Kambar (poet) Kambar Statue in Marina Beach Kambar (Kampan in casual address) (Tamil:கம்பர்) (c. 1180, Tiruvaluntur, Tanjore district, India – 1250) was a medieval Tamil poet and the author of the Tamil Ramayanam Ramavatharam, popularly known as Kambaramayanam, the Tamil version ofRamayana. Kambar also authored other literary works in Tamil such as Erezhupathu,Silaiezhupathu,Kangai Puranam and Sarasvati Anthati.
Front view of Kambar statue at Marina Beach
Kambar belonged to the Ochchan or Occhan caste, traditionally nadaswaram players in southernIndia. But he was brought up in the household of a wealthy farmer in Vennai Nellur in south India. The Chola king having heard of this talented bard, summoned him to his court and honoured him with the title Kavi Chakravarthior The Emperor of Poets. Kamban flourished in Therazhundur, a village in the culturally rich Thanjavur District in the modern state ofTamil Nadu in South India. Kamban was a great scholar ofIndia's two ancient and rich languages, Sanskrit and Tamil. In a scholarly biography, Kavichakravarty Kamban,Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar wrote in detail about this 12th-century poet. He was supported and patronized by his friend Vallal Sadaiyappa Mudaliar and he wrote the Kongu Mangala Vazhthu song for Kongu Vellalar. Kamba Ramayanam
Close-up view of the statue at Marina Beach
The original version of Ramayana was written by SageValmiki. This epic of 24,000 verses of a Raghuvamsaprince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted byRavana, a mighty emperor. In Hinduism Rama is the Seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, one of the Hindu holy trinity (Brahma and Shiva completing the trinity). The Ramavataram or Kamba Ramayanam of Kamban is an epic of about 11,000 stanzas as opposed to Valmiki's 24000 couplets. The Rama-avataram or Rama-kathai as it was originally called was accepted into the holy precincts in the presence of Vaishnava Acharya Nathamuni. Kamba Ramayana is not a translation of the Sanskrit epic by Valmiki, but an original retelling of the story of the God Rama. The poetic work is well known for its similes. Legend has it that the entire episode was written in one night by Lord Gane. Ganesha is said to have written the poems that Kambar dictated to him during the night, as Kambar procrastinated the work till the day before the deadline set by the King. There is also a legend that Ottakuthar, an eminent Tamil poet and a contemporary of Kambar also composed Ramayanam. Tradition has it that Ottakoothar was ahead of Kambar as the former had already finished 5 Cantos but when the king asked for an update, Kambar, a master of words, lied that he was already working on the Setu Bandhalam, upon which Ottakoothar feeling dejected threw away all his work. Feeling guilty, Kambar recovered the last two chapters of Ottakoothar's composition and added into his own. Bala kaandam, Sundara kaandam, Yudha kaandam, Ayodhya kaandam are four main parts of six parts called Kamba Ramayanam: The epic Kamba Ramayanam occupies a unique place in the echelons of Tamil literature. Kambar was a master of the poetic form and his ability to weave magic with words is evident in many places in the epic. Rich in metaphors and similies Kamba Ramayanam became a reference point for later day poets to try and emulate. But the opinion among Tamil scholars is that Kamban's poetry is unparalleled. Kambar also made several modifications to the original story to suit the cultural sensitivities of the Tamils. One of the situations is where Ravana the king abducts Sita from the hut where she is staying with Rama. In the Sanskrit version, Ravanaa lifts Sita and carries her. But this is unthinkable to the Tamilian. So Kambar makes a deviation and states that he lifted her up along with the hut and the earth below it and carried that piece of earth, hut and the lady in it. There are several such instances. The situation where Hanuman comes back from Sri Lanka to inform Rama about the mission is noteworthy for its understanding of psychology. Rama is worried about Sita and her state. Anjaneya knows this very well. So he starts his report with the words" கண்டனன் கற்பினுக் கணியை கண்களால் ...." " The meaning being:I have found her, the epitome of virtue, with my eyes...." Such is the pshychological significance of the word construction in the epic. Kamban creates an imagery that is vivid and