The Ramayana Myth Of Poetic Creation


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USHA CHOUDHURI
THE RAMAYANA MYTH OF POETIC CREATION
Ramayana is the Adikdvya of the Sanskrit literature. It is an immortal Kdvya and was blessed to be so by Brahma, the creator himself.
Yavatsthdsyanti girayah saritasca mahitale | Tavadramayanakatha lokesu pracarisyati // (VRa. 1.2.3b)
We find the myth of the creation of this Adikavya in the first two Sargas of its Ist Kanda. The ascetic Valmiki asks Narada, the best among the Saints (MuniSrestha) about a man who has an integrated personality and is endowed with all possible virtues of a perfect man.
Ko 'nvasminsaémpratam loke gunavan ka§ ca viryavan | Dharmajfiasca krtajfiaSca satyavakyo drdhavratah || CGritrena ca ko yuktah sarvabhiitesu ko hitah / Vidvankah kah samarthasca kascaikapriyadaréanah // Atmavan ko jitakrodho dyutiman ko’nasityakah | Kasya bibhyati devasca jatarosasya samyuge // (VRa. 1.1.2-4) These are rare virtues to be found together in one human being,
but Narada does not disappoint Valmiki. There does exist a man’ who is Sarvagunasampanna, respected and adored by all. He is Rama, the scion of the Iksvaku race.
Narada leaves after singing the praise of Rima and Valmiki is left alone with his disciple Bhardwaja. He then goes to have a dip in . the river Tamasa not far from Jahnavi. Valmiki then just strayed about surveying the deep extensive forest at the bank of the Tamasa and is captivated by the sight of two chirping Kraufica birds dallying in

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Usha Choudhuri

amorous sports. And then while Valmiki was looking at the Kraufica pair, a sinful fowler pierced to death the male bird. Valmiki was overcome with compassion and grief and his heart cried forth:
Ma nisdda pratistham tvam agamah Sasvatih samah |
Yatkrauficamithunadekamavadhih kamamohitam // (VRa. 1.2.15)
What was this sudden outpouring of heart, — a ray of light or a string of beauty in words, — what a magic. Even Valmiki could not. know and repeatedly asked himself, — what was it uttered by me out
of sorrow for the bird.
Tasyaivam bruvatascinta babhiiva hrdi viksatah | Sokartendsya Sakuneh kimidam vyahrtam mayd // (VRa. 1.2.16) After contemplating on it he realized that the words he uttered were of equal feet and of even measure and were capable of being sung in accomplishment to a stringed lyre (vind): it must be a Sloka. Then Valmiki took bath in the Tamasa and started back for the hermitage followed by his disciple Bhardwaja with pitcher full of water and~
pondering all the way on the same matter.
Tameva cintayannarthamupavartata vai munih // (VR&. 1.2.20) After reaching the hermitage he sat down and his mind was fixed in contemplation (Dhydndvasthita). And then there came the fourfaced luminous Brahmi, the creator of the universe. Valmiki stood up immediately and bowed down to Brahma with folded hands and was greatly surprised. He worshipped Deva with Padya, Arghy.a and Asana. Brahma took his seat and made Valmiki to sit down. Then with Brahma sitting by his side, Valmiki’s mind went back again to
the sad fate of the female bird and while thus absorbed in thought he
quite automatically repeated the verse in grief. But in this contempla-
tion, Valmiki is not alone. On the seat of mind Brahma and the poet
are seated together, then Brahma revealed to him:
Sloka eva tvaya baddho natra karya vicdranda|
Macchandddeva te brahmanpravrtteyam sarasvati // (VR&. 1.2.31)
«A loka has been composed by you; no more thinking regarding
this. Through my wish alone, Oh Brahman, has occured this outflow of the Divine Speech». Brahma asked Valmiki to relate the life of Rama as he had heard from Narada, — including all that was hitherto known or unknown. Whatever had been omitted by Narada, that
would also come to his pen at the time of writing, Brahma told him.

