Sri Ramayana Darshanam
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Sri Ramayana Darshanam (ಶ್ರೀ ರಾಮಾಯಣ ದರ್ಶನಂ) is the most famous work and the magnum opus by Kuvempu in Kannada based on the Hindu epic Ramayana. It earned him many distinctions including the Sahitya Akademi and the Jnanapeeth award in 1967.
The theme is the well known story of Rama in Valmiki's Ramayana, transfigured in the poet's vision. The cardinal element of this vision, which the poet calls 'darshanam', is the poet's realization that all the creation is caused, pervaded, sustained and governed by the cosmic mind. Abounding in metaphors and Homeric similes, introduced by the poet himself for the first time in Kannada, the epic brings home the truth that all beings, even the most wicked and sinful, are destined to evolve and ultimately attain perfection.
Modifications to the story
Sri Ramayana Darshanam is not just another version of Valmiki's story. Kuvempu's work amounts to an interpretative re-creation of the incidents, the characters and the philosophical, moral and spiritual ideas enshrined in Valmiki. Keeping in view the symbolic nature of his poem, the intent and import of his 'vision', and the zeitgeist, Kuvempu has made quite a number of modifications in the characters, major as well as minor. What is more he has invented a good many episodes and introduced some new characters in harmony with his conception of the significance of the epic.
The fire-ordeal episode
The 'Agni-pravesha' (The fire-ordeal) episode illustrates the above statement. At Sita's command, Lakshmana makes a pyre for her and Sita mounts it. It is at this point that Kuvempu makes a startling deviation from Valmiki. The moment Sita has offered herself as supreme oblation to Agni, Rama too rushes after her, and enters the blazing flames, much to the shock of all earthly spectators. In a moment, however, Rama comes out of the fire holding Sita's palm in his right hand, and the spectators get a glimpse of their divinity. By this sensational innovation Kuvempu has proclaimed the great principle of the supremacy of the law, and the equality of all before the law, not excepting the law-giver himself. What is more, if this 'Agni-pravesha' is intended to reveal to all the world the truth of Sita's chastity, it is also intended to reveal Rama's fidelity and love for Sita.
About the epic
It is a single integral, ecstatic symphony in 22284 lines, running into 877 pages in print. The poet was 32 when he began and 41 when he completed this epic. Every line is chiseled to attain an incremental harmony, hardly to be met with in his lyrics. It converts every situation into a wonderful aural structure which perfectly echoes the germ motif. It is not a series of cantata but a single orchestral piece. Every line is a variation of the relevant thematic rhythm. No one could have imagined that the Kannada language is capable of this complex musical quality. For the first time in this century Kannada was made a language worthy of Gods. Sri Ramayana Darshanam is dedicated with deep reverence and respect to his mentor Sri TS Venkannaiah (the first Kannada professor in Karnataka (Mysore University)).
- "Channels". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
- The Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (Volume Five (Sasay To Zorgot), Volume 5 By Mohan Lal
- Ramayana Darshanam Review