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6a. Epics of the ChOzha Period(Ecazrf kal kapfpiygfkqf)

6.1 Kampa rAmAyaNam (kmfpramay]mf)

6.1.1. Kampan(kmfp[f)

For almost 400 years the Thamizh people were literally under the spell of the Bhakthi movement fully engorged with the heart rendering devotional poems of the n^AyanmArkaL and AzhvArkaL. From the middle of the ninth century the ChOzha Kings in ThanjAvUr (twfcav>rf) were gaining supremacy. The whole of the kAviri (kaviri) delta was studded with big and small temples devoted to either Sivan or VishNu. It would be fair to say that the Buddhists and the Jains completely lost their influence and more or less disappeared from the scene. This left the field open for the two main Hindu sects to consolidate their popularity among the people.

The reign of the ChOzha Kingss extended approximately till the end of the 13th century. With their headquarters located in and around ThanjAvUr they ruled the fertile delta formed by the river kAviri and its tributaries, a rich rice growing area (Ecazvq naDEcaBAdtfT). The ChOzha Kings were renowned for their contribution to the temple architecture with the characteristically shaped towers (Ekap<rgfkqf) at the four entrances. People of Thamizh origin owe their present legacy of music, dance and literature largely to the ChOzha Kings under whose patronage they flourished.

The ThanchAvUr big temple is a magnificent masterpiece of Thamizh architecture and is now preserved as a national monument. Every year it is visited by millions of tourists for its architectural splendour. It is unfortunae that a big fire which broke up during the renovation ceremony (KmfpapiExkmf) in 1977 caused loss of several lives. It is my understanding that the damage was restricted to temporary structures constructed for the occasion. In this fertile ChOzha Kingdom was born Kampan (kmfp[f) who made Thamizh literary history with his epic, rAmAyaNam (ramay]mf).

In spite of his fame and glory as the author of a great Thamizh literatury piece, all other aspects of his personal life including his real name, the place and date of his birth and his religion are topics of controversy. Kampan is believed to be the son of a priest (uvcfc[f) in a KALi (kaqi) temple.

Periodic conferences of scholars had been held to discuss Kampan's dates exclusively. Critically analyzing all the available evidence, wading through inconsistencies and discrepancies in the dates of contemporary Kings, patrons and poets and sorting out interpolations from the main text based on their style, Zvelebil (1995) has suggested two probable dates for Kampan, 855 or 1185 A.D. This will correspond to the reign of utthama ChOzhan (utftm Ecaz[f) or KulOthunka ChOzhan III (KElatfTgfk Ecaz[f).

An anonymous poem states that Kampan presented his rAmAvathAram (ramavtarmf) in the Thamizh month of Pankuni (pgfK[i) in the year 807 of the Saka (ck) calendar. This is equivalent to 895 A.D. in the Christian calendar. According to the following anonymous poem, Kampan made his presentation in Thiruvarangam (tiRvrgfkmf) in the presence of his patron, Satayappa VaLLal (cAdypfp vqfqlf) of ThiruveNNai n^allUr (tiRev]fe]yf nlfL\rf).

']f]iy ckatftmf ']f}\bfB
"zi[fEmlf cAdy[f vazfv<
n]f]iy ev]fe]yf nlfL\rf
t[f[iEl kmfpnad[f
p]f]iy ;ram kaAt
pgfK[i `tftnaqilf
k]ff]iy `rgfkrf M[fE[
kvi `rgf Ekbfbi[aE[.
(t[ipfpadlf)

Other works attributed to Kampan are Sarasvathi an^thAthi (crsfvti `nftati) , SatakOpar an^thAthi (cdEkaprf `nftati) , Erezhupathu ("erZpT) and Thirukkai Vazhakkam (tiRkfAk vzkfkmf). His extraordinary skill in the epic narration type poems and devotion to ThirumAl have earned him the prestigious titles of Kampa n^AttAzhvAR (kmfpnadfdazfvarf) , kampa n^Adudaiya VaLLal (kmfpnaDAdy vqfqlf) and the 'learned Kampan' (klfviyibf epriyv[fkmfp[f).

It is said that even inanimate objects in Kampan's house are capable of composing poems (kmfp[ff vIdfDkf kdffDtftbiy<mf kvipaDmf). In recent times, SubrAmaNiya BhArathiyAr (Cpfpirm]iy partiyarf) paid the highest complement possible by saying that to the best of his knowledge, poets like Kampan, VaLLuvar or iLangO have not been born anywhere in the whole world (yambinft p<lvrfkqiEl kmfpA[pfEpalf, vqfQvrfEpalf, ;qgfEkaAvpfEpalf p> mit[ilff yagfk}Em pibnfttilfAl).

