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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Tamil Language & Literature > Kamba Ramayanam - கம்பராமாயணம்


Kamba Ramayanam: A Study  in English - V.V.S.Aiyar
R.A.Padmanabhan on V.V.S.Aiyar's Kamba Ramayanam
மகாவித்வான் ரா. இராகவையங்காரின் கவிச்சக்ரவர்த்தி கம்பர் - also in  pdf
Suki Sivam - Rama nATakam
Sivakumar narrates Ramayanam
On Epic Poet Kambar and the Kamba Rasam polemic of polymath Anna - Sachi Sri Kantha, 15 September 2007

Kamban Statue

Kamba Ramayanam at
in unicode

Kamba Ramayanam is divided into six chapters called Kandam(காண்டம்)  -  Bala Kandam (Chapter: Childhood; பால காண்டம்), Ayodhya Kandam (Chapter: Ayodhya; அயோத்யா காண்டம்),
Aranya Kandam (Chapter: Forest; ஆரண்ய காண்டம்)Kishkinta Kandam (Chapter: Kishkintha; கிஷ்கிந்த காண்டம்) , Sundara Kandam (Chapter: Beautiful; சுந்தர காண்டம்) , Yutha Kandam (Chapter: War; யுத்த காண்டம்) . The Kandams are further divided into 123 sections called Padalam (படலம்) . These 123 sections contains approximately 12,000 verses of the epic.

பால காண்டம்
1 ஆற்றுப் படலம்
2 நாட்டுப் படலம்
3 நகரப் படலம்
4 அரசியற் படலம்
5 திரு அவதாரப் படலம்
6 கையடைப் படலம்
7 தாடகை வதைப் படலம்
8 வேள்விப் படலம்
9 அகலிகைப் படலம்
10 மிதிலைக் காட்சிப் படலம்
11 குலமுறை கிளத்து படலம்
12 கார்முகப் படலம்
13 எழுச்சிப் படலம்
14 சந்திர சயிலப் படலம்
15 வரைப் காட்சிப் படலம்
16 பூக் கொய் படலம்
17 நீர் விளையாட்டுப் படலம்
18 உண்டாட்டுப் படலம்
19 எதிர்கொள் படலம்
20 உலாவியற் படலம்
21 கோலம் காண் படலம்
22 கடிமணப் படலம்
23 பரசுராமப் படலம்
அயோத்திய காண்டம்
1 மந்திரப் படலம்
2 மந்தரை சூழ்ச்சிப் படலம்
3 கைகேயி சூழ்வினைப் படலம்
4 நகர் நீங்கு படலம்
5 தைலம் ஆட்டு படலம்
6 கங்கைப் படலம்
7 குகப் படலம்
8 வனம் புகு படலம்
9 சித்திரகூடப் படலம்
10 பள்ளிபடைப் படலம்
11 ஆறு செல் படலம்
12 கங்கை காண் படலம்
13 திருவடி சூட்டு படலம்
ஆரணிய காண்டம்
1 விராதன் வதைப் படலம்
2 சரபங்கன் பிறப்ப நீங்கு படலம்
3 அகத்தியப் படலம்
4 சடாயு காண் படலம்
5 சூர்ப்பணகைப் படலம்
6 கரன் வதைப் படலம்
7 சூர்ப்பணகை சூழ்ச்சிப் படலம்
8 மாரீசன் வதைப் படலம்
9 இராவணன் சூழ்ச்சிப் படலம்
10 சடாயு உயிர் நீத்த படலம்
11 அயோமுகிப் படலம்
12 கவந்தன் படலம்
13 சவரி பிறப்பு நீங்கு படலம்
கிட்கிந்தா காண்டம்
 1. பம்பை வாவிப் படலம்
2 அனுமப் படலம்
3 நட்புக் கோட் படலம்
4 மராமரப் படலம்
5 துந்துபிப் படலம்
6 கலன் காண் படலம்
7 வாலி வதைப் படலம்
8 அரசியற் படலம்
9 கார்காலப் படலம்
10 கிட்கிந்தைப் படலம்
11 தானைகாண் படலம்
12 நாடவிட்ட படலம்
13 பிலன் புக்கு நீங்கு படலம்
14 ஆறுசெல் படலம்
15 சம்பாதிப் படலம்
16 மயோந்திரப் படலம்
சுந்தர காண்டம்
1 கடல் தாவு படலம்
2 ஊர் தேடு படலம்
3 காட்சிப் படலம்
4 உருக் காட்டு படலம்
5 சூடாமணிப் படலம்
6 பொழில் இறுத்த படலம்
7 கிங்கார் வதைப் படலம்
8 சம்புமாலி வதைப் படலம்
9 பஞ்ச சேனாதிபதிகள் வதைப் படலம்
10 அக்ககுமாரன் வதைப் படலம்
11 பாசப் படலம்
12 பிணி வீட்டு படலம்
13 இலங்கை எரியூட்டு படலம்
14 திருவடி தொழுத படலம்
யுத்த காண்டம்
1 கடல் காண் படலம்
2 இராவணன் மந்திரப் படலம்
3 இரணியன் வதைப் படலம்
4 வீடணன் அடைக்கலப் படலம
5 இலங்கை கேள்வி படலம்
6 வருணனை வழி வேண்டு படலம்
7 சேது பந்தனப் படலம்
8 ஒற்றுக் கேள்விப் படலம்
9 இலங்கை காண் படலம்
10 இராவணன் வானரத் காண் படலம்
11 மகுட பங்கப் படலம்
12 அணி வகுப்புப் படலம்
13 அங்கதன் தூதுப் படலம்
14 முதற்போர் புரி படலம்
15 கும்பகருணன் வதைப் படலம்
16 மாயா சனகப் படலம்  
17 அதிகாயன் வதைப் படலம்
18 நாகபாசப் படலம்
19 படைத் தலைவர் வதைப் படலம்
20 மகரக் கண்ணன் வதைப் படலம்
21 பிரமாத்திரப் படலம்
22 சீதை களம் காண் படலம
23 மருத்துமலைப் படலம்
24 களியாட்டுப் படலம்
25 மாயா சீதைப் படலம்
26 நிகும்பலை யாகப் படலம்
27 இந்திரசித்து வதைப் படலம்
28 இராவணன் சோகப் படலம்
29 படைக் காட்சிப் படலம்
30 மூலபல வதைப் படலம்
31 வேல் ஏற்ற படலம்
32 வானரர் களம் காண் படலம்
33 இராவணன் களம் காண் படலம்
34 இராவணன் தேர் ஏறு படலம்
35 இராமன் தேர் ஏறு படலம்
36 இராவணன் வதைப் படலம்
37 மீட்சிப் படலம்
38 திரு முடி சூட்டு படலம்
39 விடை கொடுத்த படலம
கம்பர் இயற்றிய சரஸ்வதி அந்தாதி & சடகோபர் அந்தாதி
Kavicakravarti Kamban, (9th Century A.D)
Kambar at Wikipedia
கம்ப ராமாயணம் - மூலம், உரை, மொழிபெயர்ப்பு
Kamba Ramayanam at Forumhub "This is an effort to learn Kamba Ramayanam in an interactive manner, posting and discussing verses each day.."
மறைந்து போன தமிழ் நூல்கள் - பழைய இராமாயணம்

Sangam Ambivalence in the Kamparamayanam - George L. Hart, University of California, Berkeley, 2006

*R.K.Narayan: The Ramayana � A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic in English
* Kamba Ramayana in English - N.S. Jagannathan (Editor), P.S. Sundaram (Translator)
* Kamba Ramayanam: An English prose rendering -  H. V Hande "The Ramayana is not a mere 'story' nor is it a mere 'epic poem'. Sri Rama is both God and man. As Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo has declared, "The Ramayana is at once history, legend and a poem unmatchably sublime, supremely artistic and magnificently dramatic." Valmeeki, the adikavi, has inspired the poets of this sacred land to retell Rama's glorious life in their respective tongues. Kavicakravarti Kamban's Ramavataram, Rama's story in six books, is both a landmark in the history of Tamil literature and an exemplary literary masterpiece. There are few lovers of Tamil who have not been entranced by its beauty of expression, richness of imagery and ethical grandeur. Shri V.V.S. Iyer, the great revolutionary patriot, would claim for Kamban's Ramavataram an 'individuality' distinct from Valmeeki's. He confidently asserts that Kamban's Ramavataram will stand favourable comparison with the Mahabharata, too. He also avers that it excels  Homer's celebrated Iliad,  Virgil's Aeneid and Milton's Paradise Lost."

in baamini font

Dr. David Shulman on Kamba Ramayana
Kamba Ramayana: A study - V.V.S.Aiyar

Ramayana Stories
in Modern South India: An Anthology

-Paula Richman Kamba Ramayana தக்கை இராமாயணம் - with Commentary by Na Ganesan

Valmiki Ramayana in English

Stamp in Honour of Kamban
Indian Stamp in honour of Kambar
5 April 1966


Kamba Ramayanam

Kavichakravati Kamban
Kavichakravati Kamban, 900AD

"It is not easy to convince the literary world at this late hour of the day that there is, unsuspected by the greater part of it, a Tamil poet who is worthy to take rank with the greatest names in literature. It is, however, my purpose in this book to make an attempt to prove that in the Ramayana of Kamban the world possesses an epic which can challenge comparison not merely with the 'Iliad' and the 'Aeneid', the 'Paradise Lost' and the 'Mahabharata', but with its original itself, namely, the 'Ramayana' of Valmiki. This is not the language of mere patriotic enthusiasm. It is an opinion that has grown slowly with the years and after deep and careful study. And I hope to make the impartial reader rise from the study of this monograph with a conviction of the truth of my contention and with a desire to know more of the poet than what he will see exhibited within the pages of this volume...I spoke of Valmiki's work as the original of Kamban's Ramayana. But Kamban has not translated Valmiki. He has merely taken the story immortalised by the Aryan sage and, though he has followed it closely enough in all its details, has written an entirely original poem. Bentley said of Pope's Iliad', 'It is a pretty poem, but you must not call it Homer.' Of Kamban's Ramayana we should say reversing the language, it is not Valmiki Ramayana, but it is a grander poem.'  Kamba Ramayanam: A Study  in English - V.V.S.Aiyar

Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்)
in Professor.C.R.Krishnamurthy's
Thamizh Literature Through the Ages

Kamba Ramayana

Kampan (கம்பன்)
Background to Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்) 
Kampan's Philosophy
The story of rAmAyaNam (ராமாயணம்)
Versions of Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்)
Salient Features of Kampa rAmAyaNam
Kampan's concept of the Divine
Kampan's concept of virtue (அறம்)
Love redefined
Love (காதல்)
Chastity (கற்பு)  
SIthai, the Queen of chastity. (கற்புக்கரசி)
Universal Brotherhood (சகோதரத்துவம்)
Kampan and VAlmIki (வால்மீகி)

Kampan (கம்பன்)

For almost 400 years the Thamizh people were literally under the spell of the Bhakthi movement fully engorged with the heart rendering devotional poems of the n^AyanmArkaL and AzhvArkaL. From the middle of the ninth century the ChOzha Kings in ThanjAvUr  (தஞ்சாவூர்) were gaining supremacy. The whole of the kAviri (காவிரி) delta was studded with big and small temples devoted to either Sivan or VishNu. It would be fair to say that the Buddhists and the Jains completely lost their influence and more or less disappeared from the scene. This left the field open for the two main Hindu sects to consolidate their popularity among the people.

