In distant Khotan in Eastern Turkistan the Rãma story reached in the 9th century.
It has got a lot of similarly with the Tibetan Rãmãyana.
The Khotani Rãmãyana is under the Buddhist shadow because here in the Jataka style Buddha is the narrator and at the end of the Rãma-Katha Buddha has been identified with Rãma and Maitreya with Lakşmana.
The Rãmãyana influence the literature of Philippines and many other countries but in this short chapter it is now not possible to make any further description of the Rãmayana’s sojourn abroad.
In distant Japan, too, the story of the Rãmayana had its echo in two works. The first one is an abridged form of the Rãma saga which is found in a collection of popular tales named the Hobutsusha (Ratna-sangraha). It was written by Tairno Yasoyori in the 12th century.
The second work is based on that sotry of the Vãlmïki Rãmãyana which narrates the inadvertent killing of the parents of Śravanakumara by Prince Daśaratha. These stories have migrated to Japan so there is a large variation from the original Rãmayana of Vãlmïki.
In Malayasia the literary Malaya version of the Rãmãyana is the Hikayat Seri Rãma.
This work Hikayat Seri Rãma represents a popular form of the Rãma story which reached in that part from India between the 13th and 17th centuries and was merged into a complete saga after adapting the local cultural conditions.
Rãmãyana story in the Mongolian literature is found in the translation of this commentary from Tibetan language and the story of king Jivaka. There are three commentaries in the Tibetan language and many translations in the Mongolian language from 16th-17th century onwards. Thus the Mongolian people, too, were aware of the Rãma story.
The Rãmãyana texts in Tibet date as early as the 8th century A.D. The oldest written version of the Rãma story is found in six manuscripts found from Tun-huang. Tun-huang, which was in the north-west of China, was occupied by the Tibetans during the period from 787 to 848 A.D. It is supposed that either these manuscripts were written in Central Tibet earlier and brought to Tun-huang during the Tibetan occupation or they were written there during that period. The first proposition is more probable and in that case the writing of these manuscripts will be even earlier than the eighth century A.D. The six manuscripts containing the Rãmãyana story are incomplete and are divided in two groups of recension. The recension I is more elaborate and contains many episodes which are missing from Recension II.
A famous scholar Sa-skya Pandita (1182-1251) composed a collection of 457 quatrains in Tibetan language which means Subhãshita-ratna-nidhi. Stanza 321, which refers to the killing of Rãvana reads as follows:-
‘The great should abandon their desire for play and enjoyment and food. As a reprimand for having desired voluptuousness it is well known that Rãvana was killed in Lanka.”
On this stanza of the Śubhashitaratna-nidhi Dmar-ston Chosrgya received oral explanation from Sa-skya Pandita and then wrote his commentary which is really a narrative of Rãmãyana in the style of Vãlmïki. Thus the story of Rãma has been popular in Tibet since 800 A.D.
Ramakerti is the oldest epic on the Rãma story prevalent in Cambodia.It means the glory of Rãma. Indians had established Phunan kingdom amongst the khmer race in South Cambodia in the first century A.D. This Ramakerti is the most precious place of literary work of this race. Between 9th and 13th centuries a large number of Hindu temples were constructed. Angkor Vat temple is the largest Hindu temple in the world. There are many relief works from the Rãmãyana in this temple. The oldest manuscripts of Ramakerti are those of the 17th century A.D. But they are not complete. It has got 80 cantos but that is not the end of the epic.
By linguistic and literary analysis the present Rãmakerti is reported to be work of the late 16th/early 17th century. But actually it might have been composed even a century or two earlier because from the 15th century onwards Rãma-kathã became dominant in the Khmer literature and many long poems were composed as recitatives for the dance-dramas.
Another epic of importance in the Khmer dialect is the Ram ker (Rama's fame), the Cambodian version of the Ramayana. It was written between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.
In the neighboring Laos there are two important works on the Rãma saga.
The first one in called Phra Lak Phra Lam. It has been edited by Sachidanand Sahai and published by the Indian council for Cultural Relations, 1973. The Laotian title means ‘Beloved lakşmana Beloved Rãma. Another smaller work is Khvay Tuaraphi sources. It is the story of the buffalo Thuaraphi corresponding to the story of Dundubhi in the Rãmayana of Vãlmïki.
In adjacent Siam i.e. modern Thailand Ramakien i.e. Rãma-Kirti was composed by the king Rãma I and his associates. It was a very Voluminous epic which contained 50, 286 verses. Then this bulky Thai Rãmayana was reduced to 14300 verses.
Rãmãyana Kakawin is an epic in the Javanese language. Kakawin means a poetical work. So Rãmãyana Kakawin is the Rãmãyana epic. It was composed in the earth part of the 10th century A.D. during the reign of Śri Mahãrãja Raki Watukur Dyah Balittum Sri Rammodaya Mahasambu of Matiram who ruled over Java which is now a part of Indonesia. It is supposed to have been composed by Yogishvara but many dispute the authorship. It is a matter of great gratification that the sojourn of Rãma saga reached Java as early as the 10th century. This epic Rãmãyana Kakavin is an epic which has 26 cantos. It is written in different Sanskrit metres with such a poetical skill which is unsurpassed in the Old-Javanese literature. It is the most popular Old-Javanese epic which has remained in the mind of the Indonesian people for ten centuries. Its stories are depicted on the walls of Prambanan Shiva temple, the Panataran-temple in East Java and a number of temple in Bali. The great Indonesian scholar Poerbatjaraka has written about this book- “I have never read a Javanese work as beautiful as the Rãmãyana in regard of its language, embellishments, etc.”
In the arrangement of subject matters it follows the pattera of the Bhatti Kãya i.e. the Rãmãyana composed by the poet Bhatti. But there is no majar deviation from Valmiki’s Rãmãyana.
Burma has got a tradition of the Rãma saga for a thousand years. From a stone inscription in Mon language, the Burmese king Kyansittha (1084-1113 A.D.) proclaimed to his people that he had been a close relative of Rãma in Ayodhyã in a previous birth.