touches a chord in the mind of the reader, whether he is talking about the beauty of மருதநிலம் a type of fertile land described in ancient Tamil literature or whether he is describing the 'busy' nature of Ayodhya he manages to paint a graphic picture in words. Sample this: தண்டலை மயில்கள் ஆட தாமரை விளக்கம் தாங்க கொண்டல்கள் முழவின் ஏங்கக் குவளை கண் விழித்து நோக்க தெண்டிரை எழினி காட்டத் தேம்பிழி மகர யாழின் வண்டுகள் இனிது பாட மருதம் வீறிருக்கும் மாதோ The description is of a garden land (marutha nilam) the metaphors and the imagery are just incomparable.There are peacocks dancing, flowers swaying like lanterns over the waterbody, and the bees are buzzing sweeter than the stringed musical instrument.... The lines where he describes Mandothari ( wife of Raavan) discovering the body of Raavan on the battle field are so full of meaning it will take a complete essay to describe that. In short, the poem describes that the body of Raavan is riddled with holes created by a single arrow from Rama. And the reason the poet ascribes to that action is superb. The arrow was apparently searching every inch of his body to see if the ill-fated love that Raavan felt for Sita was stored somewhere in the body and in that search it went through the entire body making it look like a sieve! Kambar's praise Many Tamil poets, statesmen, kings and common people have praised Kambar for his Kambaramayanam which has more than 10000 songs forming one of the greatest epics of Tamil. Kambaramayanam has more than 45000 lines. A common word of praise attributed to Kambar is that even the mill in his house would sing (Kambar veettuk kattuththariyum kavipadum; கம்பர் வீட்டுக் கட்டுத்தறியும் கவிபாடும்). He is considered special in singing poems under "Viruthapa". "Kamba Sutram" (கம்ப சூத்திரம்)is a phrase used by Tamil people in their day-to-day activity. It was actually Kamba Chithiram only denoting Kambans Art. However, Over period of time it rendered as Kamba Sutram. The phrase is used just like 'Rocket Science', which clearly denotes that skills of Kambar in writing poem with viruthapa is as difficult as 'Rocket Science'. Kamba Ramayana was first delivered in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam at the court hall (Kambar Arangetra Mandapam) near Thaayar sannithi. Legend says that, when Kambar receited Shri Kambaramayanam in that place, the Narasimha Swami from his Sanctum Sanctora (Mettu Narasimhar Sannidhi) applauded at his poetic prowess. [
HISTORICITY OF THE ERA OF
The story of Shri Rama’s life was first narrated by Maharishi Valmiki in the
1st Phase – Gangetic Belt
2nd Phase in Dandak Van
3rd Phase along Godavari
4th Phase along Tungbhadra and Kaveri
5th Phase on the Banks of the Sea
Ancestors of Shri Rama
Route followed by Sri Rama for travelling from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka has been
The Ashwamedha sacrifice was not easy to perform. Only the most powerful of kings could undertake it. Rama was of course very powerful. So he formally got anointed to perform that sacrifice. The pavilion to perform the sacrifice was erected on the bank of the river Ganga. Rama worshipped the sacrificial horse. A medallion made of gold was tied on its forehead. On it was engraved the message: "This is the sacrificial horse of Sri Rama, son of Kausalya. He is the most powerful king on Earth. All those who agree should pay tribute and become his vassals. Otherwise they will tie up this horse, and fight with Rama." The horse was left to go as it liked. Rama appointed his brother Shatrughna t o go with a large army for its protection.
Lava The Hero
The Ashwamedha horse went past many countries. The kings of all those States paid tribute and became Rama's dependants. The horse was now returning to Ayodhya.
On the way it espied Valmiki's hermitage. Seeing the lush green grass there, the horse entered the hermitage. It was trampling upon the flowerbeds there and spoiling the garden. Kusha was not there. Lava happened to be playing there with other boys of the hermitage. He saw the horse. He went near it and saw the golden plaque on its forehead. When he read the inscription, he became very angry. He thought, "is Rama, the son of Kausalya, the' only hero? If I don't humble his pride, what is the use of my being the son of Sita?" With the towel, which was his upper garment, he tied that horse to a tree. He would not listen to the other boys who in fear asked him not to do so.
Meanwhile the soldiers accompanying the horse came there. They became angry that the horse had been tied up. "Who did this?" they asked the boys who were 'there. Trembling with fear, the boys said, "We didn't do that. It was he," pointing at Lava. The soldiers turned to Lava and shouted, "Untie it first." But Lava said, "Why should I untie the horse? I won't. And take care! If any of you tries to untie it, I'll cut off his hands." One of them, thinking that a young boy's words need only to be ignored, went to the horse to untie it. Lava promptly fixed an arrow in his bow and shot it the soldier's hand was cut.
The other soldiers were all very angry at what had happened to one of them. All of them surrounded the boy. But a swarm of flies does not shake a mountain. Lava stood firms and brought on a rain of arrows upon them. Many soldiers were injured and fell to the ground. They were stunned by his courage and heroism.
By then the commander of the army, Shatrughna himself, confronted Lava. He said, "Look, boy, who are you? And why have you tied the king's horse? Well, don't die of my hands. Leave the horse and run."
The words did not frighten Lava. He chanted the Mahesha incantation taught by Valmiki and aimed an arrow. Shatrughna was enraged at the boy's impudence. He also took his bow into his hands. But Lava shot an arrow that broke his bow. Shatrughna was utterly surprised at the boy's bravery. He was also angry. He took another bow and shot a terrible arrow Lava. Lava cut that arrow too. But only one half of the arrow fell down on the ground and the other sharp half-pierced Lava's chest. The boy fell down with a loud cry.
Shatrughna went near the boy prostrate on the ground. He greatly admired the boldness of the boy. He looked at him from near. Seeing the boy's handsome features, he felt drawn to him. He lifted up Lava and lay him down in his chariot. The soldiers freed the horse tied to the tree. All of them started towards Ayodhya, led by the horse.
Chased By Kusha
The young sons of the rishis were all very much afraid at what had happened to Lava. Weeping loudly they ran to the ashram and narrated to Sita all that had transpired. She started weeping tearfully, not knowing what would be her son's fate. And this had happened when Valmiki was not in the hermitage! She was in confusion as to what should be done now.
When Lava tied the sacrificial horse to a tree, Kusha was not in the ashram. He had gone out to the forest to bring the holy twigs for worship. When he returned, he saw that Sita was weeping. He asked her, "Mother, why are you weeping? What happened?"
Amidst loud sobs Sita told him all that had happened. Kusha became red with anger. He burst out, "Mother, don't be afraid. Even if it is Yama the God of Death who has taken away my brother, I will break his bones. I do no care for these so-called kings. Give me my shields, bow and arrows." Sita at once put on him his nail-coat and fetched his bow and arrows. Kusha prostrated before his mother. "May you succeed," Sita blessed and bade him farewell.
Kusha chased the army like a whirlwind. Nearing it, he shouted, "Stop! Stop!" The soldiers did not pay heed to his words and were marching on. Kusha became enraged. He shot an arrow. It flew with a hissing sound and pierced the back of a soldier who fell down. At once the whole army stopped and turned to Kusha. The soldiers got ready to fight with this new boy. But in no time Kusha rained his arrows on them. Many soldiers fell victims to his arrows and were aground. Shatrughna turned to him and said, "You are like the young of a deer and do you want to fight with tigers?" Kusha laughed and replied, "You are no tiger but a fox. When I was not there you have stolen my brother and are going away." With these words he shot four arrows which killed the four horses of Shatrughna's chariot. Another arrow brought down the charioteer.
Shatrughna jumped down from his chariot and with great wrath shouted, "You wicked boy, I'll kill you now." But an arrow shot by Kusha pierced Shatrughna's chest. Loudly uttering "Rama! Rama!" he fell down on the ground with a thud.
Seeing Shatrughna collapsing on the ground, all the army-men trembled with tear. They dropped their weapons and stood quietly. A messenger on horseback was sent to Rama. Kusha went near Shatrughna's chariot. Just then Lava also regained consciousness. As soon as he saw Kusha, he shouted, "0, brother!" and jumped from the chariot. They embraced each other. Lava said, "Brother, my bow was broken in the fight. I will now pray to the Sun-God as taught by our preceptor Valmiki and obtain a new bow." Kusha said, "Yes, please do so." Lava closed his eyes and chanted the Surya-mantra, or the hymn to the Sun. Then the Sun favoured him with a new bow. Both Lava and Kusha were overjoyed at this. The two again dragged the sacrificial horse and tied it to a tree.
Lakshmana And Bharat Humbled
The messenger from the warfield went straight to Rama, who was sitting in the pavilion being consecrated to perform the Ashwamedha sacrifice. The soldier told him all that had happened. Rama at first would not believe that Shatrughna had been defeated by a mere boy. But the soldier swore by it. Then Rama became worried as to who that boy could be. He sent his brother Lakshmana with a new army to help Shatrughna. Seeing him, the soldiers on the warfield had renewed courage. The whole army togetherattacked the boys again. But it was unavailing. The arrows of the boys felled many of them.
Looking at the bad shape of his army, Lakshmana himself entered the fray. Kusha left his brother to fight the army and himself faced Lakshmana. A fierce fight ensued between the two. Kusha shot the arrow of fire. But Lakshmana used the arrow of water and extinguished it. Kusha then sent a snake-arrow. Lakshmana destroyed it with an eagle-arrow.
Kusha was now very angry. He shot a very mighty arrow, the use of which Valmiki had taught him. The arrow went straight to Lakshmana and hit him. It hit him so powerfully that Lakshmana tottered and fell down on the ground. By then all the soldiers had also fled from the battlefield, unable to bear Lava's arrows.
The news that Lakshmana too was defeated and was aground reached Rama. Rama was upset. The people around whispered, 'This Rama unjustly sent away his virtuous wife Sita to the forest. This is the result of that sin.' Bharata told Rama: "Brother, don't be sad. I will go and punish those boys and bring back the brothers who have swooned." Hanumanta and Jambavanta also went to the battlefield along with Bharata.
When Hanumanta saw Lava and Kusha standing in the battlefield, he said to Bharata, "Look at those boys. They are so much resemble to Ramachandra." Bharata looked at them and felt it was indeed so. The boys bore a very strong resemblance to Rama. Bharata felt very affectionate towards them. He spoke to Kusha, "My dear boy, who are you? Who is this other boy? You two have killed our whole army. You have also brought down my brothers. Now at least, leave that horse. Why this ill will between you and us? Go to your mother and be happy."
Kusha laughed and said: 'Well,' we belong to the hermitage of Valmiki. I am Kusha and this is my younger brother Lava. I won't leave this horse. You have by yourself come for a fight. We have given a proper reply. We will make you also fall to the ground like your brothers. Only then will we go to our mother." Even as he spoke he shot arrows at Bharata.
In the fight that ensued between the two, Bharata collapsed on the ground unable to face the boy's arrows. The entire army ran away, not being able to withstand Lava's attack. Even Hanumanta and Jambavanta stood far away, where the arrows of the boys would not reach them. Some messengers ran to Rama from the battlefield and gave him the news. He was in turmoil. With no other way left, he himself had to go now to the battlefield.
Rama Also Defeated
Rama came to the battlefield and saw that everywhere soldiers were lying on the ground. And nearby lay his own brothers, unconscious. A little further was the horse, tied to a tree. Near the horse stood two boys, holding bows and arrows. What havoc had been wrought by such a small boys! Rama could not believe his eyes. He gently spoke to the children - "My dear boys, where from are you? Who is your father? And who is your mother? Who taught you archery? But why this wicked obstinacy to tie this horse? And how did you get this might to conquer such a huge army?"
To all these questions, Kusha replied merely: "Great king, you have come to free this horse and take it. If you have that power, well, conquer us and take the horse. Or else go away from here. Why such useless talk?"
But Rama said, "Alas! Should I fight with children like you? I do feel angry when - I look at my brothers lying unconscious. But I just don't have the mind to fix the arrow in my bow. I love very much to know about you. Do please tell me."
Then Kusha told him, "Look, we are the twin sons of Sitadevi. Sage Valmiki has taught us the Vedas and archery. Our study of the Ramayana, taught by him, has given us this strength."
Rama then understood that they were his own sons. At the mention of Sita's name, his agony knew no bounds.
Unable to bear that grief, he swooned in the chariot. Sugreeva who was by his side fanned him and after a while Rama recovered.
When Rama and Sugreeva were talking, Neela was stealthily untying the horse. Seeing that, Kusha aimed an arrow at him. Hit by the arrow, Neela fell to the ground with a thud. Hanumanta, Jambavanta and other heroes surrounded the boys. But they were all laid on the ground by the boy's arrows. This enraged Rama. He showered his arrows on the boys. They were not ordinary arrows. Rama's arrows nad killed great heroes like Ravana and Kumbhakarna. But in front of these boys, even they were ineffective. The arrows shot by Rama were all cut in the middle of their fight by the two boys. But the arrows shot by the youngsters lodged themselves in Rama's body. Rama's horses fell down and his charioteer too. The whole body of Rama was made gory with wounds. In extreme pain Rama lay down in his chariot.
The boys ran to him. They saw the handsome and dignified form of Rama. The string of pearls he was wearing looked so fine. They took it off his neck and tied it in a piece of cloth. They also took away all the precious ornaments worn by Lakshmana, Bharata Shatrughna.
Sita Is Worried
Kusha and Lava were ready to return to their mother. Just then Lava said, "Brother, one or two in this army may be awake. Let us drag them to our mother." Kusha agreed. Hearing this, Hanumanta told Jambavanta, "Look, these boys are going to take us to Sitadevi. That should cause no worry. She will certainly protect us." It happened just like that. Lava heard the two of them talking. He went to them, and tying them up, dragged them with him. With them and with the jewels, Lava and Kusha returned to the hermitage.
Sita was in great anxiety, as the children had not returned for such a long time. The boys who now came back went to her and gave her the bundle of ornaments. The boys made the two, whom they had dragged thither, prostrate at their mother's feet. Sita was stunned to see Hanumanta and Jambavanta! And the ornaments were all of Rama, Lakshmana Bharata and Shatrughna! Her heart seemed to stop. She told her children, "Alas! What have you done! Why do we need these ornaments of kings? These monkey heroes are great beings. Why did you shame them thus? Release them at once."
The two boys could not understand why their mother was pained. They took back Hanumanta and Jambavanta. Sita tearfully lamented, "What now? 0, that all this should have happened just when Valmiki is not here! What should I do now?"
And lo! It was Valmiki who was returning to the ashram. He went straight to Sita. He consoled her saying, "Mother, pray, don't weep. I know all. All that has happened is for the good. I shall set everything right."
The sage Valmiki proceeded to the battlefield with Kusha and Lava. Consecrating with sacred spells the water in the vessel he carried, he sprinkled that water on all the persons lying on the ground. All of them at once got up as if from sleep. All of them prostrated at Valmiki's feet. The sage made Lava and Kusha prostrate before Rama. Then he said, "0 great king, you are very kind-hearted. You always protect those who come to you in need. Please do not be angry. These boys are your own sons. They are born to Sitadevi. They have now committed a big mistake, when I was not in the hermitage. You must pardon them."
Rama asked Lakshmana, "Brother, did you not leave Sita in the forest?"
"Yes, I did. But I don't know what happened later," replied Lakshmana.
Then Valmiki clarified: "While in the jungle, by God's grace she was seen by me. I took her to my hermitage. There she gave birth to these twin children. I taught the Vedas and archery to them."
Valmiki sent Lava and Kusha to the hermitage and had the Veena brought. As asked by their preceptor, the boys sang the Ramayana to the accompaniment of the Veena. Their singing was so sweet, as if the goddess of music was herself there. They recited the Ramayana from the beginning to the end. Rama, his brothers and the retinue listened to it with rapt attention, forgetting themselves. Rama's joy was boundless. He said to Lakshmana, "Brother, in voice and speech, shape and beauty, these boys resemble to Sita." Lakshmana smiled and replied, it Brother, they are surely your sons. Otherwise how could they get such strength as to defeat you? Please accept them."
Rama called the two boys to him. They went to him gladly. Rama drew them near and embraced them. All the people around were happy. Rama told Valmiki, "Sir, I will take these boys with me. I have now accepted Sita back. Please send her to Ayodhya."