AT A GLANCE
P. KRANTI KUMAR, Rajendranagar, Guntur.
Sri Lakkarāju Ananta Rāma Rao, born into a highly traditional God-fearing family, studied law and became a busy practitioner at the High Court. Being a versatile genius he might have taken interest in Homeopathy and prepared a compendium of medicines. His family background might have provided impetus for his reverent study of the Indian Scriptures, puranas and epics. Having a flair for English literature, he might have read the Victorian and the Elizabethan writers.
That is the border. To enjoy Milton, one has to be in good acquaintance with the Bible. Leave alone Milton, Sri Rao squeezed Homer and Virgil too and swallowed the essence to the lees. He has written in his commentary [page 14, 4th para] "Our ancient rishis cared most for the welfare and prosperity of their posterity and cared two hoots for their personal glory. They did so even at the risk of being called childish".
Having carefully read this massive text [of course, equally interesting, I now feel that this literary giant too cared two hoots for his personal glory. Infact this book reminds me of Sri Aurobindo's 'Sāvitri'. In writing and improving Sāvitri, if Sri Aurobindo spent 50 years, this epic scholar must have taken 60 years to complete this felicitous text. Yet he was not able to publish it. Perhaps the 91 years sojourn of this Yōgi is too brief to do so.
He has left the colossal task of publishing it to his daughters [Smt.K.B.S.Sundari, Smt.T.Girija Kumari, Smt.U.K. Durga Devi]. Worthy daughters of worthy father! Publishing is sorting the script, typing, proof reading, binding etc., all put together. It is a very tedious and testing task. His sons-in-law especially Sri U.Mangapati Sarma are highly commendable in this regard. I congratulate them all. They have satisfactorily played their roles in bringing out this master piece.
My tributes to the demised scholar.
SRI RAO'S TEXT AT A GLANCE
Ever since Vālmeeki wrote Rāmāyana, the epic has become a gateway to Indian literature. Any Indian epic has its roots in either Rāmāyana or Mahābhārata. Further, Vālmeeki's epic has been retold by poets like Bhāskara, Kamba, Tulasidās to name a few. Then what prompted Sri Rao to take up this herculian task? To find answer to this question we have to wade through his text.
Importance of Rāmāyana: Max Muller the great European scholar, having read Rāmāyana, changed his name to Moksha Mullaraka Bhattaraka. He took pride in being called so. "Who knows not Rāmāyana and who knows Rāmāyana?" Rāmāyana is the guiding light of the world and its influence, spiritually, morally or as a work of poesy is immense and timeless. The protagonist is highly virtuous, most powerful, very wise, profusely grateful towards his benefactor, most truthful, most perfectly unwavering in the practice of duty, he is of sterling behaviour, who loves dearly each and every being on earth, who is most learned, a supremely capable being and the most beloved personality, who is a high souled one having conquered passion and absolutely free from envy and malice and one with an air of splendour about him and one whose dreadful fury in battle strikes terror into the hearts of even the immortals. Who else can match this ideal hero? No wonder poet after poet glorified Rāma as hero. "It is not their fault. It is the fault of Rāma to possess uniquely so many virtues."
The antagonist is one of terrific power and prowess. To Hanumān he appears like a great serpent coiled round the cliff of the great mount Mandara. On his chest there were scars left by Vajrāyudha, tusks of Iravata and sword of Dikpālaka.
The description of Rāma refers only to Rāma and Rāma alone. So is the case with Rāvana. The purpose of the battle is establishing Rāmarājya - the greatest Utopian kingdom ever lived in by man. The concept of Rāmarājya connotes not mere material prosperity but the absence of all such phenomena as premature deaths, widowhood, floods, fires, cyclones, earthquakes and such calamities. Our rishis said that such calamities stalk the land whenever an unkindly king is on the throne. With the destruction of Rāvana, Rāma had done only half his mission. He did the other half of establishing Rāmarājya by personal example of being a model of unparalled rigour and rectitude. He was ideal as a son, brother, husband, friend, master, man, king etc. Yet he suffered mental torture for hundreds of years. In the whole span of his human existence he knew pleasures and joys of life only for 12 years after his marriage till his going to forests. Temptations after temptations confronted him till the last moment of his sojourn and he remained unshaken from his Dharma. Thus Rāma successfully established Rāmarājya - the Utopian kingdom.
RAMAYANA IN BREIF:
Bāla-Kānda: Birth of Sri Rāma - His virtues - Viswamitra's entry - His entertaining Rāma with stories - Tataka's and Subhahu's death, Wedding of Janaki preceeded by the breaking of the mighty bow of Siva - Dispute of Parasurama.
Ayōdhya-Kānda: People's adoration of Rāma - Preparations for the coronation of Rāma -Mandara's role in Kaīkeyee's evil desire - Rāma's going to forest - Dasaratha's grief and death - Funeral gloom - Rāma sending back his Soota (Sumantra the chariot driver) - Guha's devotion to Rāma - Rāma's crossing Ganga - Visiting sage Bharadwaja - Rāma's dwelling at Chitrakoota - Bharata's entry - Funeral oblations by Rāma to his father - Bharata's residence at NandigRāma - Installing the sandals of Rāma on the throne - Anusuya Devi's giving sandal paste to Sita.
Aranya Kānda: Rāma's entry into Dandakāranva - Slaying Virādha - Rāma's visit to the sages Sarabhanga, Suteekshna, Agastya - Jātayu's visit to Rāma - Rāma's residence at Panchavati - Soorpanakha's episode - Rāma's killing Khara, Dooshana, Trisira - Rāvana's abducting Sita - Mareecha's death - Rāma's distress for the loss of Sita - Death of Jātayu -Kabanda's episode - Rāma's visit to Pampa - Sabari's devotion - Rāma's visit to Rushyamooka mountain.
Kishkindha-Kānda: Hanuma's meeting Rāma - Rāma and Sugreeva's meet Demonstrations of Rāma's archery - Duel between Vāli and Sugreeva - Vāli's death - The rainy season- Rāma's ire towards Sugreeva - Sugreeva's pledge for the search of Sita -Monkey's gathering at Kishkindha - Sugreeva's narration of geography - Hanumān's going south with Rāma's ring - His entry into the labyrinthine cave with hordes - Their despair on seeing the ocean - Coming of Sampāti - Their reaching Mahendra mountain.
Sundara-Kānda: Hanumān's flight across the ocean - Maināka's appeal- Simhika's destruction - Halt on Malaya mountain - Entry into Lanka - Search of Rāvana's palace and Pushpaka - Entry into Asōka vana - Finding Sita - Rāvana accosting Sita - Hanumān's talk to Sita - Women guards' harassment of Sita - Trijata's ominous dream - Hanumān with Sita's sirōratna - Destruction of Asōka vana - Mighty Rakshasas' death - Hanumān's capture by Indrajit - Hanumān in the court of Rāvana - Lanka on fire - Hanumān's safe return - Rāma's joy.
Yuddha-Kānda: Rāma's arrival at the sea with army - The great Sethu (Bridge) - Siege of Lanka - Vibheeshana's approach to Rāma - Death of Kumbhakarna and Meghanātha -Fall of Rāvana - Rāma's reunion with Sita - Vibheeshana's coronation - Rāma's flight to Ayodhya - Union of Bharata - Coronation of Rāma- Monkeys' home going - Glorious Rāmarājya.
Uttara- Kānda: Abandonment of Sita and other incidents
RAMAYANA - SRI RAO'S VIEWS: Sage Narada asked by Vālmeeki, in the very beginning of Bala Kānda, presents a splendid picture of Rāma. He describes in detail the physical and most auspicious aspects of Rāma which are perfectly conforming to the Sāmudrika Sāstra. To a common reader, it all may seem to be a general description of the features of an ideal
being. But a keen observer Sri Rao finds that the two sages are creating the Sāmudrika Sāstra for the first time in the guise. He says that moles are great pointers so far as wordly prosperity is concerned but they detract greatly from the spiritual grandeur and the celestial charm of Rāma.
Sri Rao seems to have studied Mantra sāstra also. He explains the significance of the two syllables Rā and Mā. The first syallble Rā can pull the whole body of sin and the second one Mā blocks the way for re-entry of the sin. He says, 'a sspiritual novice should first put a dead stop to sin entering one's thought, word and deed. This can be achieved by uttering the syllables in reverse order. After Mā, Rā comes to cleanse the accumulated sins of the past births and the present one'. Thus illustrating he continues, "when 'Mā' comes first, the existing sins inside will die a natural death, even if Rā is not invoked. Again, in the nominative case Rāma, it makes no difference since in repetetion one cannot predict which letter comes first and which later. But in the dative case 'Rāmāya' with added 'Namaha', it is said in Mantra sāstra that a Mantra will come to fruition when repeated from the beginning to the end and from the end to the beginning [Anulōma and Vilōma] much earlier than when done in the normal Anulōma way'. The critic feels that it is like the utility of both the AC and DC currents of electricity.
Some critics take Rāma to be the most immaculate human being with a lower nature though his mastery over it is far above the ordinary. Sri Rao frowns upon this criticism. To him Rāma is the human incarnation of God Vishnu. He justifies it: Rāvana was a scion on his mother's side. He got the boon of invincibility from Lord Brahma and became the despair of Indra, the Over-lord of Heavens. Vāli might be more than a match to Rāvana in a duel. But he had to reckon with the mightiest of the mightiest military machines of Rāvana. Parasurāma became a spent-force after wiping out the wicked rulers to restore dharma. Brahma and Siva are out of picture, Rāvana being their minion and votary. Obviously Lord Mahā Vishnu in the incarnation of human being, alone can remove Rāvana. The critic thus supports his argument. In addition, he depends upon the law of Karma. Lord Vishnu, in this incarnation honours Bhrughu Maharshi's curse and the boon given by Brahma to Rāvana. Sri Rao who has a firm faith in the law believes that genearations of Hindus walked on the legs of Hindu thought namely law of boons or curses and the law of Karma, with no damage to their personality (moral or spiritual). But rationalism stepped in and maiming those two legs, wants humanity to walk on the crutches supplied by it. Gita says that in case of incarnation, God takes birth by his own 'māya'. In the case of Rāmāvatāra, he ordered māya (his most obedient servant) to keep him (Rāma) deluded as an absolute human being, allowing the curse and boon to have their own way. The critic thus justifies Rāma's bitter tears, beating of breast, tearing of hair, grovelling in dust in grief for the separation from his wife etc. "All this must have been sweet music to alien critics'', says the critic. He explains it. "The truth is that Rāma is as it were just like a catalyst in a chemical action which does not undergo any chemical change but without which there is no chemical action at all. He gives the example of the sky and its reflection in a vessel. The great blue above takes the shape of the vessel and the colour of the water inside and if the water is disturbed, we see no sky inside. The sky above (the real sky) seems to be laughing at our ignorance if we take the reflection as real sky. That is why wise persons say that wisdom is necessary to understand Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata and devotion for understanding Srimad Bhāgavatam.