It is a matter of pride for us that in distant Burma a king proclaimed to be a relative of Rãma in a previous birth.
In Nat-hlaung Kyakng (Vishnu Temple) of 11th century (?) in Old Pagan are found stone figures of Rãma and Parasurãma.
Though the oral tradition of the Rãma story was prevalent in Burma since the reign of king Anawrahta of 11th century A.D. and there were many mentions of Rãmãyana characters in the Epilogue of Suvanna Saena Jãtaka poem written in 1527 A.D. and other texts of the 11th century, the first story of Rãmayana in a full narrative form was the Rãma Vattu written in the 17th century. It is written in prose and largely follows the Vãlmïki Rãmayana.
A special feature of this Rãma Vattu is that Rãma has been shown as an incarnation of Bodhisattva Deva of the Tushita Heaven and mighty monkeys are other Devas of the Tushita land who are born in Kishkindhã. The author has portrayed almost all major characters of his work in the style of Vãlmiki’s Rãmayana in the Burmese language and other 8 have followed the story of Rãma Vattu.
Rãma Thagyin is a long poem on the Rãmãyana theme which was composed by U Aung Phyo in 1775 A.D. Rãma Yagan is another work of this kind which was written by U Toe in 1784 A.D. Another poem Alaung Rãma Thagyin was composed by Saya Htun of Akyab in 1905 A.D. one year before i.e. in 1904 Saya Htwe wrote a beautiful prose Rãma saga are found in the Burmese language. They are Thiri Rãma which was written by Nemyo Nãtaka Kyaw Gaung in late 18th or early 19th century Pontaw Rãma, Part I by Saya Ku and Pontaw Rãma and Lokkhana, Part I by U Maung Gyi in 1910 A.D. All these three dramas are in the ‘champu’ style i.e. they contain both prose and verse. They still enjoy immense influence on the Burmese people.
The neighbouring Nepala country has the distinction of preserving the oldest manuscript Vãlmiki’s Rãmayana. The oldest manuscript written in V.S. 1076 i.e. 1020 A.D. was found in Bir Library (no. 934) at Kathmandu. It is a palmleaf manuscript in Newari script. It is a complete manuscript of Vãlmïki Rãmayana and contains all the seven Kãndas with continuous pagination. Scholars of Nepal enjoyed the Vãlmïki and Adhyãtmas for centuries. Though there were many compositions on the various themes of the Rãmayana in the Nepalese language, the first popular epic was written by Bhãnubhakta Acharya (1884-89 A.D.) who stood like a sun amongst the galaxy of other Nepali poets. Thereafter many works were composed in modern Nepali language and amongst them the Adarśa Rãghava (C. 1848 A.D.) by Pandit Somnath Sigdel is the most outstanding epic.
Many persons wonder whether there is a Rãma story in Śrilankã where Ravana was the king who abducted Sìtã and kept in the Aśoka-Vãtikã and where a fierce battle took place between the armies of Rãma and Ravana. Ultimately Rãvana was killed and Sìtã was freed from the eaptivity. After Rãma placed Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka, Rãma happility recurred to Ayodhyã.
As shown above, Janakiharana, a Sanskrit epic was composed by Simhalese king Kumãradasa. Although there are many stories about his intimacy with the great Sanskrit poet, yet it seems that both lived in different periods. Kumãradãsa has been variously identified but he seems to be none other than the Simhalese king Kumãra-dhãtusena who ruled from 517 to 526 A.D.
The Janakiharana is an epic which contains 20 cantos and has been very favourite with Sanskrit critics. It was very popular in Sri Lanka also with the Sanskrit students there.
It is profusely quoted in Simhalese texts and exerted immense influence on the poets of the island.
In 1891 a Buddhist monk edited the Simhala paraphrase to the epic and published the word for word gloss of 14 cantos and some verses of the 15th cento there available.
In the Vibhãshã of the Mahavastu there are reference to Rãma’s story. He is said to have visited Anuradhapura.
Although great Buddhist stalwart Buddhagosha who wrote most voluminous Pali commentaries after migrated to Śri Lanka from India in the 5th century A.D. dismissed the Rãmãyana and Mahabharath stories as frivolous, yet subsequent writers of the Simhalese language cherished the Rãma-story.
The Gira Sandesaya (The Parrot Messenger) of the Kotte period of the shri Lanka’s literature in the 15th century A.D. alludes to many Rãmãyana stories.
From 16th century onwards the Rãma saya got more circulatim in the Simhalese circle.
During the Kandyan period a Buddhist monk Sumangala produced the Pali version of the Rãmãyana and named it Rãma-sandeœa.
He has requested Rãma in the form of Vishnu at Rãma-devala i.e. Rãma shrine in Hanguranketa near Kandy to bless the king Sri Vikrama Rajasingha.
In the episodes of king Parãkramabahu I, who ruled from 1153 to 1186 A.D., preserved in the later portions of the Chilavamsa, a part of Mahãvamsa, references of Rama’s story are made repeatedly. This king had heard the stories of the Rãmãyana and the Mahãbhãrata during his childhood. Therefore, when learnt that his minister had failed to build a bridge across the river, he exclaimed, “The whole world still knows how king Rãma once built a causeway across the ocean, employing only monkeys.” (Ibid Ch. 64, V. 20)
Ripavati one of king Parakramabahu’s queens, is described to love her husband as Sìtã did love Rãma.
Prince Virabahu, the son of king Parãkramabãhu II (1236-70 A.D.) is reported to have slewn enemies as Rãma slew Rãma slew the Rãkşasa, King Virabhu’s (1270-72) battle with Chandrashanu was compared with that of Rãma-Rãvana. Thus Rãma and Sìtã were ideals.
In the eyes of Guru Gobind Singh Rãma is the purest person and an incarnation of the Raghu dynasty. He is the killer of the wicked demons and is the refuge of the saintly persons.
