Regional Compositions of Sri Ramayana, Part Six

BY: SUN STAFF - 5.2 2018

Serial presentation of the preeminent versions of Sri Ramayana.


In the 16th Century, Maharashtra poet Eknath wrote his poetic version of Sri Ramayana. Known as the Bhavartha Ramayana, it was not the first Marathi version. Reference is also found of a Marathi Ramayana produced during the 12th or 13th Century.

Eknath's Bhavarth-Ramayana was created in the form of a new style of long narrative poetry. The elaborate form of the story has been attributed to his high degree of artistry and scholarly maturity.

'Eknath (1528-'99) was respected greatly as a major poet of the Warkari tradition, after Jnaneshwar and Namdev. He was born in 1528 A.D. in Paithan, a well known holy place in medieval Maharashtra. One of the early propagators of the Bhakti movement, he was a preacher of worldly and spiritual values.

Eknath has to his credit several significant works. His commentary on the eleventh chapter of the Sanskrit Bhagwat is popularly known as Nath Bhagwat. He wrote a long narrative poem entitled Rukmini Swayamvar. In addition to these he composed a large number of abangas, as well as songs and folk-poems known as bharudas.

Bhavartha Ramayana is Eknath's magnum opus. The massive narrative poem is divided into seven cantos with 40,000 ovis (metrical stanzas)." [1]

It is said that Eknath was inspired to write his version of Ramayana by a vision he had in a dream. The scene is described in this way:[2] After the vision, "...he began the Marathi version of the Ramayana. Choosing a favourable day he began to search the seven chapters. As he brought the meaning of it into his mind he became absorbed in it. He thought to himself, 'The meaning of this is deep. How can I put it into Marathi? Still by the mercy of Janardan I will compose the book as best as I can.'

He began the Balkand (the chapter dealing with Rama's birth and childhood) and composed verses of praise in the first chapter. Worshipping the feet of Ganapati and Sarasvati he then praised the sadguru. Praying to saints and good people, Eknath began his book. With devotion he wrote the composition, which is therefore called the Bhavartha Ramayana." His adherents believe that 'Shri Raghunath (Rama) sitting upon his lips caused him rightly to compose the book, and Eknath became a mere instrument which all His holy bhaktas know.'

After writing Bhavartha Ramayana, Eknath also earned the displeasure of some of his associates, who felt he had no right to change the Sanskrit version of Valmiki's Ramayana. Eknath's determination was confirmed for him, however, by various subsequent visions and divine experiences he had.

"Bhavartha Ramayana, a narrative epic of forty thousand couplets in 'ovi' metre, has been enjoying popularity amongst the rural folk since its completion. Out of the forty thousand couplets, twenty-five thousand are from Eknath's pen. The rest of the work was completed by his disciple, Gawba. Eknath, as a narrative poet, is at his best in this work. Written towards the closing years of his life, Eknath is significantly conscious of poetic values and the relationship of poetry with society in general.

Awareness of the prevailing conditions and also suggestions to meet the districting political and social onslaughts are distinctive features of this work. Descriptions are so suggestive that a reader feels that the work must have been written only to stimulate the sentiments of the society against the evils of contemporary life. Eknath, as a seer and also as a poet, has reached high altitudes in Bhavartha Ramayana. [ ]

Poetry, according to Eknath, is not an end in itself. It is a means to capture the hearts of the people, irrespective of their social status and intellectual standards. 'Poetry', says he, 'should not be voluminous'. Each word in a poetic work should lead to 'parmarth' or spiritual attainment."[3]



[1] History, Religion and Culture of India, Volume 3 by S. Gajrani

[2] Stories of Indian Saints: Translation of Mahipati's Marathi Bhaktavijaya by Mahīpati, Justin Edwards Abbott, Narhar R. Godbole, texts 151-156

[3] Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: Devraj to Jyoti, Volume 2, p. 1143 by Amaresh Datta