Saptakanda Ramayana is the 14th century Assamese version of the Ramayana attributed to the poet Madhava Kandali. It is considered to be the first translation from the Sanskrit to a modern regional Indo-Aryan language. This work is also considered one of the earliest written examples of the Assamese language.
A particular feature of this work is the non-heroic portrayal of Rama, Sita and other characters, as explicitly stated by Madhav Kandali himself, which rendered the work unsuitable for religious purposes. This feature sufficiently disturbed a later poet, Ananta Kandali, who was moved enough to comment on it. The first (Adikanda) and the last (Uttarakanda) cantos of the Madhava Kandali's work was lost, and were later inserted by Madhavdeva and Sankardeva respectively in the 16th century. This work has been translated in the English language.
kavirāj kandali ye āmākese buliwāyā
kariloho sarvajana bodhe.
ramayana supa yara, shri mahamanike ye,
baraha rajar anurudhe.
sat kanda ramayana padabandhe nibandhilo
lambha parihari sarodhrite.
mahamanikyoro bolo kavyarasa kicho dilon
dugdhak mathilo yena ghrite
pandit lokar yebe asantosa upajaya
hat yore bolon shudha bak
pustak bichari yebe taite katha napawaha
tebe sabe nindiba amak.
The poetical work uses various metres for different moods and situations. Some of the metres used are pada (fourteen syllables, four lines of verses), jhumura (four lines with eight syllables each), dulari (three charana, first and second has six syllables each and the third has eight syllables) and chhavi (like dulari but with different syllabilic structure). The pada metre became very popular in later Assamese compositions.
As he has mentioned above, Kandali has churned the milk of the Ramayana to get the butter, by incorporating his own poetic essence to the original Valmika Ramayana. He adapted his work according to the taste of the common folk to make it more popular. He portrays Rama and Sita as human characters, with astonishing qualities but with some human weaknesses in certain situations.
Later additions and influences
The adi kanda (Book 1) and the uttara kanda (Book 7), which were lost by the 15th century were later added by Madhavdev and Srimanta Sankardeva respectively. Sankardeva writes of Kandali:
purvakavi apramadi madhav kandali adi
pade virachila rama katha
hastira dekhiya lada sasa yena phure marga
mora bhaila tenhaya avastha.
Some other additions were made by Ananta Kandali (16th century) and others.
This work has cast a strong influence on Sankardeva, and also later Assamese works. A later Karbi Ramayana was also influenced by this work.
- Kandali, Madhava. সপ্চকাণ্ড ৰামায়ন [Saptakanda Ramayana] (in Assamese). Banalata.
- Goswami, Indira (1996). Ramayana from Ganga to Brahmaputra. B.R. Pub. Corp. ISBN 81-7018-858-X.
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