Whether the story of- the Raamaayana had really happened or it is a creation of the human imagination is difficult to argue. But the story is unusually (and at the same time, beautifully) structured—original in content, and with remarkable characters and stunning events—that it is more likely that it is all happened fact and not fabricated fiction. Mixed with divine and human elements, the story has had an irresistible appeal from time immemorial.
The oldest and the most complete version of The Raamaayana is by Sage Vaalmeeki. Legend has it God Brahma Himself had ordained that Vaalmeeki should write the Raamaayana and the gist of the story was narrated to Vaalmeeki by sage Naarada. It is amazing how from a brief narration, Vaalmeeki could fill in all the details to compose a monumental epic of about 22,000 verses. It shows the power of Vaalmeeki's vision.
Over the years, there had been other versions of the story in other Indian languages, two of the more famous ones being Ramacharita Manas by Saint Tulsi Das in Hindi and Kamba Raamaayana by Poet Kamban in Tamil. If has been a popular theme for musical compositions (by St. Thyagaraja in Telugu and Arunachala Kavi in Tamil) and also for Dance-Drama presentations in the medium of Yakshagaana and Kathakali. The story has also migrated to countries in South East Asia, where it appeared with the local colour. In the modern period, scholars like Sri C.Rajagopalachari (Rajqji) and Rt. Hon'ble V.S Srinivasa Sastry, have responded to the literary, intellectual and spiritual appeal of the story to present their own studies of the epic. Most recently the serialised television production of the Raamaayana by Ramananda Sagar, had demonstrated the strong hold that the story had on the Indian psyche irrespective of religion, caste or creed.
Amidst all these, the Raamaayana of Vaalmeeki stands out as the fountain head of original inspiration. As the saying "Age has not withered, Nor custom staled its infinite variety" (As long as mountains stand and rivers flow on earth, the story of Raarnaayana will ever remain current in the world) The present work by Sri. L. Swaminathan, is an analytical study to bring out the beauty and the power of the Vaalmeeki epic. Swaminathan belongs to a family of scholars and teachers. Son of renowned economist, Professor Dr. P. S. Lokanathan (who was Professor of Economics, Madras University) and nephew of Professor P.S. Subrahmania lyer (who was head of Dept. of Physics, Presidency college) he took Industrial Chemistry as his profession and served in various factories in India and abroad as a production chemist. The Factory schedule and the pre- occupation with production allowed him little time for any other activity. When he retired in around 1986/88, he turned to the study of Vaalmeeki Raamaayana. At school he had the good fortune to be taught Sanskrit and English by dedicated and excellent teachers. With the large Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Sir Monier Williams (Oxford University publication) as his sole guide and companion, Swaminathan carried out an exploratory study of the classic for sometime and then took on the ambitious task of translating the entire Raamaayana -all the 22,000 slokas , stanza by stanza - almost word for word. With systematic discipline and determination he could render the English version of Vaalmeeki Raamaayana in 8 or 9 years. If was a work of quality and fidelity, regarding which the late Sri. S. Ramakrisnnan, General Editor, Bhavan's Book University had this to say. "It is an inspired devoted and incredible labour of love. It is a Bagiratha Prayatnna, a monumental effort, reflecting an enormous, dedicated and unremitting labour by Sri. L. Swaminathan over a long period". That Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan came forward to publish the book in an attractive set of 8 volumes was thus no surprise.
Swaminathan does not want to stop. The propagation of the message of Vaalmeeki has become a passion with him. He felt that the 22,000 stanza epic will be too much for a general reader to start with. That is why he has worked on a condensed version which is the present work Vaalmeeki Raamaayana - A Revelation.
The object of presenting this is to stimulate interest in study of Vaalmeeki Raamaayana. There can never be substitute for a study of this Epic than by reading through the Sanskrit Text. If we have no knowledge of Sanskrit, even reading a translation in a language we are conversant with, will do us good. After all, this Epic by Vaalmeeki is a Vedha. At the hands of Sage Vaalmeeki it became a Vedha. (Knowledge- ‘Vid’ to know)
Vaalmeeki Raamaayana consists of about 21,700 slokas (Stanzas) in 6 Kaandams (Books) covering 537 Sargams (chapters). In the world we are living now, most of us are not blessed with leisure and time away from our mundane activities. And as no Indian can afford to ignore this Vedha, a Guide to this great Epic is offered bringing out some of the "Wisdom, Truths, and Dharma’ contained in this Vedha of Vaalmeeki, in the hope, that later in one’s life, Raamaayana Text by Vaalmeeki or in stanza by stanza translation of Sanskrit Text will be read. Time and again noble sons of India have maintained that Vaalmeeki Raamaayana is not just mythology or a history of Raama. Dheergadharshi, (The ‘Seer’) C.Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) after completing his condensed version of Raamaayana in English, for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, said that nothing in his life gave him such satisfaction and solace as this ‘effort’. We may read also what that great teacher, scholar, orator and statesman, who was a mentor to Mahatma Gandhi, Rt.Hon’ble VS Srinivasa Sastry said "One immortal product of human mind I have kept to the end, The Raamaayana I hold to be almost without rival in the world’s literature....whether we judge by the grandeur of the theme, by the variety of characters portrayed, the tone of idealism, or the appeal that it makes to the devoted heart, it ranks among the noblest of poetic genius..all parts of the book reward the reverential reader....I open the "Book" at all times....It never fails me" And this great, noble man, by way of sympathising with those who have no knowledge of Sanskrit, exhorts them to read Vaalmeeki through stanza by stanza rendering in translation. He says "To those who cannot read it in the original, I would unhesitatingly recommend resort to translation. Because, the wise say, that if you cannot scale The Himalayas, you would do well to get to the base of The Mountain and take in the infinite variety that meets the Eye" Yes Vaalmeeki Raamaayana Is Himalaya.
