Yesterday, I managed to complete my Adhyatma Ramayana Paarayanam just in time for the new year. This is the 13th or 14th year since I started the practice and I've missed it only once, I think. Every year my handsome, red-bound copy comes out of its year-long hibernation to be dissected into 15-page portions that I set at the beginning of Karkkidakam. I can never stick to that portion because with all my diligence and care, something or the other will happen and I miss reading some days and then have to read huge portions at a stretch, almost destroying my throat in the process.
I love reading the Adhyatma Ramayana, not just as a spiritual practice, but for the opportunity it gives me to enunciate all the beautiful consonants of Malayalam in all possible permutations and combinations. Our day-to-day conversation is limited in its use of the very hard (athikharam) and resonant (ghosham) consonants. Even if they intrude in our daily speech, we soften them so that our speech flows smoothly. In fact, if someone were to enunciate properly while speaking, we would definitely consider him an oddball or a "language fundamentalist". But I go all out in Karkkidakam and let the ghoshams and athikharams roll off my tongue in all their glory. I can feel them down in my diaphragm when I enunciate and it's a pretty heady feeling!
Obviously, my recital is not musical a la Kaavalam or so slow, because I have to finish reading it all by myself. I concentrate more on getting the pronunciation right and getting the meaning. I have been known to laugh at the funny parts, resulting in people asking me what's so funny in the Ramayana. I have again and again marveled at the knowledge of our sages who have described the growth of a fetus in vitro, down to what development occurs each month it spends in the womb. I marvel at Kumbhakarna's sagacity when he says, "We know that certain things are bad for us, but go ahead and do it anyway. It's because of Karma accrued in previous births" - explains a lot of things like alcoholism and obesity through gluttony, right?
I hate it when the "heroic" monkey warriors have to drag poor Mandodari in to finally interrupt Ravana's meditation. People think that Sita was insulted when Ravan abducted her? They've so got it wrong. Look how well he treated her! He didn't even put pressure on her to stay in his palace, but gave her female guards and put her in the open garden where everyone could see that she was not molested. He only used words of persuasion or threat with her, he made no physical contact whatsoever. And what about Mandodari?
There is a whole subtext here of offering Sita as bait to initiate genocide with the Aryans on one side and Dravidians on the other, but we will not go into that. Suffice to say, I enjoy reading the poetic rendition of the immortal story so much that I eagerly look forward to reading it every year. I especially enjoy the Sundara Kaandam because the vruththam is so tough that it is a Herculean task to separate the words that are inextricably wound into each other. I absolutely revel in being able to make words out of that aviyal! And the rhythm is so catchy that it is a lot of help in extricating the words too. I always vow that the next time I read the Ramayana, I will have a copy of the Sabdathaaravali by my side to help me with unknown words. Well, I've been saying that for 14 years now, may be this year I shall buy a copy of my own??? Procrastination rules!!!!
Happy New Year!!!!!