View Full Version : Ramayana and Poetry

02 July 2013, 03:01 PM

This one is a english translation of a conversation between Sri Velukkudi Krishnan Swami and an established Carnatic singer - Sri Vijay Shiva in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY8obap8n04. The latter asks Swami several questions pertaining to music and poetry in Ramayana.

I wanted to translate this for long for the benefit of the non-Tamil speaking devotees but was pressed for time. Swami gives some deep insights regarding this.

02 July 2013, 03:07 PM
Question 1: Was Ramayana composed as a Prose or a Poetry?

Swami: Ramayana was without any doubt composed as a poetry and as per this verse in Bala Kanda:

पाठ्ये गेये च मथुरम् प्रमाणैः त्रिभिर् अन्वितम् | - 1-4-8

In Ramayana itself is mentioned that the Sage Valmiki rendered the epic as a melodious poetry. The foundation of our Sanathana Dharma is itself Bhakti (devotion) and Poetry. We may present it as a prose for lack of time.

Lava Kusha were great musicians themselves and would go around singing the epic in many ashramas and get the blessings of the Rishis. Therefore music is inseperable from Ramayana.

03 July 2013, 10:16 AM
Please note that translation of a conversation always destroyes its original beauty. The original conversation, as any tamil speaking devotee would know, is beautiful.

Question 2: In general, what is the relationship b/w Bhakti and Poetry?

Swami: In our Sanatana Dharma, Mukthi (liberation) is attained only by Bhakti and even the Vedas establish the same thing. By Sanatana, Anadhi (Beginlessness) is meant. Bhakti is anadhi, mukthi is anadhi and Atma is anadhi as well. When mind is completely focused on God through Bhakti it leads to Mukti. Music indeed is one of the most important ways to acheive this one pointed devotion.

It is a common observation that when people are involved with music, they totally forget the world and the mind reaches an elevated state. So, when mind is kept in that elevated state, Bhakti will keep happening and eventually lead to Mukthi. Therefore Bhakti and music are inseparable.

09 July 2013, 01:06 PM
I was so moved by this ......

Question 3: This is a practical question. If I have to do a pravachanam of vishnu Sahasranama, it takes me about 25 minutes for about 100 slokas for patiently explaining each verse. They say that Lava Kusha sang 24000 verses to Rama [Swami already starts smiling here]

a. How many days must this have taken?
b. How did people have the patience?
c. Did Rama only listen or were there others also?


First let me answer the question about patience. Rama listened, citizens listened, and so did the Rishis, ministers and army generals etc. While listening to the rendition by lava Kusha, Rama was seated alone in the throne. He feels sad and lonely remembering Sita.

Bhakti or music are always enjoyed in a group. That's why Andal (a SriVaishnava saint) says: Koodi irundu kulirndu.

[Swami asks Sri Vijay Shiva] You must have noticed in the music concert that when you sings, people look at each other saying "Besh Besh" and enjoying and commenting in a group. But Rama was alone here missing Sita. So what does He do..hearing this makes one's hair stand.

Sage Valmiki Himself says:

sachApI rAmah parIkshat kathah chanaih|
bubUshayA saktamanA babuvah ha||

How wonderful! Rama, without seen by anyone slowly descends from His throne, (so that the sabha is not disturbed) seats Himself amongst the people and dashing with each other. He is hitting another person's thigh and another is hitting His thigh [similar to clapping]. After Ramayana is done, people realize Rama is missing! [both laugh]. Therefore everyone heard the Epic poem in bliss.

When one is experiencing bliss, will one think about stopping it or to continue it? [Sri Vijay Shiva nods and says - continue ofcourse]. Patience is required only when one tries to tolerate something difficult. The epic is so blissful that people forgot their bodies and were focused in the bliss of the soul. Where is hand pain, knee pain etc for atma? Therefore no need for patience.

[One has to understand an important concept in SriVaishnavam. Here, experiencing the Leela's of Rama and Krishna is no different from experiencing Brahman as per Upanishad. This is the means and the end in itself.]

