Posts Tagged ‘Ramayanam ’

Well, all of us at one point of time or the other have been shouted at, using the sleeping giant kumbakarna as an example. Its always tough to wake up in the mornings, that too when you are a kid and the evenings are too long and the mornings are too short. But seeing this freeze of the story sculpted into stone in far off Indonesia jolted me wide awake.

parambanan kumbakarna waking up panel.jpg

Lets brush up our memories of the story from Ramayana, Ravana’s mighty brother, the giant Kumbakarna, sleeps for 6 months at a time. Well, this was actually not a curse but a boon which he himself sought ( ok with some nimble work by Indra).

Having born to mixed parents ( mother was a demon and father a high born), the children are advised by their mother to seek the blessings of Brahma, the creator. So all four, Ravana, kumbakarna, Surpanka and Vibeeshana undertake a stiff penance.

Ravana performs intense penance , lasting several years. Pleased with his austerity, Brahma appears and offers him a boon. Ravana asks for immortality, which Brahma refuses saying everyone has to die someday. Ravana then askes for absolute invulnerability and supremacy before gods and heavenly spirits, other demons, serpents and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from them. Brahma granted him these boons, and additionally gave him great strength by way of knowledge of divine weapons and sorcery.

Next, its the turn of Kumbakarna, who is already a giant, and Indra the Lord of devas is scared stiff, that any boon would make him invincible. So he seeks the help of the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi, who at the appropriate moment holds his tongue back. So instead of asking for endless life, he asks for endless sleep. Brahma too glady obliges by granting him this boon. The others are shell shocked and plead with Brahma, that such a boon is akin to death, so he modifies it a bit - saying he will sleep for 6 months and be awake for 6 months. However, he cautions that if he is woken up in the 6 month hibernation, he would become vulnerable.

Ok, now the story spans a few years, the main events of Ramayana are over and we are nearing the climax. Ravana fights Rama - and the brilliance of Rama’s archery makes him loose his divine weapons, chariot and Crowns, and he is left, unarmed, on the battlefield. Rama humbles him more by telling him to go back and come tomorrow with arms.

Smitten by this insult, Ravana commits a blunder by asking his troops to wake up Kumbakarana. Now this is what is depicted on the sculpture. The mountain like colossal figure of the sleeping giant, with soldiers using spears and swords to prod him, one horsemen is riding on him ( see the brilliance of the sculptor - he depicts the previous horse and rider, tired and getting off - towards the left) - we also have an elephant trumpeting into his ear and another demon blowing a conch into his ear.

blowing a conch into his ears.jpg

Guess, my folks didn’t have to go through all this to wake me up.

Image courtesy: http://oldsite.library.upenn.edu/etext/sasia/aiis/architecture/prambanan/

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My friend Mr. Palaniappan Vairam, is a true gem. The right words to describe his work would be unique, being without a like or equal,unusual. I chanced on his initial posts by accident and we chatted up and thus began our almost daily interaction. One look at the subject of his blog is enough to convince you as to why i choose the above lines to describe him and his work - on Tamil Sangam works.

Vairam’s Karka nirka blog

This is not a guest post in the correct sense, for he has already posted this in his blog. But since this style suited mine, i kind of high jacked the post and arm twisted him - for how else do you showcase a key event in Ramayan, sung so beautifully by the king of tamil poetry to be so aptly sculpted in far off Parambanan ( Jog Jakarta - Indonesia) - there are many more lovely Ramayan sculptures in parambanan, which we will see in subsequent posts. Over to Vairam

I choose just a single stanza of Kamban’s Ramavatharam today:

The stags and all the other deer who saw it
came toward it with desire as great as the ocean,
like all those who fall to whores without love,
skilled at elaborately deceiving heart.

Poet: Kamban

Translated by George L. Hart and Hank Heifetz

The Situation:

Marichan, an uncle of Ravana is disguised as a golden deer to woo Rama and Lakshmana out of the way, so that Ravana can capture Sita. So Marichan takes a form of a golden deer.

The Beautiful Simile:

When the golden deer appears, all the stags and other deers around it just flock towards the golden deer with great desire/lust /passion. He employs a brilliant simile here to describe the situation. Men in old times used to visit courtesans who were well versed in all arts. They knew how to satisfy a mans need. The men usually think these women really love them and pour their wealth on them. From the courtesans perspective, they just use their art to deceive the man and earn the riches. Kamban gives this simile to make us understand that the golden deer was too beautiful to believe, a beauty that will attract every one who sees it without any doubt and yet it was deceptive beauty. When some thing seems to be too good , surely something must be suspicious about it, eg. share market, when shares sky rocket in their value suddenly there comes a jolt of a market scandal. But most
people fall for the too good to resist offer. Kamban gives you this stanza to point out that even great mind of Rama had fallen for ‘the too good to resist’.

And some thing in the style of my good friend Mr.Vijay Kumar, a sculpture from Prambanan, Java , to end my post today. Such a loively depiction of the Rama chasing the deer, letting fly his arrow and in his dying moments Maareecha gaining his true demonic form.

maareecha slaying parambanan java.JPG

dont follow the ‘too good to resist’!


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