"Ram" the name of the lord of the Raghu lineage is glorious indeed in Hindu tradition, and it is unquestionably the essence of its great medieval Hindi epic, Ramcaritmanas, composed by Gosvami Tulsidas. But one may ask, how many times in the course of this vast work does the name "Ram" appear? The answer to this question (which may be found in the present work) is not merely a matter of academic curiosity, but literary scholars and researchers often need to determine how many times and especially in what specific contexts some great poet or author has used a certain word or sequence of words. For example, a historian may seek all the usages of the name of a certain city, country, or king, or a linguist may look for each appearance of a certain verb or adjective, and so forth. Nor are such methods unfamiliar to Manas devotees and traditional scholars Ramayanis and vyasas for the careful analysis of Gosvami's usage of various terms has long been one of the standard techniques of oral and written exegesis of the epic: Manas-katha, pravacan, and vyakhya. Of course, there have always been those who excelled in this because of their total devotion to the epic, which they had completely internalized through memorization. In Ayodhya in 1984 I witnessed the extraordinary talent of the blind Ramayani known as "Ram Sahay Surdas-ji," who used to sit in Kanak Bhavan temple and answer devotees' questions about the Ramayan. His mind was capable of feats of memory that, nowadays in the West, we associate only with computes, and if someone asked him, for example, what Gosvamiji meant by birah, he would begin reeling off verses in which this term appears, commenting on each use of the word. It is also said by many Ramayanis that the "definition" of every term used in the Manas is itself given somewhere within the vast scope of that work.
But few of us have ready access to such marvelous personalities as Ram Sahay Surdas-ji, and it is perhaps also true that the number of those who have the entire text of Manas "in the throat" (as is said in Hindi, or in English, "by heart") is dwindling with the passage of time. For those who study the epic primarily through written sources, an ideal tool is a word index or "concordance." Such indexes have long been available for many important works of world literature, such as for various editions of the Bible, and for the complete plays of William Shakespeare. But it is a matter of regret that uptil now no accessible word index has been available for Tulsidas's justly famous and beloved masterpiece. True, Dr. Suryakant published a word index in 1937 under the title Tulsi-Ramayan shabd-suci and this book is still available in some collection. Dr. Suryakant assembled it with great care, but unfortunately the Manas edition on which he based it (published in Allahabad in 1922 with a commentary by B. Syam Sundar Das) has been virtually unavailable for a long time. Moreover, the line-numbering system of this edition appears to have been idiosyncratic, with the result that, unless one possesses a copy of this edition, the otherwise commendably-organized Suryakant Sabd-suci is of no use.
In May 1995, when I had the good fortune to visit Belgium, Professor Winand M. Callewaert of Leuven University, an expert on medieval Hindi Sant poetry, told me about the word index he was then developing with the aid of a computer program for the Sikh scripture, Shri Guru Granth Sahib (Since published by Motilal Banarsidass, 1996, 2 vols.). He then suggested that he could apply the same methodology and software to make a new word index for the Manas that would be based on the most widely-available edition of the text. Not only did Professor Callewaert make this excellent suggestion, but after my return to the United States he began, with his characteristic energy and enthusiasm, to make the necessary arrangements to bring it to fruition. Through his dedication and hard work, he obtained a research grant from the Koninklijke Akademie der Wetenschappen (Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences) for the production of this index. We are consequently very indebted to the board of directors of that Academy, as well as to Dr. H. Bodewitz, Professor of Sanskrit at Leiden University (Netherlands) and Professor D. Kolff, Director of CNWS, Leiden, for their encouragement and support of the project.
Although it remains rather surprising that so influential and beloved a text as the Ramcaritmanas has yet to appear in a truly critical edition, nevertheless there are at least three editions currently available that we may characterize as "semicritical" and that show only fairly minor variations among them: that of the Nagaripracarini Sabha, edited by Dr. Mataprasad Gupta; of the Kashiraj Trust, edited by Shri Vishvanath Prasad Mishra; and of the Gita Press of Gorakhpur, edited by Shri Hanuman Prasad Poddar, which first appeared in 1938 in a special issue of its popular journal Kalyan . Since then the Gita Press version has appeared in numerous editions and formats, large and small, and has been printed in hundreds of thousands of copies. It has found its way throughout India and beyond. Therefore, to suit the convenience of our readers we have decided to base our word index on the text as presented in the Gita Press edition, and utilizing also the numbering system contained therein (and further explained below). During the winter of 1996, Mr. Hemant Kumar Varshney and Ms. Rajni Ravat, Eclipse Systems, of New Delhi performed a unique and very modern parayan or "complete reading" of the Manas, earning (no doubt) great merit and our immense gratitude when they carefully typed the entire Gita Press text into a computer. Indeed, so conscientiously did they carry out this task, that when the time came to proofread their work (for which purpose we ourselves carried out an additional parayan recitation here in Belgium), we found remarkably few mistakes and were able to thoroughly savor the poetry as we read it. Whatever errors still remain (as there must no doubt be in any human endeavor) are ours.
