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Purple Patches in Prakash Bhatt's Ramayana

by K. L. Moza

Prakash Bhatt is the most outstanding narrator of the story of Rama in Kashmiri verse. Scraping away abstruse ontological and redundant proto-historical accretions from the story of Rama, the immortal bard makes it a highly eluoyable experience for a common Kashmiri Hindu reader. Like everyother classic work of literary art some segments in Prakash Bhatt's Ramayana are, no doubt, lacklustre, laboured and diffuse. But there are numerous purple patches in the literary transcreation where Prakash Bhatt is an inspired literary craftsman luxuriating in the use of fascinatingly beautiful verbal strokes.

Rama and Laxmana accompany Vishwamitra to Janakpuri after killing the demons constantly desecrating the altar where the sage offers sacrificial oblation to gods. Janaka, the philosopher king, accords a very warm welcome to them. Rama, throwing up Shiva's bow, shoots an arrow from it with a splintering smash-crash. King Dashratha is informed about Rama's heroic exploit entitling him to marry Sita in accordance with the royal decree. This is followed by the pompous performance of royal nuptial rites. King Dashtratha returns to Ayodhya with four brides for his four sons. Shortly after, he decides to abdicate in favour of Rama following the law of primogeniture. He is eager and anxious to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance for the realisation of his self and God. Rama and Sita spend their time in youthful dalliance like all other young couples in the royal household. At this point of the story, Narada stalks into the royal palace. He reminds Rama about the objectives and design behind his birth upon the earth.

Here Prakash Rama Bhatt incognito as Narada expounds the intricate philosophical concept of Maya to a common Kashmiri Hindu reader. In charming melodious verse he expatiates upon the essential ephemeral nature of the phenomenal cosmos, and emphatically predicates that God alone is the ultimate reality. The immortal bard also reveals his solipsistic predilections. This purple patch amply illustrates the fact that through the medium of art abstruse philosophical concepts can be made easily intelligible to the common people. It is interesting to mention here that the puranas are literary works created by our ancestors maintly for making abstruse philosophical wisdom, enshrined in the Vedas and the Upanishads, intelligible to the common readers.

In obedience to the command of his step- mother Kaikeyi, Rama leaveg for the Dandak forests along with Laxmana and Sita. Bharata, returning from his maternal grand father's house flies into royal rage at his mother's sacrilegious machinations. Together with Shatruguna, Kaikeyi and the citizens of Ayodhya, he marches towards the Dandak forests. Here he breaks the news of Dashratha's death to Rama. In the purple patch that follows Prakash Bhatt expatiates upon the importance of a father to a son.

Incognito as Rama, Prakash Bhatt, through introspective dialectics, re-affirms the validity of numerous moral varieties. According to him the people pure at heart alone should expect to grace in steering their course to safety through the ocean of Maya; God himself functions as a father to those orphaned at an early age; God himself acts as a protector to unprotected people; those robbed of their possessions by their kith and kin will enjoy eternal bliss; people denied comfort and succor by their own children will surely enter heaven; God is the parent of all those who have none to look after them; all temporal possessions are ephemeral, and being pushed out of home should not be a painful experience because any shelter providing comfort is a veritable home.

In the Aranya Kaanda, Sita is kidnapped away by Ravana catching hold of her hair, he throws her into the Pushpak Vimaan and speeds along the aerial course leading towards Lanka. Jatayu, transcreated as Jatayun, hears the pathetic tidings from the winged denizens of the forest. The stars witnessing the spectacle melt down in their orbs. In depicting the pathos of the situation, Prakash Bhatt resorts to the use of poetic conceits, hyperboles and pathetic fallacies. Jatayun fights desperately and valiantly to foil Ravun's lascivious kidnapping attempt. Ravun cuts asunder one of his wings and inflicts fatal injuries upon him.

In his dying moments, he remembers Rama and recounts the gallant fight of his winged troops to prevent Sita's abduction. In this purple patch, Prakash Bhatt's bhakti rises to the level which Emerson, the American transcendential philosopher, calls God- intoxication.