Sri Rao believes that the function of the critic is to observe his subject and not to play the spy on him. The point is how Rāma behaved at all crucial times [emphasis on crucial times] and beyond doubt Rāma behaved as one word and embodiment of all human virtues at all such times - that should be the end of the matter. The critic advises that one should not make a mountain out of a mole-hill and present a debris of all sorts of trivial things.
PHILOSOPHY VERSUS SCIENCE: Sri Rao is of the opinion that in the material world nothing is impossible for a person having power. So also the metaphysical sphere. Nothing is impossible for a help personage especially in Yugas past like Dwāpara. He believes that even in this Kali yuga, some weird phenomenon takes place, though very rare, by virtue of its rarified spiritual atmosphere. Holiness embraces all the virtues and is power, truth and joy. This is the critic's stand as to incredibility of a human birth through a fowl of the air, or
a beast on the land or a fish in the waters. He gives examples from our Purānās, according to which, Brahmā has six sons born of holy will power [Mānasa Putrās]. Daksha was born out of Brahmā's right thumb and Dharani, out of his left thumb. God Rudra has eleven sons, born of will power (tāpasic power). The critic explains this: for Gods and persons of great spiritual powers, that mode is known as creation and in the case of mortals it is called procreation - a purely physiological process for which sex with complementary life-principles is sine qua non with legitimācy in wedlock and deadly sin out side it. These details will explain how king Dasaratha becomes the father of four children by conducting 'Putrakāmēshti Yāga supervised by Rushyasrunga the son of the great sage Vibhandaka, (the son of Kasyapa).
Our Purānās are best illustrations of various types of penance and their effects on Dharma, on human society and also on the celestial orders. Prayer and worship are fundamental rights of a human being. But penance is not such as the human society. The established dharma and the celestial orders have a stake in it, having to suffer in various ways, when diabolical persons lacking in moral virtues or ignorant persons or persons with improper guide or no guide or with perverse motivation etc., foolishly and other risky esoteric vidyas. The modern example is that of petty minded countries embarking on nuclear ornaments programme for aggression and not for the betterment of human race. The critic gives the example of Saīndhava who did penance (being humiliated by Pāndavās for his misdeed) and got a boon from Lord Siva of victory over Pāndavās for just one day. This boon brought death to him from Arjuna and infamy for killing the boy warrior Abhimanyu by unfair means. The critic gives a number of such examples.
Sri Rao dwells more upon this philosophy. Let us see how he coordinates this with 'asuric'. He says, 'asuric persons, doing asuric penance, get boon purely by duress and there after attempt to destroy the long-established order of dharma, enslaving even the celestials by the power of their boon. Such asuric people want to maintain their domination in perpetuity and since no God (including Trinity) is competent to give such a boon by the same duress, they put off their death to an indefinite time and in unpredictable and improbable situations. This necessitates an incarnation of the highest order-normally of Vishnu. If the persons getting boons, abide in the 'sātwika guna' and act for the welfare of humanity, they get immortality like sage Mārkandēya.
Referring to mythological stories, the critic says that some truth or phenomenon lies hid. He thinks that the idea of the sage-poets seems to be that human mind by constantly by ruminating upon the story as presented by such sages gets sublimated. Constant meditation in an intelligent manner, without falling into a blind and brutal superstition is a kind of tapa and of the highest order. By this process our rishis were able to see God in everything - a river, tree, mountain, cloud or lightning. It is superstition when the mental make up is superstitious, it is ignorance in the ignorant, it is spiritual enlightenment in persons of spiritual discipline. In such disciplines, there must be something for the mind to get a foot-hold - a mere photo an idol, a holy book etc., depending upon the potentiality of the sadhaka. Similarly holy episodes, from the brain of holy persons (Siddhās) become the foothold for the mind of the sādhaka to work its amazing feats. It is now established that even a stone has life. Purānās may have inimical interpolations also. But weeded of all these things, they are pure guides and lights in the great journey of the soul.
The critic has a belief that philosophy is superior to science in a way and illustrates it. The holy Ganga flows from the Mānasa lake (in the Himālayās) to the sea. The lake gets its water from rain-clouds from the sea. Thus the cycle of lake-Ganga-sea-monsoon is established. Science rests content with this discovery. Then religion with its philosophy expounds the causation for the circle. Again science deals with matter only, its formations, combinations, adaptations etc., with itself. But our epics deal with spirit (Dharma), its defeats from its opposing force (evil) its victory, incarnations of God etc.
Thus Sri Rao establishes the superiority of religion and philosophy to science and rationalism.
ASTRAS: Sri Rao seems to have studied Hindu scriptures very widely and deeply. His knowledge pertaining various things in scriptures is commendable. Here is an example worth mentioning - his study about the astras. He says that 'astrā' is a stupendous cosmic force (like that of fire, storm, flood, thunder - bolt etc) generated by a mantra and stored in a corporeal instrument of war, usually an arrow. Astra is an abstract force with tremendously destructive power (atomic power of modern science) depending on the person practicing that astra by meditating on the mantra. Every mantra has a presiding deity. On occasion other than destruction of Rākshasās, they are noble and righteous and show mercy in a deserved case. For example, Narayanāstra is a formidable one that can reduce the world into ashes. But it can do nothing to the one who surrenders to it. Again the general immunity of Rāvana against the celestials by the bow, is of no avail against astras. The immunity against astrās must be specifically prayed for the greatness of any astra does not lie in the arrow - it depends upon the presiding diety.
LOVE MOTIF: No other language knows the 'rasa' in its true sense as used by our epic poets. Of the nine rasās Srungara is considered Rāja (kingly). To discuss the attitude of our poets in general and sage-poets in particular, Sri Rao introduces the events that led to the birth of Kumāra. (Kumāra Sambhavam is an epic by Kālidās). According to Hindu Purānās Lord Siva was the husband of Dākshāyani (Sati Devi) and the son-in-law of Daksha Prajāpati, an egoistic celestial. Lord Siva, naked but for a small peace of tiger's skin, with a begging bowl (human skull), roams on an old bull in the cremation ground. The father-in-law looks down on the son-in-law. The relationship was further strained - when Daksha visited Siva (in Kaīlasa), the latter did not bow to his guest. (No doubt there was a warm welcome!). The ego-maniac Daksha started a yagna without inviting Sati, leave alone Siva. Without heeding the anxious warnings of her Lord, Sati went to the yagna. Heaped with most unfatherly insults, Sati Devi immolated herself in the yōgic fire. Dazzling divine light issued out of her and floated away to enter Mēnaka (Manōrama in Vālmeeki) to be born as their daughter (Uma Dēvi) in fulfilment of her (Sati Dēvi) boon to mountain Lord. Furious Siva created ferocious Veerabhadra who destroyed the yagna and beheaded Daksha.
Sri Rao narrates another mysterious fact of fate as given by Tulasidās. Lord Siva was a votary of Rāma. But Sati Devi was sceptical of Rāma's worth (a human in exile) to be her Lord's (Siva) idol. Without heeding the anxious warnings of Siva, she came to Rāma in the guise of Sita. Celestials can be deceived by her māya. But Rāma? (otherwise Vishnu?). He at once sprang from his seat with folded hands and addressed her 'mother' and asked if father too was following. Stunned and crest fallen, she returned to Kaīlasa. Lord Siva also greeted her as mother, as she was so treated by his idol Rāma. Just then the news of her father's yagna came (as a boon from destiny) and she went there.
Sri Rao says that it is the mystery of destiny. He further explains that it is neither arbitrary, cruel, whimsical, nor fatalism. It starts from our own threshold (not merely of our present lives) and comes home to roost fully loaded with our own sins, all the numerous opportunities of seeking God's mercy or otherwise reducing or washing out that heavy load being thrown away and there being absolutely no way of escaping the consequences. According to the critic, this is our rishis' conception of destiny, firmly based on free-will and other alien jargon. The critic feels that Vālmeekian thought is transcendental in nature, subject to the limitations of a kāvya.
Back to Siva-Sati episode, the bereaved Lord left Kaīlasa and established a hermitage (Sthānu asrama) in the environs of Himavan [a stroke of destiny - the critic) and began tapās.
The trick of destiny was ready! Gods became perverse. Indra received a curse from Doorwāsa. Manmadha began to generate erotic passions in the celestials. For such a sinful attempt to generate incestuous love in Brahma towards Tilottama, Manmadha was cursed with fiery death! Indra's cup of woe was filled by destiny through Tārakāsura. His authority was usurped. On the advice of Nārada Himavān appointed his daughter Pārvati (Uma or Sati) to serve Lord Siva. Manmadha who boasted that he could twist Siva round his finger, attempted to spoil Siva's great samādhi. On being hit by the flowery shaft, Siva furiously opened his eyes. Instantly Manmadha was reduced to ashes. Being requested by Rati Dēvi, Siva granted life to her husband. Later Siva and Pārvati were united with the interference of sages. Siva consented to destroy Tāraka through his marriage.