Now what is so great about this Epic. A book that we read today is soon out of date. When a "Book’ survives century after century, there must be something in it. Well. For a child this is a mighty story book. So many stories are contained in it. For the youth and young ones, this is poetry, romance. For the Grihastha, the average citizen, it is practical wisdom. For the old and the aged, it is religion and philosophy. It deals with character, nature, human relationships, war and peace.............No wonder the Epic has survived post atomic era and will survive post Computer - IT era as well. Infact, as The Creator God Brahma, says "Till mountains stand and till rivers flow, this ‘tale’ of Raama will live in all the three worlds". (Bala — Chapter 2 - Slokas 37 &38)
Dharma is the basis of religion in India. Infact, there is no such thing as Hinduism. Even word India is a misnomer. What constitutes religion in India that is Bhaaratha Varsh, it is Sanaathana Dharma. (Eternal Dharma). And Dharma is found in our scriptures, Vedha-s and Upanishads. And Raamaayana is a Vedha as well.
Scholars and Indologists have taken some exception to calling Vaalmeeki Raamaayana, a Vedha. Their main argument is that unlike Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharvana Vedha and the Shruthis and Smrithis, which were never written by mortals but came into being by the experience and wisdom over the ages of sages and noble men of lore, Raamaayana was written by a human being, Vaalmeeki. Thus they reject the claim that Raamaayana is a Vedha. But in as much as Lord Naradha who could move freely in all the Three Worlds for the welfare of all, has affirmed as such, we need not be apologetic. Vaalmeeki Raamaayana is a Vedha. (Bala — Chapter 1- Sloka 98). And let us not forget that God Brahma ordains Vaalmeeki and it is HIS wish and the poetry that comes out of Vaalmeeki is only at HIS will and pleasure.(Bala — Chapter 2 — Sloka 32) and so the history of Raama, The Raamaayana, cannot but be a Vedha in Vaalmeeki’s hands. God Brahma is Vedha.
When my friend Swaminathan requested me to write a Preface to his new book on Rama, "Vaalmeeki Raamaayana - A Revelation" I could not refuse him for more reasons than one. I used to know his father, Dr. P. S. Lokanathan, an eminent Economist. His uncles, particularly P. S. Ananthanarayana, were close to members of Rajapalayam family.
But the personal relationship was not the only reason for my acceptance of his wish. Even as a very young student of Ramakrishna Mission Students’ Home at Chennai, I was drawn to Lord Rama and Raama Naama Taraka Manthra became part of my very existence. So Swaminathan’s request became a command when he presented me the unedited, trial copy of his new book "Revelation".
The RAMCO Group with which I have the privilege of being Closely associated for the last five decades has always "lived by Lord Rama’s Virtues" since the days of its founder Si PAAC Ramasamy Raja. When Swaminathan completed his mammoth work of rendering a stanza by stanza version in English of Vaalmeeki, no wonder our institution came out with support and grant to his commendable work. This 8 volume (3,000 page work) was formally released by Sri R.Venkataraman, former President of India, on behalf of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan at a simple but well attended function on Rama Navami day in 2002.
But quite a number of us like our Chairman Sri Ramasubrahmaneya Rajha and Sri Ramakrishnanji of The Bhavan (who, alas, is no more) felt that Swaminathan should bring out another edition of Vaalmeeki - A Sanskrit ~ English Edition - which will satisfy the need of all. I am happy to hear that this work which is in 14 volumes (in 6,000 pages) is nearing completion and will be ready early next year.
In modern world, because of pressure of work, we fail to appreciate our values and culture. Every one of us is pressed for time. But we cannot ignore Lord Rama or Raama Naama. In bringing out this book "Vaalmeeki Raamaayana - A Revelation", the essence of Vaalmeeki Raamaayana is brought out. Rama is the embodiment of Dharma, the ‘Maryada’ Purusha. And Sanathana Dharma verily is The Religion of India that is Bharath.
In the first 100 pages of his 600 page book, he has condensed Vaalmeeki, to give an idea of the epic. Even those who are not familiar with Vaalmeeki Raamayana can get a fairly good idea.
Raamaayana is a book of Character. In about 275 pages, Swaminathan has analysed various principal characters in Vaalmeeki Raamaayana. As he has given reference to the original Text at every place in his book, when we have time. we can read in detail the original text or its translation later. Under ‘‘Panorama’ he has taken up for study various events. I am happy to say, he has never lost sight of projecting the values, the Dharma of Vaalmeeki in his write up.
In the last section of the book, he has given lots of information. He has even written about Metric System of numbering of vary large numbers! He has written about trees listed by Vaalmeeki.
Swaminathan made a request to me that I should allow him to publish some relevant portions of my writings. I could nor refuse him. The last page of his book carries a Benediction by Vaalmeeki. I am happy that just before this, the Efficacy of Raama Naama, The Dharma of Raama Raajya and finally the ‘worship’ of the divine lady SITA are carried in Swaminathan’s book "Vaalmeeki Raamaayana - A Revelation".
The prophetic pronouncement of the Sage Vaalmeeki has so far not been belied:
As long as mountain ranges stand,
And rivers flow upon the earth,
So long will the Ramayana survive
upon the lips of men.
This Book is a handy book, worthy of any library. This will stimulate interest in study of the Vedha, that is Raamaayana. As I am a staunch devotee of Lord Rama and Bhagawan Sri Sri Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Sai Ram - I always welcome studies on Rama.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAT301 Author: L. Swaminathan Cover: PAPERBACK Edition: 2018 Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. ISBN: 9788120842168 Language: ENGLISH Size: 8.50 X 5.50 inch Pages: 560 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.64 Kg