09 July 2013, 01:07 PM

Valmiki says in Uttara Kanda [93-11]:

divasE vimsatihi sargA gEyA madurayA kirA

Having sung 20 sarga/day, they sing in 32 days - 645 sargas were rendered.
So, Rama will sit after completing morning duties at 9 or 930 and listen till lunch. Then next day it continues. therefore everyone heard this epic in 32 days. We can do this even now.

12 July 2013, 09:19 AM
Question 4: In our line there is not one musician that does not sing about Rama. Sri ArunagirinAthar being a great Muruga devotee mentions Rama at the very beginning. Sri Ramalinga adigalar being a Shiva devotee mentions Rama. Why didn't Rama sing Himself? [Swami laughs]. Krishna plays flute, Narada plays Veena, tambura, Saraswati plays veena. Why didn't Rama learn to sing?

Swami: We ourselves saw just now that Rama really relished singing/poetry. Importantly, Rama definitely is a master of music and there's no doubt about this. The sage Valmiki says that even if Rama talks, its in rhythm. For e.g., even if you cry [Sri Vijay Shiva], it will be in rhythm; when Gopis go in search of Krishna, it is said "Suswaram rurudhuhu" -> they cried in rhythm.

[Here's Swami's typical sense of humor; translation ruins it]My father used to say that when a musician cries even that is in rhythm; when someone who doesn't know music sings, even that sounds like crying [Sri Vijay burst out laughing].

Rama is a great Chakravarthy [King of Kings] and very busy He can only relish music and not sing. But when Krishna played flute He only played it before going to Dwaraka in Gokula when He didn't have to rule the kingdom. Rama even appreciates the singing of Lava Kusha, Hanuman etc..but He Himself being a Chakravarthy doesn't find time for music.

16 July 2013, 03:13 PM
Question 5: Has Rama given any instructions for on how should a king treat a singer and how should a singer conduct himself?

Swami: A king should treat all artists with utmost respect. In Ramayana by Kambar and Sage Valmiki, while Ayodhya is being described, it is mentioned that it is a kingdom where the artists are well glorified. Therefore artists have to be treated well.

Regarding how they should behave, we can understand this from the 100th sarga of Ayodhya Kanda when Bharata meets Rama in Chitrakoota. Rama enquires about people's welfare and mentions about artists in general. Some questions indicate if the singers are singing for Bhakti, God? Are they good people and is your treasury going to them. Are they also focused on giving their utmost performance with a pure heart without expecting anything in return?

Therefore mind of aritists should be pure and elevated and no fruits should be expected in return. Then this definetely would transform into Bhakti and then mukti for sure.

16 July 2013, 05:21 PM
fantastic series of questions and answers: thank you for posting it!

22 July 2013, 08:35 AM
Question 6: NAdam [Tamil for melody/tune] is an important subject. However the comparison of NAdam has always been with Lord Shiva, AmbAL, MurugA etc. Why doesn't it come for Rama?

Swami: What you ask is very correct. Why isn't Rama described as a Nada vadivam [Form/avatar of melody]? Well, more than Rama being considered so, Rama Nama has always been considered so! [Sri Vijay is visibly moved].

Shankaracharya Himself says that only Shiva knows the taste of Rama Nama [jAnAthi tava Rama nAma ruchir mahEshah]. That's why on Parvati devi's enquiry, Lord Shiva responds: Sri Rama Rameti.... For enquiry on how to attain the Lord easily, ParamEshvar does not ask to grasp Rama's Lotus Feet; He asks to say Rama Nama. Therefore Rama Nama is more lofty than Rama Himself.

Now the Pramana - In Ramayana dhyana slokha:

...Shrunvan Rama kadha nAdam ko na yathi paraam gathim"

Meaning -> Which one that hears Rama nAdham [which is in the form of Rama story and Rama Name] will not attain Mukti here?

22 July 2013, 11:00 AM
[One has to understand an important concept in SriVaishnavam. Here, experiencing the Leela's of Rama and Krishna is no different from experiencing Brahman as per Upanishad. This is the means and the end in itself.]


This point cannot be emphasized enough.