Sri Rao makes use of this lengthy episode to display the love motif in Vālmeeki (Vyāsa). The sage-poets, says the critic, with all their high spiritual calibre, are simple being far from civilization and are even like children like the Lord Vināyaka while sucking his mother's (Pāarvati Devi) breast, who stretched his trunk to suck at the other breast - instead he found the serpent (ornament of his father) and was looking confused, at the smiling face of his mother'. According to the critic, one must have such attitude and reverence towards Vālmeeki or Vyāsa in their treatment of Srungārarasa. Otherwise they are obscene - a food for vicious and ignorant criticism. The aim of sage-poets is to bring God into the closest relationship with man as father, mother (no gender at the highest plane), friend, philosopher, guide etc., for man to benefit morally by the dharmic life led by the great personages in their epic and to regenerate spiritually by imbibing in himself the other world by mystic atmosphere dealing with soul, super soul and incarnations of God. Sri Rao believes that 'meditation' is the one word for all this - meditation on a perfectly strong moral base. When Vālmeeki is dealing with the theme of love it must be taken for granted that the motif is the most transcendental kind though the usual idiom of the sensuous court poetry is used being unavoidable.
Vālmeeki is the first poet to use the sentiment of the cool air being felt as hot and tormenting for lovers in separation or before being united. The critic feels that it is sheer blasphemy to think that Rāma had the sentiments of love (Srungāra) of the common type. The mutual love of Rāma and Sita is of the sublime nature, like word and its meaning. He finds that Vālmeeki made his enunciation of the sentiment of love (Srungārarasa) through Rāma, the one capable of maintaining it at a high level. The spring season, the cool wind, Asōka flowers, the cuckoo-birds, the pea-cock, the Moon, music concert, dance etc are some of the elements Vālmeeki chose for this rasa. Further he installed Manmadha and Vasanta. (the God of Love and God of Spring) as the presiding deities of this rasa. To place this rasa on par with the sacred principle of creation, Vyasa further corroborated the nature of this rasa in his Purānās.
CASTE SYSTEM AND SOCIAL LIFE: Sri Rao boldly puts forth his views about caste system. He says " The social caste is a mere label. It has become a faceless crowd, entirely subservient to scheming, ambitious and mad for power-seeking persons. The ignorant crowd is brain washed to become the private army of such persons. Law and order is in an embarrassing situation, thanks to the electoral system, of too wide a virtue to such motley ignorant crowd and of warring castes with no checks either on the elected, powers or on the electors. As a result the real beneficiaries intended are left high and dry more than before. When such grave injustice results from the misuse of the mundane institutions what to say of the tragedy to the society and dharma, if the esoteric disciplines are accessible to every Tom and Dick. Eating with dirty hands is unhealthy. But these disciplines without purification of self are far more vitiated. It is worse than riding a sober toothed tiger of primitive ferocity. No doubt considerations of caste, being of superficial nature, are out of place in such disciplines, the moral calibre of the student being far more important.
Thus Sri Rao reveals how caste has become a tool in the hands of power mongers. He strongly advocates moral discipline as the basic rule for happy living and blissful salvation.
In the Hanumān-Lankhini episode Sri Rao has something to say about modern life and the structure of the society. Hanumān, encountered Lankhini in the size of a cat. He gave a blow, not deadly, to Lankhini, not intending to kill her. She reeled and fell down in great pain. It means, perhaps, that even in that tiny form, Hanumān retained his full potentiality and certainly not that, proportionate to his size or situation etc. Lankhini, as she appeared before Hanumān, is a flimsy symbol of the great city of Lanka, but the most powerful embodiment (in demonic form) of the collective might of the whole of Lanka (drawing homage from the great heroes of Lanka, just-like perhaps Nikumbhala spirit]. She says that she is the servant of Rāvana, a mere formal homage to the ruler. She is not the chief of the watch and ward department of Rāvana. [She is a worshippable semi-Deity). Further there is
the boon of God Brahma, of invincibility. But she succumbed to a mild blow from Hanumān. Similarly, Rāma had God-Head in him, even in his birth, but not known to him. Because he was in human form, some even knowledgeable persons imputed to him human foibles and also weighed his celestial Kruta yuga (the most ideal age of mankind) dharmās in the mundane scales and that too of the most degenerate era in this corrupt age of Kali. The demonic Lankan palladium disappeared and ruin followed but it was good, Vibheeshana being the king. The Vālmeekian palladium (Rāma) is thrown overboard, from some social" injustices for which he is not responsible (over which he has no control) and which were brought in by the viciously changing times. The whole society is like a storm tossed ship, without an able and worthy captain, ready to be engulfed by great billows of jealousy, pride, callousness, petty self-interest and the list is long ad-nauseam, the worst feature being the dogmatic assertion for consumption of the rabble, I or we alone, not you, can do the needful to the society with a rotten party system and still worse electoral system and ludicrous fictions "people's voice", "people's mandate" etc., no worthy and able persons coming out of the too huge a ballot box. Whatever all the might be, Rāma still rules as the greatest palladium of dharma and he suffered many an unkindest cut. He is a God-Head and is born with divinity. There is a soul elevating episode in Tulasidās "Rāmāyana" Even when Rāma the infant was crawling on his hands and knees, the great Rishi Kākabhusundi (in the form qf a crow, hence he is called Kākabhusundi) closely observed the infant Rāma and found him to be the great God Vishnu in human form and worshipped him. This is not Un-Vālmeekian. Vālmeeki also is suggesting in many places about Rāma's divinity, though constrained by the parameters of a Kāvya, his Rāmāyana also being a Kāvya, with various sentiments (Rasās) which are the most ideal ones and not those of the run of the mill type, for the cynics to gloat over Rāma. The essence of Vālmeeki (or Vyāsa) is mystery of soul, creation etc., giving rise to spiritual ferment. Hence Rāmayana and Mahābhārata are sacred epics. Again, Kali, the presiding spirit of this fourth time cycle, (named after him as Kali yuga) seems to be extending his jurisdiction far beyond the places, allotted to him by the king Pareekshith, at the advent of Kali, which are patently evil breeding ones such as drinking dens, brothels, etc. But now his new territory is not so obvious, now all the old institutions have become an anathema, to be rooted out, (though they have grown into the soul of the race) and not merely pruned of those features that really hurt. This is the major triumph of Kali, which even Satan will envy. Most of all and all of (one may say even) these institutions are concerned only with the private life of an individual, such as food, marriage and worship and have no existence outside the threshold of the house. Like the snail carrying its house over its back, those cannot and should not be carried outside. This implied constraint strikes at the root of exploitation and self-aggrandizement, which is so much in the air, the most potent single polluting factor in the society. Everyone owes to the society a fundamental duty to live with all and serve the society. But he has fundamental right to dine, to worship, to marry, with or among his kith and kin according to social customs (going by the name of social castes) which came into existence for private purposes only. In public activities our Rishis intended the society to be casteless. It is another feather in the cap of Kālapurusha that the elected persons, that came out of the "ballot box" (euphemistic term for Frankensteinian monster) devised under the same inspiration of Kali are misguided and are doing everything in their misused power to wipe out the private life and its ancient, fine, indispensable features altogether. In this way, Rāma is dethroned, the Vēdas, the Smritis are treated as mere vapourings of a set of exploiters of the society. Further, under this dispensation of Kali, slavery, sycophancy, mortgaging self-respect, intellectual and other talents to an individual or a small coteric of persons (mostly scheming ones), brutal ignorance, or perverse half baked knowledge, sophistry and capped by violence at the drop of the feat became the all pervading phenomena. Perhaps Kali will thus rule for a long time, keeping the people in blissful ignorance that their own "caste people" are exploiting them and tremendously gaining at their expense, in a far greater manner than by "other castes".
Sri Rao is very hot and spits fire - for thousand years, a certain "community" (to adopt the press jargon) ruled this vast country of vast resources ("Pagoda tree" called so by foreigners and everyone of that community patted his back as belonging to the ruling class and did all sorts of things by way of exploitation. But now most of the common persons there of are suffering the worst form of penury. It is not that their fortunes melted away. The bitter truth is that fortune never reached their threshold and they remained as before the same "hewers of wood, and drawers of water". Instead of their bare necessaries in concrete
form, being given to them, they were asked to pray to God for them (and not work for them) and for that purpose numerous places of worship were built for them as a sop to keep them in perpetual loyalty (euphemism for slavery) to their powers that be and their progeny. To preempt any disturbance to their (Ruler's) perpetuity by these persons joining hand, with the conquered, those places of worship were mostly built on the demolished ones, of the vanquished, the more sacred to the latter, the better as serving their ends (as many historians said). Unfortunately the wide chasm, thus created, between the "so called different communities" is still persisting now. A wag might counter this thought, by saying that the subsequent British rulers created the present penurious state of that "community". Though the British rulers were capable of doing that, they didn't do so and on the other hand, pampered and pampered them, as best serving their (British) Imperial interests, when the Khilaphat Movement "was given quietus at its source (Turkey) itself. The same story of exploitation by their own people (near the seat of power) and the iron fetters of ignorance etc. It is the miracle of this age for all the "communities" not to realize that', friends - fast sworn!
VISWAMITRA: Viswamitra took up his hermitage at a place called Siddhāsrama. This
place was blessed with the boon of granting all Siddhis, by Lord Vishnu. Hence the name Viswamitra dominates Bāla Kānda till just before the marriages of Rāma and his brothers. There after we never see him. Within a short period of a month or two he earned timeless fame. He set the wheel of destiny concerning incarnation of Rāma. He educated Rāma in spiritual and legendary lore. He preempted the possible devastation of Kōsala by Tātaki, there was Ahalya, grovelling in dust unseen. There was the yagna and the great bow of Lord Siva. He got Ahalya freed by Rāma. When Rāma broke the great bow it sent shock waves to Rāvana and Parasurāma. The critic thinks that Viswamitra did not like to see Parasurāma's discomfiture at the hands of Rāma. So he made an exit and his final act of crowning glory was bringing Rāma to Sita.
Rāma's Coronation: In the 4th Sarga of Ayodhya Kānda we see Dasaratha firmly stressing to his Ministers that Rāma's coronation should not be delayed. Sri Rao explains the reason, the king was like a fowl caught in the net and seeing the hunter [Death] approaching the net. He was in a bewildered state of mind. The evil omens reminded him of the odd curse which in turn put him in mind of the pledge he gave to his father-in-law (father of Kaīkēyee that he would give the throne to her son, now Bharata. His (Dasaratha's) situation became aggravated by Bharata's long stay with his maternal grandfather and thereby making Dasaratha cynically determined to make the coronation affair a fait accompli before they come to know of it. His needle of suspicion always pointed to his father-in-law.
