Setubandhana Bhaktachandana, Rama!
Respects to the scion of Raghu
Builder of Setu (the bridge), Delight Of Devotees, Rama!
These are the opening verses of the song in praise of Shri Ram, composed by Sant Thyagarajaswami, an ardent bhakta, devotee of Bhagwan Shri Ram. Sant Thyagarajaswami was born and lived in Tiruvaiyar in Tamil Nadu, singing paeans in Telugu on Shri Ram, His traits and His deeds. The above song describes Shri Rama as the builder of Setu.
A Builder Of Bridges
Shri Ram as a builder of Setu can be seen in more ways than one. He bridged the shores of the island of Lanka and the shores of the Indian peninsula with a physical bridge, the Ram Setu / Nala Setu alone.
Shri Ram also represents the invisible threads of sentiment, memories, traditions that have kept the people of Bharat connected and bound together, as a civilisation that has been conducting itself by the values exemplified by Him.
It will be interesting to note how the words bond, share a phonetic as well as semantic connect with the Indian word bandhan which means to bridge, bind, bond. i.e to connect with a purpose to keep secure, intact. The act of Rakshabandhan is also akin to the Friendship Bands of present times.
Shri Ram has bound the geography of Bharat with
- Footprints from His visit to different places across Bharat
- Blueprint of His journey showcased via the monuments built and re-built across Bharat, over millennia, to commemorate and preserve in memory, the incidents in their local region connected with Shri Ram
- Imprints of His values etched in memory and culture of the people of Bharat, through the historical epic Ramayan and tales of His moral values and conduct passed down across generations
Each of these prints corroborates the other, as they showcase a seamless flow of events of the Ramayan, across the length of Bharat, from the Himalayas in the Northern tip to the ocean in the Southern tip bearing the Setu bridge that He built.
Each place in this trail, has a tale to narrate about Shri Ram and His fellow companions.
Here are some of the geographical sites, which are popular and revered today as sites where the events of
Ramayan unfolded. They bear the same name as the places mentioned in the Ramayan text.
They also lie in the same direction as mentioned in the Ramayan text.
It is interesting to note that these sites are lined from North to South commemorating the events of Ramayan in a progressive manner in the same sequence as they unfolded in the Ramayan narrative too.
For instance, the Dandakaranya forest sites do not lie to the North of Ayodhya or to the South of Kishkinda or close to Rameshwaram. Or for that matter, sites connected with events at Kishkinda are not to be found in the hills of Girnar or Jharkhand.
It does not seem plausible that in those remote days, an author would have travelled far and wide to each of those remote places including dense forests and hills to concoct a geographically credible story and build it into local folklore at each of those remote places.
It is also not possible for people across the length of Bharat to have jointly planned to identify and arrange these geographical sites in the chronological order of Ramayan.
These sites have come to be so, since Shri Ram traversed this path.
Many of these names can be found to have continued through the Mahabharat and subsequent periods too, till date.
This tradition of names and locations of places in itself provides the proof for the historical and geographical nature of Shri Ram’s lifestory and connects all these places through this cohesive thread of timeline.
Mandirs As Blueprints
Many places visited by Shri Ram still retain memories of His life. They are still identifiable and have continuing traditions in the form of temples with legends or folklore to commemorate Ram’s visit or events of His lifetime.
These mandirs can be classified as:
- Mandirs celebrating Shri Ram by commemorating specific events that happened there, such as
- The mandir at Ayodhya celebrating the birth of Shri Ram and His brothers
- Ram Sita Vivaha Mandir at Janakpur celebrating His marriage to Sita Devi
- Mandirs for Shri Ram, Lakshman and Sita Devi at Chitrakoot and Panchavati, Nasik, where they were together during most part of their 14 years exile
- Mandir for Jatayu’s takeoff at Lepakshi in Andhra
- Mandir for Jatayu Dahan by Shri Ram in Tiruputkuzhi, near Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, which is south east of Lepakshi
- Mandir for Shri Ram alone at Tirupullani by the sea near Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, where He underwent Tapas without food, lying on a bed of Darbha/Kusha grass for three nights to find a way to cross the sea
- Rameshwaram temple where Shri Ram with Sita Devi performed pooja for Shiva Linga after His victory over Ravana
- Devaprayag in the Himalaya where Shri Ram atoned for having killed Ravana and many others in the battle at Lanka
- Mandirs celebrating Shri Ram by commemorating overall aspects of Shri Ram or some of the important events in His life such as His birth, His marriage and His coronation including some that commemorate His walking into the Sarayu river at the end of His avatar. These are spread all over the land of Bharat.
We find a convergence of literature, geography, folklore, devotion and local tradition in these places.
