By Swami Harshananda
The Rāmāyana of Vālmiki has inspired many poets to compose literary works of great merit, based on it's story. The Hanumannātaka, an ancient work attributed to Hanumān, is one of them. It is written in the style of a nāṭaka or a drama. Most of it is in poetry though it contains some parts in prose also.
It has two recensions:
- The Mahānātaka edited by Madhusudana-miśra of Bengal. It contains 788 verses spread over 9 aṅkas (or scenes)
- The Hanumannātaka edited by Dāmodaramiśra of western India. It has 578 verses in 14 aṅkas.
Technique of Writing
Dāmodaramiśra says that the king Bhoja got the text which had been inscribed on a piece of rock through some fishermen. The author is said to be the legendary Hanumān himself. Though it is called nāṭaka (drama) it does not have most of the characteristic features of Sanskrit dramas. It is more in line with the jātrā-literature of Bengal.
Similitude with Rāmāyana
The story begins with Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa accompanying the sage Viśvāmitra to his hermitage. Then it practically follows the Rāmāyana of Vālmīki. The only change is the Rāvaṇa assuming the form of Rāma to tempt Sītā, but he failed in his attempts due to the warning of the ākāśavāṇī. Some of the verses of this work are found in the well-known compositions of Bhavabhuti (A. D. 800).
- Jātrā is a drama in a rural setting in an open auditorium.
- Ākāśavāṇī means voice from the void.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore