A) Basic elements of the ®MDUL¯Rama katha®MDNM¯ in the forest books are each of these "tellings." There are, however, certain striking differences in content and style.
B) Begin each comparison with a few comments on the nature of each text.
I. Ramacaritamanasa: "the holy lake of the acts of Ram."
1. General info: from Ayodhya, the later of the three to be written; plays most prevalent part in development of Bhakti movement and its reinterpretation of Ram narrative. Classical Hindi (bhakti preference for vernacular). Message: worship Ram ®MDUL¯only®MDNM¯.
®MDUL¯(a) Influence of Bhagvata Purana®MDNM¯: Ram's childhood; romantic encounter in garden;
®MDUL¯(b) Two elaborate metaphors developed®MDNM¯: (1) manas as inexhaustible fountainhead of Ram's mysterious acts -- pure, high, contemplation of Ram; hamsa bird (discriminating self) feeds on pearls from the lake; 7 books are ghat; meters are lotus leaves and flowers on surface; swans of wisdom and detachment; fish are poetic devices darting underneath; surrounding forest of devotees (the audience); lustful people are the crows and storks. Saint like clouds drawing the water up and releasing in shower of Ram's fame and stories which fill the reservoir of the manas through the ears.
(c) Narration through four interwoven conversations®MDNM¯: different emphases; different issues -- (1) reconciliation of nirgun and sagun traditions, (2) "reconciliation" of Vaisnava and Saivite traditions by making Siva father of universe but devotee of Ram, (3) discourse on saving power of Bhakti.
2.®MDBU¯ Ram is full-fledged divinity.®MDNM¯ An avatar of Vishnu, ®MDUL¯the®MDNM¯ Supreme Being. ®MDBU¯
®MDNM¯General discourses on Bhakti; enemies liberated; absence of sexual tension b/Sita and Lakshman; boons of faith; revelations of Ram as the four-armed god.
3. ®MDBU¯Examples®MDNM¯: (1) Jayanta - Ram's Supreme power and benevolence; (2) Anasuya, wife of sage Atri - instructions to Sita on wifely duties to her Lord; (3) Sage Sarabhanga explicitly ®MDUL¯not®MDNM¯ absorbed into divinity when he ascends to Brahmaloka (the gift of faith is the highest goal of one's strivings); (4) Agastysa's devotional paralysis, interprets Ram's request for charms; (5) Ram's discourse on the Atman-Brahman identity and the priority of devotion to him; (6) ®MDUL¯Ram's device®MDNM¯ - Sita (Ram's shakti) is concealed in the fire while her image (®MDUL¯pratibimb®MDNM¯) only suffers indignity of abduction and imprisonment, all Ram's ®MDUL¯lila®MDNM¯, goes off joyfully to shot the fawn; (7) significance of Jatayu's death - exemplifies Ram's love for even the most unclean creature (vultures who eat flesh).
II.Kampan Ramayana (Iramavataram):
1. General info: ®MDBU¯12th century, draws from Tamil folk traditions and from other Ram stories. ®MDNM¯ ®MDBU¯Use of language is masterful and poetic (20 different kinds of Tamil meters) (e.g., description of Ravana's court); Psychological sophistication, much more realistic and human characters (motivation, emotional shifts, cf. Sanskrit aesthetic of ®MDUL¯rasa®MDBU¯ - long sequences bound together by steady emotional tone; even evil characters draw sympathy from reader - surpanakha, Ravana).®MDNM¯
®MDBU¯2. Rama is clearly a god, but relation b/his divinity and his humanness is more complex. Rarely shows awareness of his status as god.®MDNM¯ ®MDBU¯Tamil bhakti (Nammalvar) stressing that Rama is on a mission to root out all evil and bring release to all living beings (from lowly grass to the great gods).
3. ®MDBU¯Examples®MDNM¯: (1) Viradha - Ram responds to Sita's distress; (2) Agastya as propagating the Tamil language; (3) Jatayus - descended from Iksvaku, father-son bond (father as personifying dharma), sorrow over Das, Rama's reaction to J's death = guilt for death of two fathers, anger at the entire world (J consoles as "fate" and then scolds as "your own fault"); (4) Rama's humanness enhances the luscious Surpanakha encounter -- at first taken, wondering at each other's thoughts, complicated by sympathetic portrayal of S, Juxtaposed to Ram and Sita's affections;
®LM5¯®MDBI¯"granddaughter of Brahma, younger sister of Kubera . . . I am a virgin and my name is kamavalli."®MDNM¯
Three increasingly desperate phases of Surpanakha's lies: initial lies, temptations (alliance, Sita a rakshasi), efforts at persuasion after mutilation (nose is a frill, you must be impotent, cut it off so no other would be interested,
®LM0¯(5) Ram's reaction to loss of Sita - loss of manhood, doesn't know what to do, should I practice tapas? (6) Surpanakha's and Ravana's torments by love, Ravana dissatisfied with seasons, Surpanakha's burning body; (7) Rama is truly duped by the deer, Lakshman is not; (8) Ram's panic and helplessness when Lakshman is tied up with the demoness Ayomukhi (in Val. they kill her together, another mutilation).
III. ®MDBU¯Valmiki Ramayana (c. 100 B.C.E. - 100 C.E.)®MDNM¯.
1. General info: ®MDBU¯written in sloka meter and designed as such to evoke the essence (rasa) of the feeling of sorrow from which the form came spontaneously to Valmiki (the adi kavi) upon seeing female love bird crying over its mate. Ramanujan: Val's aesthetic self-awareness, leitmotif of separation and killing of animal.
®MDBU¯2. Rama: more like an earthly prince with divine qualities. References to Ram's divinity, especially in 1st and last books, probably later®MDNM¯ ®MDBU¯additions. Still read as divinity.®MDNM¯ ®MDBU¯Story about pathos of human suffering, need to upholding dharma, being a good king, problems of primogeniture, fight between Ksatriyas and Brahmins, fighting against evil, controlling one's lust and its illusions, dangers of women. Result: other stories and characters get more time.®MDNM¯
3. Examples: (1) Lake Panchapsara and Mandarkini; (2) Agastya and the demons Ilvala and Vatapi; (3) Sita implores Ram not to commit any unprovoked violence, bearing arms and retirement to the forest don't mix, but Rama promised the sages; (4) Surpanakha doesn't change form, Ram and Laks mock her -- highlighting Lakshmana's lack of sexuality and Rama's sexuality, breasts not cut off; (5) Ram contrasted to Ravana as good king, moral, in control of his passions; ®MDBI¯(6) Sita accuses Lakshman of scheming for her, acting as Bharata's agent®MDNM¯.®MDBI¯
®MDNM¯In all three:
1. Danger of women and passion (tempered in Tulsi by divinity of Sita), Sita and Surpanakha play similar
2. Lakshman as clear-sighted adviser of Ram.
3. Image of good king vs. bad king.