Regional Compositions of Sri Ramayana

BY: SUN STAFF - 23.1 2018

Illustrations from Giradhara Ramayana manuscripts 
preserved at M.S. University Library, Vadodara, Gujarat

The first in a serial presentation of the preeminent versions of Sri Ramayana.

We begin our series with this commentary on a very important composition of the Ramayana, written by Giradhara, an 18th Century poet from Gujarat:

 

The Illustrated Giradhara Ramayana Manuscript from Vadodara

By Prof. M. L. Wadekar

 

The Valmiki-Ramayana has greatly influenced the Indian society. The poets of all regions have always tried to narrate the Ramayana episodes in regional languages with additions, alterations and remodeling the said story with incorporation of numerous social and religious customs and traditions, prevalent in their respective period. The social significance and impact of the Ramayana, influencing the minds of masses is to be found in all centuries.

After Valmiki-Ramayana, several Ramayanas, Ananda-Ramayana, Adhyatma-Ramayana, Bhusundi-Ramayana, Tulasikŗta Ramayana, Kŗttivasa-Ramayana, Kamba-Ramayana, Bhavartha-Ramayana etc. were composed by different poets of India. Giradhara is one of such eighteenth century modern poets of Gujarat, who has written complete Ramayana in metrical form in Gujarati. Though he has primarily based his exposition on the Valmiki Ramayana, Hanumannataka and some other Ramayanas, he has not followed completely the Valmiki-Ramayana, but has made several changes in the exposition and sequence of episodes and added time-honoured social and religious customs and traditions, which prevailed in society of his time. This shows how Valmiki-Ramayana has been influencing the society and masses in all times.

Giradhara (Samvat 1843 i.e. 1787 A.D.) is one of eighteenth century modern poets of Gujarat (Especially of Vadodara, Masara in Padra District), who has written complete Ramayana [1](seven kandas, 299 adhyayas, 9551 Copai verses) in metrical form in Gujarati. He wrote this Ramayana in 1836 A.D., when he was living in Vadodara after 1820 A.D.

Giradhara and life

Giradhara was born in Dasalada Vanik caste, in Samvat 1843 i.e. 1787 A.D. in Gujarat, especially in Masara village in Padra District. In his later life (after Samvat 1876 i.e. 1820 A.D. he also lived in Vadodara.

His father's name was Garbadadasa, mother's name is not known, while his two sisters were Sada and Kanku. Giradharadasa was the elder brother of them. The name of his preceptor was Purusottamadasa Maharaja, from whom he learnt Kavyashastra. In fact, he did not get much learning and was illiterate, but obtained much knowledge of the Valmiki-Ramayana, Mahabharata, Harivamsa, Puranas, especially of Bhagavata, Hanumannataka, Naradapancaratra, Adhyatma-Ramayana and Ananda-Ramayana.

Giradharadasa gives the exact date and time of completing the composition of the Ramayana by him. In Saka 1758, Samvat 1893 i.e. 1836 A.D., it was Dhanasankranti, Hemanta tuin the month of Margasirsa, Kŗsnapaska, ninth lunar day, Sunday and Middle of the day, Citra Naksatra, Sukra yoga, Vanijakarana, Kumbha Lagna and Abhijit Muhurta.

Besides Gujarati – his mother tongue, he had good knowledge of Hindi and Sanskrit, He left this mortal world at the age of 65, on the eleventh day of month of Bhadrapada in Samvat 1908 (1852 A.D.). It is reported that his narration of the Ramayana had greatly influenced the masses and even Muslims listened to and sung the Giradhaŗakŗta Ramayana. Premananda, who was also born in Vadodara and has composed several Pauranic

Akhyanas, flourished between 1645 A.D.– 1712 A.D. He was his predecessor Akhyanakara from Vadodara. He composed a work, named Ramayajna on the Ramayana.

Giradhara's works

He has composed fifteen poetic works in Gujarati. They are: 1. Danalila, 2. Srikŗsnajanmavarnanam, 3. Radhakŗsnanorasa, 4. Prahladacaritra, 5. Grisma rtunilila, 6.Tulasivivaha, 7. Rajasuyayajna, 8. Ramayana, 9. Kŗsnacaritra-Gokulalila, 10. Mathuralila, 11. Dvarakalila, 12. Janmastaminosohelo, 13. Narasimhacaturdasini vadhai, 14. Radhika viharadvadasamasa and 15. many Padas.

The Ramayana composed by him contains seven kandas, 299 adhyayas, 9551 Copai verses. Thus it is the only metrical Ramayana, composed in Gujarati, in complete form, containing all Kandas of the Ramayana.

It is quite significant that manuscripts of different kandas of this Ramayana, composed by him are in the manuscript collection of the Oriental Institute. It is further remarkable that the Ayodhyakanda and Aranyakand part of the said manuscripts, contains 25 + 23 = 48 colourful pictures, illustrating the incidents of Ramayana. The manuscript accession no. is 14117. It is a paper manuscript in Devanagari script but in Gujarati language. It has 112 folios (Ayodhyakanda) up to folio 58, written in both the sides of the folios. There are 48 colourful pictures, interspersed in the explosion at several places but they are not counted and numbered in the folios. It is received as a gift from Dr. U.P. Shah, the then Deputy Director of the Oriental Institute. Its size is 15.2 cms X 28.3 cms. The red pigment is used for Dandas and important words and colophons. From the post-colophon entries of the Ayodhyakanda and the Aranyakanda, the definite information about the scribe, his date and place of residence is found. It is as follows:

All the Manuscripts of different parts of the Giradhara-Ramayana are written by a scribe named Narottama Adhyaru, living at Adharu's lane, Sulatanpura, Vadodara. The scribe was Audicyasahasra Brahmin (Sukla-Yajurveda Madhyandina Shakha). The Manuscript of Ayodhyakanda, with pictures is written and painted in 1838 A.D. The copying and painting of Ayodhyakanda was complete on Tuesday the Paurnima day in the month of Phalguna in the year Samvat 1894 and Saka 1759 i.e. 1838 A.D. and the Aranyakanda was completely copied and painted on the Monday the sixth lunar day of black fortnight in the month of Caitra in the year Samvat 1894 and Saka 1760 i.e. 1838 A.D. This shows that the entre Aranyakanda was copied and painted within the time period of 36 days. The author had composed the Gujarati-Ramayana in 1836 A.D. This shows that Giradhara's Ramayana was very popular in those days in Vadodara and only within two years of its composition, the scribe prepared it along with forty eight pictures. The manuscript belongs to Lalabhai Nanabhai Mehta. "If anybody takes it away for reading or copying, but does not return, he has to answer in the court of the Lord". The scribe-painter also seems to be devotee and admirer of Giradhara, the poet. He has not only prepared illustrations on different incidents, but also carefully painted them as per the divergences in the Giradhara's exposition of events. For example: 1. Manthara accusing Rama, 2. Vikalpa-Kali-Manthara-Kalinga fruits, 3. Mother of Guhak, washing feet of Rama 4. Gandharva, in the form of crow, troubling Sita, 5. Rama hurling darbha and his surrendering, 6. Bharata decides to enter the fire. The pictures are painted with different colours and are beautiful; sketches of mountains, trees and bird are admirable too.

Pictures in the Manuscripts

The pictures in the manuscript are related to the different episodes in the Ayodhyakanda and Aranyakanda.

Conclusion

Thus this Ramayana-work from Vadodara, by a Gujarati poet as well as its very rare and valuable illustrated manuscript by a scribe from Vadodara – both these facts are quite unique and noteworthy from the point of view of our cultural heritage and precious manuscript wealth.

Prof. Dr. M. L. Wadekar is Officiating Director, Oriental Institute, M. S. University of Baroda, Gujarat


1 Kavi Giradharakrta Ramayana, Sahitya Sangama, Bavasidi, Gopipura, Surat, Joshi Devadatta, Kavi Giradhara Jivanaanekavana, Shri Sayaji Sahityamala no. 359, Oriental Institute, M.S. University of Baroda, Vadodara 1982, Sri Giradharakrta Ramayana, Sastu Sahityavardhaka Karyalaya, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, 1950.

See source article at Kriti-rakshana for omitted slokas