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1. Srimadh RamAyaNam & its different versions

On the illustrious epic RamAyaNam , there are about 300 versions in India . The oldest one is recognized as that of Sage Valmiki in Sanskrit (See RT Griffth's english translation). Ananndha RAmayaNam , AdhyAtma RamayaNam , Kambha RamAyaNam , AruNAchala Kavi"s Rama nAtakam , Bhavabhuthi's MahAveera Charitham ( 700-740 AD ) , Swami Desikan's ( 1268-1369 AD ) Raghu Veera Gadhyam , Tulasi DasA's epic work in Hindi completed in 1584 AD are some of the 300 existing today. There is even one version called Thakkai RamAyaNam which is sung to the accompaniment of a small drum called Takkai , which is usually associated with Lord NatarAjA's sandhyA Thaandavam . Takkai RamAyaNam is almost like a commentary on Kambha RamAyaNam .

The Story of RamA spread overseas to Burma , IndochinA and Indonesia and even ChinA . The Thai version is known as Ramakien. In central Java , RamAyaNA is performed as dances against an Islamic backdrop. Old javanese RamAyaNam has many interpolations.TheRamAyaNA reliefs in Prambanan temple in central java are art historians and archeologist's delight . The story of RamA has accumulated important features of local culture as seen in Hikayat Sri Rama , the malay version of RamAyANam . One can safely say that the cultural milieu of the region and the nation as well as the poet's own anubhavam of the immortal story had significant impacts on the blossoming of many versions of RamAyaNA that we encounter today . Swami Desikan has created a masterly Kavyam known as Hamsa Sandesam , which is modeleld after the Megha Sandesam of KaLi DAsA about RamA sending a message to Sita in captivity at LankhA . There is no reference to any such incident in Sage Valmiki 's epic. However , this kavyam of Sawmi Desikan is a testament ot his genius as a poet and geographer of the Indian subcontinet . There is even a version called PatALa RamAyaNam , with a parallel plot and significant deviation in details in MalyALam and TamiL . The varieties are astounding indeed !

Even in one source like Sage valmiki's Srimadh RamAyaNam , there are recensions and subrecensions . There is a Northern rescension and a southern rescension .The transmission of the story of RamA , the performing traditions by PAURanIKaS, the region , the choice of language and the POET'S ANUBHAVAM OF THE STORY have all made quite an impact over time.

Taking Kambha RamAyaNam as an example , He followed closely the Sanskrit Version of sage Valmiki and yet he differeed from the original through introduction of fresh themes and descriptions to meet the requirements of his age (9th century AD ) marked by the glorious rules of imperial dynasties. Episodic deviations from reconstruction of the original text of Sage Valmiki have been analyzed by Scholars of RamAyaNam in academia. Inconsistencies ahve been pointed out by academicians like Professor Henk Bodewitz of Leiden Univeristy.

It has been pointed out that Sufi poets like Jayasi have adopted episodes from RamAyaNa and Tualsidas was influenced to some extent by his contemproaries like Jayasi in the conception of his RamacharithamAnasA . The social aspects of RamacharithamAnasA and its impact on the early 17th and 18th century India has been well documented. There seems to be the influence of one generation of "story tellers " on the others and particularly in the commentaries of scholars on the original works dealing with the story of RamA .

The essential message for Sri VishNavAs is that Srimadh RamAyaNam is a SaraNAgathi Saasthram and that RamA is the embodiment of DharmaA ( DharmO vigrahavAn ). Swami Desikan 's work in Tamil revered as Abhaya PradhAna Saaram is the essence of the SaraNAgathi doctrine that is central to Sri Vaishnavite Theology and Philosophy .

Credits: V.Sadagopan

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