As all readers of the Manas are aware, the "four charming ghats" (dialogues) and seven "staircases" (sub-books) of the epic's allegorical lake are constructed with the building blocks of stanzas consisting mainly of the caupai and doha meters. In all editions the dohas are numbered, but there are sometimes variations in the numbering scheme. On reflection, we have decided, following the model of both the Gita Press edition and the influential commentary Manas-piyus, to regard dohas as representing the terminations of stanzas. Therefore, the citation "1.15.4" in the index refers the reader to Book 11 of the epic (Bal-kand), stanza 15 (which consists of six verses preceding the doha that bears this number), and to the fourth two-line caupai in that stanza (as printed and numbered in the Gita Press editions). When couplets in doha/soratha meter occur at the opening of Kands (and appear unnumbered in the Gita Press edition), they are given the number "0"; thus "2.0" refers to the famous verse which opens Ayodhya-kand:
Having cleansed the mirror of my heart with the dust of my master's feet
I narrate the pure glory of Raghuvar, which yields life' four fruits.
Where more than one doha/soratha occurs at the end of a stanza, to its number is appended "k ,K ga" etc., corresponding to the numbering in Gita Press editions.
The other material form that is used frequently in the Manas is the four-line chand, usually introduced at moments of heightened emotion. Often a single chand stanza is sandwiched between a series of caupais and its concluding doha or soratha. In such cases, the chand bears the number of that doha stanza with the additional notations "C" Thus "1.10C" refer in Bal-kand to the chand that is inserted after a series of caupais just preceding doha 10. When several chands occur in series (and sometimes whole stanzas consist of them, as at 1.186), they are numbered 1.186C1, C2, C3, etc., just as they are in the Gita Press editions2. In such a case, of course, the reader may have to examine up to four lines of text in order to find the desired item; however, to order the index otherwise would have introduced the confusion of departing from the familiar Gita Press numbering scheme.
One other feature of this index requires mention. Very frequently, Tulsidas uses recurring formulas or clusters of words, especially word-pairs such as sukh sagar or hari jan . By nothing these down when they came to our attention we have assembled a list of more than a hundred such recurring patterns, and it has seemed useful to treat such formulas as single units in order not to overburden the reference system.
Finally, we like to thank Mr. Francis Laleman and Dr. Piet Mertens of the KULeuven for their assistance in adjusting the computer programs for this particular project, and Dr. Svapna Sharma for translating the Introduction into Hindi.
About the book:
Beyond any doubt it can be said that the Manas of Tulsidas is one of the most popular and influential literary works in Indian literature. Millions have been and are enchanted by the beauty of its poetry and are influenced by the depth of its religious message. But Tulsidas lived five centuries ago and although for a Hindi speaker it may be not too difficult to understand the Avadhi language in which the Manas is written, the text becomes more and more inaccessible to many readers and listeners. Scholars too are at a loss because no adequate world index is available.
It is the purpose of this publication to give easy access to parallel passages in this enormous poem of Tulsidas. Both devotees and scholars may use this index for a study of the contents, while linguists may find it useful for a study of the grammatical and lexicographical forms.
About the Author:
Winand M. Callewaert is Professor of Sanskrit at the Catholic University Leuven, Belgium. His Publications include The Sarvangi of the Dadupanthi Rajab; Ed., Early Hindi Devotional Literature in Current Research; Bhagavadgitanuvada: A Study in Transcultural Translation (with S. Hemraj); E.C. India: Towards an Emerging Consensus (with Rajiv Kumar); The Hindi Biography of Dadu Dayal; The Hindi Songs of Namdev (with Mukund Lath); Nirgun-bhakti
Sagar: Devotional Hindi Literature (with B. Op de Beeck); The Life and Works of Raidas (with P. Friedlander); The Sarvangi of Gopal Das; Eds., According to Tradition: Hagiographical Writing in India (with Rupert Snell); Gods and Temples in South-India; Kurukshetra, of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar (translation from Hindi into English with Adeshwara Rao); Shri Guru Granth Sahib, with complete Index.
He has published eight books on India in Dutch.
Philip Lutgendorf is Associate Professors of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies at the University of IOWA (USA). His study of the oral performance of Tulsidas's epic of Ram, The Life of a text, received the 1932. Ananda Coomaraswamy Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend