The Greatest Ode to Lord Ram is a slice of Ramcharitmanas, the magnum opus of Goswami Tulsidas. The slice has been chosen by noted author Pavan Varma, who knows it very well how much an average reader can chew and digest. Ideally, I and I am sure the author of this book would like the readers in this country to read the whole of Ramcharitmanas. Sadly, we also know that not many people are inclined to read the original, mostly because it seems too voluminous. It is one of the simplest books to read from the library of Indic literature, but that is not the perception it carries in our minds.
So, Pavan Varma has done the next best thing. He has taken out his favorite verses from the book and presented them in 44 bite-sized chapters for you to read and digest. Moving linearly, he takes you to his favorite dialogues between characters. He admires the poetic genius of Tulsidas to make his characters say things that he wants to convey. He points out the mutual admiration that he has built between Rama, an avatar of Vishnu and Shiva. He probably wants to convey that they are no different and their followers need not fight in their name.
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Most of the sections picked up have a philosophy or the essence of philosophy conveyed in the simple poetry of Tulsidas. The author has picked all the Rasas or emotions present in the book including a glimpse of romance when Sri Ram and Sita first meet in the gardens of Janakpur. He picks up Longing when Sri Ram laments the absence of Sita in the forest. He also picked up the dialogue between Valmiki and Sri Ram, when the latter visits the former at his ashram. There is a dialogue that takes place at the surface and one beneath it, and there is a fine wordplay by the poet.
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I was pleasantly surprised to see that the biggest section that Pavan Varma chose to share is the one that I connect the most with. It is the description of Ram Rajya in Uttara Kand, the last canto of the book. I have written about Ram Rajya, even spoken about it in various forums, including at a conclave in Ayodhya. So, I was thrilled to see that the author has replicated the whole section for his readers. It is something that is so relevant for us even today. Unfortunately, the terms have been reduced to rhetoric, sometimes even to slang while it carries the framework for an ideal society.
Read More – What is Ram Rajya?
I hope that the book will inspire readers to pick up Ramcharitmanas and read it from page to page. Like most scriptures, it carries many layers and each reader will connect with a different part of it. No two readers can read it the same way. Even the same reader reads it differently, every time he reads it.
Read More – 5 Reasons to read Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas
Each chapter picks up the original verses from the book, presents it in Devanagari as well as in English. An easy translation in English explains the verses. At the end of the chapter are the author’s views on the verses. This is where you see the meeting point of the author with Tulsidas, the reason why he picked it up for his readers. There is a Hindi translation at the end of all the chapters. It could have been better; it seems like some auto-translation tool was used. For Hindi readers, the best version to pick up is the Gita Press version.
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If you have not read Ramcharitmanas, read The Greatest Ode to Lord Ram, and then read the complete one.