6.1.2. Background to Kampa rAmAyaNam (kmfpramay]mf)

Setting aside the contradictory views on Kampan's specific dates, a more pertinent and rather intriguing question is why Kampan, endowed with an extraordinary talent to write an epic of his own imagination, chose to rewrite an ithikAsam (;tikacmf) , rAmAyaNam, very well known to Thamizh since the Sangam period. Though one will never know Kampan's own reason, certain speculations had been made by scholars. The views of Professor GnAna Sampan^than (`.C. wa[cmfpnft[f) (1993) appear logical and deserve serious consideration.

During the days of the n^AyanmArkaL and AzhvArkaL it is no exaggeration that a devotional wave was spreading through the Thamizh country side. Extreme devotion to anything, however sacred it may be, is not conducive for the stimulation of open discussion or for a critical or unbiased analysis of alternate ideologies. This is particularly true of religious dogmas.

After the exit of the Buddhists and Jains from the scene, the devotees of the VishNu and Saiva groups indulged in attempts to establish their respective sectarian superiority. With the momentum of the Bhakthi movement slowing down, rivalry between the two groups grew worse. Though the spell of the devotional music still lingered, the underlying principles of the prayers and idol worships were forgotten in the medley of sectarian views. Creeds were valued more than principles. TholkAppiar's definition of clandestine love (kqviylf) with reference to the role of unchaste women (prtfAtyrf) was probably misconstrued for legitimacy of the evil practice. The advice of the Buddhist and Jain monks on the control of the five senses (_mfp<l[dkfkmf) for a spiritual life was not heeded. ThiruvaLLuvar's teachings on virtues also fell on deaf ears.

The chastity of KaNNaki, the fidelity of MAdhavi and the renunciation of MaNimEkalai remained only as fictional entities. To add to these perversions of individuals, the four Thamizh Kings, who spoke the same language, indulged in constant wars to expand their territory. The killing of Thamizh by Thamizh became the order of the day. Bravery, heroism and valour lost their sanctity. In general, there appeared to be an overall deterioration in the virtuous conduct of the people. Though the temples offered an ideal location for spiritual uplift and promotion of music and dance, the discipline of the mind by the people, at large, did not materialize. It is at this juncture Kampan appeared on the scene with a different strategy to inculcate virtuosity in the conduct of people.

6.1.3. Kampan's Philosophy

Regardless of whether the above summary of events paints an accurate picture of the social and cultural developments at the time, a study of the literature, which is generally regarded as an excellent window of its people, would lend support to such a contention. It is therefore likely that Kampan, who has been described as 'learned' both by his own peers and successors, would have observed the forces which were weakening his society. Being a scholar he was perhaps aware that great and powerful empires and civilizations in the world have crumbled, when people indulged in excesses and deviated from the moral pathway. Being proud of the richness and antiquity of his language, he could not tolerate such a tragedy happening to his own people.

Prompted by these considerations, Kampan thought it appropriate, it seems, to write a literary piece, which would improve the situation. This would give him ample scope to emphasize the excellence of virtuosity, chastity, brotherhood and the oneness of the Absolute Being. To accomplish this objective, he chose the story of rAman (ram[f) which was already very popular among Thamizh people. As an idealist he realized that the story offered him the latitude to introduce his own brand of ethical instructions which would supplement the earlier efforts of ThiruvaLLuvar and iLango atikaL. Without changing the main story he was in a position to mould it to satisfy the literary and religious tastes of the Thamizh community. In this respect, his knowledge of Sanskrit enabled him to study and appreciate the subtleties in the original text by VAlmIki (valfmIki).

6.1.4. The story of rAmAyaNam (ramay]mf)

King Dasarathan (tcrt[f) , the ruler of ayOdhya, had 3 wives, KOsalai (EkacAl) , KaikEyi (AkEkyi) and Sumitthirai (CmitftiAr). KOsalai had one son, rAman (ram[f; KaikEyi had one, Bharathan (prt[f) ; and Sumitthirai had the twins, lakshmaNan (;ldfCm][f) and Satthurukkanan (ctfTRkfk[[f)f.

When rAman was crowned as the prince, a hunch backed maid , KUni (P[i) spoiled the mind of KaikEyi who trapped King Dasarathan into yielding to her boon, that rAman should be sent to the forest for 14 years while Bharathan, her own son should become the King. rAman followed by his wife, SIthai (cIAt) and one of the twin brothers, lakshmaNan, proceeded to the forest as per the wishes of KaikEyi and King Dasarathan. Unable to bear the injustice he had done, the King died. During their exile in the forest, the ten headed King , rAvaNan (;rav][f) from the island of ilankai (;lgfAk) , got infatuated with the beauty of SIthai, cunningly abducted her to the island and forced her to love him.

