In the first twenty of 94 Churnikas, Desikar showcases the valour of Lord Rama in his teenage phase
Taking up the challenges of King Janaka and Sage Parasurama, Rama showed his extraordinary strength in the art of weaponry and a preview of what he was capable of
(This series on Vedanta Desikar’s Mahaveera Vaibhavam is inspired by Shri. TE Madhavan, a IIT Madras Research Scholar and a Theerthakar who presented a brilliant devotional rendering of this hymn in a fast paced style at the Madurantakam Eri Kaatha Rama Temple)
In the concluding decad of the Perumal Thirumozhi, Kulasekara Azhvaar captured the entire story of the Ramayana in just those ten verses (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2017/01/kulasekara-azhvaar-thiru-chitrakoodam.html)
Centuries later Vedanta Desikar through the unique Gadyam style presentation in the Mahaveera Vaibhavam showcases the valourous acts of Rama highlighting his dharmic deeds through the different phases of his life and how he always protected the true devotees.
To the devotees, Desikar says that reciting the Mahaveera vaibhavam in a sincere and devoted way will give them a lot of confidence and courage towards leading a dharmic life and fighting the evil forces.
Unlike the story of Krishnan, especially as seen through the verses of Periyazhvaar, where multiple cantos were dedicated to his childhood, the story of Ramayana is very different with minimal insights into the childhood of Rama. Only a few verses are dedicated to the childhood of Rama and even that to the greatness of his birth and not to any activities as a child. It is only after Rama is into his teens that Vedanta Desikar begins describing his valourous acts.
It was in Thiruvahindrapuram (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2008/03/thiruvahindrapuram-devanathan_29.html) that Vedanta Desikar composed the devotional hymns of Mahavira Vaibhavam dedicated to the valour of Lord Rama after invoking the blessings of Hayagriva. Through the 94 prosaic verses (Churnikas), Desikar extols the valour of Rama providing relevant examples in each phase of his life as endorsement of his valour that was exhibited as part of upholding the dharmic principles of life.
Birth in the Solar Dynasty
Vedanta Desikar begins his Mahaveea Vaibhavam presentation providing one insights into the purpose of his advent into this world. Just like the Sun that rises in the morning to dispel the darkness of the night Lord Rama took birth to put an end to the miseries of the people and to showcase the principles of Dharma.
ஜயத்தியாச்ரித சண்ட்ராச தவாந்த வித்வன்சனோதயஹா
பிரபாவான் சீதையா தேவ்யா பரமவ்யோம பாஸ்கரஹ
With Ravana creating havoc with his arrogance arising out of the immortality boon given by Brahma, Lord Vishnu answering the prayers of the Devas agreed to be born as Rama, the son of King Dasaratha who was performing a yagna seeking a son.
தஷவதன தமித தைவித பரிஷதப்யர்த்தித தாக்ஷரதி பாவ
Dispelling the miseries of True Devotees
In the 6th verse, Desikar once again makes a comparison of Rama to the glorious rays of the bright sun and praises him as enhancing the glory of the solar dynasty. Sun is a special God as he illuminates the sky with his shining glory. Similarly to be born in the Solar Dynasty was an indication that he had come to dispel the darkness caused by the harassment of Ravana.
தினகர குல கமல திவாகர
The story of how Rama cleaned up King Dasaratha’s debts
திவிஷததிபதி ரண சஹசரணசதுர தஷ்ரத சரம ருண விமோசன
For long King Dasaratha had been childless and he was worried that not having a son would continue to keep him in a state of debt despite being a famous ruler of a large kingdom for it is believed that it is the son who discharges the debt of the ancestors by performing the rites in a timely manner.
Following the praise of Rama’s role in discharging his father’s debt, Desikar refers to mother Kausalya and how by being born in hier womb he concealed to the entire world his real identity. Desikar also praises the greatness of Kausalya for she was the chosen one to given birth to Rama.
Praising the Mother
As seen in Perumal Thirumozhi, Kulasekara Azhvaar too begins his decad of lullaby with a praise of Kausalya (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2016/12/kulasekara-azhvaar-lord-rama.html)
கோசலசுத குமார பவ கன்சுகித காரணாகார
The 1st set of churnikas relate to the birth of Rama. Desikar then moves on to the teenage phase of Rama and describes the first valorous deeds of Rama.
Rama’s first act of Valour – a playful gesture
The 9th churnika recounts the first display of valour of Rama. Not yet 16, he is directed hesitatingly by King Dasaratha to accompany Sage Vishwamitra who sought the help of the young boy to protect his sacrificial rites that he was performing. Rama demolished the asuras with effortless ease that Desikar compares this treatment by Rama to a child spending his playfully with his friends.
கௌமார கேலி கோபாயித கௌஷிகாத்வரா
Initiation into the art of Weaponry – kills Tataka, throws Mareecha away
Desikar then takes one through the story of the Sage’s initiation of magic weapons that he believed would be relevant to Rama at a later stage in his life. In this verse, Desikar refers to the weapons as ‘Bhavya’, one that would simply listen to the words of the master.
Soon after the initiation, Desikar provides glimpses into how Rama put it into practice by using the small arrows to demolish the demons in the forest. Rama put an end to Tataka who had been a hurdle to the sacrificial rites that Sage Viswamitra had been performing. And his next arrow sent Mareecha into the ocean. He was still a young boy but even at that age showed his special skills of handling the weapons to protect the good from the evil.
Desikar showcases here the great learning abilities of Rama. Having absorbed the teachings of the great Sage in the art of weaponry, Ramya displayed his learnings in the destruction of Tataka and her son Mareecha.
ப்ரணதஜன விமத விமதன துர்லலித தோர்லலிதா
தனுதர விஷிக விதாதன விகடித விஷராறு ஷாராறு தாடகா தாடகேய
A soft Churnika – Ahalya’s Liberation
Desikar then turns soft in his narration of the episode of liberating the beautiful Ahalya from her husbands’s curse. In his narration, Desikar says that just a mere touch of his lotus foot on the stone was enough to liberate the beautiful lady.
On the way to Mithila, while at the Ashrama of Sage Gautama ,Viswamitra directed Rama to place his foot on the stone lying in the ashrama. Immediately the stone turned into a beautiful girl much to Rama’s surprise. Ahalya in a thanking gesture invoked his blessings with folded hands.
In this verse Desikar also describes the event of Shiva stopping the Ganga with his matted hair that purified the Ganges.
ஜட கிரண ஷகள தரஜடில நடபதி மகுட தட
நடன பது விபுத சரிததி
பஹுல மது களன லலித பத நளின ரஜ உபம்ருதித நிஜ
வ்ரிஜின ஜஹதுபல தணுருசின
பரம முநிவரா யுவதி நுத
Nava Stories to Rama and Lakshmana
Deskiar then presents the important story of Sage’s educative messages to Rama. When in the forest, he describes Nava stories of Gods, Demons and human beings with the intention of carrying Rama through the forest forgetting the hardship of the journey for it was the young lad’s first real long trip.
As they entered the beautiful town of Mithila, Rama was the cynosure of all eyes. The dames had never seen such a handsome man. He was as beautiful as the large moon on a full moon day and they did not take their eyes off him.
மைதில நகர சுலோசனா லோசண சகோர சந்திர
Janaka like every father wanted a handsome man for his daughter Sita who had grown into a beautiful girl. In a moment of haste, seeking the most valourous man on earth, Janaka had thrown an open challenge to anyone to string the mighty weapon of Shiva.
At that time, he had hoped that he would get the bravest man for her. But as time passed he grew anxious for no man could even lift the bow. He was now apprehensive that he had thrown far too big a challenge and that he may now not be able to find the right man.
As Rama entered the court, Janaka wondered as to what the young boy was doing there when several mighty warriors had even failed to move the bow. But he was convinced that this was the man for his daughter such were his handsome features. His eyes were as beautiful as a 1000 lotuses. Desikar also refers to ‘Stealing’ the beauty away from the lotuses as the entire Mithila glanced at the new man who had arrived there.
மோசித ஜனக ஹ்ருதய ஷாங்காதன்க
The attendants in several hundreds were directed to bring the bow to the court. And then in a dramatic moment the young lad lifted the seemingly strong bow of Siva, strung it and broke it with ease into two pieces.
Barely initiated into the art of weaponry, Rama displayed extra ordinary skill that seemed to be outside the capability of normal human beings.
The moment Rama strung the bow Janaka’s joy knew no bounds especially to have found a boy belonging to the solar dynasty for his daughter. He believed that she had done her clan proud by now being part of the clan of the Ishvakus.
கண்டபரஷு கோதண்ட ப்ரகாண்ட கண்டன ஷவுண்ட புஜதண்ட
After the wedding, Rama returned to Ayodhya. But before his return he provided to-date the most valourous display of his strength.
Extra Ordinary Strength
On the way back, he had to face the taunt of that sworn enemy of the Kshatriyas Parasurama, who suggested that he had managed to string what he called was a 2nd best bow for he had the best one in the world, given by Lord Vishnu himself. And that Rama’s real merit lay in trying to string this bow of Parasurama.
ஷாதகோடி ஷாதகுந கதின பரஸுதர முனிவரா
கரத்ருட துறவனம தம நிஜ தணுராகர்ஷண
The sage had offered the fruits of all his penances if Rama managed to string the bowl. Rama took away all the fruits of the good deeds of Parasurama by stringing the mighty bow and also thus got back his own bow. Sage Parasurama too acknowledged Rama as the supreme power after this episode.
The story of Parasurama’s anger and Rama’s greatness through this episode
As King Kartavyarjuna had taken away the sacred cow from Jamadagini’s ashrama in the absence of his son Parasurama, an angry son went after the king and killed him with his axe. In retaliation the army of the king killed Jamadigni, once again in the son’s absence. It was then that Parasurama took the vow to kill 21 generations of Kshatriyas and to perform the ceremonial rites with the blood of the kshatriyas.
It must be recalled that Kartavyarjuna had once held Ravana captive in his kingdom having defeated him in a battle only to release him after the great Ravana pleaded with him. Ravana himself had earlier shaken the great Mount Kailasa while Shiva and Paravati were spending their time in leisure there.
This final Churnika of Bala Kandam showcases to us the extraordinary valour of Rama as one who strung the mighty bows of Shiva and Vishnu and in correlation of the above set of events was a supreme power.
க்ருதுஹர ஷிகரி கந்துக விஹ்ருத்யுன்முக ஜகதருந்துத
ஜிதஹரிதந்த தஷவதன தமன குஷள
தக்ஷஷத பூஜந்ருபதி குல ருதிர ஜர பரித
ப்ருதுதர தடாக தர்பித பித்ருக ப்ருகுபதி சுகதி
விஹாதிகர நத பருதிஷு பரிக
This first set of 20 churnikas of the Mahaveera Vaibhavam relate to the description of Rama’s valour leading to this marriage as a teenager and immediately after.