The whole universe is a magical place. What happens to us is decided by our thoughts/words/actions melding with the Universal Mind. How the sequence plays out is the beautiful magic.
Aranya Kanda : The canto of the forest , from Tulsidasji’s Shri Ramcharitmanas has gone into publication. The Lord explores the forests and blesses many a sage in this lovely portion. Mata Sita gets abducted by Ravan and Jatayu is granted salvation by Lord Ram. The poet describes the forests, the trees, animals and birds with much affection in the original Awadhi; and my adventure in understanding and interpreting was truly blessed by His Grace.
Simultaneously, I was translating Dattapaharam- a stunning novel about the forests and its great role in human lives; by V.J.James. The author is one of the most erudite and humble people I have known in my life. Truly has the Ramayana spoken of ‘fruit laden trees bending low’: great souls are utterly simple, so unassuming and kind. They also laugh a lot.
The fact that both the books are going into print together brings me much hope and cheer. They say when coincidences happen in a miraculous manner, when serendipity graces us, the divine plan is meeting our life plan.
May the Lord help us to follow the divine path always. And empower us to do our work with humility.
Few hymns to the magic:
While I was poring over the edits of Aranyakanda and reached the portion of Mareech getting killed by the Lord, I casually clicked on songs in my mobile with nothing particular in my mind.
The song enveloped my senses, enchanting me.
I gazed at the mobile screen.
There He was: My Lord Ram, so beautiful and glorious, with Sita, and she was staring at the golden deer!
Tumhi mere Ram, tumhi Ghanshyam!
How could that happen?
I called my friend in utter delight and she asked me to bow my head lower.
He watches over every speck of dust, does he not?
I was struggling with translating a sentence which spoke of ‘sighting that which lay beyond the visible.’ Indeed, the portion referred to seeing what usually remains unseen by going inwards…a deep, spiritually heavy sentence. Typical of the author’s style, super simple, and oh-so-heavy with meaning!
I tried many a combination and permutation. The zing of satisfaction did not come.
My phone pinged. Another dear friend had forwarded a Sufi song…Tu Jhoom sung by the inimitable Abida Parveen.
Ah, Lord! Just what I needed!
The sentence translated itself in matter of moments.
He watches over every green blade , does he not? **
So both the forest journeys, soon to be in book forms, are hereby dedicated to the Lord.
Kadin kusang kupandh karala/ Tinh ke bachan baakh hari byala//
Grih karaj nana janjala/ Te ati durgam sail bisala//
The horrifying wrong path is the companionship of the wicked. Their words are like tigers, lions and serpents. The multiple challenges of daily household life appear like unconquerable huge, mountains.
Ban bahu bisham moh mad mana/ Nadim kutark bhayankar nana//
Desire, vanity and pride are like dangerous forests; and the accusations and wrong arguments are the terrifying rivers.
Je sraddha sambal rahit nahim santanh kar saadh/
Tinh kahu manas agam ati jinhahi na Priya raghunadh//
Those who do not have faith, and are not supported by sages; and for whom Sri Ramji is not dear, they will find access to Manas impossible. (Without devotion to Lord Ram, faith and satsang, one cannot access Manas).
Jaum kari kasht jayi puni koyi/ Jatahim need judayi hoyi//
Jadata jaad bisham ur laaga/ Gayehu na majjan paav abhaga//
Even if a human reaches the lake of Manas even after much ordeal, the sleep shall catch him unawares; and the heart fills with stupid and foolish thoughts and consequently the unlucky one will not be able to take a dip in Sri Ramcharit Manas’ holy waters.
(Note: The undeserving shall be kept away from relishing the nectar of Manas. Without the Lord’s blessings, nobody can relish this beauty.)
Kari na jayi sar majjan pana/ Firi aavayi samet abhimana//
Jaum bahori kovu puchan aava/ Sar ninda kari tahi buchava//
Such a person returns, filled with hurt pride, not having taken a holy dip or tasted the holy waters of Manas. If someone were to enquire about his experience, instead of speaking about his misfortune, he shall mock the Manas and try to justify his experience.
Soyi sadar sar majjanu karayi/ Maha khor traytap na jarayi//
But on whom Sri Ramachandra’s gracious, bountiful glance is cast, all these troubles never bother a true devotee. He takes a dip in these divine waters and escapes being scalded by the Tri-taap: Spiritual, Mental, Physical.