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71

This myth of the creation of Ramayana is the myth of the poetic creation. The inexplicable essence of poetry and the mystery of the flowing.radiance of poetic inspiration are two such factors that cannot be directly perceived and understood. The source of the poetic inspiration has remained mysterious even to the poets. The poetic creation takes place at a very special moment in a very unexpected way and as one cannot see a cause-effect relationship in the process, a divine principle is sought as the source of it. The question of the aesthetic moment of creation has been discussed in the Indian and the Western poetics.
, There are two main images in this myth. First is the moment of the poetic creation (Sarjand) and the second is the moment of the contemplation (Anviksa) on the process of the poetic creation. The poetic creation takes place at the bank of the Tamasa and the place of contemplation is the Gframa. The prominent symbols occurring in this myth are the Tamasa river, the killing of the Kraufica bird, the resultant grief, the utterance of the sloka, Brahma and his desire to create, —and the most dominant of all, rising like the tiding wave is, Sokah §lokatvamdgatah — The grief alone has been transformed into the $loka. The Tamasa reminds one of the Rgvedic creative process, Jamo sit tamasd gudhamagre’praketam salilam sarvama idam.
The point from which arises the lusterous flash of the poetic words wearing the divine robes of immortality is hidden somewhere in the deeper layers of human mind. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy referring to the Chdndogyopanisad VIII, 1, 1-3 says that «the antarhrdaydkasa “space in the heart”, is the totality of this ideal space at the innermost core of our being, where only the full content of life can be experienced in the immediately experienced; that content, from the point of view of aesthetics, is “Beauty”, from the point of view of epistemology “Truth”, and from the standpoint of ethics “Perfection”»'. The waters of Tamasa have been described as
Akardamamidam tirtham bharadvdja nigamaya | Ramaniyam prasannadmbu sanmanusyamano yatha // (VR. 1.2.5)

1, A.K. CooMARASWAMY, Transformation of Nature in Art, New York, 1934, p. 174.

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Every word has a very special significance. A firtha is that which helps to transcend. Tiryate’nena iti tirtham: tf + Vthak. The beautiful thing about a myth is that it hides in itself the magic wand to find its deeper meaning. And here it is in the words «SanmanuSyamano Yathd» — an archetypal image of a poet’s mind — unbound, pure, delightful and sublime: The waters always symbolise right from the Vedic imagery, the creative potency or life. According to Sri Aurobindo there are five absolute values that preside over the birth of Art, — spirit, life, delight, beauty and truth. One is pleasantly surprisetdo find the same elements patterned in different words in the first mantra of the famous Jfidna Siikta of Brhaspati in the Rgveda. They having created the symbols through love and sympathy gave expression to what was most sublime, untainted and hidden in the innermost depths of the heart (Nihitam guhdvih.).
Brhaspate prathamam vaco agram yat prairata nadmadheyam dadhanah / Yadesam Srestham yadaripramdasit prend tadesdm nihitam guhavil i
(Rgveda, 10.71.1)
The word prend (premnd) used in the Vedic verse is important as it gives expression to the aesthetic state of the poet’s mind where the tension caused by the duality of “I” and “you” or the subject and the object is lost. This also suggests the hidden passion (raga) that is inherently related to poetry. This corresponds to karuna or karunaveditva in the Ramayana myth.
Tathavidham dvijam drstva nisddena nipatitam / Rserdharmatmanastasya karunyam samapadyata // Tatah karunaveditvadadharmo’yamiti dvijah / Nisamya rudatim krauiicimidam vacanamabravit // (VR&. 1.2)
It was not through dialectics that the act of the Nisada was considered unrighteous but through karunaveditva, that is «knowledge through identity». In the piteous cry of the bird the poet heard the eternal cry of separation of the complementary dual principle of life as a result of sympathetic disposition and complete identification.
Another point suggested by the Ramayana myth as well as other is lack of individual effort on the part of the poet. Rabindranath Tagore says in one of his poems that he is only an instrument and the .

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player resides somewhere hidden and mysterious — the deity of the

mind, the Manodevata:

Ami ki go vinadyantra tomara|

vyathdya pidiyd hrdayera tara ||

‘mitrechand bhare gita jhankara |

dhvanicha marma majhe // .

and

E ki kautuka nitta niitana ogo kautukamayt/

Ami jaha kichu cahi boli bare bolite dite cho koi I!

In the Ramayana myth it is Brahma’s wish that inspired the sloka

(Macchandad eva te brahman pravrtteyam sarasvati). Does it symbo-

lize the “Divine Inspiration”, or Intuition, — but in any case it is

_ mysterious and inexplicable beyond the ordinary experience of life.

Moreover the “divine” is no answer as “devata” is also symbolic —

Paroksapriya hi devah pratyaksadvisah.

But then in the word Deva or Devata alone one gets the answer.

i i

The word deva is derived from the roots Vdiv and Vdi meaning to

7 i i

F

shine and illuminate and is suggestive of knowledge, realization and

t H

penetration into a deeper meaning, a higher principle, a divine law or

t i

‘a universal truth behind the perceivable working of the cosmos. And

devata is literally the conveyor of light (Devari dyutifica tanotiti

devatd). God is indeed the archetype of light. (Jo archetypon phos’, in

the Corpus Hermeticum). In Indian poetics it is called pratibhd and has been discussed at

length by the poeticians and the philosophers alike. Without. going

into details we would like to state that the term is used to express the

“illuminator” and the “illumination of the poetic essence” —

Pratibhdyate’neneti; and pratibhanam pratibhd. It has been interpre-

ted as Drstakaranavinaivakasmdd vyavahitaviprakrstatitanagata —

suksmdarthesu yathartha jidnasamarthyam pratibha (Nagesabhatta on

Vibhiitipdda 3/36). In the Agama literature it is called «Samveda». Bhavabhiti has

made Brahma to say to Valmiki: «Rse! Prabuddho ‘si vagdtmani

brahmani. Tadorithi radmacaritam. Avyahatajyotirarsa te pratibha-

caksuh». And on this Viraraghava says:

Arsam rsisambandhi yogajanyajiianam caksuh netram jianamiti pha-

lito’rthah.

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Usha Choudhuri

This «eye of pratibhd», the vision through pratibhd, is the knowledge acquired through Yoga. Then, is this Yoga a union, a perfect identity, the seeric vision that pierces through everything with its light and reaches the very core of everything? Or shall we understand from Yoga the path of disciplining the mind to the level of highest sublimity so that the Sarasvati may reveal itself? The nineteenth century French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) saw the poet as a mage, a seer and wrote that a poet makes himself a seer by a long, immense and reasoned derangement of all the senses («le poéte se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné déréglement de tous les sens»).
In the present context Valmiki has been called a Rsi - a seer: Athopavisya bhagavanasane paramarcite | Valmikaye ca rsaye samdideSGsanam tatah // (VR. 1.2.26) Bhattatauta says that one who is not a seer could not be a poet: Nanrsih kavirityuktamrsisca kila darganat.
It is in fact an echoing of the wisdom of the Vedic age as says the Satapatha Brahmana:
KaviSsasta iti ete vai kavayo yadrsyah.
Some poeticians (Vamana is the first) consider pratibhda as the seed of poetry (Kavitvabijam pratibhanam) which is explained as an inborn faculty — an impression from the previous births (Janmantardgatasamskaravisesah kascit) or it ‘is an illumination capable of creating something of extraordinary beauty (Apiirvavastunirmanaksamda prajfid — Abhinavagupta) or it is genious or creative imagination which manifests itself in ever new forms (Prajfid navanavonmesasdlini pratibha mata — Bhattatauta). Later on, the relation between the poet and his pratibhd was compared to that of Siva and Sakti in the pratibhijfidna philosophy. Mahimabhatta compares pratibhd to the third eye of Siva. In fact there can be intellectual analysis of pratibhd, antarprerand or divyaprerand. The creative aesthetic experience is an internalised experience. A.I. Richards says: «Much that goes to produce a poem is of course unconscious».
Apart from this, the Ramayana myth also points out certain other

2. Encyclopaedia of Poetry and Poetics, Princeton University Press, 1965, p. 837.

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factors of importance. The epithets Vakyavisarada, the specialist of

speech and Vagyamah, controller of speech used for Valmiki are of

great significance. Valmiki is Tapasvi. The etymological meaning of

Valmiki (vala + mika) is a person of refinement (samskdri) and prac-

tice (abhydst). Pratibha, vyutpatti and abhydsa all contribute towards

the poetic creation but most important is pratibha (Avyutpattikrto

dosah Saktya sarivriyate kaveh — Anandavardhana).

The word “chanda’ occuring in «Macchandat pravrtteyam brah-

man te sarasvati» means: the “will” or the “desire” of the creator. It

also means rhythm or metre. The creator is kavi himself (kavireva

prajapatih). In the chandas are merged together the creative impulse

and the cosmic pulse. There is complete coordination (sangati) and

this lyricism is conceived in the inner feeling of poetic consciousness

i
i

and joy. In the Jaiminiya Upanisad Brahman IU, I, it is said that

«Initiation is called metrical transformation». Iti

- Now we come to the central point of the myth Sokah Slokatvama-

H t t

gatah. As has been pointed out before that at the aesthetic moment of _

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creativity, the poet does not retain his individual personality. The grief

arising at the killing of the bird is not poet’s personal grief:

Kavyasyatmd sa evarthastatha cddikaveh pura /

Krauficadvandvaviyogotthah Sokah Slokatvamagatah //

Commenting on this statement of Anandavardhana Abhinava-

gupta says:

Na tu muneh Soka iti mantavyam. Evam hi sati duhkhena so ’pi duhkhita iti krtvad rasasyatmeti niravakaSam bhavet. Na ca duhkhasantaptasyaisa daSeti. Evam carvanodbhiitasokasthayi bhavatmakakarunarasasamuccalanasvabhavatvat sa eva kdvyasyatmd sdrabhiitasvabhavo'para sabdavailaksanyakarakah’.
\

3, «It should be understood that the sorrow is not of the sage himself. Were it so, he too would be afflicted by the actual sorrow of the bird and the very dictum that Rasa (aesthetic enjoyment) is the soul of poetry would become baseless. No one afflicted with sorrow will have such a creative afflatus. Thus it is clear that the rasa of pathos (karuna rasa) partaking in the nature of the abiding emotion of only such sorrow as is congenial to delectation, can possibly overflood; that alone constitutes, therefore, the soul of poetry or the essence which differentiates the poetic form from all other forms of discourse» (Translation by Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy).

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Usha Choudhuri

A person overtaken by ordinary grief can neither utter a curse nor compose a verse. It is grief arising out of sympathetic disposition; it is Sahdnubhiita Soka. In the process of poetic creation the poet enjoys universalized emotion and can see beyond time -and space. The meaning of the word kavi is krantadarsi (meaning endowed with transcending.or unobstructing vision). What finds-expression in poetry-is different from the worldly experience. In this experience the microcosm and macrocosm, the heaven and earth become one and the poet catches the eternally creative rhythm. The spatial. contradictions merge together in the poetic experience as is beatifully presented by the Vedic poet: Ubhe dyava kavyend vi SaSrathe (Rgveda, 9.70.2)
Another point. in «Soka Slokatvamagatah» is the oneness of the content and the form. The aesthetic emotion chooses its own word. «Pure intuition is essentially lyricism», says Kroche.
In the end we come to the first part of the myth. The dialogue between Valmiki and Narada relates the poet to the society. In reality the poet and the society could not differ with regard to their ideal. The
poet and his reader both share the same social unconscious. Narada, the knower of the three worlds, represents the society in its entirety. The three worlds, the ksiti, antariksa and the dyuloka, symbolize the standing ground, activity and a man’s ideals, dreams, aspirations, etc.; and a man like Narada is constantly moving from one region to the other, — as he has mastered the vina — he has found the rhythm of internal and external modes of life and finds his proximity with Narayana. In the Ramdyana, the Nara and Narayana become one. That is the yogasamddhi of an artist and an art-appreciator in the Indian thinking; a complete identification with the object (devo bhiitva yajeta devam); otherwise the seeric poetry is not possible. Valmiki must find his information from Narada alone. In Rama’s image one finds the eternal archetype of a man’s life, — his struggles, dreams and ideals and also a constant process of achievement and loss — and ultimately returning to the centre of the whole reality; Ramo’ham sarvam sahe: the image of the human hero, looking at whom one finds the Saksat Narayana in human form. The Indian society has to date identified itself with the Ramayana.
Here ends the myth of the creation of the Ramayana or the creation of poetry. Ramayana moves on, but again there is a statement that

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projects with clarity some other dimensions of a poet’s mind and the

poetic creation. The poet is himself a seer, a witness. He sees the ree-

ling off of the events of the story as if he is watching a fruit of myro-

balan on his palm:

.

’ Tatah pasyati dharmdatmd tatsarvam yogamasthitah|

Pura yattatra nirvrttam panavamalakam yathd // (VR&. 1.3.6)

GiSotae RreeTs

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The Ramayana Myth Of Poetic Creation