By Swami Harshananda
The Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata are the two popular scriptures that have ruled the hearts for millennia. They have inspired innumerable writers, poets and artists to create marvellous works of literature and art based upon the themes drawn from their stories and personalities. One of the numerous Rāmāyaṇas that have sprung up in imitation of Vālmiki’s, is the Ānanda Rāmāyana.
It is sometimes said as Manohara-Ananda- Rāmāyana also. Though attributed by tradition to Vālmīki himself, it is obviously a late work, later than the Adhyātma Rāmāyana (14th cent. A.D.) also. The work comprises 12,323 verses spread over 109 sargas or chapters contained in nine kāṇdas or books. It is written in the form of a dialogue between Pārvatī and Śiva.
Śiva introduced another dialogue between the two sages Rāmadāsa and his disciple Viṣṇudāsa. A few innovations and many additions have been made to the original story as given in Vālmiki’s Rāmāyana. Perhaps, the book was written at the time when the Kṛṣṇa cults were becoming more popular, to reassert the glory and supremacy of Rāma. Though attempts have been made to establish the identity of the two incarnations and to foresee the events of Kṛṣṇāvatāra in Rāma’s story, the predisposition in favor of Rāma is obvious.
A brief summary of this work is as follows :
- Sārakānda - The first book is of 13 sargas and 2565 ślokas or verses. It summarizes the entire story of Vālmīki’s Rāmāyana, including Rāvaṇa’s story as given in the last book, Uttarakānda.
- The story of Rāvaṇa’s bringing the ātmaliriga of Śiva from Kailāśa and the liṅga being fixed to the ground at Gokarṇa due to the machinations of Viṣṇu in the guise of a brāhmaṇa boy appears in the 9th sarga.
- It describes the story of establishment of the liñga at Rāmeśvara.
- Other addition to the original story is humbling of Māruti’s pride, the slaying of Airāvaṇa and Mairāvaṇa (friends of Rāvaṇa from the nether world), the story of Kanyākumārī and the teaching of Catuśśloki Bhāgavata to Vyāsa by Nārada.
- Yātrākānda - The second book is of 9 sargas and 746 ślokas. It deals with the worship of the river Gañgā by Sītā, the story of the river Sarayu and about Rāma’s pilgrimage.
- Yāgakānda - The third book has 9 sargas and 628 ślokas. It describes the Aśvamedhayāga performed by Rāma along with Sītā.
- Vilāsakānda - The fourth book has 9 sargas and 676 ślokas. It describes the amorous sports of Rāma and Sītā.
- Subhajanmakānda or Janmakānda - The fifth book has 9 sargas and 804 ślokas. It deals with the story of the banishment of Sītā and the birth of Lava and Kuśa to Sītā. The interesting point to be noted are as follows :
- Rāma deliberately plans and enacts the drama of banishment
- Kuśa is the son born in the natural way to Sītā whereas another baby is created by Vālmīki out of ‘lava’ seeds (cloves or nutmeg) (hence named ‘Lava’) and infused with life and accepted by Sītā as her own son.
- A special vrata (religious rite) called ‘Samyogakaraṇavrata’ is performed by Sītā at the behest of Vālmīki.
- The famous Rāmaraksā Stotra forms part of the 5th sarga.
- Vivāhakānda - The sixth book has 9 sargas and 585 ślokas. It deals with the marriages of the predecessors of Lord Rāma.
- Kuśa married with Campikā and Lava with Sumati.
- Yupaketu (son of Śatrughna) married Madanasundarī (daughter of the King Kambukaṇtha).
- The last section deals with the mulamantra of Añjaneya.
- It describes the process of repeating it in order to get rid of the maladies due to diseases and evil spirits.
- Rājyakānda - The seventh book has 24 sargas and 2641 ślokas.
- It contains some miscellaneous topics like Rāmasahasranāma.
- The story of a dog and a sanyāsin who was given the ‘punishment’ of being made the head of a temple organization.
- The banning of laughter in his kingdom by Rāma
- The story of Vālmīki’s previous births
- Rāma teaching a lesson to Sītā
- Rāma’s discourses on dharma to his subjects.
- Manoharakānda - The eighth book has 18 sargas and 3101 ślokas.
- The penultimate book is the largest in volume and contains Rāma’s expounding spiritual truths to his mother Kauśalyā, Sumitrā and Kaikeyi, at their request.
- A number of hymns, technically called ‘kavaca’ (= armour) have been included in this section (Śrirāmakavaca, Hanumatkavaca, Sītākavaca and so on). A ritual recitation of these is said to fulfil any desire one cherishes.
- The 17th sarga gives the story of Rāmāyana in a nutshell and is called Sārarāmāyana.
- Purnakānda - The ninth book has 9 sargas and 577 ślokas.
- It is the smallest in size.
- It describes Rāma’s ascent to Vaikuṇṭha (the abode of Viṣṇu) as Viṣṇu after installing Kuśa on his throne as his successor.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore