Author: Anant Pai
Arvind Mandrekar/Luis M Fernandes
Editor(s): Anant Pai
Publisher: India Book House
ISBN/UPC (if available): 817508 et.al
Ramayana, the earliest epic poem in Sanskrit, is the oldest work of genuine poetry and in that sense its author, the sage Valmiki is known as the Adi Kavi or pristine poet.
This lofty theme, embodies in the characters of Rama and Sita, the highest ideals of man and woman. The idea that god fufils Himself. In the best of men is conveyed by the life of Rama and that is the story of Ramayana.
The story, narrated in the following pages, is based on Ram-Charit-Manas of Tulsidas.
2. The Sons of Rama
The story of Rama and Sita was first set down by the sage Valmiki in his epic poem Ramayana.
On returning to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile, Rama banished Sita because of the suspicions of his subjects. In the ashrama of sage Valmiki, she gave birth to her twin sons, Luv and Kush.
Based on Uttara-Ramacharita of Bhavabhuti.
The Amar Chitra Katha, Dasharatha, has been drawn mainly from Valmiki’s famous epic poem – Ramayana.
On earth at that time, Dashratha, the prosperous, wise and just king of Ayodhya, bent on obtaining a son, was engaged in performing a series of sacrifices.
As Dasharatha delighted in his growing sons, particularly in Rama the eldest, little did he dream that the curse, hurled at him for a sin committed by him in ignorance when he was a mere lad, would materialize with an impact that would result in his death.
Hanuman, the son of Pavana and Anjana, was born a monkey and yet attained a prominent place among the Hindu Gods, by his sterling character.
Hanuman’s unflinching devotion to Rama has made him the greatest of the Bhaktas (Devotees) ever known. His singular worship of Rama did not make him narrow minded, or supercilious. Instead it made him more compassionate. It helped him to bring consolation to Sita, pining away, forlorn and lonely in Ravana’s Ashoka garden. It helped him to submit himself years later to the buoyant valour of Rama’s children, Luv and Kush.
Serious but never solemn, Hanuman twitted his half-brother Bhima who was out on the quest for the flower Kalyanasaugandhika. This is one of the most charming and popular episodes in the Mahabharata.
Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, has caught the fancy of innumerable minds after him. Poems, plays and novels have been written on the Ramayana theme in almost all the Indian languages.
Krittivasa wrote a version of the Ramayana in Bengali nearly five hundred years ago. As he was a poet of the people, his story is written in simple language and has metaphors that are easily understood. Our story of Kumbhakarna has been derived from his Ramayana.
6. Hanuman to the Rescue
Hanuman was the chief general of the monkey king, Sugreeva. The story of his adventures, particularly after the monkey army reaches the sea-shore opposite Lanka, is one of the best efforts of pure imagination to be found in the Ramayana. When no one feels confident to make the mighty leap to Lank, where Sita has been held captive, he alone is found equal to the task. What follows after this leap to Lanka has fascinated Indian children for hundreds of years. At times, Hanuman reduces himself to the size of a man’s thumb. When it suits him he swells himself to the size of a mountain.
His exploits, particularly after he sets out to bring the herb Vishalya Karani from mount Gandhamadana to save Lakshmana, have been beautifully embellished in Krittivasa’s Ramayana, on which this Chitra Katha is based.
7. The Lord of Lanka
The Ramayana of Valmiki is considered to be the oldest epic of India. Unlike the Mahabharata, the story of Rama has no historical foundation. Yet the poem has become an intrinsic part of Hindu life. The victory of Rama, symbolic of the good forces, over Ravana, symbolic of the evil forces, is still celebrated all over India during the Dassera festival, held around October.
Sumali, a Rakshasa king, comes from the nether-world to the world of men in search of a groom for his daughter, Kaikesi. He is impressed by the mighty Kubera, sons of Vishrava. He argues that if his daughter were to marry Vishrava, she would have sons as mighty as Kubera. Kaikesi marries Vishrava, she would have sons as mighty as Kubera. Kaikesi marries Vishrava, but is fated to beget Rakshasa children, the eldest of whom is Ravana. Urged by his ambitious mother, Ravana puts forward his claim to be the Lord of Lanka. Thereafter follow a number of adventures, ultimately leading to the siege of Lanka by Rama.
The story, as narrated her, is based on the Uttara Kanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana.
Garuda is a mythical bird and has been held in great veneration in India from time immemorial. Many Indologists hold that this deity is of Dravidian origin.
Garuda is represented as a large white-necked eagle, but his images in the temples who him with a human trunk. Serpents are the natural food of the eagle. The reason for this enmity is traced in the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata to the jealousy between Kadru and Vinata, the mother of the serpents and Garuda respectively.
Only Vishnu could have these tow born enemies – Garuda, the mighty eagle and Shesha, the great serpent – wait upon him. He uses Shesha as his couch and Garuda as his mount.
Vali, Sugreeva and Hanuman have key roles in Valmiki’s famous epic, Ramayana, from which our Amar Chitra Katha has been drawn.
Vali became the king of Kishkindha. He loved Sugreeva, his brother. But a misunderstanding estranged them and they became sworn enemies. Banished from Kishkindha, Sugreeva went to the Rishyamuka mountains and lived in hiding there. One day, Rama came there in search of Sita, his wife, who had been carried away by Ravana. The events that followed are interestingly retold in our book.
10. THE GITA
Bhagavad-Gita or the song of the divine One is a celebrated episode in the epic, Mahabharata. It is in the form of a dialogue between Dhritarashtra, the blind king of Hastinapura, and Sanjaya who describes the happenings on the battlefield to the king.
This book does not claim to be an exposition of the Gita, but is only an introduction. We have also taken the liberty of interpreting some of the ideas propounded in the Gita with a view to make them intelligible to the younger age group. The first nine pages of our book are not part of the Gita but are given to provide the back-ground to our young readers.
11. THE PANDAVA PRINCES
Mahabharata is essentially the story of the Pandavas and their cousins, the Kauravas. Around the theme of their rivalry and feud is built an epic which has sustained the Indian personality over the centuries. In the process the sons of Pandu have become heroes to the nation.
Valour and courage are the qualities most associated with the Pandavas. But they were also marked by humility and charity without which they could have never won the divine friendship of Krishna.
12. Tales of Yudhishthira
Yudhishthira, the eldest of the five Pandava princes, was born to Kunti by the grace of Yama. His actions were free from passion and prejudice. He came to be considered the very embodiment of dharma and was respectfully referred to as Dharmaraja.
Yama, the awe-inspiring God of death, is also revered as the Lord of Justice. According to Hindu belief, all living beings reap the fruit of their actions after death. Yama administers justice to all the being brought before him. Since he metes out justice strictly according to Dharma, he is called Yamadharma? Yudhishthira emerged from the ordeals a stronger soul.
The Mahabharata, the longest epic poem in the world, consists of about 100,000 slokas or Sanskrit verses. The author, it is said, is Veda Vyasa and Lord Ganesha his scribe. Veda Vyasa was a witness to all the events. He wanted to have them all written down in the Mahabharata, for posterity. He approached Lord Ganesha who agreed provided Lord Ganesha grasped the meaning of what was dictated before writing it down. Lord Ganesha was willing. And the Mahabharata came to be written. Subsequently, over the centuries, the original poem grew in size when many a popular story found its way into the text.
A major portion of the Mahabharata consists of independent stories e.g. the stories of Nala and Damayanti, Savitri, Shakuntala, Kacha and Devayani. These are woven into the main story of the feud and final war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, cousins as well as rivals. The Kauravas are ultimately annihilated in the war.
The Mahabharata’s greatest contribution is the Bhagawad Gita. When Arjuna faces his cousins, arrayed before him for the fight, he becomes sad. He does not want to kill them for a paltry kingdom. Krishna, his charioteer, reprimands him and tells him that being a Kshatriya it is his duty to fight. Then, in eighteen long chapters he expounds his philosophy. He convinces Arjuna and in the process has given us one of the most valid scriptures of all times.
14. BHEEMA AND HANUMAN
The encounter between Hanuman, the monkey hero of the Ramayana and Bheema, the mighty Pandava prince, is one of the most dramatic incidents in the Mahabharata.
Hanuman is the son of Vayu, the wind-god; and Bheema is the son of Kunti, born by the grace of Vayu. Thus the two can be considered brothers.
The episode also emphasizes the feminine intuition of Draupadi who unerringly chose Bheema for a risky and romantic errand.
15. Tales of Arjuna
Arjuna was as devoted to Krishna as Hanuman was to Rama. Our first story, which is based on a folktale popular in South India, is about the encounter between Arjuna and Hanuman both of whom come to realize that Rama and Krishna are one and the same.