Te nar yeh sar tajahim na kavu/ Jinh kem Ram charan bhal bhavu//
Jo nahayi chah ehim sar bhayi/ So satsang karavu mann layi//
The devotee whose heart is filled with love for Sri Ramji’s lotus feet shall never leave the lake of Manas. Whoever wishes to take a dip in this holy lake should cultivate ‘satsang’ aka companionship of the good and wise souls intentionally.
As manas manas chakh chahi/ Bhayi kabi buddhi bimal avagaahi//
After seeing this divine Manas through his heart’s eyes and diving delightedly into it, the poet’s intellect has become pure; the heart is full of enthusiasm and bliss; and the whole body is filled with great joy.
Sarju naan sumangal mula/ Lok bed mat manjul kula//
In such a manner flowed the waters of beautiful poetry which is filled with the pristine glories of Sri Ramji. The name of this poem-river is Sarayu; which is the root of all prosperity. The voices of the world and Vedas form the two shores of the river.
Daru bicharu ki karayi kovu bandia malay prasang//
With the blessing of Sri Ramji, my poetry will be pleasing to all. In the proximity of Malay parvat, when even a speck turns into sandal wood and becomes venerable, does anyone think of how insignificant the original object was?
Syam surabhi paya bisad ati gunad karahim sab pan/
Gira gramya siya ram jas gavahim sunahim sujan//
The black cow’s milk is full of goodness and glorious. That’s why everybody drinks it. Even if I have written the poetry in vernacular, in the language used by illiterate, simple folk, the wise people shall enjoy listening and singing to the glories of Sri Ramji and Janakiji.
Mani manik mukuta chabi jaisi/ Ahi giri gaj sir soh na taisi//
Gem, ruby, pearl: these are lovely indeed, but they do not look resplendent on a serpent, mountain or elephant. On a king’s crown or a young, beautiful maiden, these will shine and shimmer at their best.
In this manner, the wise men say, the poetry of a devotee-poet shall gather glory because the words, meaning and philosophy espoused all synchronize beautifully through faith. Goddess Saraswati shall leave Brahma’s abode and come running to the poet, when he remembers her, due to his supreme devotion to the Lord.
Ram charit sar binu anhwaye/ So shram jayi na koti upaye//
Kabi kobid as hriday bichari/ Gavahim Hari jas kali mal hari//
The exhaustion of goddess Saraswati (by running towards the poet) shall be alleviated only on taking a dip in the river of Sri Ramcharitmanas. The poet and scholar realize this truth and sing about Sri Hari, who vanquishes all the sins accrued in Kali Yuga.
Keenhe prakrit jan guna gaana/ Sir dhuni gira lagat pachitana//
Hriday sindhu mati seep samana/ Swati sarada kahahim sujana//
If one eulogizes anyone in the material world, the goddess shall groan over her fate ( why did she waste time running towards the poet?). The wise consider the heart as the ocean, intelligence as the conch shell and Saraswati as the Swati nakshatra.
Jaum barshayi bar baari bicharu/ Hohim kabit mukutamani charu//
If the rain of elevated thoughts rain on these, poetry which is as exquisite as a garland of pearls shall emerge.
Juguti bodhi puni pohiahim ramcharit bar tag/
Pahirahim sajjan bimal ur sobha ati anurag//
The wise ones wear the pearls of poetry in their pure hearts after piercing them with their intelligence and linking them using the beautiful thread of Sri Ramji’s story. It leads to absolute bliss and adoration of the Lord.
Je janme kalikal karala/ Kartab bayas besh marala//
Chalat kupadh bed mag chade/ Kapat kalevar kali mal bhade//
Those born in treacherous Kali yuga are like crows in deeds; though they are in the guise of swans. They abandon the path of the Vedas and seek the sinful ways. They are personifications of duplicity and are vessels filled with sins.
Banchak bhagat kahayi Ram ke/ Kinkar Kanchan koh kam ke//
Tinh mah pradham rekh jag mori/ Dheeng dharmadwaj dhandhak dhori//
Those who trick others saying they are devotees of Lord Ram, who are enslaved to avarice, anger and desire, those who pester one with their tricky business of dharma, those who are full of pride about their dharma (flying false flags of dharma), who cheat and sow treachery in the name of dharma…well, consider me as the foremost among such folks in this Kali Yuga.
Note: Tulsidas ji claims that he is as sinful as the rest of the world. It is with this utterly humble acceptance that he attempts to praise the Lord through his words.
Jaum apne avaguna sab kahavu/ Badayi kadha paar nahim lahavu//
Tate mai ati alap bakhane/ Dhore mahu janihahim sayane//
If I start narrating all my shortcomings, the story shall extend and I shall never be able to cross over. Hence, I have mentioned only few culpabilities of mine. The wise ones will understand on a brief description too.
Etahu par karihahim je asanka/ Mohit e adhik te jad mati ranka//
Understanding my supplications, albeit in different forms, nobody shall find fault with my narration of the Lord’s story. Those who are skeptical even at this stage, they are more foolish and dim-witted than me.
Kabi na hovu nahim chatur kahavahu/ Mati anuroop Ram guna gaavavu//
Kah Raghupathy ke charit apara/ Kah mati mori nirat samsara//
I am neither a poet nor of very sharp acumen. I am just singing praises of Sri Ramji’s glories as per my ability. Compare the vastness of the Lord’s infinite greatness and my limited intelligence which is attached to the world and its desires!
Jehim marut giri meru udahim/ Kahahu tul kehi leche mahim//
Samuchat amit Ram prabhutayi/ Karat kadha mann ati kadarayi//
The wind in which Sumeru (the majestic, golden mountain) itself gets uprooted, tell me, what’s a wisp of cotton in front of it? Realizing the illimitable radiance of Sri Ramji, my mind is extremely nervous attempting the narration of the Lord’s story.
Sarad ses mahes bidhi aagam nigam puraan/
Neti Neti kahi jasu guna karahim nirantar gaan//
The One who is praised as ( Neti, Neti) ‘Not this, Not this’ by Saraswati, Sesh Nag, Shiva, Brahma, Sastra, Veda and Purana always (The Lord is beyond description)
Sab janat prabhu prabhuta soyi/ Tadapi kahem binu rah ana koyi//
Taham bed as karan rakha/ Bhajan prabhavu bhanti bahu bhasha//
Even though one knows that it is impossible to sing the story of the great Lord, still one cannot help attempting the task! The Vedas say that the effects of reciting the Lord’s name and story are tremendous and occur in multifarious ways.
Note: Though nobody can describe the Lord to perfection, everybody should attempt to sing his story to the best of his/her capability. The effects of singing about the Lord’s qualities are unique; and the scriptures have described those. Even the smallest attempt at bhajan (singing with devotion) can help a human being cross the ocean of worldly suffering.
Ek aneeh aroop anama/ Aj sacchidanand par dhama//
Byapak biswaroop bhagwana/ Tehim dhari deh charit krit nana//
The one and only supreme power, who has no desire, who has no form or name, who is without origin, who is sat-chit-anand, (true- consciousness-bliss), ultimate divinity, who is omnipresent and manifests everywhere; the same Lord has taken a divine avatar and is indulging in playful lila.
So keval bhagtan hit lagi/ Param kripal pranat anuragi//
Jehi jan par mamta ati chohu/ Jehim karuna kari keenh na kohu//
The lila is all for the sake of the devotees. The Lord loves those who seek his protection and is extremely compassionate. The One who has such kindness and affection for his devotees, once he grants anyone grace, He is never angry again.
Gayi bahor garib nevaju/ Saral sabal sahib Raghuraju//
Budh barnahim Hari has as jani/ Karahim punit suphal nij bani//
Lord Ram is Deenbandhu (friend of the poor), of the most charming behaviour, supremely strong, and the Master of All. Realizing that truth, the wise use their tongues to sing glories of Sri Ramji, rendering themselves to great fruits of moksha and love of the Lord.
Tehim bal mai Raghupathy guna gadha/ Kahihavum nayi Ram pad madha//
Trusting on the compassion of the Lord, knowing it to be a form of worship, (and not of my ability to sing it to perfection), I am bowing my head at the Lord’s beautiful lotus feet and narrating His great story. The great saints (Valmiki, Vyasa) have all sang about the glory of Sri Hari, and following that path is the most suitable for me.
When great kings decide to build bridges across formidable rivers, even small insects can cross the waters easily. (Using the saints’ descriptions of the Lord, I too shall be able to narrate Sri Ramji’s story without hardship.)
Chalevu nisachar kataku apara/ Chaturangini ani bahu dhara//
Bibidhi bhanti bahan radh jana/ Bipul baran patak dwaj nana//
The mighty army of rakshasas marched onward. The ‘chaturangini’ (as in chess) army had many units: various kinds of chariots, vehicles, multi coloured flags and streamers.
Chale matt gaj jodh ghanere/ Praabit jalad marut janu prere//
Baran baran birdait nikaya/ Samar soor janahim bahu maya//
There were lines of elephants, looking like black thunder clouds of the rainy season moving with the breeze. Carrying varied weapons of different colours, mighty warriors were moving; they were fierce in combat and also experts in magical practices.
Ati bichitra bahini biraaji/ Beer basant sen janu saaji//
The very unique army was absolutely striking in its appearance! It was as if a courageous Spring season had dressed up the army. The ocean underwent turbulence, mountains shook and the elephants symbolizing the various directions became restless.
Nakh dasan sail mahadrumayuddh sabal sank na manahim/
Jay Ram Ravan matth gaj mrigraj sujasu bakhanahim//
The fearsome and Yama-like warriors, monkeys and bears, were racing forward. They resembled mountains with wings flying together. Huge trees, mountains, sharp nails, teeth were their weapons. They were very formidable assailants and not intimidated by anybody. Hailing Sri Ramji as the lion fighting against the intoxicated elephant named Ravan, they were praising the glories of the Lord.
Duhu disi jay jaykar kari nij nij jori jaani/
Phire beer ith Ramahi uth ravanahi bakhani//
The warriors of both sides were busy singing praises of their own Lords and fighting with their respective foe.
Adhik preeti mann bha sandheha/ Bandi charan kah sahit saneha//
Seeing Ravan in his chariot and Sri Ramji without one, Vibheeshan became anxious. Due to the great love for the Lord, he became worried about the forthcoming battle. Clutching at the lotus feet of the Lord, he spoke…
Nadh na radh nahim tann pad trana/ Kehi bidhi jitab beer balwana//
Sunahu sakha kah kripanidhana/ Jehim jay hoyi so syandan aana//
‘Dear Lord, you have no chariot, no armour, no footwear to protect yourself! How do you hope to defeat the mighty Ravan?’ Then Lord Ram smiled, ‘Listen, my friend! The means of winning victory- well, that chariot is unique!’
Bal bibek dam parhit ghore/ Chama kripa samta raju jore//
‘Valour and Courage are the two wheels of the chariot. The flagpole and flag happen to be Truth and Good behaviour. Strength, Prudence, Sensory control and Kindness (helping others) are the four horses; and these are tied by the ropes formed of Forgiveness, Compassion and Fairness.’
Ees bhajanu saradhy sujana/ Birati charm santosh kripana//
Daan parsu budhi sakti prachanda/ Bar bigyan kadin kodanda//
‘The charioteer is the Faith (in the divine). Happiness is the sword and the shield is Detachment. The battle axe is Charity, Intelligence is the fiery trident. Wisdom (Deep Learning) is the incomparable Kodanda.’ (SriRamji’s bow).
Amal achal mann thron samana/ Sam jam niyam silimukh nana//
Kavach abhed bipra gur puja/ Ehi sam bijay upay na duja//
‘ The pure and steady mind is the strongest quiver (of arrows). The mind and body being under control, (Sham, Yam etc… where bodily functions and mind are regulated with discipline) are the sharp arrows. The impenetrable body armour is the devotion to one’s gurus and evolved souls. There is no other mantra for victory.’
Sakha dharmamay as radh jakem/ Jeetan kah na katahu ripu takem//
‘Dear friend, the one who is in possession of such a chariot will hardly find an enemy to vanquish!’
Maha ajay samsara ripu jeeti sakayi so beer/
Jakem as radh hoyi dridh sunahu sakha matidheer//
‘Such a warrior, who has that firm chariot, can conquer the formidable enemy called life and death cycle.’ (To speak the least of somebody like Ravan!)
Suni prabhu bachan bibheeshan harashi gahe pad kanj/
Ehi mis mohi upadesahu Ram kripa such punj//
Hearing Sri Ramji’s wonderful words, Vibheeshan fell at the Lord’s lotus feet. He said,
‘Dear Lord, seating place of all joy and compassion! You have blessed me with your great words of wisdom.’
Uth pachar daskandhar ith angad hanuman/
Larat nisachar bhalu kapi nij nij prabhu aan//
Ravan was spouting challenges on one side, whereas Angad and Hanuman were retorting from the other. Both armies were fighting with each other, hailing their respective leaders.
Sur Brahmadi siddh muni nana/ Dekhat ran nabh chade bimana//
Hamahu Uma rahe tehim sanga/ Dekhat Ram charit ran ranga//
The devas including Brahma, the siddhas, and sages were on different vimanas and were watching from the sky. Lord Shiv says, ‘Uma, I was also with them, watching Sri Ramji’s valour at war, His divine lila.’
Vibheeshan said: ‘ Hey Compassionate One! It is neither lightning nor roaring of the thunder clouds. At the acme of Lanka is a special palace. Ravan is enjoying dance and music renderings in that sabha.’
Chatra meghadambar sir dhaari/ Soyi janu jalad ghata ati kaari//
‘Hey Lord of all gods! The mridang and melodies are at play. That’s the sweet rumblings afar.’ Realizing Ravan’s arrogance Lord Ram smiled. He readied his majestic bow and affixed an arrow to it.
Chattra mukut taatank tab hate ekahim baan/
Sab kem dekhat mahi pare marmu na kovu jaan//
That single arrow chopped off the umbrella, crown and Mandodari’s earring with ease. Everyone saw these falling, but nobody knew the reason behind it.
As kautuk kari Ram sar prabhisevu aayi nishang/
Ravan sabha sasank sab dekhi maha rasabhang//
After displaying such magic, the arrow returned to the Lord’s quiver. Seeing the unexpected devastation which took the joy off the celebrations, every courtier in Ravan’s sabha became terrified.
Kamp na bhumi na marut bisesha/ Astra sastra kachu nayan na dekha//
Sochahim sab nij hriday machair/ Asgun bhayavu bhayankar bhari//
Neither earthquake occurred, nor any heavy storm. There wasn’t any weapons to be seen. (How did the covering, crown and earring get snipped?) Everybody was thinking to himself, this is an extremely bad omen.
Siravu gire santat subh jaahi/ Mukut pare kas saguna taahi//
Ravan noticed that the court was struck dumb with fear. He laughed to lighten the airs and tried to convince them logically. ‘ See, for the one whose head getting cut off is also auspicious, what can it matter that the crown fell off?’
‘Patal is His feet, Brahmalok is His very head; the rest of the worlds are part of His body. Kala aka Time is the movement of His eyebrows. The sun epitomises His eyes, and the clouds are His tresses.’
Jasu ghran Aswanikumara/ Nisi aru divas nimesh apara//
Shravan disa das bed bakhani/ Marut swas nigam nij bani//
‘Aswani Kumar (The healer twin gods) form His nose; the batting of His eyelids makes the day and night; The ten directions are His ears, that is what the Vedas say. The air he breathes is Vayu, and Vedas are His own words.’
Adhar lobh jam dasan karala/ Maya haas bahu dikpala//
‘His lips symbolizes Lobha, Yamrajaka or Kala is like His fearsome teeth; illusion or Maya is His smile; the dikpalas (gods of directions) form his arms; Fire or Agni is His face; Varuna or Water is his tongue; Creation, Preservation and Annihilation are His gestures…’
Rom raji ashtaadas bhaara/ Asthi sail sarita nas jaara//
Udar udathi adhago jaatna/ Jagmaya prabhu ka bahu kalpana//
‘The eighteen types of innumerable herbs symbolize His body hair, the mountains His bones; the rivers form His veins; the oceans stand for His stomach; and the nether regions symbolize Narak. In this way the Lord epitomizes the universe. Why should there be any more doubts?’
Ahankar siv buddhi aj mann sasi chit mahan/
Manuj baas sacharachar roop Ram bhagwan//
‘Shiva is His ego, Brahma his intelligence; the Moon is His mind, and Vishnu is heart. Thus the omnipresent Lord Shri Ramji has taken the human guise.’
As bichari sunu pranpati prabhu san bayaru bihaayi/
Preeti karahu Raghubeer pad mam ahivat na jaayi//
‘Hey beloved! Discard the hatred towards Lord Shri Ram, and develop devotion to Him. That way my Suhag (state of being married to you) shall stay undisturbed. (Or else harm will befall you)’ **
The Lord watched the moon rising in the east. Then he said: ‘Watch the moon, how fearless like the lion!’