The reign of the ChOzha Kingss extended approximately till the end of the 13th century. With their headquarters located in and around ThanjAvUr they ruled the fertile delta formed by the river kAviri and its tributaries, a rich rice growing area  (சோழவள நாடுசோறுடைத்து). The ChOzha Kings were renowned for their contribution to the temple architecture with the characteristically shaped towers (கோபுரங்கள்) at the four entrances. People of Thamizh origin owe their present legacy of music, dance and literature largely to the ChOzha Kings under whose patronage they flourished.

The ThanchAvUr big temple is a magnificent masterpiece of Thamizh architecture and is now preserved as a national monument.

Thanjavur Big Temple

Every year it is visited by millions of tourists for its architectural splendour. It is unfortunate that a big fire which broke up during the renovation ceremony (கும்பாபிஷேகம்)  in 1977 caused loss of several lives. It is my understanding that the damage was restricted to temporary structures constructed for the occasion. In this fertile ChOzha Kingdom was born Kampan (கம்பன்) who made Thamizh literary history with his epic, rAmAyaNam (ராமாயணம்). 

In spite of his fame and glory as the author of a great Thamizh literatury piece, all other aspects of his personal life including his real name, the place and date of his birth and his religion are topics of controversy. Kampan is believed to be the son of a priest (உவச்சன்) in a KALi (காளி) temple.

Periodic conferences of scholars had been held to discuss Kampan's dates exclusively. Critically analyzing all the available evidence, wading through inconsistencies and discrepancies in the dates of contemporary Kings, patrons and poets and sorting out interpolations from the main text based on their style, Zvelebil (1995) has suggested two probable dates for Kampan, 855 or 1185 A.D. This will correspond to the reign of utthama ChOzhan(உத்தம சோழன்)or KulOthunka ChOzhan III (குலோத்துங்க சோழன்).

An anonymous poem states that Kampan presented his rAmAvathAram (ramavtarmf) in the Thamizh month of Pankuni (பங்குனி) in the year 807 of the Saka (சக) calendar. This is equivalent to 895 A.D. in the Christian calendar. According to the following anonymous poem, Kampan made his presentation in Thiruvarangam  (திருவரங்கம்) in the presence of his patron, Satayappa VaLLal (சடையப்ப வள்ளல்) of ThiruveNNai n^allUr  (திருவெண்ணெய் நல்லூர்)

எண்ணிய சகாத்தம் எண்ணூற்று
ஏழின்மேல் சடையன் வாழ்வு
நண்ணிய வெண்ணெய் நல்லூர்
தன்னிலே கம்பநாடன்
பண்ணிய இராம காதை
பங்குனி அத்தநாளில்
கண்ணிய அரங்கர் முன்னே
கவி அரங் கேற்றினானே.

Other works attributed to Kampan are Sarasvathi an^thAthi (சரஸ்வதி அந்தாதி) , SatakOpar an^thAthi (சடகோபர் அந்தாதி) , Erezhupathu (ஏரெழுபத்து) and Thirukkai Vazhakkam (திருக்கை வழக்கம்). His extraordinary skill in the epic narration type poems and devotion to ThirumAl have earned him the prestigious titles of Kampa n^AttAzhvAR (கம்பநாட்டாழ்வார்), kampa n^Adudaiya VaLLal (கம்பநாடுடைய வள்ளல்) and the 'learned Kampan' (கல்வியிற் பெரியவன் கம்பன்)

It is said that even inanimate objects in Kampan's house are capable of composing poems (கம்பன் வீட்டுக் கட்டுத்தறியும் கவிபாடும்). In recent times, SubrAmaNiya BhArathiyAr (Cpfpirm]iy partiyarf) paid the highest complement possible by saying that to the best of his knowledge, poets like Kampan, VaLLuvar or iLangO have not been born anywhere in the whole world (யாமறிந்த புலவர்களிலே கம்பனைப்போல், வள்ளுவர்போல், இளங்கோவைப்போல் பூ மிதனில் யாங்கணுமே பிறந்ததில்லை).

Background to Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்) 

Setting aside the contradictory views on Kampan's specific dates, a more pertinent and rather intriguing question is why Kampan, endowed with an extraordinary talent to write an epic of his own imagination, chose to rewrite an ithikAsam (இதிகாசம்)  , rAmAyaNam, very well known to Thamizh since the Sangam period. Though one will never know Kampan's own reason, certain speculations had been made by scholars. The views of Professor GnAna Sampan^than (அ.சு. ஞானசம்பந்தன்) (1993) appear logical and deserve serious consideration.

During the days of the n^AyanmArkaL and AzhvArkaL it is no exaggeration that a devotional wave was spreading through the Thamizh country side. Extreme devotion to anything, however sacred it may be, is not conducive for the stimulation of open discussion or for a critical or unbiased analysis of alternate ideologies. This is particularly true of religious dogmas.

