By Swami Harshananda
Adbhuta Rāmāyaṇa literally means ‘the wonder that is Rāmāyaṇa’.
One of the two great epics is the Rāmāyana of Vālmīki which has been the basic text for the story of Lord Rāma. It has been the primary source of inspiration over the millennium for many poets who had retold the story in their own way, often adopting to the philosophy of Rāma's life. One such work is the Adbhuta Rāmāyana.
Opinions of scholars are divided about it being earlier or later to another more well-known work, the Adhyātma Rāmāyana (A.D. 1400). The glorification of Kālī and identifying her with Sītā induce us to think that the work must have been written during the time of reconciliation of the Rāma denomination of the Vaisṇavas and the Śākta denominations, which had become a social necessity. The words in the colophon as referred from a printed text is as follows :
‘iti ārṣe śrīmad-rāmāyaṇe vālmīkiye ādikāvye adbhutottarakāṇḍe...’
These words give rise to the suspicion that the writer might have attempted to pass it off as an appendix to the Uttarakānda of Vālmīki’s Rāmāyana.
The Adbhuta Ramayana is a comparatively smaller work of 1,355 verses spread over 27 sargas or chapters. Unlike the other Rāmāyaṇas it is not divided into kāṇḍas or books. The contents of the work may be summarized briefly as follows:
- The sage Bhāradvāja approaches the great sage Vālmīki and requests him to give the secret teaching that is hidden in his original and voluminous Rāmāyana.
- Vālmīki replies that the real secret is that Rāma is the Highest Brahman and Sītā, the highest Prakṛti, is the power of Brahman.
- He then goes on to narrate the reasons for the descent of Rāma and Sītā, which were apparently due to the curses of the sages Nārada and Parvata. But these curses were really pronounced to destroy the wicked and protect the good.
- This is followed by the story of the birth of Sītā as the daughter of Rāvaṇa, but abandoned by his wife Maṇḍodarī, and found by Janaka, the king of Mithilā, in his field.
- After this, the events move at a terrific speed: Rāma’s marriage, Paraśurāma’s humiliation by the hands of Rāma, Rāma’s entering the forest along with Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa (The entire episode of the Ayodhyākānda of Vālmīki’s Rāmāyana leading to Rāma’s banishment is glossed over here!), Sītā’s abduction by Rāvaṇa and Rāma striking friendship with Sugrīva and Hanumān.
- In answer to the simple question that Hanumān asks, ‘Who are you?’ Rāma eloquently describes himself as the Atman, Parameśvara, Māyāvī and Antaryāmin
- Most of the ideas and even the words are reminiscent of the Bhagavadgītā, and some of the Upaniṣads. This is followed by a short discourse on bhakti or devotion and a curious mixture of a variety of philosophical topics.
- The next chapter contains a beautiful hymn on Rāma by Hanumān .
- The sixteenth sargas finishes off very briefly in 20 verses of the entire story of the Yuddhakānda.
- In the seventeenth, Sītā reveals the existence of a thousand-headed Rāvaṇa, the elder brother of the ten-headed demon, and describes him as she had heard from a brāhmaṇa in her younger days.
- Hearing this, Rāma starts on an invasion of the Puṣkara Dvīpa, the abode of the thousand-headed monster, in order to destroy him. In the terrific war that ensues, Rāma falls down unconscious.
- Seeing this tragedy that had overtaken Rāma and his forces, Sītā assumes the terrible form of Kālī and destroys the demon along with all his forces. She is helped in this by her innumerable emanations.
- Rāma wakes up and is surprised to see Kālī there. He praises her with a long hymn containing 1,008 names.
- Though called Sītā-sahasranāma (‘thousand names of Sītā’) almost all the names belong to the Sakti denomination. Sītā dissolves the form of Kālī and reappears in her original form. After thus gaining victory, Rāma returns to Ayodhyā and resumes his rule.<ref.Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 26 and 27</ref>
- Though this work might have served a specific purpose during the days of its composition and later, it's popularity today is not nearly at the same level as the Adhyātma Rāmāyana and the Ānanda Rāmāyana.
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 2 to 4
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 5 to 7
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 9
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 10
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 10
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 11 and 12
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 13
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 14
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 15
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 18 to 22
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 23
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 24
- Adbhuta Ramayana sargas 25
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore