By admin on May 14, 2016 | In Oriental/New Age
As the large number of verses which we are induced to regard as accretions shows, the Rāmāyaṇa is anything but an entirely homogenous epic. Each recension contains many passages and verses, which cannot be attributed to Vālmīki, and far less to one definite era. The stages of the composition of our epic, therefore, should be fairly defined before we attempt to fix a date for it, or utilize the data in it for the study of the social conditions of Ancient India.
Since the publication of Jacobi’s researches on the Rāmāyaṇa it is generally accepted that the original poem of Vālmīki consisted of five kāṇḍa (II to VI)/ The first Kāṇḍa as well as the seventh kāṇḍa has been considered to be of late origin. However, it is necessary that at least some parts of the first kāṇḍa should have been a genuine part of the story because the story otherwise has an abrupt beginning, which is contrary to the narrative technique of India. Excepting for a few cantos, which form an essential introduction to the story, the major part of the first kāṇḍa appears to be spurious on account of the numerous internal contradictions, the character of the contents and the drab narrative style as opposed to the poetic elegance of the other five kāṇḍas.
The seventh kāṇḍa is clearly a late interpolation. Its contents, which like those of the first kāṇḍa form ‘an encyclopedia of mythology’, and its style are are cogent proofs while the colophon of the Rāmāyaṇa itself throw further light on its being regarded a supplementary kāṇḍa. The same colophons prove that the seventh kāṇḍa is even later than the first by referring to the former as supplement to the six kāṇḍas. A phalaśruti at the end of the sixth kāṇḍa, also shows that the original Rāmāyaṇa ended there. In India there has been a tradition, which excluded the Uttarakāṇḍa from reckoning; Bhaṭṭi, in his Rāvaṇavadha, ignores it while in the south Pillailokam Jīyar, the annotator of Nāthamuni’s verse on the Tiruvāymolidoes the same. Also Kamban, the repotted translator of the epic into Tamil, omits this kāṇḍa.
But the attitude of some modern Indian scholars to the Uttarakāṇḍa has been somewhat different. Emphasizing that the internal evidences in the works and the “verdict of the Indian tradition” should be taken into Consideration, P P Shastri affirms that Vālmīki composed his Rāmāyaṇa in seven books of 24000 stanzas. Kibe, on the other hand, assumes that the Rāmāyaṇa cannot be a lyrical composition as the tragic end shows and that the disappearance of Sītā is relegated to this kāṇḍa so as to honor the rule of poetics; he, this, concludes that the Uttarakāṇḍa is an essential part of the epic and says, “It is the dislike of the Indians to tragedy that makes them feel shy of this kāṇḍa.” Barua, again, is not in favor of rejecting the whole of Uttarakāṇḍa as an interpolation, but he does not ignore the numerous late additions to it, for he says, “It seems to me that the end of the original epic was tragic and Sītā’s disappearance into the bosom of the earth was very likely the culmination. Hence, the Uttarakāṇḍa is a prodigious accretion round a nucleus which originally formed an integral part of the Rāmāyaṇa .” Vaidya proffered two possible arguments in support of the view that the Uttarakāṇḍa was written by the original author himself: “Firstly the history and the greatness of Rāvaṇa required to be detailed somewhere, for without them the poem would have been incomplete and the greatness of Rāma without a strong relief; Secondly, the painful sequel of the recital of the poem viz., the disappearance of Sītā has so beautifully been conceived that even if the incidents were supposed to be imaginary none but the great poet himself could have conceived them. In fact, they strike us as a part of the grand tragedy of the epic.”
The arguments of these scholars lead mainly to the two conclusions that the contents (at least, the main incidents) of the Uttarakāṇḍa are an essential part of the epic and that the tragic end, if imaginary, should have been conceived by Vālmīki himself. As regards the contents, it is quite probable that there were certain ballads, especially on Rāvaṇa, which were rejected by Vālmīki as irrelevant to his poem; there might also have been ballads on the disappearance of Sītā into the earth composed as a corollary to those about her birth from the bosom of the earth. What we actually see in the Uttarakāṇḍa is a collection of ballads, held together by a flimsy connecting story, more compatible to the Mahābhārata than the genuine Rāmāyaṇa. Sītā’s end, is no doubt, replete with pathos; it is in keeping with an epic which was composed by a poet who drew his inspiration from the shrieks of a bereaved krauñca bird! But the latter story in itself is late.
The fact that the Uttarakāṇḍa preserves an unusually great degree of similarity in all of the different recensions of Rāmāyaṇa is explained to be due to its later development.
Besides the major part of the Bālakāṇḍa and the Uttarakāṇḍa, there are many chunks in the other five kāṇḍas which bespeak of a late origin. The interpolations are easily recognized although in both language and spirit they differ but little from the rest of the epic. There are, however, clumsy because they are either repetitions of ideas already expressed or are altogether irrelevant to the theme. There are also many contradictions between them and the other parts of the Rāmāyaṇa. They are not works of one particular period; the tendency to add and supplement the epics has been there from very early days to very recent times.
Many cantos have been rejected by the commentators themselves as prakṣipta (interpolated) and many more since then have been added. The reasons for such accretions are, as Vaisya suggested, first the theory of Rāma being an avatāra of Viṣṇu borrowed from the Mahābhārata; secondly, the theory that the Rāmāyaṇa was the first Sargabandha kāvya’ thirdly, poetical embellishments or the desire to put in more descriptions of seasons, battles, cities and palaces and more lamentations, eulogies and dialogues; fourthly, the desire to make the Rāmāyaṇa a depository of legendary lore; fifthly, the desire to make it a depository of knowledge; sixthly and lastly the desire to exaggerate the marvelous. The most apparent interpolations are the long tag verses in meters other than the śloka, episodes such as the chasing of the golden deer, the burning of Laṅkā by Hanumat, the story of the Andhamuni, the discussion on whether Vibhīṣaṇa should be killed as a spy, the episode of Kumbhakarṇa and Vibhīṣaṇa peculiar to the NW recession of the Rāmāyaṇa, the coronation of Vibhīṣaṇa and geographical accounts put into the mouth of Suggrīva along with passages which refer to the Buddha, Yavanas, śakas, Pahlavas, Andhras, Pauṇḍras, Cholas, Pāṇḍyas, Keralas, Kāverī, Tāmraparṇi and to Kavāṭa. The legends and some of the didactic and philosophical verses could have been the work of brahminical redactors. But a real brahminical recasting, a sort of a tendentiose Umarbeitung, is not as discernible as in the Mahābhārata except in the Bāla and the Uttarakāṇḍas. On the other hand, a Vaiṣṇavaite revision of at least the first, sixth and the seventh kāṇḍas may be assumed to explain the references in them to Rāma as an incarnation of Viṣṇu.
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