The Ramayana in Sanskrit was authored by Valmiki. There was no literature meant for commoners, prior to the Ramayana. Only Vedic literature existed before it. That’s why Valmiki is referred to as Adi Kavi or the first poet. Two more Ramayanas are very popular — the Kamba Ramayanam in the south and Tulsi Das’ Ramcharitmanas in the north.
Valmiki gave three titles to his book: It is called Ramayana from the point of view of the hero. Sitayah Charitam is from the point of view of the heroine and Poulastya Vadham is from the villain’s point of view. Ramayana means that which can get the reader to attain Rama. Sitayah Charitam is the story of Sita and Poulastya Vadham is the killing of Ravana.
There are 24,000 verses in the Ramayana and it is divided in to six cantos:Balkand deals with the childhood of Rama and his brothers; Ayodhyakand is about their growing up in Ayodhya; Aranyakand narrates Rama’s exile in the forest along with Sita and Lakshmana, and Sita’s abduction; in Kishkindhakand Rama meets with Sugreeva and Hanuman; Sundarakand is the story of searching for Sita, and Yuddha Kanda, the war, killing of Ravana, Rama’s return to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana and his coronation.
While five of the six chapters are named around the incidents or places, only Sundarkand is named differently – it is called, the beautiful canto.
The significance of Sundarkand lies in its very name. It is a canto that most people chant; a parayana grantha meant to be chanted. Beautiful components are embedded in the canto.
Firstly, if we look at it as a work of literature, it consists of beauty; aesthetics in the words employed are known in poetics as Sabda Saundaryam consisting of many figures of speech like alliterations. Then there are many poetic qualities employed by Valmiki in the meaning of the words with multiple meanings or subtlety, known as Artha Saundaryam, beauty in meaning.
In Sanskrit literature, poetics deals with the concept of rasa, sentiment or emotion. In Sundarkand, we find many descriptions expressing density of various emotions of love, anger, fear, repugnance, wonder and so on. This reveals Rasa Saundaryam.
When Hanuman approaches Sita, she doesn’t believe he is a messenger from Rama. She asks him to describe the beauty of Rama. When Hanuman sees her for the first time, he is amazed at her beauty. We find a great description of the beauty and valour of Hanuman. Thus, Sundarkand consists of the descriptions of beauty of Rama, Sita and Hanuman.
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