After the exit of the Buddhists and Jains from the scene, the devotees of the VishNu and Saiva groups indulged in attempts to establish their respective sectarian superiority. With the momentum of the Bhakthi movement slowing down, rivalry between the two groups grew worse. Though the spell of the devotional music still lingered, the underlying principles of the prayers and idol worships were forgotten in the medley of sectarian views. Creeds were valued more than principles. TholkAppiar's definition of clandestine love (களவியல்) with reference to the role of unchaste women (பரத்தையர்) was probably misconstrued for legitimacy of the evil practice. The advice of the Buddhist and Jain monks on the control of the five senses (ஐம்புலனடக்கம்) for a spiritual life was not heeded. ThiruvaLLuvar's teachings on virtues also fell on deaf ears. 

The chastity of KaNNaki, the fidelity of MAdhavi and the renunciation of MaNimEkalai remained only as fictional entities. To add to these perversions of individuals, the four Thamizh Kings, who spoke the same language, indulged in constant wars to expand their territory. The killing of Thamizh by Thamizh became the order of the day. Bravery, heroism and valour lost their sanctity. In general, there appeared to be an overall deterioration in the virtuous conduct of the people. Though the temples offered an ideal location for spiritual uplift and promotion of music and dance, the discipline of the mind by the people, at large, did not materialize. It is at this juncture Kampan appeared on the scene with a different strategy to inculcate virtuosity in the conduct of people.

Kampan's Philosophy

Regardless of whether the above summary of events paints an accurate picture of the social and cultural developments at the time, a study of the literature, which is generally regarded as an excellent window of its people, would lend support to such a contention. It is therefore likely that Kampan, who has been described as 'learned' both by his own peers and successors, would have observed the forces which were weakening his society. Being a scholar he was perhaps aware that great and powerful empires and civilizations in the world have crumbled, when people indulged in excesses and deviated from the moral pathway. Being proud of the richness and antiquity of his language, he could not tolerate such a tragedy happening to his own people.

Prompted by these considerations, Kampan thought it appropriate, it seems, to write a literary piece, which would improve the situation. This would give him ample scope to emphasize the excellence of virtuosity, chastity, brotherhood and the oneness of the Absolute Being. To accomplish this objective, he chose the story of rAman (ram[f) which was already very popular among Thamizh people. As an idealist he realized that the story offered him the latitude to introduce his own brand of ethical instructions which would supplement the earlier efforts of ThiruvaLLuvar and iLango atikaL. Without changing the main story he was in a position to mould it to satisfy the literary and religious tastes of the Thamizh community. In this respect, his knowledge of Sanskrit enabled him to study and appreciate the subtleties in the original text by VAlmIki (வால்மீகி).

The story of rAmAyaNam (ராமாயணம்)

King Dasarathan (தசரதன்) , the ruler of ayOdhya, had 3 wives, KOsalai (கோசலை) , KaikEyi (கைகேயி)and Sumitthirai (சுமித்திரை) KOsalai had one son, rAman (ராமன்) KaikEyi had one, Bharathan(பரதன்) ; and Sumitthirai had the twins, lakshmaNan (இலட்சுமணன்)and Satthurukkanan (சத்துருக்கனன்).

When rAman was crowned as the prince, a hunch backed maid , KUni (கூனி) spoiled the mind of KaikEyi who trapped King Dasarathan into yielding to her boon, that rAman should be sent to the forest for 14 years while Bharathan, her own son should become the King. rAman followed by his wife, SIthai (சீதை) and one of the twin brothers, lakshmaNan, proceeded to the forest as per the wishes of KaikEyi and King Dasarathan. Unable to bear the injustice he had done, the King died. During their exile in the forest, the ten headed King , rAvaNan (இராவணன்) from the island of ilankai (இலங்கை) , got infatuated with the beauty of SIthai, cunningly abducted her to the island and forced her to love him.

Raman & the Golden Deer

Kamba RamayanamSIthai maintained her chastity in the midst of untold misery in the confinement of rAvaNan's garden. With the help of Kuhan, (குகன்)Hanuman (அனுமன்), SugrIvan (சுக்ரீவன்) and others, rAman found out where SIthai was held captive and, after a fierce battle, rescued her from the clutches of rAvaNan. rAman returned to ayOdhya with everyone and was crowned as the King. For a detailed and excellent version of the story, rAjagOpAlAchAriyAr's (ராஜாஜி) rAmAyaNam may be consulted.

Versions of Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்)

The compilation of any ancient literary work has always been confronted with the problem of weeding out interpolations (இடைச்செருகல்) and addenda. The existence of different versions (பாடபேதங்கள்)  add further to the difficulties.

Thanks to the efforts of Kampan Academy (கம்பன் கழகம்), Chennai, a committee of scholars was set up who were able to complete this difficult job under the chairmanship of Professor T.P.MInAtchi sun^tharan (தெ.பொ.மீனாட்சிசுந்தரன்). The result is the publication of "Kampa rAmAyaNam" in 1976 which serves as the standard authority commonly used at present. The revival of interest in Kampa rAmAyaNam is evident by the organization in several towns of annual debates and discussion groups in which reputed scholars participate. Some people believe that Kampar's adoration of rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl perpetuates caste differences.

The book has 6 chapters (காண்டங்கள்) : BAla KAndam (pal) , ayOdhyA KAndam (அயோத்தியா) , AraNya KAndam (ஆரண்ய) , KitkindhA kAndam (கிட்கிந்தா), Sun^thara KAndam (சுந்தர), and yuttha KAndam (யுத்த).