Guru Govind Singh claimed that both Guru Nanak Deva and himself were the descendents of Lord Rãma. He pointed out in his biography ‘Bachitra Nãtaka’ that Sodhis were in the lineage of Lava and Bedis in that Kusha, both twin sons of Lord Rãma. Guru Nanak Deva was born in the Bedi clan and Guru gobind Singh in the Sodhi. Thus he took pride in calling himself the descendent of Lord Rãma.
Rāma parama pavitra haiṁ raghubanśa kē avatāra.
Dusta daitana kē saṅghāraka santa prāna ādhāra..
But the most outstanding epic on the Rãma saga came from the pious pen of the last Guru of the Sikas Gobind Singh. However ‘Rãmãvatara’ is a composition in the Hindi and not the Punjabi language. But it is an embodiment of the valour. He has paid the most sublime respect to Rãma in these words-
Rāmā'i'ā varatā'i'ā rāma rāju kari srisaṭi udharī.
Maraṇu muṇasā sacu hai sādha saṅgati mili paija savārī..
Bhali'ā'i satigura matisārī..
Bhai Gurdas was a close associate of Guru Arjan Deva who edited the Adigrantha and was tortured to death in 1608 A.D. He has written that Rãma redeemed the whole creation by his noble ruel-
Rāmacandu niramalu parakhu dharamahu sā'ira pathara taraṇā.
Buri'ā'ī ahu rāvaṇu ga'i'ā kāla kaṭikā paratri'ā haraṇa.
Rāma'iṇa jugi jugi aṭalu sē udharē jō ā'ē saraṇā..
Punjab, the province of martial race was highly inspired by the super-warrior Rãma and hence we find a number of works on Rãma’s brave acts in the Punjabi language. Bhai Gurdas, the great scholar and celebrated author of the ‘warren’s has always remembered Rãma with a ‘nirmala’ person and mentioned many episodes such as that of floating stones. He has written that Rãmãyana has been the centre of refuge for centuries-
I Kashmir the Persian Rãmãyana written by Mulla Masithi during the reign of Jahangir was widely read and this was the reason that for almost 3 centuries no other full fledged Rãmãyana was written in Kashmir. It was in the 19th century that the Rãma story got momentum in the vernacular Kashmiri language. It was in 1843 A.D. that Œankara Rãmãyana was written during the reign of Maharaja Rãnbir Singh. Again in 1846 A.D. the Prakaœa Rãmãyana was composed and it became so popular that it was printed in all the three Devanagari, Roman and Persian scripts. Thereafter many more Rãmãyana were composed.
Gujarat had produced three poets Nakar, Khan and Vishnudas who composed complete Rãma story in 1568, 1571 and 1589 A.D. respectively. However, the Rãmãyana written by a Vaishya Girdhar in 1837 A.D. at the behest of Goswami Purushottam Maharaj, a follower of Vallabhacharya set became the most popular epic in the entire Stat of Gujarat.
Even in distant Manipur the Rãma saga spread in early 18th century when Manipuri king Garib Niwaz ascended the throne in 1709.
He was initiated in the Rãmanandi cult by an ascetic preacher Santi Dãs Maharta from Sylhet in present Bangla Desh in 1737 A.D.
The king established a temple and placed the images of Rãma, Sìtã, Lakşmana, Bharata and satrughna.
Hanuman’s idol carved out of a big slab of stone was placed in the brick temple at Mahãbali and the regular worship in the Rãmãnandi style began.
At the behest of the king a great Manipuri scholar Nergom Gopi wrote the Rãmayana in Manipuri in seven volumes out of which 3 volumes Sundara Kãnda, Lankã Kanda and Uttarakãnda written beautifully in Manipuri script in a very elegant style are extant.
Maharashtra has the long tradition of Rãma-Kathã in vernacular since the Vãkatka king Pravarasena composed Rãvana-Vaho in Prãkrita. The most outstanding Rãmayana in the Marathi language is the Bhãvãrtha Rãmãyana composed by the great Marathi Vitthal saint like Jani Janardana and Vitha Renkuãnandan is the 16th century and Krishna Mudgala, Muktesvara, Mãdhava Svami, Samartha Rãma Das and Verabai in the 17th century wrote on various episode of the Rãmayana.
It is very interesting to know that when Narasimha II was an infant when his father Narasimha I died and the famous Vaishnava saint Narahari Tirtha ruled as his regent for 12 years from 1278 to 1290 A.D. Narahari was a disciple of the well-known founder of the Madhva or Dvaita School of philosophy Anandatirtha who had aksed his disciple Narahari to go to the country of Kalingn and obtain for him the images of Rãma and Sitã for his (Guru’s) worship. Narahari procured the images of Rãma and Sìtã and handed them over to his guru who after having worshipped them for 80 days gave to another disciple Padmanãbha who worshipped them for six years and then gave them to Narahari Tirtha. During the period of regency Narahari erected a large number of temples and made liberal grants to them.
The above episode indicates that the worship of Rãma and Sìtã was quite popular in Orissa in the 13th century. Although the great Oriya poet the Sudramuni Saraladas inserted Rãma episodes in his famous magnum opus the Mahabhãrata. Vichitra Rãmãyana was the work of Visvanãtha Khunti and Vilankã Rãmãyan was written by Siddhesvara Das. Balarama Das was the first great poet of Oriya Rãmayana the Jagamohana Rãmayana in the 16th century. It is a very comprehensive Rãmayana based on the Bengal recession. But as he was a great genius Balarama Dasa took liberty in narrating the Rãmayana episodes in the background of the 16th century society of Orissa.
Inspired by the popularity of the Jagamohana Rãmãyana of Balarama Dasa, a number of Oriya poets wrote on many episodes of the Rãmãyana Arjuna Dasa wrote Rãmavibahã and Maheśvara Dãs composed Tikã Rãmãyana. A very interesting feature of the Oriyã Rãma literature is its striking similarity with the Indonesian Rãmãyana literature.
Krittivãsa was the first Bengali poet who composed Rãmayan in Bengali language in the 15th century long before Chaitanyn started his bhakti movement or Tulasidas wrote Ramacharita-mãnasa. Krittivãsa Rãmãyana named after the poet has been overwhelmingly popular in Bengal and remained an embodiment of the Bengali culture. It has bean main soma of their religions and moral teaching till the Macaulay’s Babus did not take over the rein of the movement of the Bengali society.
However, Bengali readers have been reciting it with utmost devotion and pleasure. It was popular both amongst the Hindus and the Muslims. Brindãvanadãsa, the first biographer of Chaitanya gave an account of the Rãmayana plays and wrote that the ‘Rãmãyana songs moved the hearts of the Hindus and the Muslims alike’.
Even then the skeptics say that the Rãmãyana had no impact on the society! The Rãmayana of krittivasa was so popular in all parts of Bengal that many local adaptions were made in the epic. But people were oblivions to these changes and enjoyed every bit of the Rãma story which was presented before them, irrespective of the fact that which was the original and which was the interpolation. The beauty of the Rãma story is that no one is fed up with hearing it again and again.
Credit goes to Krittivãsa that he introduced many new episodes in the Rãmãyana of Vãlmïki and made it more popular and acceptable to the Bengali mindset. Krittivãsa Rãmãyana was the only sapta-kãnda Rãmayana and yet most widely read book in mediaeval Bengal. In subsequent periods many Bengal authors took particular subjects from the Rãmãyana and wrote pales or story-divisions meant to be recited and sung individually or collectively.
In the 16th century Durgavara Kãyastha composed Giti Rãmãyana in songs. These songs were based on Mãdhava Kandali’s translation of Vãlmike’s Rãmãyana and were to be sung in chorus. Ananta Kandali a Vaishnava poet and disciple of shankaradva, was not satisfied with the work of Mãdhava Kandali who had not treated Rãma as a complete manifestation of Para-brahma. Therefore he composed another Rãmayana in the latter part of the 16th century and made devotion to Rãma as the supreme theme. In the 16th century itself Kalapachandra Dvija made a summary of Rãmãyana in the Rãmayana Chandrikã and Ananta Kãyastha composed Rãma-Kirtana in the middle of the 17th century. The tradition of writing on Rama’s life has been continuing unabated.
Rãmacharitam in Malayam is the first major work which was composed in the 12th century by Cermãn who is sometimes identified with a king of Travancore on insufficient grounds. Rãmacharitam consists of 1814 quatrains in 164 sections is a free rendering of the Yuddhakãnda of Vãlmiki’s Rãmãyana. “The work is couched in the grand epic style, and is suffused with a spirit of devotion to the here, whose deification is more pronounced than in the original by Vãlmïki Rãmacharitam was a very popular work till the composition of the Adhyãtma Rãmãyana of Ezhuttaccan in the middle of the 16th century.
Another Rãmãyana written by the poet Rãma Panikkar in the early 15th century A.D. was Kannassa Rãmayana. Sicne Rãma Panikkar was also known as Kannassa, this Rãmãyana was known as Kannassa Rãmãyanam. It is a free translation of Valmiki’s Rãmãyana in 3059 quartrains.
Rãmakathãpattu was another Rãmãyana composed by Ayyippilla Âsãn in the late 15th century A.D. It is again free translation of Valmiki’s Rãmãyana with 3163 verses in 279 sections. Rãmãyana Champi is another important work which was composed in the latter half of the 15th century A.D. by Punam Nampitiri.
However, it was the Adhyãtma Rãmãyana of Tuncattu Ezhuttacchan which mesmerized the Malayale people. It was composed in the middle of the 16th century A.D. slightly before Tulasidasa’s Ramacharitamãnasa and both these epics found space in every Hindu’s house in their respective areas. The Adhyãtma Rãmãyana of Ezhuttacchan became the most religions scripture for every Hindu in Kerala who considered it obligatory to recite portions of it on special occasions and the whole text once every year either in I days’ recital or for a period which they undertook to finish it by daily recital. Thus the unprecedented popularity of this text in Kerala is a clear proof that Rama’s worship in every house had taken place in many parts of India before the composition of Rãmacharita-mãnas.
After Ezhuttacchan there were several poets who composed Rãmãyana independently or translated the texts from Sanskrit but our mission is fulfilled by closing it at the 16tjh century A.D.
Very few people know that in the middle of the 14th century i.e. 220 years before Tulasidãsa wrote Rãmacharãta-mãnasa an Assamese poet mãdhave Kandali started translation Vãlmiki’s Rãmãyana under the patronage of a Varãhi king Mahãmãnikya. Mãdhava Kandali, who was better known as Kavirãya has indicated the following principle in translating Vãlmike’s Rãmãyana:-
“For the knowledge of the people and at the request of the Varãhi king Œri Mahãmãnikya. I have rendered the fine verses of the Rãmãyana extracting the essence and leaving off the details, like the ghee procured by churning the milk. I have, of course, added some Kãvya-rasa at the instance of Mahãmãnikya.”
Madhava Kandai’s Rãmãyana has got five kãndas only. The Bãlakãnda and the Uttarakãnda are missing. It may be probable that he himself might have left them untouched thinking them to be interpolation. Aster a century the Uttarakãnda was translated by the great Vaishnava saint Œankaradeva and the Bãlakanda by his disciple Mãdhavadeva or they might have been translated by some competent scholars at their behest. Œankargdeva wrote a drama Sitã-svayambara which is played in Namghars (the community prayer halls). In this drams Śankaradeva has depicted Rãma as an incarnation of Vishnu.
