Sundara Kandam: An introduction
INTRODUCTION TO SUNDARA KANDA P.R.Ramachander
Sundara Kandam is the fifth section of Ramayana (the story of Lord Rama) written by Sage Valmiki and comprises of 2885 verses spread in 68 chapters. Sundara as we all know in the literary sense means ‘beautiful’ and ‘Kandam’ means ‘section’. The sage has called this section a â€œbeautiful sectionâ€ of Ramayana possibly because: – I. This part of Ramayana contains poetic descriptions of several beautiful objects, places and people. Whether the poet describes, Sri Lanka, Pushpaka Vimana, The Asoka forest, The Madhu Vana, Hanuman, Sita, Rama, Ravana, or the moonrise, he goes into poetic rapture. For example describing the moon in the 5th chapter he writes: – Then the intelligent Hanuman saw the moon, which was in the center of the sky, which was with rays and which was spreading the sheet of moonlight, like an enthusiastic bull wandering in its stable. 1
Then he saw the moon, which destroys the sorrows of the world, which increased the levels of the great sea and which traveled by giving light to all beings. 2
That Goddess Lakshmi who shines normally on the Mandhara Mountain of earth, in the sea during dusk and on the lotus in the ponds, at that time shined sitting on the moon. 3
The moon in the sky was similar to the swan in the silver cage, lion in the caves of Mandhara Mountain and the heroic soldier sitting on proud elephant. 4
The moon, which was full of all its crescents, resembled the bullock with its sharpened horns, the silver mountain with its peaks, and the elephant whose tusks were deorated 5
That moon who did not loose the luster due to dense dew drops, who had borrowed light from the sun by which he drove away darkness, who was serving the luminous Lakshmi in his crystal clear mien and who had the rabbit mark, shined in the sky. 6
The moon shone with great light like the lion climbing on the stone clusters, like the great elephant reaching the war and like the king getting his kingdom. 7
II. This section is about the exploits of Hanuman who was an extremely beautiful person as the poet describes him as â€œa shining handsome person made of Goldâ€. Hanuman also has a name â€“â€œSundaraâ€ III. It is in this section that a full comprehensive description of Sri Rama, possibly the most handsome person ever born is given (chapter 35) and so the sage must have thought that this deserves that name. The reason why it is called Sundara Kanda is possibly best given by one of the greatest commentators of Sundara Kanda viz. Tilaka. He says
Sundare Sundari Lanka, Sundare Sundari Katha, Sundare sundari Sita, Sundare kim na Sundaram? Beautiful among the most beautiful is Sri Lanka, Beautiful among the most beautiful is the Story, Beautiful among the most beautiful is Sita, What is there in it, which is not beautiful? According to the belief of Hindus, Sundara Kandam is a mine where we can draw powers to support oneself in all worldly situations. People believe that reading or hearing the story is a panacea and final solution for all ills and all problems.
The story narrated in Sundara Kanda in brief is as follows: Hanuman at the suggestion and encouragement given by Jambhavan decided to cross the ocean and reach Sri Lanka. He promised his friends that he would search and find out Sita in Sri Lanka. The God of the sea to help Hanuman asked his friend the Mainaka Mountain to rise above the sea and help Hanuman to relax and take rest. Hanuman however refused the offer and went ahead. The assembled Devas wanted to test the efficiency of Hanuman and sent, Devi Surasa to test him. She took the form of a Rakshasi and informed him that he should enter her mouth and become her food; Hanuman increased his size to a very mega form. Surasa also made her mouth sufficiently big to swallow Hanuman. At that time Hanuman reduced his body to a thumb size jumped in and out of Surasasâ€
As a humble devotee I personally feel that if we can read and sing the original lilting poems of Sage Valmiki, it would be really great and those of us who cannot, could equally benefit from daily reading the translation. I believe like this because unlike the Vedas where the vibrations created by each sound is important, here it is a poem and the intention of Sage Valmiki appears to tell and make us understand the story and not create positive vibrations.
I hope many of you would be benefited by this translation, which is nearest to the original.