Each KAndam is divided into a number of sections (படலம்). There are 118 sections which collectively contain approximately 12000 poems. Kampan has elegantly employed the viruttham (விருத்தம்) meter in his compositions. Kampan's ability to use the san^tham (சந்தம்) in its varied dimensions to express human emotions faithfully adds colour to his poems and sets a musical flow to his verses. For example, the way Hanuman saw the withering SIthai in rAvaNan's garden (அசோகவனம்) is an example of the poet's tremendous capacity to capture thoughts and actions through san^thams and meticulous choice of words:

விழுதல், விம்முதல், மெய்உற வெதும்புதல், வெருவல்,
எழுதல், ஏங்குதல், இரங்குதல், இராமனை எண்ணித்
தொழுதல், சோருதல், துளங்குதல், துயர் உழந்து உயிர்த்தல்,
அழுதல், அன்றி மற்று அயல் ஒன்றும் செய்குவது அறியாள்.

Salient Features of Kampa rAmAyaNam

The noteworthy feature of Kampan's work is that his style is simple, yet very appealing. There is no need for frequent references in the dictionary (அகராதி). As an idealist and a humanist he takes every opportunity to express his philosophy in clear terms. His casting of specific characters to portray the trait(s) he wished to emphasize and the way that trait is maintained throughout the play are examples of his brilliant mind and well conceived plan to convey his message.

Kampan's concept of the Divine   

It is true that, unlike VAlmIki (வால்மீகி) , Kampan regarded rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl (திருமால்).. However, he used the name ThirumAl, in its broadest sense to refer to the Supreme or Absolute Being. Even at the outset he had expressed his secular views very clearly as seen in the invocation given below. Inded he followed ThiruvaLLuvar in this regard by first paying homage to the Divine (மெய் உணர்வு) , then to learned people (நீத்தார் பெருமை) and finally to the ascetics (அறவோர்):

உலகம் யாவையும் தாம்உள வாக்கலும்
நிலை பெறுத்தலும் நீக்கலும் நீங்கலா
அலகு இலா விளையாட்டு உடையார் - அவர்
தலைவர், அன்னவர்க்கே சரண் நாங்களே.
(அலகு இலா= முடிவில்லாத)

சிற்குணத்தார் தெரிவு அரு நல் நிலை
எற்கு உணர்த்த அரிது, எண்ணிய முன்றனுள்
முற்குணத்தவரே முதலோர் அவர்
நற்குணக் கடல் ஆடுதல் நன்று அரோ.

(சிற்குணத்தார்= ஞானிகள், எற்கு = எனக்கு, முற்குணத்தவர் = சத்துவகுணம் உடையோர்)

ஆதி, அந்தம், அரி என யாவையும்
ஓதினார், அலகு இல்லன உள்ளன
வேதம் என்பன மெய்ந்நெறி நன்மையான்
பாதம் அல்லது பற்றிலர் பற்று இலார்.
(பாயிரம் 1-3)

Kampan's concept of the Divine is beautifully expressed through the words of rAvaNan after his first encounter with rAman in the battle field. After getting a taste of rAman's strength, the almost invincible rAvaNan says that the man he fought with was not Sivan or PirAman or ThirumAl but someone above all of them, the Ultimate or Absolute Being described in the VEdhAs (வேதமுதல்வன்) :

சிவனோ அல்லன், நான்முகன் அல்லன், திருமாலாம்
அவனோ அல்லன் மெய்வரம் எல்லாம் அடுகின்ன்
தவனோ என்னின் செய்து முடிக்கும் தரன் அல்லன்
இவனோதான் அவ்வேத முதல் காரணன் என்ன்.
(இராவணன்வதைப்படலம் 134.)

In describing the course of the river, Sarayu (சரயு)  Kampan introduces another profound concept as if to appease the religious tensions prevailing at the time. He states that the big expanse of the river initially arises as trickles from among the rocks, gathers more and more water all along before joining the sea. The simile he employs is that the big river that flows through many villages and towns with different names has only one origin. This resembles the Absolute Being, that cannot be described fully by the Scriptures but is sought by different religions under different names, is ultimately only one. The following lines illustrate Kampan's religious broad mindedness and universal views of the Supreme Being.

கல்லிடைப் பிறந்து போந்து, கடலிடைக் கலந்த நீத்தம்,
எல்லை இல் மறைகளாலும் இயம்ப அரும்பொருள் ஈது, என்னத்
தொல்லையில் ஒன்றே ஆகி, துறைதொறும் பரந்த சூழ்ச்சிப்
பல் பெருஞ் சமயம் சொல்லும் பொருளும் போல் பரந்தது அன்றே.
(ஆற்றுப்படலம் 19)
(நீத்தம் = வெள்ளம்)

The manner in which Kampan expresses his acknowledgement to VAlmIki in the following verse shows the humility one could expect only from a person of Kampan's high moral caliber. He states in the invocation that, of the three poets, VAlmIki, (வால்மீகி), Vacittar, (வசிட்டர்), BhOdhAyanar, (போதாயனர்), who wrote the story of rAman in Sanskrit, he followed the first author, VAlmIki, for his Thamizh version.

தேவபாடையின் இக்கதை செய்தவர்
முவர் ஆனவர் தம்முளும் முந்திய
நாவினான் உரையின்படி நான் தமிழ்ப்
பாவினால் இது உணர்த்திய பண்பு அரோ.
(பாயிரம் 10)

Kampan's concept of virtue (அறம்)

When he describes the place, the people, the King and his ministers, Kampan's idealism comes to play immediately. He portrays that both the people and the rulers lead a virtuous life with tranquillity and peace. Right in the beginning Kampan does not waste any time in driving home his first message of control of the five senses. The river, Sarayu, he says, flows through the beautiful KOsala country, where people have complete discipline over their five senses so that they do not let their passions carried away by the dazzling eyes of (unchaste) women :

ஆசலம்புரி ஐம்பொறி வாளியும்
காசு அலம்பு முலையவர் கண் எனும்
பூசல் அம்பும், நெறியின் புறம் செலாக்
கோசலம் புனை ஆற்று அணி கூறுவாம்.
(ஆற்றுப்படலம் 1)
(ஆசலம்புரி = மிக குற்றம் செய்கின்ற)

Describing the kind of people in that country, Kampan uses his imagination and creates an ideal society where there is no philanthropy because there is no one to accept; there is no heroism because there are no enemies, there is no such thing as truth because no one utters lies; there is no ignorance because everybody is well read:

வண்மை இல்லை ஓர் வறுமை இன்மையால்
திண்மை இல்லை ஓர் செறுநர் இன்மையால்
உண்மை இல்லை பொய் உரை இலாமையால்
வெண்மை இல்லை பல கேள்வி மேவலால்.
(நகரப்படலம் 53)
(செறுநர்= பகைவர். வெண்மை =அறியாமை)

Kampan continues his concept of the ideal society by stating the attributes of King Dasarathan; he loved his subjects like a mother; his actions were always directed towards their welfare; he lead them like a son along the right path. he punished them like disease without showing favouritism; he served as their spiritual head by leading them with his wisdom and behaviour:

தாய் ஒக்கும் அன்பின், தவம் ஒக்கும் நலம் பயப்பின்
சேய் ஒக்கும் முன் நின்று ஒரு செல்கதி உய்க்கும் நீரால்
நோய் ஒக்கும் என்னின் மருந்து ஒக்கும் நுணங்கு கேள்வி
ஆயப்புகுங்கால் அறிவு ஒக்கும் - எவர்க்கும் அன்னான்.
(அரசியற் படலம் 4)

Love redefined

The most significant contribution Kampan made to Thamizh literature and to humanity, in general, is his definition and clarification of love (அன்பு)  . This word, unfortuntely, has been grossly misused, in recent years in a restricted sense or confused to denote only the physical aspects of love.

According to Kampan, love refers to deep devotion or faith with perfect fusion of the minds. If this love is directed towards the Divine (பக்தி, தூயஅன்பு) , it becomes extremely unselfish and absolute. Love towards other human beings is mixed with varying degrees of selfishness. Love which comes close to divine love is that of the mother to the child (தாய் அன்பு); love between man and woman is (காதல்); love between brothers or family members is pAsam (பாசம்); love between friends is natpu (நட்பு). Kampan exploited the characters in rAmAyaNam to emphasize these subtle differences as described below.

a. Love (காதல்)

Kampan demonstrated his concept of love and chastity between man and woman using rAman and SIthai as the ideal couple; he used rAvaNan as an example of a very learned man degrading himself with infatuation (காமம்) with somebody else's wife. Perhaps this is Kampan's way of disagreeing with previous references to unchaste women (பரத்தையர்) in the literature by married men. In the following poem, Kampan describes the feelings of love that developed spontaneously between rAman and SIthai. When their eyes met, says Kampan, there was fusion between their feelings (நிலைபெது உணர்வும் ஒன்றிட). As if to reemphasize the point, he added that because their minds fused with each other, there was mutual exchange of their hearts (உள்ளம் ஈர்த்தலால் மாறிப்புக்கு இதயம் எய்தினர்):

எண்ண அரு நலத்தினாள் இனையள் நின்றுழி
கண்ணொடு கண் இணை கவ்வி, ஒன்றை ஒன்று
உண்ணவும், நிலைபெது உணர்வும் ஒன்றிட
அண்ணலும் நோக்கினான், அவளும் நோக்கினாள்.

பருகிய நோக்கு எனும் பாசத்தால் பிணித்து
ஒருவரை ஒருவர்தம் உள்ளம் ஈர்த்தலால்
வரி சிலை அண்ணலும் வாள்கண் நங்கையும்
இருவரும் மாறிப் புக்கு, இதயம் எய்தினார்.
(மிதிலைக்காட்சிப் படலம் 35,37)

b. Chastity (கற்பு)

The two significant lessons from Kampan's story are the value of chastity in both man and woman and the concept of one man, one woman in marital life. These are brought about in SIthai's own words, when Hanuman met her in rAvaNan's palace garden, asOka Vanam. These words were spoken when Hanuman asked SIthai whether she had any specific message for rAman. "Please tell rAman that I still remember the promise that he made on the eve of our marriage that he will not see another woman even through his mind", she said. This is how high and noble one could get in married life.

வந்து எனைக் கரம் பற்றிய வைகல்வாய்
இந்த, இப்பிறவிக்கு இரு மாதரைச்
சிந்தையாலும் தொடேன், என்ற செவ்வரம்
தந்த வார்த்தை திருச் செவி சாற்றுவாய்

SIthai then reiterated her own steadfastness by saying that if, by chance, she died in captivity, the only thing she would pray was that she should be born again and rAman should come back and touch her body:

ஈண்டு நான் இருந்து, இன் உயிர் மாயினும்
மீண்டு வந்து பிறந்து, தன் மேனியைத்
தீண்டலாவது ஓர் தீவினை தீர் வரம்
வேண்டினாள், தொழுது, என்று விளம்புவாய்.
(சூடாமணிப்படலம் 34-35)

c. SIthai, the Queen of chastity. (கற்புக்கரசி)

Not satisfied with his efforts to stress the value of chastity, Kampan once again makes Hanuman to reinforce his points in the course of his report to rAman of what he saw in asOka Vanam and how SIthai was getting along. Hanuman said, " I did see SIthai with my very eyes; I did see SIthai, the embodiment of chastity, across the sea in ilankai. Please forget your sorrow and doubts".

