in your hands though. You do use them to the best while dressing thoughts, your's or Kambar's, is of no significance:)

    As said earlier, thanks to you that I am getting introduced to Tamil Literature and also to a select gems. Thanks for so freely sharing this with us. Even if I did contemplate reading Kamban's Ramayanam, I will never be able to fathom it. One can read Shakespaere, but it is the analytical thoughts of various connoisseurs that has made him great.

    Like others here mentioned, I too liked the second verse better than the first for all the obvious reasons. Maybe Kamban did give in more to the sweetness of words than substance.

    My special appreciation goes to Vmur. I am amazed at your know how and your interest in culture and spirituality, knowing how young you are. Regards to you.

    L, Kamla
     
  7. sriranjani

    sriranjani New IL'ite

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    I go with the ladies, Varalotti!

    Varalotti,

    When there were some uncharitable remarks on Kamban in the last thread, I wanted to barge in and support you. But withheld myself, for I do not want to be seen as Varalottis Chumcha.

    It is not in my nature to white wash things, Varalotti. Kambar has written thousands of verses. I am surprised how you chose the first verse, which shows a woman in her weakest form, and that too, to be posted in an all-womans site?

    I am not impressed Varalotti.

    But you more than compensated with the second. The second verse is very special to me.

    I had the good fortune of reading a play of Mu.Raghava Iyengar. In that play we see Kambar as a disillusioned man. You know why? His son Ambikapathi was sentenced to die for the only fault of falling in love with the King's daughter.

    The great king who treated Kambar as his close friend and made him sit next to him on the throne, could not tolerate his daughter falling in love with Kambar's son.

    After all the King communicated by his actions, that when it comes to real life economic status is all that counts. He acted like a third-grade villain of a second-grade Bollywood movie.

    Here lies Mu.Ra.s genius. He makes Kambar recite this verse, Guhanodum, again and again as he is thinking of his son's death. While he could make the great Rama to embrace equality, his words did not have any impact on an ordinary king ruling over a limited kingdom.

    Perhaps, all poets who live in the dreamy ideal state are destined to this kind of despair!

    Sorry for making this thread heavy. But could not help it.
    Varalotti, do post more of Kambar and less of the verses like the first one.
    regards,
    Sriranjani
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2007
  8. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    An Explanation and a Compensation!

    Most Gracious ILites,


    There has been an unanimous voice of dissent among the ILites regarding the first verse I have chosen for this thread, Sriranjani’s being, the most strident of all.

    I am now using the opportunity of representation, an undeniable right of the accused, to do two things. One is offer an explanation (likely to be turned down by the gracious ladies) and two providing a compensation by choosing another verse where Sita and womanhood is glorified.

    Sita is Mahalakshmi and as some one pointed out she could have burnt the entire Lanka, Ravana and his clan included, and could have flown back to her husband. But Dear Ladies, Ramayana, especially the way Kambar narrated it, is not theology, is not even sacred literature, but a spiritually profound love story.


    It is Sita’s love for Rama that prevents her from taking any action against Ravana. She wants Rama to come for her, to wage a war against the demons and then rescue her.

    Sita is Goddess Herself. For her to annihilate Ravana would take no time. Yet, out of her boundless love for Rama, she opts to wait.

    Women always do that. I have known many women who might be the General Managers and CEOs of companies. They might have the money power to buy the entire Flower Market in the town. But they would lovingly wait for their husband to get, as we say in Tamil, “oru muzham poo.” (the minimum quantity of flowers sold as strung together) That is the state of Sita.


    Thus the poem is not exhibiting Sita’s weakness; it is a tribute to her love. And believe me ladies, there are thousands of Sitas, who though they are more qualified and more competent than their husbands and could have easily outshone them in their career paths, have opted to be a prisoner at home, have opted to subdue themselves, out of love for their partner.

    There is also a spiritual dimension to Sita’s grief. The mystics compare it with the longing of the soul for God. Sita, though being powerful to take action, remains silent, just to make it clear, that God’s love is not won by efforts. You cannot do anything to get God’s grace. The very word Anugraham for grace means that it descends on us, on its own. It is not a reward for our efforts; it is the culmination of our love for God and His love for us.

    And now the compensation.

    Hanuman has returned to Rama, his mission accomplished. Given his bakthi for Rama, and given the fact that he has not seen Rama for days, he should have fallen at his feet.

    But he does not do that. He has now seen Sita. Naturally he thinks that she deserves his devotion more. So he turned in the opposite direction, in the direction of Lanka, and fell down, folding his hands in an utmost state of reverence. And then went on to sing her praises.


    எய்தினென் அனுமனும் எய்தி ஏந்தல்தன்
    மொய்கழல் தொழுகிலன் முளரி நீங்கிய
    தையலை நோக்கிய தலையன் கையினன்
    வையகம் தழீஇ நெடிது இறைஞ்சி, வாழ்த்தினான்

    Hanuman reached Rama and having reached,
    Did not worship at his ankle-laden feet
    Instead he turned his head
    Towards the Goddess of Wealth
    Who has left her lotus abode
    To be born as Sita in this world
    And folding his hands in reverence
    Prostrated in her direction
    And sung her praises!


    In most of the marriages, you can always find the wife sacrificing much more than her husband to sustain the marriage.

    A speaker in Tamilnadu said that there is no renunciation, the process of becoming a sanyasi for women in Hindu religion. When a feminist objected that this was chauvinism and that she would fight for that right, the speaker calmly replied, for women the sanyas happens at the time of marriage. What is sanyas? A man leaves behind all those he loves and goes into the forest. A woman also leaves behind all of those whom she loves (her mother, father, brothers, sisters and even friends) and goes to live in her husband’s place, which incidentally can be more dangerous than a forest.

    While taking sanyas the man changes his name. Thus Rajesh Kumar can become Swami Nithyananda. So does the wife when she gets a new name from her husband. In Hindu religion her gothram also changes.

    Hanuman should have had all these things in his mind when he bowed to Sita in Rama’s presence. It is a beautiful moment when a naisthika brahmachari like Hanuman proclaims the supremacy of women for all time to come.

    There is also another explanation. That Hanuman wanted to convey to Rama that Sita is safe on the otherside of the ocean. There was no need to worry.

    Being a die-hard romantic as I am I would rather prefer the first one. Kambar, I am sure, would have also endorsed my choice.

    Have I done my part, Ladies?
    varalotti
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
  9. vidyasarada

    vidyasarada Senior IL'ite

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    Dear Sridhar,

    You must really , absolutely, positively love Kamban ! How else could you have produced such pristine translation and emotional appreciation !

    Seethai's virtues have routinely come in for criticism from many quarters since many years. In fact, in some woman-centric radical writings , the idiom "seetha-savithris" is used in an almost derogatory manner . That may be a reaction to oppressive male attitudes that take the epic as divine sanction for boorish assumptions of superiority, consequent to poor understanding of the epic, in toto.

    You are right that even to this day, there are women who decide to step behind the husband, inspite of personal accomplishments. One name that readily comes to mind is Sudha Murthy ( of Infosys Foundation). stepping behind need not necessarily make a woman a substanceless shadow , she can be the strong pillar that supports or props up the husband. When do women willingly assume the role of second fiddle ? The Epic has the answers hidden in it.
    Kamban's mellifluous words for seetha'is decision not to save herself but wait for Rama:
    " Thooyavan Ambirrkku Maasenru visien..."
    By using the word Thooyavan and not any other, Kamban's Sita seems to say that he being such a faithful, untainted husband, she would not dream of causing him infamy ( that he dint rescue her). So we can see that Seethai's innate loyalty is actually strenghtened by the reciprocity her husband has shown. An ideal husband gets an ideal wife.
    That was one fully functional marriage !


    VS
     
  10. ambika ananth

    ambika ananth Bronze IL'ite

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    Dear Sridhar
    I felt very proud, very happy reading your post and after seeing your reply, my friend I must say...I am feeling over joyed. Just like the way the fragrance of flowers travel not against the wind, but along, you showed so much of maturity and understanding in your wonderful response, not by going against others, but calmly going along to take them to the truth of the great Epic Ramayana. One should never view Rama and Sita as Gods, though they are the Divine embodiments of Vishnu and Lakshmi. They both are incarnations in human form and all the emotions humans experience they too experienced with as much intensity. As you said, Sita easily could have annihilated Ravana with a mere glance of hers, but as a thorough believer in her husband's prowess, she just waited and waited...and in that process had undergone all the pains and misery meted out to her. There is no question of anybody making her seem weak or helpless, that percisely was her situation. That way Rama also was shown as lamenting and crying in total distress, asking every sentient and non-sentient object also about the whereabouts of his beloved Sita, when he doesn't find her in their joyful abode - the 'parnashala', after Ravana abducts her. Ramayana as an epic, apart from posessing highest human connotation has a spiritual-mystic center that will ever remain inexplicable to the argumentative mind. When poets depict the pitiable condition of Sita's state of mind and her wallowing in distress, it is to giive more emphasis to their depiction, to make the required impact.

    Great going Sridhar...let more of the wonderful verses reach us thru your faithful, dedicated translation. You are an adept...I reiterate again with pride

    Regards
    ambika
     

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