Though Jain authors like Nagachandra started writing Rãma-kathã in the Kannada in the Jain style since second half of the 12th century, yet the poet Narahari (c. 1500-1600 A.D.) was the first poet who wrote the Kannada Rãmãyana in the foot steps of Vãlmiki’s Rãmayana. Since Narahari’s native place was Torave; it is better known as Torave Rãmãyana which is in Shatpadi verse. There are two more Rãmayanas in the same verse between 16th and 17th centuries. The first one is by Venkãmãtya who regarded Rãma as Para-brahma. Another Rãmãyana was written by Battaleœvara and it is popularly known as Kauœika Rãmayana. In this Rãmayana too, Rana has been regarded as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. There are several works on the Rãmayana in the post-Tulasidasa period; they are ignored here.
In the Telugu language Rãma’s story was so popular that several Rãmayanas were written with the result that in Andhra Pradesh there is not a single important village which does not have a Rãma temple. Ramanavami is celebrated throughout Andhra Pradesh with much enthusiasm and many episodes of the Rãmãyana have become parts and parcels of the individual and community lives of the Telugu-speaking people. Out of a number of works on the Rãmãyana four are very important and they are Rãnganatha Rãmayana, Bhãskara Rãmãyana, Molla Rãmãyana, and Katta Varadarãyu Rãmayana.
Ranganath Rãmãyana was composed around 1240 A.D. There is no mention of the author in the epic. Therefore, some scholars have presumed that it was written by Chakrapãni Rangahãtha. But the majority view is that it was composed by Gona Buddha Reddi, the son of Pãnduraiga Vitthalanãtha and the word Ranganãtha is derived from these two words. This is a very popular Rãmãyana and though he has been faithful to Vãlmïki in the narration of the main story, yet by his imagination he has introduced such subjects which have crossed the Telugu boundary; i.e. the story of the squirrel helping in the construction of the bridge over the sea and Rama’s appreciation of its devotion is well known throughout the country.
Ranganatha Rãmayana is a complete Rãmãyana which contains 17,290 indigenous ‘dvipadas’ i.e. 34580 lines and was written about 335 years before the composition of Ramacharitamanasa by Gosvami Tulasidasa.
Bhãskara Rãmãyana is a champu (mixure of poetry and prose) in six cantos. It was composed by Bhãkkara and his three disciples/friends. Some critics believe that it was composed before Ranganatha Rãmayana but both the epics are supposed to be contempory compositions.
Molla Rãmãyanam is very popular both amongst scholars and masses. It was written by a poetess who belonged to a very backward potter community. But she composed it in such a fascinating style in the 14th century that the epic’s charm has survived centuries.
The dialogue between the boat-man and Rãma on the latter’s request to assist his party in crossing the Ganga is supers because the native boat-man apprehends that his boat will turn into stone like Ahalya and therefore he allows him only after washing his feet. This has become universally known because of similar description by Tulasidas almost 300 years later.
Another Rãmayana written by the court poet katta Varadaraju in 6 Kandas and 23,170 dvipadas or 46,340 lines in 17th century is the most voluminous Rãmãyana work in Telugu. Though this Rãmãyana, too, is popular but not so as Ranganatha or Molla Rãmãyanam.
In addition to these four epics there are a large number of important works on the life of Rãma in Telugu. But the shortage of space does not allow to even mention them. But readers will realize that almost 335 years before Tulasidas started writing his magnum opus is Awadhi in 1574 A.D. the Telugu literature had two epics on the life of Rãma. So Rama’s saga did not become popular in India after Julasidasa but has continued to be popular even since Maharshi Vãlmïki composed the Rãmãyana.
Rama’s story is found in the earliest phase of the Tamil literature i.e. the Sangam literature in the beginning of the Christian era.
Puranãnuru mentions the abduction of Sìtã, Ahananuru refers to Rama’s holding a meeting on the sea-coast before attacking Lanka and Paripãdal has many episodes from the Rãmãyana. Moreover, there was a prominent Sangams poet Vãnmiki by name. I have already shown Rãmãyana's references in the famous works, Śangam epics Silappadhikãram and Manimekhlai.
A Tamil ‘Śri Rãmakathã’ is mentioned by Perundevanãr, a famous poet who wrote the Tamil Mahãbhãrata in the 9th century A.D. Similarly, another Tamil Rãmãyana (Rãmayana and Purana Sagara) composed in the Tamil Venba metre is referred to in another Tamil work ‘Yãpparunkala Vratti of the 9th century A.D. Alvar Saints Periyãlvãr, Kulaśekhara and Thireemanigai have described many episodes of the Rãmãyana. In 10 verse Kulaśekhara has narrated the story of Rãma in brief but with passion.
However, the most outstanding epic written in Tamil on the Rãmasaga was by the great poet Kamban whose date has been assigned from 9th to 12th century by Various critics. Some scholars have suggested that he wrote during the reign of Kulottunga III to the close of the 12th century A.D. But according to the tradition Kamban composed this Tamil Rãmãyana or Rãmãvatãram and placed it before the scholars of Madurai in the famous Madurai temple.
Kamban’s Ramavataram soon attained the unprecedented popularity and like Tulasi Dasa’s Ramacharitmanasa in North India became popular in every Tamil house. It is an epic of the highest merit and through Kamban Rama’s story has been a source of inspiration for millions of Tamils. Kamban’s Ramavatram confirms both the popularity and divinity of Rãma in ancient India in the land distant from Ayodhyã.
Naṭa- kathaṁ punaramī kavayaḥ sarvē rāmacandramēva varṇayanti.
Sūtradhāra- nāyaṁ kavīnāṁ dōṣaḥ. Yataḥ.
Svasūktīnāṁ pātraṁ raghutilakamēkaṁ kalayatāṁ
Kavīnāṁ kō dōṣaḥ sa tu guṇagaṇānāmavaguṇaḥ.
Jayadeva is another dramatist who composed another drama ‘Prasannarãghavam’. He is different from the famous poet Jayadeva, the author of ‘Gitagovinda.’ This Jayadava is from Mithila. The credit for ‘pushpa-vatika prasanga’ goes to Jayadeva who introduced it in this drama and it became popular because of its adoption by Tulasidasa. He was both an accomplished poet and a competent logician as per his claim in the introduction of the drama. Jayadeva describes the supremacy of Rãmachandra for poets as the hero of their poetry.