கண்டனென், கற்பினுக்கு அணியை, கண்களால்
தெண்திரை அலைகடல் இலங்கைத் தென் நகர்
அண்டர் நாயக இனீ துறத்தி, ஐயமும்
பண்டு உள துயரும், என்று அனுமன் பன்னுவான்.

To assure rAman that SIthai had not changed at all during her confinement, Hanuman continued, " Her behaviour was impeccable becoming of your wife, becoming of the daughter-in-law of King Dasarathan and becoming of the daughter of the King of Mithilai Janakan. Please rest assured she is all right".

உன்பெருந் தேவி என்னும் உரிமைக்கும், உன்னைப்பெற்ற
மன் பெரு மருகி என்னும் வாய்மைக்கும், மிதிலை மன்னன்
தன்பெருந் தனயை என்னும் தகைமைக்கும் தலைமை சான்ள்
என்பெருந் தெய்வம் ஐயா இன்னமும் கேட்டி என்பான்.
(திருவடி தொழுத படலம் 25,26.)

d. Universal Brotherhood (சகோதரத்துவம்)

To demonstrate his vision of universal brotherhood, Kampan drew examples from rAman's own family as well as from that of rAvaNan. After rAman's departure to the forest, Bharathan, who was away at the time, returned to ayOdhya and found out what happened. Along with his step mother, KOsalai, Bharathan decided to follow rAman and plead with him to return. Kuhan, the hunter, helped Bharathan and his retinue to cross the river in his boats. Kuhan bowed towards the magnanimous lady in the boat and asked Bharathan who she was. In Bharathan's reply Kampan packed deep emotions, remorse and brotherly love in three short sentences: "She is the senior wife of the King of kings, Dasarathan and the unfortunate mother of the great rAman, a treasure which she has lost because I was born."

சுற்றத்தார் தேவரொடும் தொழ நின்ற
கோசலையைத் தொழுது நோக்கி
கொற்றத்தார்க் குரிசில் இவர் ஆர் என்று
குகன் வினவ கோக்கள் வைகும்
முற்றத்தான் முதல்தேவி, முன்று
உலகம் ஈன்னை முன் ஈன்னைப்
பெற்றத்தால் பெரும் செல்வம், யான்
பிறத்தலால் துறந்த பெரியாள் என்ன்.
(கங்கைகாண் படலம் 64)

rAman's friendship knew no boundaries and did not discriminate between friends or enemies. He did not even exclude members from the monkey family or the demon family if his friendship was sought with sincerity. He first embraced Kuhan (குகன்) , who was an illiterate belonging to a low caste; then he embraced SugrIvan (சுக்ரீவன்), the monkey King who was ill treated by his brother, VAli (வாலி); finally he accepted VibIdaNan (விபீடணன்), the brother of RAvaNan. To make it more effective, Kampan made these words come directly from rAman when VibIdaNan (விபீடணன்)  sought refuge with him. rAman said: " In my family there were four brothers; with Kuhan we became five; when SugrIvan, the King of mountains joined us we became six; now you have come to us with great love and affection so that we are now seven. Our father will certainly be proud of us". 

குகனொடும் ஐவர் ஆனேம் முன்பு, பின் குன்று சூழ்வான்
மகனொடும் அறுவர் ஆனேம், எம்முழை அன்பின் வந்த
அகன் அமர் காதல் ஐய நின்னொடும் எழுவர் ஆனேம்
புகல் அரும் கானம் தந்து புதல்வரால் பொலிந்தான் நுந்தை.

Going to rAvaNan's camp, one finds the same kind of deep attachment of the two brothers, VibIdaNan and KumpakaruNan (கும்பகருணன்) both of whom tried their utmost to put some sense into their brother's head in vain. VibIdaNan tries his best to persuade KumbakaruNan to leave rAvaNan and join RAman in the name of virtue. In a few moving passages, Kampan packed all the emotions associated with the conflicts in their values namely: their helplessness in correcting their brother's sinful actions; their acceptance of the inevitable situation gracefully; finally their parting from each other, realizing at the same time, that this is going to mark the end of their brotherly relationship.

In responses to VibIdaNan's plea, KumpakaruNan, who was himself a very learned man said, " In order to enjoy the transient worldly pleasures, I have been brought up by our brother, who fed me, clothed me and prepared me for the war; my duty therefore is to be on his side; I would rather die on his behalf instead of fleeing to the other side; my dear brother, do not worry about me; please go and join rAman as quickly as you can".

நீர்க்கோல வாழ்வை நச்சி நெடிது நாள் வளர்த்துப் பின்னைப்
போர்க்கோலம் செய்து விட்டார்க்கு உயிர் கொடாது, அங்குப்போகேன்
தார்க்கோல மேனி மைந்த என் துயர் தவிர்த்தி ஆகின்
கார்க்கோல மேனியானைக் கூடுதி கடிதின் ஏகி.
(கும்பகருணன் வதைப்படலம் 155.)

KumpakaruNan then becomes philosophical and says " When the time comes, everything has to come to an end no matter how badly one may cherish it; there is no one who appreciates this truth more than you; please do not feel sorry for me".