Arjuna was trained by Drona, the master of archery, and he acquired powerful weapons by propitiating the gods. But the weapon that made him invincible was his mighty bow, Gandiva, which he obtained from Agni.
Arjuna and his cousin, Krishna, were inseparable, and it was to Krishna that he always turned for guidance. In the battle of Kurukshetra, Krishna acted as Arjuna’s charioteer. There were, story shows how Krishna gently, but firmly, corrected Arjuna on such occasions.
16. KRISHNA AND JARASANDHA
Jarasandha was the emperor of Aryavarta (north India) at the time when the Pandavas were ruling at Indraprastha. Most of the kings of North India acknowledged his suzerainty out of fear. Many of those who did not, has been imprisoned by him. To establish the supremacy of the Pandavas it was necessary to subdue Jarasandha.
Mighty men of mythology, be they of the East or of the West, were always characterised by a vital flaw which, in reverse, would turn out to be a vital asset, Karna’s Kavacha (armour) and Achilles heels are classic examples. The secret of the heroes strength often remained locked in this dual nature of their gifts. Only one who knew the secret could vanquish them. Jarasandha’s weak point was known only to Krishna. How he brings about the fall of the mighty and evil emperor is narrated in this Amar Chitra Katha, based on the Bhagawat Purana and the Mahabharata.
17. KRISHNA AND RUKMINI
Krishna is the great lover of Indian mythology. Yet the details of the women he had wooed, won and wed are surprisingly limited and perhaps should be confined ton his conquest of Rukmini. Here is the unalloyed romantic tale of none but the brave deserving the fair. Krishna here is the romantic hero par excellence who recklessly carries away his lady-love under the very nose of his rivals. Rukmini is a perfect foil to Krishna in this idyllic tale.
18. Tales of Balarama
Balarama, Krishna’s elder brother, shared all the antics, adventures and deeds of glory of Krishna in childhood. As an adult too, he was second to none in valour, but he chose to remain neutral in the great Mahabharata war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, because he was pained at the thought of bloodshed between kinsmen.
Balarama is also known as Baladeva and Balabhadra. Some episodes from his childhood and the tale of his wedding are narrated in this Amar Chitra Katha.
This story has been so popular all over our country, through the centuries, that even today to most of us the word Swayamvara has specific reference to the story of Krishna and Rukmini. And it is ironical that in the conventional sense it was hardly a Swayamvara.
19. Ravana Humbled
The three stories retold in this Chitra Katha anticipate, in a sense, the tragedy that was to strike Ravana, the Rakshasa king, when he abducted Sita and ultimately took on an adversary like Rama. Ravana failed to learn the lessons of humility from his early confrontations described here. The confrontations are significant in that one is on the divine level, another on the human level and a third on the simian.
It is, however, to the credit of Ravana that he came out of each of these encounters, richer in alliances and friendships.
The story of Savitri and Satyavan appears in the Mahabharata. It is one of the many stories told by the sage Markandeya to the Pandavas, in exile. Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava is depressed by having to witness the trials and tribulations of their common wife Draupadi, whose devotion to her husbands only brought her suffering. Markandeya tells him that regardless of what they may have to suffer, chaste and devoted wives will ultimately bring triumph to their loved ones and themselves.
Draupadi’s goodness would ultimately deliver them from their misfortunes, just as the chaste Savitri’s staunch devotion to her husband Satyavan brought good fortune, not only to her parents and her husband’s parents, but also to her own self. For it was her intense devotion that gave her the strength to influence the very God of Death, Yama, to release Satyavan from his clutches.
This collection includes 20 books from out of the titles listed below. 1 Rama 504 2 The Sons of Rama 503 3 Dasharatha 570 4 Hanuman 502 5 Kumbhakarna 528 6 Hanuman to the Rescue 513 7 Aruni & Uttanka 652 8 Shakuntala 530 9 Vali 546 10 The Gita 505 11 The Pandava Princes 626 12 Tales of Yudhishthira 703 13 Mahabharata 582 14 Bheema and Hanuman 527 15 Tales of Arjuna 525 16 Krishna and Jarasandha 518 17 Krishna and Rukmini 516 18 Tales of Balarama 654 19 Ravana Humbled 610 20 Savitri 511 21 Kannagi 666 22 The Lord of Lanka 541 23 Garuda 547 24 Abhimanyu 533 25 Vasantasena 657 26 Ancestors of Rama 572 27 Bitya and Yashodharna 717