Oddly enough Rāma did not, in the least, demur when his father was venting cynical sentiments about Bharata and his maternal grandfather who naturally doted upon his grandson and kept him though for a long time. Sri Rao is of the opinion that all the words of his father did not enter his ears much less his mind and heart. Nevertheless the critic concludes the episode with a single stroke, "Filial dharma took precedence over fraternal dharma".
Mandara and Kaīkēyee: Sri Rao feels that Vālmeeki left not even an inch of space for
the poets after him to explore further the human mind in situations of conflicting dharma. To support his stand he makes use of the gordion-knot like situation that arose when Kaīkēyee demanded her husband to fulfil the boons. The critic discusses the characters of Mandara, Kaīkēyee, Dasaratha and Rāma at length. The discussion displays the scholarship of the critic. Let me quote the critic. "In Adhyātma Rāmāyana, Dēvi was prevailed upon by Dēvās to enter Mandara first and then Kaīkēyee to wreck the coronation. Mandara of Vālmeeki is a far more dramatic creation than the same character in other Purānās. Vālmeeki's idea seems to be that of a three dimensional abnormality (physical - Kubja -mental and moral deformities) in a person is apt to generate wanton malice, cruelty etc,. Infuriated by Mandara, Kaīkēyee bent on wrecking the coronation. She had with her two boons from the king. These boons appeared to him as binding on him as a moral debt to her. Failing a promise is the greatest shame that can befall the Ikshwāku king. No less sacrosanct was the promise the king made a few hours back, before the august assembly to install Rāma on the throne. If his wife's boons were to prevail, he would become a butt of
ridicule to all - high and low. The knot could be resolved by Rāma with his sacrifice which pushed forward the divine mission, when the celestials were on tenter hooks".
A legend in Padma Purāna and Mahābhārata - Aranyaparva says that Mandara in her previous life, was a celestial of the Gandharva category, Dundubhi, sent by the Dēvās, to frustrate the coronation and send Rāma to the forests.
In Adhyātma Rāmāyana, Dēvi Saraswati and in Tulasidās, Vighnēswara Dēvi was prevailed upon by Dēvās to enter Mandara first and then Kaīkēyee to wreck the coronation. After considerable vacillation for having to enter an ugly and un-holy woman like Mandara, the goddess at last decided to enter Mandara and afterwards Kaīkēyee. It is said that Kaīkēyee, by her touch of the polluted Mandara, then only also got polluted and mental aberration. It was the work of the Dēvi. Previously Kaīkēyee was getting all loving and faithful services from her, through close contacts.
In spite of her ugly and deformed features (Kubja) her relationship with the queen Kaīkēyee was extremely fiduciary and Mandara was nearly in loco parentis to Kaīkēyee and thereby hangs the tale of tragedy for Dasaratha and all his queens.
Dasaratha: Sri Rao sympathises Dasaratha: Even wise persons, when their doom faces them, misjudge things and get lost. King Dasaratha was a very miserable hen-pecked husband of Kaīkēyee. That was his only blemish and weakness. But in this context of coronation, Vālmeeki wants to say that it was of a fatal king. He says of the king that he became a slave to cupid and yearned to have carnal pleasure with her and consolidates this with similes regarding newly-married couples and wild elephants etc. Some critics have taken unkindly to this seemingly low profile of Dasaratha. He was a worthy scion of the great Ikshwāku Dynasty. He was a very scrupulous adherent of even a small and trivial rule of dharma, as the story presently unfolds his killing agony over losing his life in the form of Rāma in exile, or a breach of promise long forgotten, but most viciously raked up for an evil end. No doubt in his excessive luxuriousness, he seemed to have forgotten that he had two more queens, Koūsalya and Sumitra. The rishi poets look upon such things in such great souls as the play of destiny for its ends. Again, the king, in his infatuation for Kaīkēyee, says that he would hang even an innocent person and set at liberty one under a sentence of death. This could be like demolishing the great house of fame his ancestors. But that is built by not the poets intention. It was only a forceful argument and fine poetry. Dasaratha was in a very happy mood, in addition being in the company of his pet queen. He was itching to impart to her the happy tidings (as he thought so) of Rāma's coronation. Any ordinary husband would have shown irritation at such condition of his wife on the eve of a rare happy event. But being a dotard husband, he had shown almost cosmic love for such an old fossil of humanity, apart from fall.
Rāma's going to forest [Role of Vasishta]: Sri Rao feels that normally even great sages cannot fully comprehend the divine intention unless they expend considerable tapās, which they are not prepared to do so. They prefer to remain mute witnesses with "Steady wisdom" (स्थितप्रज्ञ) as Gīta says. The critic displays his worldly wisdom. Sage Vasishta could have avoided the bloody fued with king Viswāmitra (in which both lost all their sons) by giving the holy cow to the king, but with a warning that the cow, used to the atmosphere of hermitages, would be difficult to manage and would be apt to go dry or lose its powers in palace-surroundings. The divine cow, would have created such horrible conditions that the king would be glad to send it back. But the story following is quite otherwise.
Sri Rao is of the opinion that the sage might be of the view, without any special exertion of spiritual vision, that Rāma would ascend the throne, but that after sometime on earnest appeals from the harassed hermits of the Dandaka forests, he would go against the Rākshasā garrison of Khara and Dooshana and with the great conflagration spreading to Lanka. So Vasishta kept quite.
Sri Rao propounds his other view in the light of Gīta: In truth, the sage Vasishta was more in the trammels of conflicting dharmās than even Dasaratha himself. The curse of the old muni had crossed the rubicon. If Dasaratha could somehow survive this threat, his most
perverse but much indulged wife Kaīkēyee, would undo that joy by her threat of self-immolation. There would be after chaos in the city if the coronation failed to take place. Noble Bharata was too far away to rectify this situation, or his presence with his grand¬father might further complicate the matters. Again the sage might have felt himself bound to protect the honour of the royal family, he was serving for generations, from the calumny of breach of faith to the most august assembly to install Rāma, their idol, on the throne. But most crucial, perhaps, was the great ferment in his sub-conscious self, that he (the sage) would be doing some disservice to many denizens of the forests, if he over-stepped the strict parameters of a holy priest and a great karma yōgi at that and saw to it that Rāma would get the throne.
In this situation, the sage Vasishta acted like a perfect karma yōgi and so was free from any blemish or sin (of dishonesty, treachery, diplomacy etc, as some critics think). Gīta says that "a real karma yōgi is concerned with action alone and has no concern with the results. Attachment to result brings on bondage. The right is to work only, but never to its fruits etc."
Hence Vasishta carried on the functions of a priest as ordered by the king, leaving the result in the hands of God (Rāma) and God's will (Rāma's will prevailed).
JATAYU: We come across in the epic, birds like Jātayu, Sampāti and Garuda. In Sargās
14 and 15 of Aranya Kānda, Vālmeeki narrates the history of great creation. Let us see what the critic has to say in this regard. These are the God-Heads behind nature. They are primordial principles of creation, which are purely tāpasic, supra mental, purely divine will power of the Prajāpatees (creators). They are not of the biological process of nature. That is why the created species - from the first for a few generations - possess super natural qualities, which fade out gradually and the biological processes set in. Thus explaining the great creation the critic illustrates it, "for purely super natural strength and size, we know that huge elephants, dinosaurs etc strode this earth, in its first stage. If so, the proximate step in super natural men, women, monkeys and titans of our epics could not be figment imagination. Further, those were primordial times (infancy of time) when even matter had primordial nature, with none of its subsequent combinations, distortions, adaptations, disintegration into small, petty forms (such as from dinosaur to our petty reptile). As regards human beings, all our previous primordial nature had left our race, even ages back, so that we became skeptical about the existence of those super-natural beings with their cosmic elements either unimpaired or earned by tapās. How can we comprehend them, their cosmic splendour blinding us. Our medium of three dimensions could not contain them. In a homeopathic drug even in its 6th potency, the medicine in a molecular form is not visible even through a powerful microscope, being in energy form. But some critics cannot shed their frog in a well-disbelief about the mystery of the ocean. Sri Rao frowns upon such critics, 'An ignorant person in the country of lakes and rivers will laugh when one from the Arctic region says that people in his country walk and skate on water (being ice)'. The critic observes that crude people, though good otherwise, cannot get rid of some of their silly thoughts. He cites the example of Hanumān who took mandodari for Sita, in the palaces of Lanka and jumped about in ecstasy of a monkey. Then why consider the stick in the mud type of critics?
SABARI: Sri Rao has been on the major job of translating a great epic with his
commentary and making a comparative study of epics and their poets. In addition to Vālmeeki (Sanskrit), he has before him Kamba (Tamil), Tulasidās (Hindi), Bhāskara (Telugu), Kalidas (Raghuvamsa - Sanskrit) and a few more. He shrewdly observes that Tulasidās and Kamba made wide departures from Vālmeeki and he explains this that they wrote in their languages to be understood by the common people. Quite now and then he discusses Adhyātma Rāmāyana of Vyāsa also. This all makes us know that the critic has widely and deeply studied not only Hindu scriptures, Purānās epics etc but also European epics and literature in English; But I pour encomiums on the critic, for the most minute, abstruse and subtle things he discusses. Here is one such thing: Rāma after Sita's abduction, eventually meets Sabari. We hear stories told about Sabari giving fruits to Rāma. See what the critic has to say in this regard. It is said that the rustic woman, out of devotion, tasted the fruits and if tasted good, gave them to Rāma who freely ate them. It is absurd. A bunch of fruits from one branch or burg will taste like-wise and only one fruit may be tasted as a sample and
if good, the others are chosen Sabari is not a rustic but on the other hand a highly evolved soul. What else to say about Sri Rao's shrewdness!
VALI: I cannot but admire the critic's keenness. Here is an example. Rāma promises Sugreeva to kill Vāli. At this time the left eyes of Sita, Vāli and Rāvana jerked simultaneously. The jerk of the left eye brings good luck to Sita and disaster to the other two. Lotus-eyed Sita- yellow-eyed Vāli- fiery-eyed Rāvana - Vālmeeki presents all this in a small Slōka (verse). The critic points out this verse, "A superb verse, the first of its kind perhaps in the world". Again when Sugreeva challenges, Vāli furiously rushed out "Like the red Sun towards Sun-set". The critic comments that this is a fine suggestion that Vāli would be no more. The critic has something to say about the death of Vāli. Why should Rāma shoot Vāli from behind a tree? Critics put this question; Vālmeeki through Rāma answers it. The whole earth belongs to Ikshwākus. As a representative of Bharata, to establish dharma, Rāma killed Vāli. But why hiding? The critic says that if Rāma was visible, Vāli would not come out for a duel. So Rāma had to hide. Some critics argue that animal law is different from human law. Thus they support Vāli's keeping Tāra for himself. Now Sri Rao puts a single question to such critics, "Then in the pretext of asuric law, can we support the act of abduction?" However he rules it out with the explanation: "Karma yōga is a yōga of sacrifice for the benefit of humanity or for sustaining some dharma. What else can it be when the doer has no attachment for any tantalising sense-objects and leaves the result to God? Instead of looking at Rāma's act in this light, the critics brought in many isms".
HANUMAN [Sundara Kānda]: Since "Rāmāyana" is the story of Rāma, it is not probable, that the poet woud choose the name of any Kānda, after any other personage, since the name of every Kānda bears and has close nexus with the name of the activity or the name of the place of the activity of the supreme hero Rāma. Then how come this Kānda to be called Sundara Kānda, without detracting from Rāma's eminance. Sri Rao finds the reason. Vālmeeki, created a powerful mantra, which is a garland of 27 (an auspicious number 1/4x108) names of the exploits and the high qualities of the head and heart of Hanumān which is known as Sundara Hanumān mantra and he flowered forth from this Kānda. Rāma also has a claim to this epithet Sundara (beautiful). Thus serving both ways, this Kānda is called Sundara Kānda.
Sri Rao sees in this Kānda a brief exposition of the most difficult and sacred and esoteric Kundalini yōga (activating the dormant Primordial cosmic energy - "Serpent Power" located in a person, in the plexus, (in astral plane only) in the region where the legs commence. When it (Kundalini) is activated by this yōga (discipline), it is said to "wake up" and pass up through the Sushumna Nādi (an astral nerve along the spine) through the higher "chakras" and finally reaches the thousand petalled chakra or Padma in the brain. (The holy union, resulting in samādhi, the super conscious state where mental modifications cease to exist. When this Kundalini is travelling up, the sādhaka will be having mystic experiences and great celestials will be coming into his mental vision. That is what the great yōgi Hanumān had got. The great poet, thus symbolically suggests this Kundalini yōga, by double meaning words. The critic bases his opinion on the fact, among other things, that, throughout this Kānda, only two crucial names Hanumān and maruthatmaja [मरुतत्मजः] of Hanumān occur, the former signifying yōgi and the latter, [प्रानायाम - Pranayam] the very basis of Kundalini Yōga. Again, this Kānda begins with ततोरावण नतायाः - the first letter Tat is obviously the first sacred letter (वर्ण - Varna) of the holy Gāyatri mantra, the mother of seven crores of Mahā mantrās. Thus this Kānda speaks of two occult disciplines- Gāyatri and Kundalini yōga - an additional reason for this Kānda being named Sundara Kānda. Sri Rao being a practitioner of Kundali Yoga, puts forth his views in the same light. Poets say of Hanumān, assuming many beautiful forms, in his flight and adventures, an additional reason for this Kānda being called Sundara Kānda. For instance before Surasa, there is the beauty of his utter humility and devotion and before Simhika, the beauty of his ferocity.
It is universally recognized in all religions, that the macrocosm has its reflection in the microcosm inside man but in an astral form, the astral counterpart of the physical body of man. The Mynāka mount coming in the way of Hanumān is symbolic of the Brahmagrandhi in the Kundalini yōga. (These astral nets are psychic forces tied up or concentrated and are
situated along the astral counter part of the spinal column). This Brahmagrandhi nourishes the student of yōga. That is exactly what Mynāka intended to do for Hanumān. Goddess Surasa might stand for Vishnugrandhi. It tests the student's capacity and eggs him on the spiritual path. Simhika, the Ogress, is obviously Rudragrandhi. It prevents the student from further practice or even destroys him when he is wantonly guilty of a grave lapse or sinister motives or becomes a demon in the making out to vitiate the dharma and all of such ugly features in his practices requiring to be nipped in the bud. The micro cosmic yōgic features in man, are more sacrosanct thereafter, the Rudra Grandhi being near the final goal of the 1000 petalled lotus in the brain, in the astral form.
The Sundara Hanumān (beautiful in every aspect and beauty being truth and dharma) passed through this Rudra Grandhi, Simhika and had the beatific vision of that supreme Gāyatri Dēvi (represented by Sita) in the thousand petalled lotus in the brain (occult aspect). The lotus rises magnificently over the miry waters. Gāyatri Dēvi (the Goddess-Mother) is seated in the 1000 petalled lotus in the brain which is worse than mire, with all kinds of hellish thoughts. Sita Dēvi was also like that Gāyatri Dēvi. Sri Rao having been striving spiritually, has more to say: The seer-poet, Vālmeeki, uses two similes in this connection. One says that Hanumān shed his colossal form to resume his small form, like maha Vishnu, after pushing Bali down into Pātāla Lōka, resuming his incarnate form of Vāmana. This might be a mere figure of speech. But the other simile which says that Hanumān resumed his original form (small) like a realized soul who knowing the truth about the self [ब्रह्मन् Brahman], sheds his delusions and misconceptions about the human body and the spirit (soul). This simile is certainly the suggestion about the Kundalini (Gāyatri) and Pranayama Yōga. The summum bonum of these occult vidyās is this knowledge (realization) of the self (soul) - the knowledge that all "beings" are perishable and the "soul" is imperishable and pervades the "body" the form of matter, the ignorant persons thinking that soul (spirit) is subject to change and destruction - a mere delusion that even persons, striving spiritually, but not sublimated, are apt to experience. Thus the "true self" of man is the "soul" and not the "matter" "the body" which it (soul) pervades.
Sri Rao churns Rāmāyana and extracts Gāyatri Mantra: the whole of "Rāmāyana" of Vālmeeki, is a subtle exposition of the great Gāyatri Mahāmantra. For every thousand Slōkas, there is one mystic varna of Gāyatri, its 24 varnas covering the 24000 Slōkas. Kānda-wise the varnas, from Tat (तत्) to Yat (यत्) are 3 (in 1st Kānda), 4 (in 2nd), 2, 2, 3, 6 and 4 (7th Kānda) total 24 in number. The critic further explains that (तत्) Tat is Parabrahma; (सवितुः) Savituhu, the Adityaha behind the visible Sun, that great God (tat) is born as Rāma in the Solar Dynasty. This is Bala Kānda. Rāma, showed himself to be the most perfect and adorable being by his virtues, signified by वरेण्यं in Ayōdhya Kānda. In Aranya and Kishkindha Kāndas, Rāma is Bhargaha, with splendour of God Rudra, destroying the Janasthāna garrison of Rāvana and killing Vāli and in Sundara Kānda he is Bhargaha, through his brotherly counterpart, Hanumān (almost alter-ego) and obviously Bhargaha, in Yuddha Kānda. Rāma is देवस्थ धिमहि" - a worshippable great God, throughout all the Kāndās. Being god and by virtue of his God-Head only, Rāma redeemed Ahalya, Kabandha, Virādha from their curses. At the great fire-ordeal of Sita, all the gods appeared and worshipped Rāma as the great God.
RAMA: Let me quote Sri Rao so that the reader can have a clear idea of his [Sri Rao] attitude towards Rāma - the protagonist of Rāmāyana. "According to Gīta all the incarnations of Sri Mahā Vishnu have their roots in the incarnation of Rāma or Krishna, the complete all-round Avatāra (incarnation). Gīta speaks of the divine glories. God pervades the whole Universe and is the "chief factor" in all classes of beings, celestial, man, bird or beast -such as Indra among Dēvās, Mēru among mountains, ocean among the lakes, lion among animals, Garuda among birds, king among men, Rāma among warriors etc. Virtuous people would like to know and adore these aspects of their god, according to their spiritual constitution. In the following way many hungered to see the glory of his myriad aspects on display. Lord Siva nodded in salutation, when Rāma broke his mighty bow as if a reed. Sage Viswamitra went into raptures when the beardless boy of Rāma killed the terrific demoness Tātaki. The arid Asram of Goūtami bloomed again when Rāma just stepped into it. This means that even a plot of land wanted to see his holy feet and enjoy the touch. The hermit-
life of Sri Rāma was a holy sight for the gods and they also were moved at his most human agony for the loss of Sita. Rāma earned the epithet of Vāvimardana, though he did it under cover and none of his foes demurred on this score. It is a celestial sight with Rāma fasting on the sea-shore and imploring the ocean-god to facilitate his and his army crossing over to the other side. Rāma used his right hand as a pillow for his head and Vālmeeki describes that hand in a sublime way, - the hand that was the great shield for his whole army, a palladium for the dharma, the hand that gave in charities thousands upon thousands of cows etc., -depicting Rāma, the Kāmadhēnu (the celestial cow) and Rāma the lion. The celestials, with wonder and amazement, drank in the sight of Rāma, single-handed annihilating Rāvana and his countless hordes of reserve army in a trice".
Gīta says, "God ruling over his own nature takes birth by his own maya. Rāma's incarnation is one such. There is God-hood in his manhood and far above sainthood. Though his feet are firmly rooted in earth, Rāma's head penetrates into the mystic region of Godhood. This is the crux of Vālmeeki's thought at times perplexing us.
The very basis of Rāmāyana is a novel verse with rhythm and adaptable for music. It was called Slōkas, a metamorphosed name from sōka (the mood of grief). The poet was Vālmeeki and his intention was to curse a hunter. But the curse has become the address by way of praise to God.