Imprints on Memory and Culture
There are many great men with impeccable character across the history of the world – personages that one can call as Gunavaan. There are also many victorious Kings across the world who have won great battles.
This tradition of names and locations of places in itself provides the proof for the historical and geographical nature of Shri Rama’s lifestory and connects all these places through this cohesive thread of timeline
Why does Shri Ram alone stand out amongst many the Divinities and the many Avatara, as a personage with the epithet Maryada Purushottam, the ultimate in respectfulness?
What has made Him stand out and be continuously revered even across seven millennia?
However, this is not a question that has come up today. It is a similar question that was asked of Narada by Acharya Ratnakar i.e Maharishi Valmiki, over 7100 years ago too. His question was, “Was there someone on earth who had exemplified all characteristics that any human can ever bear?”. Out of this question emerged the answer that it was Shri Ram, who was living then, who possessed all such 16 possible gunas. It is to bring out these 16 gunas that Acharya Ratnakar started penning the Ramayan as a Itihasa, history in a poetic form. Shri Ram, through His life has relied on and showcased each of these guna, as He went about His Dharma in the various roles of a son, a brother, a student, a prince, a husband, an exile, a warrior, a king and father. Without these gunas, He could not have adhered to His Dharma and behaved as such.
Maryadha Purushottam Ram, the torchbearer of the 16 possible gunas that a human can conduct himself by, hence, also exemplifies the intertwined bridge between Dharma and Guna in each and every one of us.
It is this innate connection between Dharma and guna, with Shri Ram as a role model for the same, which has connected Shri Ram to everyone across Bharat and across the world too. It has kept Shri Ram relevant to the people of Bharat even across millennia. Another visual reminder of such an intertwined connection between Dharma and Guna can be seen in the 24 spoked Chakra at the centre of Bharat’s national flag. This wheel, called the Dharma Chakra, stands for the 24 dos and don’ts to be practiced, as one journeys through one’s life in alignment with Dharma.
Ramayan in different states
- Kashmiri Prakash Ram Kulgami (19th century CE), the devotional Kashmiri poet composed Ramayan, The Ramavatar Charit in the 19th century
- The earliest Ramayan in Bengali language was written by Mahakavi Krittivasa Ojha (1389 CE). Although he has drawn the basic thread of the story from Valmiki Ramayan, Krittivasa made some variations to suit local situations
- Bhatrihari’s Bhatti Kavya of 6th century CE, in Sanskrit, is believed to be the first work to commence from Gujarat on the life of Shri Ram. Ramarlila na pado, written by Aasait in the 14th century, is believed to be the first Ramayan in Gujarati language
- Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), born as Gobind Rai, was the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher. He narrated Ramayan in Chaubis Avtar, under the title of Ramavtar in Gurmukhi
- The earliest rendering of Shri Ram’s story in Kannada is in the Chavundaraya Purana, ascribable to circa 978 CE. Ramachandra Charita Purana, popularly known as Pampa Ramayan, was written by 11th century poet Nagachandra or Abhinava Pampa
- References of Ram can be found in Sangam literature, which is as antique as Valmiki Ramayan itself. A verse in Puranannuru collection talks about Sita’s abduction by Ravana. Kambar (1180– 1250 CE) was a medieval Tamil poet and the author of the Ramavataram, popularly known as Kamba Ramayanam, the Tamil version of the epic Ramayan.
- Sant Eknath (1533-1599 CE) was a Hindu saint, philosopher and poet. He wrote a variation of the epic Ramayan, known as Bhavarth Ramayan
It is this sublime aspect of Shri Ram showcasing a bridge between Dharma and guna, which has provided inspiration and content to so many poets and artists to convey the essence of good conduct and moral values
for generations. With each generation finding their own way to narrate and depict Shri Ram and His Ramayan, not only have they kept their bond with Shri Ram alive, they have also kept reemphasising this connection between Dharma and guna with which we live.
Shri Ram and His Ramayan have thus been keeping Bharat connected through its geography, history, traditions, values and Dharma for millennia.
The new temple at Ayodhya for Shri Ram will now ensure that this bandhan will continue for generations to come in future too!
New India is aspirational. It aspires as a nation for different aspects such as:
- Economical well being
- Good infrastructure
- Good Governance etc.
Apart from all this, one of the other aspirations at an individual level is also to ensure that each individual lives with good guna, good character. The template, as well as role model for these aspirations comes in the form of Shri Ram with all His 16 gunas. Shri Ram is truly an inspirational hero for inspirational Bharat. Shri Ram continues to show us how he has bridged lands across the seas, places across the land, people across generations and values across ages too!