The ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two great epics (Maha Kavyas) which served as the two formidable piilars on which rests the edifiof the Indian culture. Of these two, the Ramayana deals with Rama’s victory over Ravana. The Ramayana of Valmiki was meant to give a better tone to religion and to some characteristics of Indian society. It was so comprehensive that it expressed the thoughts and experience of a whole nation, as it developed with progress of time. Like the primeval and everlasting banyan (Aksayavata) tree it gave its pleasant shade to the Aryans.
The ancient and modern scholars accept it as the Adi Kavya written by the famous poet (Adi Kavi) Valmiki who by his intellect sharpened by the power of penance, surpassed even the preceptor of gods, Brhaspati. It contains the life history of Rama from his birth to his final conquest of Lanka and his coronation on his return to Ayodhya. The Ramayana is not only a narrative poem of the history of the Rama but is also considered to be the first ornate poem of classical Sanakrit. At the end of every canto, it is called an Adi Kavya Iti Adi Kavya prathamah Sargah. The division of the later mahakavyas into sargas cantos was based on the model of the Ramayan. Te main object of the poem is to afford aesthetic pleasure which is technically called Rasa by the rhetoricians. It is predominantly a poem of pathos (Karuna rasa). As a matter of fact its composition was inspired by the sentiment of pathos which suddenly overwhelmed the mind of the poet Valmiki, the author, when he saw one of the loving pair of Krauncas killed by an arrow of the hunter. Let not glory attend thee, O fowler for eternal years to come for thou hast killed one of the pair of curlews infatuated with love.
This very stamp of pathetic sorrow that became imprinted on the mind the sage is visible throughout the incident of the Ramayan. The dominant sentiment that pervades the work is unquestionably that of pathos. Besides other sentiments like the heroic (Vira) the erotic (Singara) the furious (Raudra) etc. are also to be found in the poem. The verse quoted above contains the suggestion called alaksya ktama vyangya or Vyangyadhvani which is regarded as the best of all the form of suggestion.
Not only this, the Ramayana bristles with figures such as similies, metaphors, alliteration etc. this shows keen observation and the great flight of imagination of Valmiki. This is recognized even by western critics who say “Valmiki is rich in the cumulating of similies.” There is hardly a poet who is not influenced by or had not imitated Valmiki. But there is none except Kalidasa who had succeeded to stand comparison him. This fact is best illustrated by a verse in janakiharana of kumaradasa who tried to imitate Valmiki in describing the rebuke of laksamana to sugriva, who was making delay in the quest of sita.
Give up the council of newly acquired property and pay heed to the former promise. The veracious appetite of the devouring God of Death will not be satisfied by consumption of Valin alone. How can this elaborated rebuke be compared with the simple but suggestive reproof of Laksamana in the Ramayana.
The path which Valin followed in his death is not closed. Mind the promise surgriva, do not try to tread the footsteps of Vali. Kalidasa Raghuvamsa is based on the unique epic poem and for the Meghaduta also he found inspiration from he message of Rama carried by Hanuman to Sita.
To call Ramayana the Ramayana the Adi Kavya is not merely a platitude or a compliment out of respect for the Adi Kavya Valmiki, but it had actually served as a model and source for the later poets to compose and derive their themes from it. It is for this reason, Dhananjaya has advised the dramatists to study the Ramayana before attempting to write a drama. In this way it is describe as an Upajivya Kavya which meant that the later poets earned their bread by resorting to the stories of the Ramayanas.
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