Swami Vivekananda is convinced that this level of bhakti is attained by only a few amongst millions in a century. In Kishkindya Kaand Prakash Bhatt's description of the meeting between Rama and Laxmana with King Sugreva is superb. From the hilly eminence where Sugreva, a fugitive from the wrath of his unrighteous turbulent brother Bali, has taken refuge, the two princes are espied carrying a bow and quiver each. Hanuman disguised as a Brahmin is sent forward to enquire their antecedents. Sugreva and his lieutenants strike friendship with the princes from Ayodhya amidst universal jubilation. As Rama confides his agony to Surgreva, he is shown the ornaments scattered by Sita along the course of her abduction. It is confirmed that Ravun is the abductor. Sugreva promises all help in Sita's recovery. Rama promises to destroy Bali for the unrighteousness unleashed by him and for the restoration of moral order. This is a purple patch which has fascinated Kashmiri Hindu readers down the several past decades. In Sundar Kaanda reconnaissance parties are despatched; to estimate the strength of the enemy and to determine strategically the most desirable course for launching an attack on Lanka. There connaissance detachment headed by Hanuman, Angud and Zombhuvan are baffled by the vast expanse of foamy wilderness separating India from the charming isle of Lanka. It is unanimously agreed that Hanuman alone canjump across the ocean to bring tidings about Sita. The enthusiasm among the troops, their hopes and fears, depicted in chaste kashmin, is an ingratiating feature about this segment of the Ramayanic transcreation. As Hanuman, fortified by his tremendous faith in the benedictions of Rama, jumps across the Palk Strait, he lands in Ashoks Vatica. He observes Sita surrounded by hsgs and demons. She is absorbed in her supplicationg to Rama to rescue her from her miserable plight. Soon guffawing Ravan appears on the scene. He makes lecherous overtures towards Sita. It is a very painful experience for Hanuman to watch Mother Sita in racking agony. He throws Rama's ring in her lap from his hide-out in the boughs and foliage of the tree under which, lachrymose and dejected, Sita is seated on a rough pavilion.

This revitalizes her hope for speedy re- union with Rama. As she wonders how the ring has materialized before her, Hanuman jumps down and informs her about the preparations being made by Rama and his ally Sugreva to release her from the tyrannical clutches of Ravana. Like a typical devoted Kashmiri Hindu lady, she confides her pangs of separation to the messenger from her husband. In consistence with Kashmiri Hindu cultural norms, she identifies the young benefactor as a son. Later Hanuman, with his tail ablaze, is brought fettered and shackled before her by Ravun's demoniacal troops. Hanuman has been subjugated by Inderjit's Brahm-Astar. He is to be burnt alive for having indulged in wanton destruction to the Asoka Vatica. Sita warns Agni against dreadful retribution from Rama in case Hanuman is harmed by him even ever so slightly. In this purple segment Prakash Bhatt, with wonderful artistic skill, depicts tender feminine sentiments.

In Lanka-Kaanda the monkey troops at the very outset clash with the demoniacal forces commanded by Inderjit, - the son of Ravun. Laxmana who is commanding the allies swoons down when struck by an arrow from Inderjit's bow. He remains consciousness with sanjeevani prescribed as a medicine by righteous Vibhishana who has joined Rama's camp after being thrown out of the royal palace of Lanka. After Inderjit, Rama's troops kill Kumbhakaran in a heroic encounter. Thereafter Ravun seeks help of his friend Mahiravun, the king of the underworld. Mahiravun, making use of his occult powers, kidnaps Rama and Laxmana to the underworld to offer them as a sacrifice to the demoniacal forces for making Ravun invincible. This demoniacal plann is executed by him under the cover of darkness. In the morning, the realisation of Rama and Laxmana's abduction, against which possibility Vibhishana is forewarned, causes great disturbance among the troops. Hanuman in particular is crestfallen because security of Rama and Laxmana is the special trust reposed in him. In this segment of the narration Prakash Bhatt's bhakti again touches sublime heights. Hanuman's search for Rama becomes the principal objective of his existence. In this purple segment realization of Rama, in fact, becomes existential indispensability. Sans Rama the entire cosmos becomes bleak desolation for him. Hanumana recovers Rama and Laxmana from the underworld. In the great war Ravun himself commands the demoniacal troops in the last battle. By his occult powers he causes frightening destruction amongst the invading troops who supplicate before Rama to protect them against the demoniacal fury of Ravun. It this point of the narration, there occurs a profoundly devotional long lyric composed by Prakash Bhatt's contemporary Vasudev. This lyric is a melodious expression of Vedanta philosophy. It illustrates Vasudev's solipsistic tendencies. This lyric too is a purple patch in the brilliant work of devotional art.

Prakash Ram Bhatt is one of the greatest Kashmiri devotees of Lord Rama. In his Kashmiri Ramayanic transcreation, he utilizes his hazy knowledge about the story of Rama as an objective correlative for the artistic- objectification of his abysmal devotion for Lord Raghuvir. Bhakti can be defined as unconditional surrender to all kinds of divine dispensations, what Swami Vivekananda calls bhakti extreme love for God. In Prakash Bhatt's Ramayana we observe Rama's love permeating every fibre of the early nineteenth century saints poet's Being. The immortal bard's devotional intoxication manifests in symbiotic macro micro depictions.

(Courtesy Koshur Samachar)

[The author is a professor of English, teaching in G.M. College, Jammu. He is a learned scholar, also competent as a writer]
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