SIthai maintained her chastity in the midst of untold misery in the confinement of rAvaNan's garden. With the help of Kuhan, (Kk[f) Hanuman (`{m[f)f, SugrIvan (CkfrIv[f) and others, rAman found out where SIthai was held captive and, after a fierce battle, rescued her from the clutches of rAvaNan. rAman returned to ayOdhya with everyone and was crowned as the King. For a detailed and excellent version of the story, rAjagOpAlAchAriyAr's (rajaji) rAmAyaNam may be consulted.

6.1.5. Versions of Kampa rAmAyaNam (kmfpramay]mf)

The compilation of any ancient literary work has always been confronted with the problem of weeding out interpolations (;AdcfecRklf) and addenda. The existence of different versions (padEptgfkqf) add further to the difficulties.

Thanks to the efforts of Kampan Academy (kmfp[f kzkmf) , Chennai, a committee of scholars was set up who were able to complete this difficult job under the chairmanship of Professor T.P.MInAtchi sun^tharan (et.epa. mI[adfciCnftr[f). The result is the publication of "Kampa rAmAyaNam" in 1976 which serves as the standard authority commonly used at present. The revival of interest in Kampa rAmAyaNam is evident by the organization in several towns of annual debates and discussion groups in which reputed scholars participate. Some people believe that Kampar's adoration of rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl perpetuates caste differences.

The book has 6 chapters (ka]fdgfkqf) : BAla KAndam (pal) , ayOdhyA KAndam (`Eyatftiya) , AraNya KAndam (~r]fy) , KitkindhA kAndam (kidfkinfta) , Sun^thara KAndam (Cnftr) , and yuttha KAndam (y<tft).

Each KAndam is divided into a number of sections (pdlmf). There are 118 sections which collectively contain approximately 12000 poems. Kampan has elegantly employed the viruttham (viRtftmf) meter in his compositions. Kampan's ability to use the san^tham (cnftmf) in its varied dimensions to express human emotions faithfully adds colour to his poems and sets a musical flow to his verses. For example, the way Hanuman saw the withering SIthai in rAvaNan's garden (`Ecakv[mf) is an example of the poet's tremendous capacity to capture thoughts and actions through san^thams and meticulous choice of words:

viZtlf, vimfMtlf, emyfub evTmfp<tlf, evRvlf,
'Ztlf, "gfKtlf, ;rgfKtlf, ;ramA[ ']f]itf
etaZtlf, EcaRtlf, TqgfKtlf, Tyrf uznfT uyirftftlf,
`Ztlf, `[fbi mbfB `ylf o[fBmf ecyfKvT `biyaqf.

6.1.6. Salient Features of Kampa rAmAyaNam

The noteworthy feature of Kampan's work is that his style is simple, yet very appealing. There is no need for frequent references in the dictionary (`krati). As an idealist and a humanist he takes every opportunity to express his philosophy in clear terms. His casting of specific characters to portray the trait(s) he wished to emphasize and the way that trait is maintained throughout the play are examples of his brilliant mind and well conceived plan to convey his message.

6.1.6.1. Kampan's concept of the Divine

It is true that, unlike VAlmIki (valfmIki) , Kampan regarded rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl (tiRmalf). However, he used the name ThirumAl, in its broadest sense to refer to the Supreme or Absolute Being. Even at the outset he had expressed his secular views very clearly as seen in the invocation given below. Inded he followed ThiruvaLLuvar in this regard by first paying homage to the Divine (emyf u]rfv<) , then to learned people (nItftarf epRAm) and finally to the ascetics (`bEvarf) :

ulkmf yaAvy<mf tamfuq vakfkLmf
niAl epBtftLmf nIkfkLmf nIgfkla
`lK ;la viAqyadfD uAdyarf - `vrf
tAlvrf, `[f[vrfkfEk cr]f nagfkEq.
(`lK ;la= MFvilflat)

cibfK]tftarf etriv< `R nlf niAl
'bfK u]rftft `riT, ']f]iy YM[fb{qf
MbfK]tftvEr MtElarf `vrf
nbfK]kf kdlf ~Dtlf n[fB `Era.

