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Kamba Ramayanam

Kamba Ramayanam is considered one of the greatest achievements in Tamil Literature. Poet Kamban , of 12th Century wrote Ramavatharam, the story of Rama in Tamil based on Valmiki’s Ramayana in Sanskrit. Kamban didn’t simply translate the story of Rama. In about 11,000 verses he took the plot points from the original and fleshed out the characters in his own style. All the verses followed the rigorous grammar of Tamil Language and at the same time were suffused with devotion to Lord Rama.

Everybody in Tamilnadu knows about Kamban though only a few have actually read the book in entirety. My interest in Kamban was rekindled by the writings of Nanjil Nadan, one of the leading writers in contemporary Tamil Literature. He had written a post on how he learnt Kamba Ramayanam from his guru while living in Mumbai. His teacher had used Vai.Mu.Gopala Krishnamachariyar’s notes to teach him. This was written in 1940s and was out of print when Nanjil Nadan wanted it. This information was stuck in my mind and a few months later I found that this book has been published again in 7 volumes.

I tweeted half in jest asking any one of my friends to buy it for me and promising to post regularly if they bought me the book. Anand Krishnamoorthy, actor and sound engineer in Tamil movies, took the bait and bought it for me. So now I have no reason not to translate Kamba Ramayanam any more.

Till now it was a harmless dream. But now the book is with me, I have decided to take it up seriously. Google tells me that a complete English translation of Kamba Ramayanam doesn’t exist. Va.Ve.Su.Iyer had translated about 4000 verses. C. Rajagopalachari, Dr. H.V. Hande and P.S.Sundaram are others who have done partial translations. All the above are scholars, while I am just a blogger. So don’t expect too much out of this effort.

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