ETHOS: Sri Rao highlights our ethos with a striking reference: Suppose for instance,
that Issac Newton, on the day when the truth about the falling apple dawned on him, saw an angel in the apple tree, suppose the angel to have informed him that the apple was falling due to force of gravity of the earth, suppose Newton to have published his theory along with this anecdote - then, it would have given rise to such cockamamie of voices as scientific spirit, rational thinking etc., and the theory of gravitation would have been drowned in it.
This is exotic ethos where the scientific spirit is rushing ahead of religious ethos. But in our society such an anecdote would be attributed to the accumulated spiritual merit of the person than to his scientific learning. A Godless person is quite unfit for scientific research as one is not being a rishi [seer] for a poetical venture. Hence, the absolute necessity for spiritual discipline. This is our simple innate ethos sustained by our rishis.
The phenomenon of our ethos is being eclipsed and dominated by the exotic ethos resulting in perverse interpretation of Rāmāyana and Vālmeeki. Keeping this in mind, a man of erudition Sri Lakkaraju Anantha Rāma Rao has translated Vālmeeki Rāmāyana into English with his commentary in the light of our nature and simple ethos. Divine play and divine grace and Karma and Fate are the essence of our ethos and constitute the breath of our lives.
Epics of the East and the West: Sri Rāma Rao, an epic scholar of the East and the West has juxtaposed the epics and their poets. This type of juxtaposition has been fancy with critics of higher calibre. In discussing and evaluating their merits, he has made references from Kālidās, Bhavabhooti, Bhāsa Mahākavi and many such gifted scholars while Vālmeeki [Vyāsa] remained the hub. Sri Rao has given due importance to and discussed a handful of Western geniuses like John Milton, Shakespeare, Keats, Dante while Homer [Virgil] is the matter.
Homer is the greatest star in the Western firmament of poesy. Two noblest epics flowed from this bard's mouth-Iliad' and 'Odyssey', woven round two great Greek Heroes -Achilles and Odysseus respectively. In his invocation to Muses, in Iliad, he says that he is singing of the ruinous wrath of Achilles and the terrible woes thereby suffered by the Greek in the Trojan war. In 'Odyssey' he sings of the innumerable woes of the hero. Odysseus suffered upon the deep while returning to his land Ithaca after the war and the great sack of Troy. From the folk-lore level and the level of poet-asters, Homer took the two poems to the heights of mount Parnassus, where the muses play. The vast incidents, the sublime thoughts and sentiments, the grand variety of moods so full of life, diverse attitude towards life, the liquid diction, the unique similes and insight into human nature, went into the
creation of these grand epics, so that Homer is called Imperial' in the sense that he is worthy to exercise command over the heart and intellect of ages'.
Sri Rama Rao is of the opinion that Homer's is the vision of Poesy while Vālmeeki [Vyāsa] has in addition, the vision of a Rishi - a sage - a transcendental vision of the East. Vālmeeki and Vyāsa pierced through the veil of mystery [mahamaya] shrouding the whole universe and found in their transcendental vision of pristine purity, the great truth [the law of Karma, the law of Destiny, the mystery of Creation etc.]. Homer's [Virgil] vision is that a poet confined to unearthly personages such as gods of war, strife, panic, terror etc., while men were fighting for the establishment of a kingdom or for its fall and such things.
Sri Rao observes that poets of the West looked upon the phenomenon of evil as a problem to be solved for mankind. He mentions that Shakespeare, in particular, probed that problem to its depths and came out with the statement that certain human passions such as passion for power, passion for revenge, jealousy, cruelty or pride, warp even noble minds to evil ends bringing disaster not only on their heads but also on the whole country, if they happen to be the leaders of that society. In the opening scene of Odyssey, Zeus says, "Mortal men say evil comes of us, whereas they, even of themselves, through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained". It cannot be said that Homer set before himself any problem of good or evil. His soul concern seems to present a saga of adventure of yore in brilliant colours and sing to his audience in the halls of nobles to eke out his livelihood [with due apologies to the blind bard].
But in the orient, Sri Rāma Rao feels that it was not looked upon as a problem and tragedy was even banned. For instance, says Rao, that there is Vyāsa who laughs at the problem. There is no problem for a man of equanimity. According to Vālmeeki there is no problem so long as there is a virtuous king on the throne. The problem arises only when one of beggarly blood sits on the throne. Spiritual discipline is a sine-qua-non with these two saint poets. In the final analysis of the problem of evil, only spiritual discipline purges the mind of all its impurities.
The critic perceives some similarity existing between Homer's ideas of destiny and those of our orient. He feels that in the course of centuries, the latter might have travelled West, but got distorted, having entered a murky mythology. Our idea of destiny is but a divinely computerised result of all our thoughts, deeds and words based purely on free will and extending deep into the past [numerous past births] and covering the present also having an inevitable end someday, known only to great seers and can be modified or even nullified by the grace of God through prayer, worship etc. When these ideas spread West, the primitive mythology of the West, leaving the 'Free Will' intact, devoured all other salient features of our philosophy of destiny.
The Greeks were a proud race and they clamoured for revenge, though the Trojans offered ransom to compensate them for the wrong done to them by prince Paris. Helen also refused to go back to her former Lord, Menelaus. For such an unwilling woman the war dragged on for ten years. The immortal Gods too took sides and literally took part in the battle. But in Rāmāyana the Dānava king Rāvana abducted Sita. Rāma, before starting the battle gave opportunity to Rāvana to rectify his misdeed. Rāvana paid no heed. The dreadful Rakshasa was killed. When Rāma got back his abducted wife Sita, he became very sensitive about public opinion regarding her long stay with Rākshasās though under duress. Sita the chastiest lady the world has ever seen was given a cold welcome. On top of it this very sensitive soul in the presence of all, had to hear rough and unbecoming words of Rāma. She at once ordered a flaming fire to be set up and entered the flame. The Fire-God declared her holiness. Thus Sita got freed from all her blemishes. Overjoyed Rāma accepted her.
Inspite of this major difference of pagan and mythological outlook, Homer [and Virgil also] and Vyāsa [and Vālmeeki also] come very near to each other especially in the situation of battles and duel therein. many of the battles in the Iliad come very close to those of Mahābhārata in point of the great art of poetry. Sri Rama Rao says that we feel that great warriors like Bheeshma, Drōna, Kama, Aswathāma, the Pandavās, Abhimanyu etc., are
fighting without using any astrās under the assumed names of Hector, Apneas, Sarpadon. Agamemnon, Menelaus, Diomedes, Odysseus, Aies, Achilles etc.
Sri Rao feels that characterisation is of the essence of any poem, dRāma, epic or of any other kind but characterisation cannot exist in a void. It is animated solely by incidents and circumstances. The forte of epic poets especially Homer [Virgil] lies in the invention of the story and its incidents. The speeches of the characters of Homer are particularly lengthy but cogent and well reasoned out and unfolding the character of the speaker. It is grossly unfair to the genius of Homer [Virgil] to assume that there existed some folk tales previously on which he built up his art. The fantastic cock and bull stories of mythology, assume under the magic touch of Homer or Virgil the most appropriate colours. The apparently odd and rugged ideas are transmuted into gold, with fragrance to boot under the alchemy of Homer's muse.
Sri Rao holds his stand that Homer's philosophy is conditioned as it was by pagan ethos. Sri Rao illustrates this. The enlightened Greek Philosophy which ruled Europe for two millennia was not there, its great thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras not being born then. The Goddess Aphrodite [wounded by the mighty Greek hero Diomedes, instigated by Goddess Athena] went to her mother Goddess Dione. The mother comforted her daughter saying that many of the Gods living on Olympus suffered at the hands of men because Gods themselves stooped to injure one another. Even Hera the consort of Zeus and queen of Olympus was wounded in her breast by an arrow from Hercules [Sri Rao considers all these exploits of men just symbolic of some phenomena]. For this outrage on her daughter, Dione cursed Diomedes in the form of prophesy. Thus Diomedes, after the fall of Troy, had no happy home-coming and had to migrate, in great agony and remorse to far off lands. Aphrodite [very weak being the Goddess of Love] went to her father Zeus to inform him about the indignity she suffered at the hands of a mere mortal. Zeus himself was at logger heads with many of the Olympian Gods and was able to hold out by sheer might. He advised his daughter not to meddle in wars since her writ was confined to wedlock and its tender passions only. I need no excuses to quote this lengthy notes of Sri Rao, since Sri Rao says if only we turn a blind eye to the crudity of this mythology we enjoy very much the superb handling of those stories by Homer.
Back to Aphrodite's injury [in her palm by Diomedes with his spear] let us see what Sri Rao has to say: She gave vent to a piercing scream of pain. 'Immortal blood', came out of the wound. Homer says that Gods being immortals, are bloodless and only ichor ran out of that wound since Gods cannot eat bread nor drink our sparkling wine and hence they are bloodless. This is here and in such illustrations the shrewd observation of Sri Rao strikes us. Such seemingly minute details of Homer are very conspicuous to Sri Rao and his critical genius at once locates a similar description or presentation made elsewhere by some other poet - East or West. 'Like beaded bubbles winking at the brim' [of the cup of wine] of John Keats might be one such example traceable to 'the sparkling wine' of Homer. The critic infers that the decorative trappings of Homer's style are an inspiration and a model to a host of poets after Homer, from Virgil till now. If this is one phase of observation and an example of ready wit of the critic, the other phase is "Such superb description drowns much of the oddity of the idea that Gods take direct part in battles of men and are also attacked by mortals. He feels that it might not be far-fetched to say that it was Homer's dictum against war, though he was dealing with glorified semi-barbaric or semi-civilised times, when war and carrying of the women and children of the vanquished was a pastime and an act of glory.