Janaki-parinaya of Chakrakavi contains 1700 ślokas in 8 cantos. It depicts the svayamvara and marriage of Sìtã at length. Udãra-sãghava of Sãkalyamalla, a contemporary of Śingabhupãla (1330 A.D), is a brief narration of the Rãmãyana. Similarly, Rãmachandrodaya of Venkateśvara is another epic which narrates Rãma’s story in 30 cantos. Raghuvira-charita is another epic which was published in the Ananta-śayana-granthãvali. In this epic the story of Rãma from the exile to the coronation is narrated. Its author is said to be Mallinãtha. One is not sure whether he was the same Millinath who wrote commentaries on Kãlidasa’s poems.
Atha sa bhagavān viṣṇuḥ kr̥tvā jagannirupaplavaṁ
Daśamukhabhayaṁ hr̥tvā harṣapradastridaśaśriyaḥ.
Pavanatanayaṁ dhr̥tvā dhīrōnnataṁ savibhīṣaṇaṁ
Bhuvanabhavanē kīrtistambhaṁ jagāma sudhāmbudhim..294..
i.e. Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Nrisimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rãma, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.
In the Dasavatara-charitam the Rãmavatãra is the seventh and it contains 294 slokas, the last being the following-
Matsyaḥ kūrmō varāhaḥ puruṣaharivapurvāmanō jāmadagn'yaḥ.
Kākutsthaḥ kansahantā sa ca sugatamuniḥ karkināmā ca viṣṇuḥ..2..
Dasavataracharitam is another impressive work composed by Kshemendra which deals with the following ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu-
Iti duritavirāmaḥ kīrtikāntābhirāmaḥ
Sujanahr̥dayarāmaḥ kō̕pyabhūdyaḥ sa rāmaḥ.
Prakr̥timanusarāmaḥ pāpapāśaṁ tarāmaḥ
Sukr̥tabhuvi carāmastasya nāma smarāmaḥ..1263..
and ends with the following stanza-
Jitaṁ bhagavatā tēna hariṇā lōkadhāriṇā.
Ajēna viśvarūpēṇa nirguṇēna guṇātmanā..1.
Kshemendra is one of the greatest poets of all times. He was a prolific writer. His time is considered to be from circa 1000 A.D. to c. 1070 A.D. He was a Kashmiri pandit and served under the Kashmiri kings Ananta (1028-1063 A.D.) and his son Kalasha (1063-89 A.D.).
He has the rare distinction of writing epics on the there greatest works of Sanskrit literature- Rãmãyana, Mahabharata and Brihat- Katha. He abridged them into Rãmãyana-manjari, Bharata- manjari and Brihat-Katha-manjari.
He claimed to be a Vaishnava and proclaimed himself to be Vyasadasa.
However, he has the unique distinction of writing a Buddhist work ‘Bodhi-sattvavadava-kalpalata.’
It was translated into the Tibetan language within 150 years of its composition and the Tibetan version became very popular.
His Rãmãyana-manjari contains 1263 slokas.
Besides, there are 9 slokas at the end. It starts with this shloka-
Abhinanda was another poet who composed an epic on the Rãma story. The name of his book is Ramacharita which contains the story of Rãmãyana from Kishkindhakanda to Yuddhakanda. Though the Ramacharita contains 36 cantos, yet it is an incomplete work. His poem is considered to be of high standard and therefore he has been compared with Kalidasa. He was a court-poet of Pala king Devapala, the son of Dharmapala and his date is early ninth century.
But the tall claim of plagiarist Damodara Mishra that it was composed by Hanuman and Vãlmïki, being encious of it, thrown in the ocean by Hanuman's order and the wise king Bhoja retrieved this work which was arranged by Dãmodara Miśra is totally false. It is just to boost the popularity of this edited drama. Another work of the same nature but of bigger size 'Mahanataka' was arranged by Madhusudana Miśra.
Kr̥tvā mērumulūkhalaṁ raghupatē vr̥ndēna digyōśitāṁ
svargaṅgāmusalēna śālaya iva tvatkīrtayaḥ kaṇḍitāḥ.
Tāsāṁ rāśirasau tuśāraśikharī tārāgaṇāstatkaṇāḥ
prōdyatpūrṇasudhanśubimbamasr̥ṇajyōtsnāśca tatpānsava.. (14.85)
Lakşim stays in your home, Sarsvati shines in your speech. Then Rãma! Why kirti (fame) is so angry that she has travelled beyond the boundary of the country i.e. fame has travelled far and wide.
कल्याणानां निधानं कलिमलमथनं पावनं पावनानां
पाथेयं यन्मुमुक्षोः सपदि परपदप्राप्तये प्रस्थितस्य’।
विश्रामस्थानमेकं कविवरवचसां जीवनं सज्जनानां,
बीजं धर्मद्रुमस्य प्रभवतु भवतां भूतये रामनाम।।1।।
कैलासो निलयस्तुषारशिखरी विन्दिर्गिरीशः स
स्वर्गङ्गा गृहदीर्घिका हिमरुचिश्चन्द्रोपलो दर्पणः।
क्षीराब्धिर्नवपूर्तकं किमपरं शेषस्तु शेषत्विषो
यस्याः स्यादिह राघवक्षितिपते कीर्तेस्तटाकस्तव।।(14.7)
लक्ष्मीस्तिष्ठति ते गेहे वाचि भाति सरस्वती।
कीर्तिः किं कुपिता राम येन देशान्तरं गता।। (14.8)
Kalyāṇānāṁ nidhānaṁ kalimalamathanaṁ pāvanaṁ pāvanānāṁ
Pāthēyaṁ yanmumukṣōḥ sapadi parapadaprāptayē prasthitasya'.
Viśrāmasthānamēkaṁ kavivaravacasāṁ jīvanaṁ sajjanānāṁ,
Bījaṁ dharmadrumasya prabhavatu bhavatāṁ bhūtayē rāmanāma..1.