23 July 2013, 09:47 AM
[Now they switch sides and Swami questions while Sri Vijay Shiva answers. The following is prone to a lot of errors because of my lack of knowledge in music, telugu, some terms.]

Swami: I have some questions also and I want to say that I know nothing about music. My father was a great singer and so was my entire family but somehow I could not learn it, I confess.

[Note - Here we have to be careful :). When Swami says He knows nothing or when people like me say I know a lot - these two should be eyed with suspicion.]

Swami: Thyagarajar swami took birth and lived for Rama only. What has he told about Ramayana, the poem or about Rama in general?

Sri Vijay Shiva: Thyagarajar used to do Ramayana parayanam [Kacheri, music concert] daily. We have this belief that he was Valmiki's avataram. The sage Valmiki did not attain peace after singing 24000 verses as He wanted to do kirtan among general audience.

We have pramanas for this is in his kirtans. For e.g., in "SitamAmAyama" (???), he gives the list of all his relations - except valmiki. [Swami nods with interest and says: true true].

Like this we have many evidences. Each of his kirtan will indicate some incident in Valmiki Ramayana. [He gives an example in nAdOpasana: with a usage of "tantri laya svarou" (?) and enquires if this comes in Valmiki Ramayana and Swami nods in approval. He also gives examples from sabri moksha, Rama and Ravana war to illustrate the same. He also points out to kirtan which describes the incident when Rama tries to convince Ravana to return Sita using - Sama, dhana, bheda, danda. As Sama - advising kindly, danam - giving Ayodhya in return, Assuring moksham to him as he had given to his brother, Vibhishana and finally about punishing him.]

He has rendered all this into kirtans. And so, in each of his kirtans there is an exact reference to something in Valmiki Ramayana. His is a major contribution and that's why listening to his kirtan is same as listening to Valmiki Ramayana.

24 July 2013, 09:04 AM
Swami: Was Ramayana sung in Carnatic or Hindustani music? Why I am asking is because it is said: "pramanais tribhir anvitam" the 3 pramanas being: vilambit, drut, madhyam . I seem to have heard this in relation to Hindustani music.

Sri Vijay Shiva: These 3 are indeed common for entire Indian music - be it carnatic or hindustani or any other. Vilambit means singing slow, madhyam - middle and durit - with greatest speed.

The split b/w hindustani and carnatic has come only after mugal invasion. The existing music in North became Hindustani by Persian influence and the south version became carnatic. During the times of Rama there was only one music and there's no proof of any difference. That obviously must have been carnatic as there is no persian influence in the south.

25 July 2013, 09:46 AM
Swami: In Kacheri [music concert], is there a tradition to sing Valmiki or Kamba Ramayana verses also. If one does so, do people relish it?

Sri Vijay Shiva: The custom of singing verses in kacheri has not yet come into existence still. Reason is because of deficiency that we don't know the verses. We get complete joy by singing Thyagarajar or dikshitar's composition and so, we don't have the need to render Valmiki or Kambar's verses
Swami: That means just like Rama, Ramayana itself has taken avatara in different forms. [Sri Vijay Shiva: Yes]

Just like in Brahma lokam, 100 crore verses of Ramayana is sung, and that became 24000 as rendered by Sage Valmiki, 10000 by Kambar similarly the epic has been rendered into different Kirtans.

26 July 2013, 09:07 AM
Swami: I had this doubt for many days. When we do upanyasams [discourse/parayanam], we do it for an hour or more and people understand and relish nicely. But while singing, vidhwans do not explain the music but only sing and yet people relish it and sit spell-bound. How do you accomplish this?

Sri Vijay Shiva: We have not accomplished this but instead music has done it for us. There is 4 amsas. Swara shuddham, layam (rhythm), tonal power, hridaya bhavana [feeling from heart]. Even if any two of the above are strong, we can bind the audience even for 4 hours and that's the power of music. Especially if you sing with meaning, definitely that becomes daiva ganam [Divine rendition] and as you say becomes a path to moksha. So, music is beyond speech.

[Thus ends the conversations between the two great souls that was really soul-stirring]