Regional Compositions of Sri Ramayana, Part Four

BY: SUN STAFF

Rama-lila carved into an 8th-century relief at Ellora

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

BHUSUNDI RAMAYANA

The Bhusundi Ramayana is often referred to as the Mula or the Adi Ramayana, meaning the original version of Ramayana. In this text, the original dialogue between Bharata and Atri is narrated by Bhusundi to Sandlila. The description of holy places around Citrakuta and a reference to Rama's perpetual rasa-krida with Sita and her friends in a beautiful mandapa in a lake in the Santa-naka forest in Citrakuta is thought by some to suggest its place of origin.

"Once upon a time, while the sage Valmiki was performing austerities on the bank of the river Tamasa, Narada Muni appeared before him and narrated a summary of the Ramayana, called the "Mula-ramayana" or the Original Ramayana. This is the very first chapter the Bala-kanda of Valmiki's Ramayana and it consists of the main episodes of Sri Rama's pastimes summarized in one hundred verses.

The text itself suggests that the meeting of the sages took place some time after Sri Rama had defeated Ravana and before He became the king of Ayodhya. After hearting the Mula-ramayana, the sage Valmiki composed thousands of Sanskrit verses to elaborately narrate all the incidents in this great epic."[1]

The Bhusundi Ramayana gets its name from Kakbhushundi, a sage made famous in Tulsidas's Ramcharitmanas. The word 'kak' literally means crow, and the name is associated with the sage who, in his final incarnation, was transformed into a crow by the sage Lomas.

Known as a great devotee of Lord Rama, Kak Bhusundi is often referred to as the first person to narrate the Ramayana. Various texts describe Kakbhushundi taking many births. Originally a sudra in Ayodhya, he was eventually born as a brahmana, when from his birth he worshipped Lord Rama. In this birth he got into an argument with Lomas Rsi, and was transformed into a crow.

In the Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, mention of Kakbhushundi is found in the Bāl Kāṇḍ (the Child episode) and in Uttar Kānd (the Epilogue). One of three main conversations in Ramcharitmanas, Kakbhushundi and the king of birds, Garuda share a dialogue.

Many Vedic scholars consider the Bhusundi Ramayana to be not the original 'adi Ramayana', but rather an esoteric rewrite that incorporates the rasik mood. It has also been argued[2]that the Bhusundi Ramayana's conceptualization of the holy city of Ayodhya is "no more than a trivial replica of the sacred topography developed for Braj in the Vrajabhaktivilasa of Narayana Bhatta written in A.D. 1552.'

The writer who has offered the only ethnographic data on Ramanandi rasiks, Dutch anthropologist Peter van der Veer, characterizes their entire tradition as "the 'Krsnaization' of Ram bhakti". …It has been shown that from Agradas's time onward Ramanandi centers in Rajasthan were in close contact with developments in the Braj region, and that many rasikadepts received training from Krsnaite preceptors in Vrindavan.

Despite the emphasis, especially in the sakhi branch of the tradition, on erotic themes, the personal meditations of many rasik devotees centered on other personal relationships to Ram. Some chose to visualize the Lord as a young child and to cultivate tender parental emotions toward him (vatsalya bhav). In this they had as a model the character of the legendary crow Kak Bhusundi in Uttar kand, the seventh book of the Tulsidas epic…

Kak Bhusundi was said to return to Ayodhya in every cosmic cycle to re-experience the childhood sports of his Lord, thus paralleling the aspirant's own daily inner journeys to Saket and re-creations of its lila."

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Mula-Ramayana Review
[2] The Secret Life of Ramcandra of Ayodhya by Philip Lutgendorf