When it comes to Odyssey, Sri Rao says that it seems to him as an epic of nemesis for the grave misdeeds done in Iliad singling out as an example, Odysseus as its typical victim. This is of course, universally accepted. Sri Rao's greatness as a critic lies in inferring that Homer's idea seems to be that man, even when confronted by the worst extremity, should not be guilty of any sacrilegious act. Here is another example to know how keen the critic is: "Homer casts his spell even over animals. The classic example is one from Iliad regarding the immortal pair of horses of Achilles and another from Odyssey as regards the great hound of Odysseus. As for those horses any other poet would say that they would match with the wind and even outrun it and such like descriptions of their swiftness. But the Homeric way is quite different, conjuring up a charming vision. The wind swift, immortal
pair of horses, Xantheus and Balius were fooled by their mother Podarge, the stormfilly and their sine, the Western gale when she was grazing in the meadows beside ocean stream".
Why narrating such big passages? I quote Sri Rao, "I think that we can better know our epics by knowing the great epics of West [of Homer, Virgil] and comparing and contrasting them with our epics though our laws of poets differ from theirs since they are universal. A Greek hero Alias is caught amidst Trojans as our Abhimanyu amidst Koūuraväs [Padmyavyooha]. Homer uses a superb simile "He [Aias] was as stubborn as a donkey, who turns into a field and helps himself to the standing crop, though many sticks have been broken on his back, till at last he is driven out with much ado, but not before he has eaten all he wants". Sri Rao says, "It is a merit for me to be compared to that beast, as I am similarly grazing in the royal fields of the great Homer. It amazes me how a sightless person, as Homer was, could know such phenomenon noticed through one's own eyes only unless it be that he got blind after some mature age like Milton. Similarly amazing are his observations regarding the idyllic country side, the fearsome forests, wildernesses, nightly raids of sheep-flocks by wild animals, the hue and cry raised by the rural folk in warding them off, awe inspiring tempests and thunder claps divesting the crops and uprooting the forest trees, torrential rains smashing the dykes, the surge of the stormy seas and thunders of the frowning skies and so on. Vālmeeki or Vyāsa did not so profusely draw from the rural scenes as Homer did. Only Kamba the greatest Tamil poet did it in his Rāmāyana'. If I quote such a lengthy passage, the reader may feel disgusting. But each expression, each sentence for that matter, each word, beyond doubt stands as a token of Sri Rao's shrewd observation, critical analysis and scholarship. How thoroughly should he have scanned word by word the greatest epics of the world!
Sri Rao feels that the colourless and jejune stories on Troy are transformed by Homer into an inspired story of great kaleidoscopic beauty of incidents, thought, figures of speech, action etc. In the critic's view such dramatic incidents take precedence over mere characterisation and are as it were nine-tenths of the genius of a poet especially in the case of epics. A beautiful and dramatic incident, beautifully rendered is of the essence of epic poetry. It gives rise to moulding or controlling character and art. National ethos is born of the epics of that nation. When we look at such opinions we will find an anthropologist in Sri Rao.
"Homer's pen does not rest even at night", observes Sri Rao. No doubt Homer created two escapades one from each camp. Dolon ventured into the Greek camp to spy on them to know their scheme for the following day.
He was promised the golden chariot and horses of Achilles]. From the Greecian camp Diomedes and Odysseus set out into the Trojan camp, like a pair of lions through the black night. Thus Dolon was caught and under threat of death, and divulged the strategic disposition of the sleeping Trojan chiefs. I admire Sri Rao's analytical study of the epic. He has clearly sorted the incidents and tried to capture the heart and mind of the poet. In the first place Homer, though blind, narrated any event so precisely that a normal poet [one whose sight or vision is normal] could be no match to him. Sri Rao dwells on this point and says figuratively 'Homer's pen does not rest even at night'. What an expression!
Sri Rao has not learnt Greek language. Since Homer's epics were originally in Greek, Sri Rao has to rely upon translations. He expresses his helplessness in heart-striking words with a sarcastic touch. Much have I hungered for Homer's own idiom and phrase and yet I have before me a translation which I suspect to have more of the translator's own, leaving Homer as Greek as ever to me". His way of playing with words is amusing.
Silence often can express more powerfully than speech can. Sri Rao says, "It is not possible for me to give a correct and graphic account of all the amazingly, by a numerous and highly poetic and dramatic incidents as I fear the 'Great Iliad' could turn into a 'Dunciad' in my hands, when Homer himself says that it would take a God to tell the tale. Alexander Pope wrote a satirical poem on the lines of Iliad about the fools of his time". Alexander Pope wrote The Rape of Lock' mocking Iliad and it is considered the greatest mock epic in English literature. It is all about cutting a lock of hair of the heroine without her knowledge. Pope
introduces a number of characters including some gnomic, elfin and other spirits. These spirits like the brave warriors in the Trojan war, stubbornly stood to protect the rape of hair -of course, they had to give up ultimately. However, it is not about The Rape of Lock'. Sri Rao's attitude in mentioning the mock epic is two fold:- to high-light Homer's skills as a poet and to express his personal disgust at the war. The critic thus silently makes us know his feelings by drawing our attention to Alexander Pope's "The Rape of Lock".
Sri Rao observes how Homer draws out tender sentiments even from a monster's mouth as in his 'Odyssey'. Cyclops Polyphemus, being blinded by Odysseus in his only eye, sat at the entrance of his cave, letting out his sheep into the pastures and feeling their backs whether Noman and his fellows were riding on them to their freedom, (not knowing, that they were clinging to their bellies). A big ram 'cumbered with his wool used to lead the flock. But that day, it came last, since Odysseus [Noman] detained by clinging it to its belly. Now, the giant caressing the ram on his back spoke, "Dear ram, wherefore, I pray thee, are thou
the last of all the flocks to go forth from the cave? But now thou art the very last. Surely
thou art sorrowing for the eye of thy Lord, which an evil man, Noman, blinded and who hath not yet, I say escaped destruction. Ah, if thou could not feel as I and be endued with speech, to tell me where he shifts about to shun my wrath then should he be smitten and his brains be dashed against the floor and my heart be lightened of the sorrows, which Noman, nothing worth, hath brought me".
The keen observation of the critic captures in Iliad too, one such example in a fine figure of speech simile. Achilles tenderely spoke to Patroculus, "Patroclus, why do you weep like a little girl trotting at her mother's side, begging to be carried, plucking her skirt to make her stop and looking up at her with streaming eyes till at last she takes her in her arms?" This scene may need a little explanation. Zues was giving the Trojans upper hand to draw Achilles into the war. Here also we cannot but admire the critic. He says that this is a fantastic interlude, invented by Homer, based upon the pagan mythology and the crudely distorted oriental mythology. Let us go back to the scene: Achilles thus spoke to Patroclus and permitted him to lead his battle loving wolves, the Myrmidonian army, he was to go in Achilles' armour and chariot, which could result in the Trojans' flight, without a real fight. Achilles ordered Patroclus to stop fighting and return to the camp, as soon as the Greek ships were safe from the fiery Trojan assault.
Sri Rao complains that 'Homer very grudgingly gives the palm to Hector and strives very hard to present Achilles their idol [perhaps to cater to Greek audience] in a some what favourable light so far as human virtues are concerned'. To justify his complaint the critic quotes Homer that it was not Hector, but the God Phoebus Apollo that knocked off the helmet and broke the huge spear of Patroclus'. But we cannot ignore the point that Patroclus was in Achilles' armour and was using his spear. They were divine gifts and could not be damaged by any human. How great and mighty a warrior Hector be, he too was a human being and it would not be possible for him to harm Patroclus so long as he was in Achilles' armour. Hence Apollo's interference! Further, the critic elsewhere mentions, "Hector was boldness itself and as a mountain snake, maddened by the poisonous herbs he has swallowed, allows a man to come upto the lair, where he lies and watches him with a baleful glitter in his eye", a unique simile. So, I cannot attribute any partiality to Homer.
Sri Rao displays his shrewd observation in classifying women. Of course, Homer does not have anything to do with this classification. Let me quote the critic. "Penelope belongs to the highest type of womanhood. Helen, inspite of her escapades in love with Paris, came back to her former lord Menelaus and lived in harmony with him. She belongs to the next type. To the lowest type, (most depraved type) belongs the adulterous consort (Clytacemnestra), of king Agamemnon, who (Clytacemnestra) got her husband murdered by her paramour, immediately on his triumphant return from Troy. His brother, king Menelaus would have saved him, but he was held up in Egyptian seas by storms and came just a little late, when his brother's funerals were taking place. Inscrutable are the ways of destiny. Even Shakespeare would be proud of this Homer's legacy, of the three types of womanhood".
The critic could see grim humour in Homer. For instance, a jagged stone from Patroclus lands on the forehead of Hector's driver, who drops down dead like a person who
dives from a ship for fish. Patroclus vaunts that he never knew that the Trojans are such expert divers. The irony is that he too is following his victim to the Hades. Elsewhere, under the license given by Zeus, various gods fought among themselves. One god is of crooked foot [Vulcan]- another is of monstrous bulk - Athene bringing down the war-god with a huge boulder and running after Aphrodite, the tender goddess of Love - Poseidon the earth-shaker challenging Apollo - Artemis the goddess of chase being boxed on her ears by her step mother - her sobbing on the lap of her father Zeus etc. Thus quoting, the critic infers, - 'a high comedy among gods also flowed from the mouth of this great bard, Homer'.
Here is an example that draws our attention to the sharpness of the intellect. Achilles resumed his murderous course and was after Hector. Hecuba, [Hector's mother] from the bastions, cried to him [Hector] to have pity on her and in her very moving agony exposed her breasts from which he drew sustenance while as a suckling infant. Referring to this incident the critic comments that the seat of authority or for the matter of that, that of the divinity of a mother, in relation to her sons and daughters, is her face and next her breasts. He continues that it is common knowledge, especially among the older generations, that a woman, who gave suck to a child, not her own, was shown by the latter, when grown up, the same love and regard as that for one's own mother. The critic now takes us to Vyāsa who shows the same feelings in the context of the pinnacle of human happiness. Drōna arranged a tournament. The Pāndavās were winning the palm in each and every trial. Seeing this their proud mother Kunti in her ecstatic happiness, felt the tenderest stirrings about her breasts. "Great poets think alike", says the critic and refers to "Uttara Rāma Charitra", of Bhavabhooti. Sita Dēvi in all agony for being abandoned and her sons Lavā and Kusa being taken away from her at their very tender age to be put under the tutelage of Vālmeeki felt the same divinely innocent impulse to give suck to her sons, then more than years of age.