Kailāsō nilayastuṣāraśikharī vindirgirīśaḥ sa
svargaṅgā gr̥hadīrghikā himaruciścandrōpalō darpaṇaḥ.
Kṣīrābdhirnavapūrtakaṁ kimaparaṁ śēṣastu śēṣatviṣō
yasyāḥ syādiha rāghavakṣitipatē kīrtēstaṭākastava..(14.7)
Lakṣmīstiṣṭhati tē gēhē vāci bhāti sarasvatī.
Kīrtiḥ kiṁ kupitā rāma yēna dēśāntaraṁ gatā.. (14.8
Hanumannãtaka is another Sanskrit work in praise of the 7th incarnation of Lord Vishnu i.e. Rãma. Though it is claimed to be a drama, 90% of its contents are verses taken from the earlier works as late as the time of Bavabhuti. There are many excellent ślokas in this work. A few of them are quoted below:-
The first Mangalacharana is as follows :
स्तृप्तिं करोमि कथमप्यधुना बुधानाम्।
गंगा जलैर्भुवि भगीरथयत्नलब्धैः
किं तर्पणं न विदधाति नरः पितृणाम्।।
(Balakanda : 4)
King Bhoja was another king who was well versed both in warfare and kavya-kala. He composed numerous books on various subjects.
His Champu-ramayan is a very celebrated work. In the beginning, King Bhoja explains that he is quenching the thirst of scholarly persons by singing the glory of Rãma composed by Vãlmïki in the same style as devotees perform ‘tarpana’ to their ancestors by the holy water of Ganga, brought to the earth by the efforts of Bhagiratha.-
i.e. For the pleasure of my subjects, if I have to leave affection, favour, friendship of ever Jãnaki, I am not pained at all.
Bhavabhuti’s date is determined with certainty in the beginning of the 8th century A.D. During his later part of life he was under the patronage of king Yashovarman of Kannauj in the first half of the 8th century A.D.
King Yasovarman himself was a poet of high standard and he composed a drama ‘Rãmãbhyudaya’ by name. Thus this king cum-poet, was fond of Rama’s deeds. This drama was very popular at one stage because it is profusely quoted in many works of poetics. Though this drama is not available, yet it can be extensively retrieved from these quotations. The following verse of Rãmãbhyudaya, quoted in many works, is very heart-rendering when Rãma narrates his pathos following the separation from Sìtã-
In Uttararama-Charitam the following Proclamation of king Rãma has been a perennial source of inspiration to all righteous Kings in the country:-
प्राचेतसो मुनिवरः प्रथमः कवीनां
यत्पावनं रघुपतेः प्रणिनाय वृत्तम्।
भक्तस्य तस्य समरंमत मेऽपि
वाचस्तत्सुप्रसन्नमनसः कृतिनो भजन्ताम्।।
Prācētasō munivaraḥ prathamaḥ kavīnāṁ yatpāvanaṁ raghupatēḥ praṇināya vr̥ttam.
Bhaktasya tasya samarammata mē̕pi vācastatsuprasannamanasaḥ kr̥tinō bhajantām..
Bhavabhuti composed three dramas- Mahavira-charita, Uttara-Rãma-charita and Mãlatïmãdhava. Out of three dramas the first two are related to the biography of Lord Rãma. In the beginning of the Mahãvïra-charita he writes that he got the inspiration of composing the Mahaviracharita from the holy deeds of Lord Rãma described by Adikavi Vãlmïki and he, being the devotee of Rãma, his speech was directed towards it:-
i.e. Do you remember that when you were the son of Daśaratha, you had killed Ravana, who had kidnapped Sìtã, after making a bridge over the sea?
Mãgha's date is in the latter part of the seventh century.
Although Magha composed his epic ‘śiśupalavadha’ on the topic of Lord Krishna’s slaying of Shishupala, yet he did not forget to remind him of his previous incarnation of Lord Rãma in the following śloka-
It is the Sanskrit composition of the original Prakrita and means that the sea, frightened with the anger of Rãma, fell on his feet wherefrom the Ganga sprang.
Pravarsena was the son of Prabhavatgupta who was the daughter of the famous Gupta king Chandragupta II Vikramaditya and therefore his date is known in the fifth century A.D. Pravarsena’s Setubandha has been mentioned by Banabhatta with respect in the mangalacharana of Harsha-charitam and therefore it must have been a celebrated work in the 7th century. Setubadha is the only composition of Pravarasena II and that, too, on the subject related to śrirama. In the 9th canto he says-
Pravarsen II was a famous king of Vakataka dynasty who wrote his famous eipic Setubandha in the Prakrita language. Its another name is Ravana-Vaho i.e. Ravana-Vadha. This epic on the Rãma saga has the distinction of being the first Prãkrita epic. According to Dandi it is an ocean of the jewels of lwfDr and composed in Maharashtri Prãkrita-
But many scholars believe that Kumãradasa was Kumãra Dhatusena (515-24 A.D.). The entire tradition associates Kumãradãsa with the king of śrilankã.
Rahul Sankritãyana had written an article which was published in the famous Sarasvati magazine in vol. 31, no. 6, p. 682.
In this article has tried to convince that Kumãradãsa, the author of Jãnakíharana was not a Ceylonese king because there is no such king of this name in the Ceylonese history. According to him, the real author of this epic was the Gupta king Kumãragupta, the son of Chandragupta II Vikramãditya and Kumãragupta was converted to Kumãradas in the style of Kãlidãs. He calls Ayodhyã a divyã nagarí:-
Who can dare to abduct Janaki, when Rãghava Ram is there? And who can dare to compose Janakihararan, when Kalidãsã’s Raghu Vaniśa exists? Rãvana and Kumaradasa are two such persons who can do it.
