Author: Kuvempu | Translated by: S.M.Punekar
It’s a story that tells more, much more about the poet, writer, singer, dancer, sculptor, painter or the one who may have commissioned the project. It’s a story that captures different time periods. Thus Rama, Sita, Ravana, Hanuman and the many many characters are mere tools of anthropology that reflect the ideology of their creator and their moment in time. No wonder there are 1000s of versions of Ramayana across the South Asian Continent. Each distinct in its own philosophy!
And here is one Kannada poet. A gentle giant. Kuvempu.
At the age of 32 he set to re-tell this known story. At the end of 9 years when he finished, it was not just another re-telling. His epic poem, ‘Shri Ramayana Darshanam’ inches forward from Valmiki’s Ramayan taking progressive steps.
There are no Gods, Demons and Apes. They are all human, each trying to stay afloat in their own growing depths of complexity. There are no miracles and magic boons. There is only the redemption hidden in ones own consciousness, which each needs to find. Sita and Rama are not the only ideal motif of marital companionship. There are new dimensions to explore in Tara and Vali, Mandodari and Ravana. Most of all Kuvempu chisels a whole new sculpture of ultimate companionship in Urmila and Laxmana which towers above all others.
He creates a whole new character; Anala, Vibhishana’s daughter and Ravana’s niece. Where Sita limits, Anala grows from there. When ever Anala speaks in this poem, it’s a future ideology that is so simple which all the traditional characters agree to, yet say they can not subscribe to.
Among other alterations, he makes one even in the trial by fire episode. Kuvempu makes Rama enter the fire pyre and prove his loyalty towards Sita. But before you can rejoice that this possibly is a more liberalistic view of gender roles in a relationship, there is a deafening muteness between Sita and Rama that follows.
Like this, Kuvempu takes many small realistic step to better humanity and passes on the baton to a whole new generation of craftsmen to inch forward.
Thus, find your own Rama. Brace to see your own reflection!