The critic has a positive approach. He feels that Homer was struggling hard against the cant of the Dark Age to give a rational philosophy about gods and goddesses and that he puts it in the mouth of Apollo, when Poseidon challenged him to a combat. Apollo says, "Men are wretched creatures, who like leaves, flourish and flaunt their brilliance for a little while, but in a moment drop and fade away and it is senseless for gods to fight with each other for their sake".
Sri Rao puts the great epics of the West in a nutshell: the Iliad and the Odyssey Homer [Greek] and the Aeneid of Virgil [Latin] dealt with the wrath of a mortal or an immortal, which had a fatal impact on a whole kingdom or race of people - all dark themes. Iliad, though ostensibly of the wrath of Achilles, was really that of [causation of causation] of Hera, the consort of Zeus, who felt herself insulted by the fatal preference of Paris for Aphrodite and wiped out the whole kingdom of Troy. In Odyssey the continuous rage of Poseidon [Neptune] against Odysseus for blinding his son Cyclops Polyphemus brought about untold sufferings to Odysseus. In Aeneid, it was the wrath of Hera [Latin Juno] towards Aeneas, being a scion of the Trojan race and also the mortal son of Aphrodite [Venus] the arch-enemy of Juno. Though he survived the great sack and fire of Troy having lost his wife and many of his best and noble friends there, he was driven from shore to shore, past many enemy kingdoms of the Greek and worse, past the hideous island of the Cyclops and at long last he founded the kingdom for the future Romans through the sheer favour of Zeus.
In conclusion Sri Rao says that Homer invokes the muses for inspiring him and blessing his venture. But the prologue of Vālmeeki depicts himself as absolutely surrendering himself to the will of God. It is self abnegation - pure and simple. Iliad is full of description of scores of battles between the armies. Encounters between rival heroes and duds between the lesser fry. It is a thrilling saga of martial feats and wicked wars of the ancient past. But with Vālmeeki wars are ordained as holy acts of the warrior class to rescue righteousness from evil and sustain; it otherwise war is a deadly sin. Sri Rao further observes that characters in our epics belonged to very civilised times and of a very high order of human beings, but whose noble minds were wrapped in by the all-compelling destiny and to sub-serve the aim of the saint-poets. In utter contrast Homer had to deal with semi-barbaric and semi-primitive times and peoples whose hospitality and tender behaviour were mere eye wash, when they were aroused in their passions.
Sri Rao is of the opinion that the crowning piece of an epic is its philosophic thought without which the epic becomes a mere temple without the Holy of Holies. Homer's civilising thoughts have become dim and even dissolved in the murky pagan atmosphere that pervaded his works. He was dealing with semi barbaric times when the sack and fire of towns and the country side and even queens and wives of nobles being led away to serve foreign masters as slaves and even as wives was the order of the day and cruelty, ruthlessness, greed, superstition, ignorance being their standard of civilisation. Rāmāyana took its birth in a heart over brimming with 'rasa' with an equally supreme saint-poet.
In evaluating Homer and Vālmeeki to apply the same standard is doing gross injustice to them and also exposing one's weak judgement or crude mentality like perverse parochialism, disgusting snobbery or servility especially with reference to alien critics. Criticism is an art next to that of poetry. Sri Rāma Rao's evaluation proves that he is free from these odd qualities and exposes his critical appreciation as genuine and establishes him as a judicial and artistic critic.
Milton and Dante: Milton, the great poet in his 'Paradise Lost' churned the great Bible and brought out gems of thought. Sri Rao finds these thoughts to have some resemblance to our Upanishadic thoughts. The main theme of our Purānās is that vice is as powerful as virtue and at times, though temporarily virtue avoids confrontation with vice- but moves surely, may be slowly to its final victory.
In heaven, Satan [called so after his revolt against God] 'was of the first Arch-angel, great in power, in favour and pre-eminence' and even in hell, after his great revolt against the cause of truth, 'millions of flaming swords drawn from the thighs of mighty Cherubim' at his beck and call, 'illumined the dark hell far around'. God had to send his son who, wielding ten thousand thunders each fitted with three thunder-bolts routed them hurled them head long from 'the ethereal sky' into the 'bottomless pit of hell'. The critic is of the opinion that all these ideas are, in a way, our Purānic ideas, clothed in a different garb of poesy and ornate style. According to our scriptures and there from our ethos, when saints and seers are unable to redeem virtue from vice and corruption, God reincarnates himself and restores the fallen virtue to its high pedestal.
Sri Rao humbly admits that he is not versed enough to comment upon pure Biblical philosophy. But without studying the Bible and without understanding its philosophy, how far can any critic wade in Milton's 'Paradise Lost? Sri Rao continues pouring out his impressions and thoughts: Satan [sin] must be destroyed. There is no redemption for him and his Stygian hordes. The great act of redemption of the son of God is only for the victims of Satan and his vicious sway ie., the mankind. Sin [Satan symbolising it] has two forms - a violent one [coming up against virtue, Dharma, with arms and warfare] and a subtle one, ruling over the hearts of men and corrupting them, with malice, envy, tyranny, slavery, fraud and so on. When Satan took up cannons and all the faithful Angels' of God were no match for Satan, the son of God had to use thunder bolts against him. Then the Sin [Satan] resorted to guile and subtle force and invaded men's heart and conscience and seated there. The son of God came down to earth to conquer sin and redeem mankind through love and sacrifice, no force being there in the process, Free-will being the cardinal principle of man's existence and suffered mind-boggling torture and death on the cross to save man and even nature got convulsed at that gruesome sight - the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the World' and 'which baptises man with the Holy Ghost'.
Having squeezed out the Biblical philosophy from Milton's Paradise Lost, Sri Rao concludes that Milton's Biblical concepts like Divine Justice, Divine Grace etc., acquire a different colour or greater amplitude and import in the Upanishadic philosophy of Vālmeeki or Vyāsa and that the postulate of every religion [and not of any one exclusively] is Divine Grace and Divine Protection of mankind. The oft-quoted verse in Gīta says that God takes up the human form in every age for the protection of virtuous and destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of Dharma [Righteousness] whenever there is decay of righteousness and the rise of its opposite.
Dante: Dante the greatest Italian poet wrote ' The Divine Comedy'. It was all about
his dream in which he was guided through 'Hell' and 'Purgatory' by Virgil and at the
threshold of 'Paradise'. The chaste lady Beatrice, the idol of his heart, symbolic of heavenly enlightenment, took on the role of the guide from Virgil and showed Dante [her votary] all the mysteries of the third and highest region 'Paradise' [Virgil not being allowed into Paradise] -the guilty soul is punished in 'Hell' and in the 'Purgatory' the human spirit is purged off the sinful bolt still clinging to it, the punishment not being of the same fiery type as in 'Hell' and the spirit is then prepared for ascent to Heaven [Paradise]. In the Purgatory, we see monarchs and other famous people groaning under the mountain-weight of the sins of the carnal pleasures indulged in by them while on earth. Thus 'Hell' is for punishment of the brutal element, 'Purgatory' for purging of human element and 'Paradise' for the glory of the saintly element.
Now, the greatness of the critic Sri Rao lies in identifying his thoughts with Dante's dream and deftly making use of Dante's hierarchy in juxtaposing various poets. Dante placed Homer in 'Hell' in its seventh circle. Virgil, a more sober and restrained and less fiery poet of 'Aenaid' was not allowed into the glorious 'Paradise' but was stopped at the outer gates of 'Purgatory' opening into 'Paradise' though both the poets belonged to the same country. Dante's enlightened Philosophy changed the entire Pagan structures of the heavens. The critic says that the heathen heavens were the close preserve of the Gods only and those mortals whom they had carried off from the earth to serve them in their Olympian halls of light and delight. Under the new dispensation as imagined by Dante, the critic says that Homer was in the house of Heathenism' at the entrance to the 'Purgatory'- Virgil, at the entrance to 'Paradise' not being allowed into 'Paradise'. The critic takes the liberty to put his Vālmeeki into Dante's Paradise. He says, 'it is here in Paradise, that we find the sage-poet Vālmeeki singing like the sweet throated bird Kōkil, (Cuckoo] the sweet notes of Rāma, Rāma on the tree of poesy in Paradise.
The critic has his own regard for Homer. That is why he says that we cannot decide that Homer is inferior to Vālmeeki just basing on Dante's hierarchy. He justifies thus: The mount of poesy has different heights and different poets reached such different heights with varied experience. Homer seated on one of such top most height and from there saw the rise and fall of kingdoms and havoc of sword and fire. Shakespeare from another such top saw the 'witches' cauldron' of the base human passions and Vālmeeki from another topmost height saw the mysteries of creation swimming into his vision and Dante was also there and Milton not lagging behind. The critic says that in this light we cannot use the same standards in evaluating them. He quotes John Keats, 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever' and beauty is truth and truth is beauty. He says that these elements can be generically clubbed under 'truth'. These are the scales, in which poetical works are weighed. They are the chief cynosure for critical eyes. The greatness of a poet depends on the degree of perfection these elements have attained in his work. Sri Rao refers to Homer and says that there is neither element of joy, nor of beauty when a kingdom rises upon the ashes of another kingdom [even a holy one like Troy] destroyed most brutally, not any element of truth in the heathen spirit pervading the work. The critic does not find any truth to be offered to mankind even by Shakespeare. The critic feels that Vālmeeki sits majestically in a temple and Shakespeare in a hall of justice.
Let me conclude my review with Sri Ananta Rama Rao's words, "All men are equal before God, Who pervades the whole universe and any kind of inequality is man made and for various causes." From anicient times vēdic religion has been subjected to serious assaults from various doctrines especially from the Chārvāka school. The fact that the religion survived till today is ample proof that all those doctrines are defeated as being false and misleading. Man is not satisfied by bread and possessions only. His intellectual hunger and spiritual hunger too must be satisfied. The rabble may come and rabble may go, but worship of Rāma goes on for ever. It is our national ethos and nothing can make a dent in it.