Janaki-harana contains a number of interesting episodes. One such episode relates to the act of Rãm Lalla i.e. Rãma when he was a child. One day when Rãma was playing, ladies in front started saying in amusement “Rãma is not here, where has he gone.” Rãm covered his face just to show that he was not there:-
Kumaradasa is another poet who composed only one epic and that, too, on the Rãmãyana theme. The name of his epic is Janaki-harana (kidnapping of Janaki). He is said to be a native of Sri Lanka. He has been identified with king Kumãra-dhãtusena (517-26 A.D.) by a section of scholarly. But it is demolished by the four verse colophon of this epic in which he informs that the name of his father was Mãnita who was a scholarly warrior of the Ceylonese king Kumãra-mani and died in the battlefield when Kumãradas was just an infant. His maternal uncles Megha and Agrabodhi brought him up well and Kumãradãsa posed this epic with the blessings of the elderly relations. Thus he was not a king of Śrilanka but a favourite of king Kumãramani.
This self introduction demolition another theory that Kumãradãsa was identical with Gupta emperor Kumãragupta.He is supposed to have lived in the 7th century A.D. His work Janaki-harana contains 20 cantos. On the merit of this work Rãjaśekhara wrote:-
Bhatti is another poet who composed an entire epic on the Ramayan theme, which is called Bhatti-Kavya.
In the last shloka of this epic he introduces himself as a pandit in the court of king Sridharasena of Vallabli.
There are four kings of this name ruling Vallabhi from 500 A.D. to 650 A.D. But he appears to be a poet of Sridharasen II and is supposed to have lived in the 6th century A.D. In this epic which was basically written to teach the difficult rules of grammar. Rãma is regarded as the incarnation of Vishnu and a supreme deity. This epic was so popular in the South-East Asia that Rãmãyana-Kakwin was written by an unknown poet of Java in the 10th century A.D.
The Bhatti- Kavya has 22 cantos and is a mature epic. In the first stanza of the 1st canto Rãma has been depicted as an incarnation in the house of Daśaratha for the welfare of the world-
Athātmanaḥ śabdaguṇaṁ guṇajñaḥ padaṁ vimānēna vigāhamānaḥ.
Ratnākaraṁ vīkṣya mithaḥ sa jāyāṁ rāmābhidhānō harirityuvāca.. (13.1.)
Kalidasa, the greatest of all classical poets composed Raghuvamśam which is an epic and excels all other epics of classical literature. It is based on the story from Raghu to, the last king of the dynasty Brihadbala who was killed in the Mahabharata war. But the story of Rãma gets utmost prominence. In the 10th canto of this epic gods approach Lord Vishnu to take incarnation to annihilate Ravana and to eliminate the evil forces from the world and thereafter Vishnu takes incarnation in the form of Rãma, the son of king Daśaratha. In the 1st shoka of the 13th canto Kalidasa calls Hari by the name of Rãma-
By the second century A.D. the Rãma-katha had become popular not only in India but in Khotan, Tibet and other parts of the central Asia. Kalpana-mandatika is an important Buddhist text by the great scholar Kumaralata and it mentions the regular recitation of the Rãmãyana in the Central Asia. A regular recitation of a book is made only when it gets the status of a scripture.
Thus the Rãmãyana had obtained the status of a religious scripture in a distant place in the second century A.D. It can be reasonably inferred that in the heartland of India, it had got this status at least two centuries ago.
Karma Pradeepa is an appendix to the Gobhila-grihasutra of the Samaveda.
It lays down the procedure in connection with the religious rites and observations. In this connection it lays down that even if someone’s wife is dead, he should continue the agnihotra and other Vedic sacrifices in the token presence of her wife where her presences are necessary. It can be reasonably proved that Karma- Pradeep cannot be later than the fourth century B.C.
Thus it is one of the most ancient text mentioning Rãma and Sìtã.
Rãma, too, prepared a golden image of reputed Sìtã and keeping that as a substitute for his wife he performed various kinds of sacrifices with his brothers.
Rāmō̕pi kr̥tvā sauvarṇīṁ sītāṁ patnī yaśasvinīm.
Ījē bahuvidhairyajñaiḥ saha bhrātr̥bhirarcitaiḥ.. (2.10)
In Sanskrit there is hardly any text which is devoid of the Rãma Katha or the historicity and divinity of Lord Rãmãyana. After Vãlmïki’s Rãmãyana there is Mahabharata which has a complete Ramopakhyana in the Vana-parva of the Mahabharata.
Karma Pradipa is another ancient text which mentions Rãma and Sìtã in the following śloka-
Divasaṁ kathayati rāmānulagnasaumitricaritāni..(I. 35)
Valmiki’s Rãmãyana has been ‘playing the role of a moral mentor’ right from the beginning. The ‘Gatha Saptasati’ of the Satavahana king Hala (2nd century A.D.) testifies to this truth. A deviant ‘devar’ who was keeping an evil eye on his bhabhi was advised by his bhabhi to follow the path of Lakşmana, the younger brother of Rãma. The following is the Chhaya Sanskrit translation from the Prakrit text:-
The ‘Gatha Saptasati’ of the Satavahana king Hala
(2nd century A.D.)
Murari asks who else in the world has got so many virtues?
Murari’s time is after Bhavabhuti and before Ratnakara because Murari has mentioned Bhavabhuti and he has been referred to by Ratnakara. His date is supposed to be in the 9th century.
स्वसूक्तीनां पात्रं रघुतिलकमेकं कलयतां
कवीनां को दोषः स तु गुणगणानामवगुणः।
त्यसावेकश्चक्रे सततसुखसंवातवसतिः।। (प्रसन्नराघव- 1.2)
Svasūktīnāṁ pātraṁ raghutilakamēkaṁ kalayatāṁ
Kavīnāṁ kō dōṣaḥ sa tu guṇagaṇānāmavaguṇaḥ.
Tyasāvēkaścakrē satatasukhasanvātavasatiḥ.. (Prasannarāghava- 1.2)
Murãri, the author of famous drama Anargha-rãghavam (Invaluable Rãghava) has written thus about the importance of the biography of Rãma :-
Anargha-rãghavam of Murari