Poorab disi giriguha nivasi/ Param pratap tej bal rasi//
Matt nag tam kumbh bidaari/ Sasi kesari gagan ban chaari//
The strong, glowing, majestic lion called the Moon, resident of the cave in the mountain named East, has torn apart the head of the arrogant elephant called darkness, and is wandering fearlessly in the forest of the skies.
Bidhure nabh mukutahal tara/ Nisi sundari ker singara//
Kah prabhu sasi mahu mechakatayi/ Kahahu kaah nij nij mati bhayi//
The stars scattered all over the sky are like pearls, being adornments in the hair of the gorgeous woman called night. The Lord spoke : ‘Brothers! What’s the black spot staining the moon? Each of you explain as per your thoughts.’
Kah Sugreev sunahu Raghurayi/ Sasi mahu pragat Bhoomi kai chaayi//
Marevu Rahu sasihi kah koyi/ Ur mah pari syamata soyi//
Sugreev said, ‘Listen, Raghunathji! The reflection of the earth is cast on the moon.’ Another ventured, ‘Rahu has defeated the Moon. The agony of that failure is showing forth in the heart.’
Kovu kah jab bidhi rati much keenha/ Saar bhag sasi kar Hari leenha//
Chiddra so pragat indu ur maahim/ Tehi mag dekhiya nabh parichahim//
Somebody said, ‘ When the creator Brahma crafted Rati Devi’s face (wife of Kamadeva) he took away the heart of the moon. That gap is visible in the moon till now and the black shadows of the sky get reflected therein.’
Prabhu kah garal bandhu sasi kera/ Ati priya nij ur deenh basera//
Bish sanjut kar nikar pasaari/ Jarat birahavant nar naari//
Then Lord Ram said: ‘ Poison is a dear brother of the Moon. He has let it take a place inside his heart. Spreading the venomous moonlight all around, it tortures the lovers who are separated from one another.’
Kah Hanumant sunahu prabhu sasi tumhar priy das/
Tav murati bidhu ur basati soyi syamata aabhas//
Hanumanji spoke up : ‘Listen, dear Lord! The Moon is a beloved servant of yours. Your beautiful blue-hued form resides inside his heart and that is the dark hue shining on his body.’
Pavan tanay ke bachan suni bihase Ramu sujan/
Dacchin disi avaloki prabhu bole kripanidhan//
The omniscient Lord smiled on hearing Hanumanji’s words. Gazing at the southern direction, Shri Ramji said…
Karavu sada tinh kai rakhvari/ Jimi balak rakhayi mahtari//
Gah sisu bacch anal ahi dhayi/ Tah rakhai Janani argayi//
‘I take care of my devotee like a mother guards her little child. When the baby catches hold of a snake or a bit of fiery kindling, the mother quickly separates her child from the danger.’
Praud bhaye tehi sut par mata/ Preeti karayi nahim pachili bata//
Morem praud tanay sam gyani/ Balak sut sam das amani//
‘When the child grows up to be a self-sufficient young person, the mother still loves him but is no longer concerned so much with his safety . (He can take care of himself now!). In my eyes, the wise are like the grown-up young man. And the bhakt or devotee who depends on me for everything totally, is like a helpless child.’
Jaati paanti kul dharma badayi/ Dhan bal parijan gun chaturayi//
‘Caste, creed, religion, clan, dharma, status, prosperity, might, family, qualities and capability: in spite of having all these, if a human being is devoid of pure devotion, he is useless and dull like a cloud bereft of life-giving water.’
May we all be rain filled clouds…
Bow of reverence as Aranya Kanda’s first draft gets completed. What a joyful exploration it was!
Bidya binu bibek upjaye/ Shram bhal padem kiye aru paye//
Sang tem jati kumantra te raja/ Maan te gyan paan tem laja//
‘You indulge in intoxicating liquor and sleep day and night. Are you aware that your enemy is edging so close to you? Ruling without justice, acquiring wealth without righteousness, doing good work without surrendering the results to the Lord, becoming learned without any wisdom arising within, are all futile efforts. A sage becomes tainted due to proximity to sensual temptations, a king is waylaid by wrong advice, wisdom is lost due to pride, and shame flees due to liquor…’
Preeti pranay binu mad te guni/ Nasahim begi neeti as suni//
‘Without humility, one’s ability to be pleasing disappears and a good man is soon wrecked by his conceit: Indeed, I have heard rules of living like these.’
Ripu ruj pavak paap prabhu ahi ganiya na chot kari/
As kahi bibidh bilap kari laagi rodan karan//
‘Foe, disease, fire, sin, master and snake should never be underestimated.’ Having spoken thus, Surpanakha started lamenting in many ways.
I am trying to understand/translate/interpret the beautiful canto-Aranya Kanda of Goswami Tulsidasji’s Sriramacharit Manas; aka the Ramayana in Hindi. Imagine my surprise at the wisdom of the words the poet/devotee Tulsidasji put in the mouth of the character of the ‘rakshasi’ named ‘Surpa-Nakha’ or ‘The one with nails like winnowing sieves.’
Now, Supranakha’s role is the main pivot of the story, so to speak.
How stunning that she speaks to her brother Ravan that ‘ any good work done without submitting/surrendering to Hari is futile!’ Here you have the gist of Karma Yoga in Treta Yuga itself! I wondered whether she was hinting that ‘Hari’ was in human avatar in the forest of Dandakaranya.
Rules of living, ruling, loving…how beautifully and skilfully poets across ages put in the mouths of their characters the wisdom they wished to transmit.
Couldn’t resist a note on how a mutilated woman speaks ‘the philosophy of living’ to the most powerful king at that time.
For those who read Malayalam, you might want to explore Sara Joseph’s subversive retelling/(subaltern retelling) of Surpanakha’s perspective in her story ‘Taikulam.’ That’s another learning altogether. Grateful for every bit of wisdom.
Sage Atri praising the Lord with folded hands…blissful paen. From Goswami Tulsidasji’s Sree Ramacharita Manas, Aranyakanda.
Namami bhakt vatsalam/ Kripalu sheel komalam//
Bhajami te padambujam/ Akaminam swadhamadam//
I bow to the One who loves his devotees. I bow to the One with the sweetest disposition. I meditate on your lotus-feet. I bow to the One who bestows his own abode to the devotees who are devoid of desires. (nishkama purusha: the person who works without desires)
Nikaam shyam Sundaram/ Bhavambunadh mandaram//
Prabhul kanj lochanam/ Madadi dosh mochanam//
(My Lord) You are coloured blue and so beautiful. You are like the mountain Mandar used for churning the ocean of life’s sufferings. (Holding onto you one can overcome the ocean of worldly struggles). Your eyes are wide and lovely like a resplendent lotus. You help us to be free from sins of pride and its ilk. (Kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya: Lust, anger, greed, desire, pride, competition)
Pralamb bahu vikramam/ Prabho-prameya vaibhavam//
Nishang chaap sayakam/ Dharam Trilok nayakam//
My Lord! The strength of your long arms and your radiance are infinite. You are praised by the devas as you shine resplendent, with your bow and quiver of arrows.
Dinesh vansha mandanam/ Mahesh chaap ghandanam//
Munindra sant ranjanam/ Surari vrinda bhanjanam//
(You are) The scion of Suryavansh, the One who broke Lord Shiva’s bow; beloved to sages and monks; and vanquisher of the asuras (foes of devas).
Manoj vairi vanditam/ Ajadi deva sevitam//
Vishuddh bodh vigraham/ Samasth dooshanapaham//
You are revered by the enemy of Kamadeva (Lord Shiva), worshipped by Brahma and other gods; you are the incarnation of the purest intelligence; and you remove the entire spectrum of sins.
Namami Indira pathim/ Sukhakaram satam gatim//
Bhaje sashakthi saanujam/ Shachi pati priyanujam//
Goddess Lakshmy’s Lord! The seating place of all joys and the exclusive refuge of all saints! I worship the Lord who is the younger brother of Indra, along with the epitome of Shakti (Sitaji) and your own younger brother (Lakshmanji).
Thvadhamkhri mool ye narah/ Bhajanti heen matsarah//
Patanthi no bhavarnave/ Vitark veechi sankule//
The humans who serve your lotus feet without indulging in envy of others or virulent competition (matsarya), they never fall into the ocean of worldly struggles where anxieties/ doubts rise high as waves.
Viviktha vasinah sada/ Bhajanthi muktaye muda//
Nirasya indriyadikam/Prayanthi te gatim swakam//
The mortals who live alone, conquering their senses, and meditating on you Lord, with joy; they attain your abode. (salvation)