By Manju Gupta
Ramayan: The Hymns of the Himalaya, Akhilesh Gumashta, Prabhat Prakashan, Pp 831 (HB), Rs 900.00
Written by an orthopaedic surgeon, this book is a compilation of about 900 hymns or verses based on Valmiki’s Ramayan, Adhyatma Ramayan, Kambam Ramayan, Ezhuthachan’s Ramayan and above all, Tusidas’s Ramcharitmanas. Bhakti is the driving force behind it.
The Ramayana accepted in our country as the adikavya or an epic has fermented out people for all times. Come to think of it, it is not only India but most of the Asian continent which has been influenced by it.
Man is potentially spiritual and each of us wants to manifest the spark of divinity that is inherent in us. We seek out ways and means to express this. We also yearn for perfection, but his can be achieved by emulating persons who are embodiments of perfection. The quest for such an icon drives man to look around and what better icon can one find than in the character of Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayan.
Rama is the personification of the highest ideals. In part the story goes that the all-knowing Narada was asked by poet Valmiki, if he knew of such an ideal with no faults of foibles. Unhesitatingly Narada pointed out to Sri Ramachandra as the ‘Maryada Purushartam’. That is how the Ramayan came into existence and from this epic sprouted a new Ramayan in various languages, portraying Rama not only as a perfect man but as God incarnate.
It was human quest for an ideal personality as well as an ideal society that made the Ramayan unrivalled in world literature. Ramrajya is considered to be like heaven on earth, with Dharma or spirituality pervading every activity of mankind.
The Ramayan is not only the primal, the earliest poetic expression but remains the greatest public expression that mankind has ever known. The invocatory strophes beginning in this epic closely follow the sequence of Ramacharitmanas in a concise form. The music, the emotional fervour or bhakti, the introduction of Rama as the avatar and establishing him as belonging to a higher realm than that of Lord Shiva, the unlimited strings of eulogy casting a magical spell of sheer emotional bhakti, devotion, are common both to the Ramcharitmanas and to Adhyatma Ramayan.
The Ramayan is immortal and it has been rightly said, “As long as the Himalayas continue to exist and the Ganges continues to flow, the story of Ramayan also will continue to enrich humanity and its culture.”
So in the words of Sage Yagyawalkya, the author Akhilesh Gomashta of this book under review begins his creation with the words:
“Oh child! Now I begin Rama’s epic,
From the vast ocean, a few pearls pick.”
Rama’s depiction as the man of Dharma has philosophical underpinnings as seen in the verse below:
“Where wrong prevails and truth falls flat
There swift and sure cometh doomed fate.”
In this age of consumerism, lust and materialism, this work raises questions which are food for thought, delving deep in the ever elusive proposition of what the real self is and what is bhakti. The book introduces the reader to the spiritual message contained in the epic and its presentation broadens our horizon and our ancient wisdom which is our true heritage.
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