ஆகுவது ஆகும், காலத்து, அழிவதும் அழிந்து சிந்திப்
போகுவது, அயலே நின்று போற்றினும், போதல் திண்ணம்
சேகு அறத் தெளிந்தோர் நின்னில் யார் உளர்? வருத்தம் செய்யாது
ஏகுதி எம்மை நோக்கி இரங்கலை, என்றும் உள்ளாய்.

In the following poem, the parting embraces of the two brothers, the hesitating slow retreat of VibIdaNan, his eyes full of tears, leaving his brother with 'a longing lingering look behind' are described. The thought that this would mark the end of his brotherly relationship ran through VibIdaNan's mind.

என்று, அவன்தன்னை மீட்டும் எடுத்து, மார்பு இறுகப் புல்லி
நின்று நின்று, இரங்கி ஏங்கி, நிறை கணால் நெடிது நோக்கி
இன்�டும் தவிர்ந்தது அன்றே, உடன் பிறப்பு என்று விட்டான்
வென்றி வெந் திறலினானும், அவன் அடித்தலத்து வீழ்ந்தான்
(கும்பகருணன்வதைப்படலம் 166-167)

e. Forgiveness

One of the noblest qualities of man is forgiveness which had been described as 'divine'. rAman's magnanimity is revealed when, at the close of the first day of the battle, he found rAvaNan exhausted and said, " What a man you are! You are shattered like the petals of the pULai flower (பூளைப்பூ) ; you better go away today and come back tomorrow to resume our fight."

ஆள் ஐயா உனக்கு அமைந்தன மாருதம் அறைந்த
பூ ளை ஆயின கண்டனை, இன்று போய், போர்க்கு
நாளை வா என நல்கினன் நாகு இளங் கமுகின்
வாளை தாவுறு கோசல நாடுடைய வள்ளல்
(முதற் போர் புரி படலம் 255.)

When Dasarathan was sent down from heaven to appease rAman, he requested his son to ask for a boon. Anxious to have his step mother, KaikEyi, forgiven for all she had done, rAman realized that, if he asked his father directly to excuse KaikEyi, he would not comply with his request. He, therefore, requested Dasarathan, " I want the one person whom you abandoned as wicked to be my mother whom I worship; I also want your son, Bharathan, to be my brother again." Lesser mortals than rAman would not have asked for forgiveness for a person like KaikEyi.

ஆயினும் உனக்கு அமைந்தது ஒன்று உரை என அழகன்
தீயள் என்று நீ துறந்த என் தெய்வமும் மகனும்
தாயும் தம்பியும் ஆம் வரம் தருக எனத்தாழ்ந்தான்
வாய் திறந்து எழுந்து ஆர்த்தன உயிர் எல்லாம்.
(மீட்சிப் படலம் 128)

f. Kampan and VAlmIki (வால்மீகி)

Though Kampan followed the original story by VAlmIki, he certainly did not choose to undertake a translation of the same for two reasons.

First he knew that, in general, translations never have the same impact on people as the originals.

Secondly, by choosing the popular VAlmIki's story, Kampan was in a position to introduce his own ethical messages to his society in a smooth manner. By keeping the main story intact there was enough latitude for him to change the scenario to suit his own cultural environment. For example he depicted rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl because that was the accepted trend during the days of the Bhakthi movement. Throughout the story, however, he maintained that by using the latter name he was in reality referring to the Divine.

Secondly small changes in the story put him in a better position to project the weakness of his society, as he perceived them. Over indulgence in sensual pleasures, the role of unchaste women in the society, the lack of seriousness in observing chastity in both males and females and above all, a general deterioration in moral standards were some of the observations he wished to address with VAlmIki's story as his background. With this end in mind he had removed, added or modified sections of the original story as he thought fit.


In conclusion, Kampan made intelligent use of VAlmIki's story, introduced appropriate changes in accordance with the tradition and culture of the Thamizh people and presented his own ideologies to rectify social problems.

To reduce the sectarian animosities arising out of the Bhakthi movement, he stressed the concept of the Supreme Being (முதற்காரணன்) notwithstanding the different names. 

To minimize disruption of married life by uncontrolled passions and the involvement of unchaste women (பரத்தையர்), he introduced the 'one man-one woman' concept as his central theme.

To improve universal brotherhood regardless of caste or creed he set up the example of rAman, Kuhan, SugrIvan and VibIdaNan.

To emphasize the nobility of forgiveness, he made rAman skillfully manoeuver Dasarathan forgive KaikEyi. Finally Kampan's genius may be ascribed to his deep moral conviction and idealism, to his capacity to express them with his tremendous literary skill, and to his success in conveying them to ordinary folks.

He first made the Absolute Being (முலப்பொருள்) born in the world as a human being, rAman. Once in this world, Kampan made rAman go through all the sufferings like ordinary men. At the end virtue won. SugrIvan's, the monkey King, on seeing rAman reflected that, after all, humanism won (மானிடம்வென்றது) :

தேறினன், அமரர்க்கு எல்லாம் தேவர் ஆம் தேவர் அன்றே
மாறி, இப்பிறவில் வந்தார் மானுடர் ஆகி மன்னோ
ஆறுகொள் சடிலத்தானும், அயனும், என்று இவர்கள்ஆதி
வேறுஉள குழுவை எல்லாம், மானுடம் வென்றது அன்றே.
(நட்பு கோல் படலம் 19)

The moral is that man can win over all his obstacles if he leads a virtuous life (அறவாழ்க்கை). This advice would be an excellent remedy to most of our social problems today! No wonder that Kampan is acclaimed as the King of literary kings (கவிச்சக்கரவர்த்தி கம்பன்).

Suki Sivam - Rama nATakam



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