(cibfK]tftarf= wa[ikqf, 'bfK = '[kfK, MbfK]tftvrf = ctfTvK]mf uAdEyarf)

~ti, `nftmf, `ri '[ yaAvy<mf
Oti[arf, `lK ;lfl[ uqfq[
Evtmf '[fp[ emyfnfenbi n[fAmya[f
patmf `lflT pbfbilrf pbfB ;larf.
(payirmf 1-3)

Kampan's concept of the Divine is beautifully expressed through the words of rAvaNan after his first encounter with rAman in the battle field. After getting a taste of rAman's strength, the almost invincible rAvaNan says that the man he fought with was not Sivan or PirAman or ThirumAl but someone above all of them, the Ultimate or Absolute Being described in the VEdhAs (EvtMtlfv[f) :

civE[a `lfl[f, na[fMk[f `lfl[f, tiRmalamf
`vE[a `lfl[f emyfvrmf 'lflamf `Dki[f$[f
tvE[a '[f[i[f ecyfT MFkfKmf tr[f `lfl[f
;vE[ata[f `vfEvt Mtlf kar][f '[f$[f.
(;rav][fvAtpfpdlmf 134.)

In describing the course of the river, Sarayu (cry<) Kampan introduces another profound concept as if to appease the religious tensions prevailing at the time. He states that the big expanse of the river initially arises as trickles from among the rocks, gathers more and more water all along before joining the sea. The simile he employs is that the big river that flows through many villages and towns with different names has only one origin. This resembles the Absolute Being, that cannot be described fully by the Scriptures but is sought by different religions under different names, is ultimately only one. The following lines illustrate Kampan's religious broad mindedness and universal views of the Supreme Being.

klfliAdpf pibnfT EpanfT, kdliAdkf klnft nItftmf,
'lfAl ;lf mAbkqaLmf ;ymfp `RmfepaRqf :T, '[f[tf
etalfAlyilf o[fEb ~ki, TAbetaBmf prnft Vzfcfcipf
plf epRwf cmymf ecalfLmff epaRQmf Epalf prnftT `[fEb.
(~bfBpfpdlmf 19)
(nItftmf = evqfqmf)

The manner in which Kampan expresses his acknowledgement to VAlmIki in the following verse shows the humility one could expect only from a person of Kampan's high moral caliber. He states in the invocation that, of the three poets, VAlmIki, (valfmIki), Vacittar, (vcidfdrf), BhOdhAyanar, (Epatay[rf), who wrote the story of rAman in Sanskrit, he followed the first author, VAlmIki, for his Thamizh version.

EtvpaAdyi[f ;kfkAt ecyftvrf
YYMvrf ~[vrf tmfMQmf Mnftiy
navi[a[f uAryi[fpF na[f tmizfpf
pavi[alf ;T u]rftftiy p]fp< `Era.
(payirmf 10)

6.1.6.2. Kampan's concept of virtue (`bmf)

When he describes the place, the people, the King and his ministers, Kampan's idealism comes to play immediately. He portrays that both the people and the rulers lead a virtuous life with tranquillity and peace. Right in the beginning Kampan does not waste any time in driving home his first message of control of the five senses. The river, Sarayu, he says, flows through the beautiful KOsala country, where people have complete discipline over their five senses so that they do not let their passions carried away by the dazzling eyes of (unchaste) women :

~clmfp<ri _mfepabi vaqiy<mf
kaC `lmfp< MAlyvrf k]f '{mf
p>clf `mfp<mf, enbiyi[f p<bmf eclakf
Ekaclmf p<A[ ~bfB `]i PBvamf.
(~bfBpfpdlmf 1)
(~clmfp<ri = mik Kbfbmf ecyfki[fb)

Describing the kind of people in that country, Kampan uses his imagination and creates an ideal society where there is no philanthropy because there is no one to accept; there is no heroism because there are no enemies, there is no such thing as truth because no one utters lies; there is no ignorance because everybody is well read:

v]fAm ;lfAl Orf vBAm ;[fAmyalf
ti]fAm ;lfAl Orf ecBnrf ;[fAmyalf
u]fAm ;lfAl epayf uAr ;laAmyalf
ev]fAm ;lfAl pl Ekqfvi Emvlalf.
(nkrpfpdlmf 53)
(ecBnrf= pAkvrf. ev]fAm =`biyaAm)

Kampan continues his concept of the ideal society by stating the attributes of King Dasarathan; he loved his subjects like a mother; his actions were always directed towards their welfare; he lead them like a son along the right path. he punished them like disease without showing favouritism; he served as their spiritual head by leading them with his wisdom and behaviour:

tayf okfKmf `[fpi[f, tvmf okfKmf nlmf pypfpi[f
Ecyf okfKmf M[f ni[fB oR eclfkti uyfkfKmf nIralf
Enayf okfKmf '[f[i[f mRnfT okfKmf N]gfK Ekqfvi
~ypfp<Kgfkalf `biv< okfKmf - 'vrfkfKmf `[f[a[f.
(`rciybf pdlmf 4)

TO CHAPTER 6b


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