Ramayana, the older of the two Hindu epics, covers a large geographical area. When we compare it to any other epic in any other part of the world, they can’t come anywhere near Ramayana. Rama’s step mother Kaikeyi was from Afghanistan and his wife Sita from Bihar –Nepal border area. So we are talking about an area covering the entire sub continent, historically speaking the largest country in the world at that time.
No wonder that we see sculptures depicting monkeys building the bridge in Prambanan (Central Java, Indonesia) even today. No wonder we see Ayodhya as a city name and Rama as a king’s name in Thailand. No wonder Ramayana is depicted in Cambodian Hindu temples. No wonder that the Buddhists stole all Hindu stories (Sibi ,Dasaratha Jataka Tales etc.) and said Buddha appeared as those personalities in his previous births .
Ramayana and Mahabharata were so popular we see the remnants today in the whole of Asia, the largest land mass on earth. Tamils were so fascinated by these two epics. Two thousand year old Sangam Tamil poets refer to it in several places. The strangest thing about these references is that we did not find them in Valmiki’s Ramayana or Vyasa’s Mahabharata which were written in Sanskrit.
Tamil poets refer to two places as Setu (bridge). One is mentioned as Adi Setu (the original or the first bridge). When someone calls one Setu as “Adi” that itself acknowledges there is another Setu. When we call Tenkasi near Tirunelveli as “South Kasi” we acknowledge the fact that the main Kasi (Benares or Varanasi) is in North India.
The rule for using an anecdote in similes is that it must be popular and understood by everyone, says the oldest Tamil book Tolkappiyam.
Ramayana and Mahabharata were so popular in Tamil Nadu two thousand years ago; the Tamil poets did not hesitate to use it wherever possible. Even the Tamil Jains and Buddhists used them in their Tamil works:
In a Post Sangam Tamil epic called Silappadikaram a Jain saint says that Rama went to forest with his wife just to obey his father’s order. Then he lost his wife and suffered a lot which is well known, adds the saint (Silappadikaram 14-46).
Another Buddhist epic in Tamil called Manimekalai refers to the monkeys building a bridge in the sea. The same epic refers Kanyakumari as Adi Setu (Manimekalai 17-9 and 5-37). The name Adi Setu for Kanyakumari is confirmed by the local Sthala Puranam. The proof is not only in literature but also in the Sankalpam that the priests say in the beginning of any Puja.
While performing a sacred ritual Hindus always say in which place on earth and on which date in the mighty Yuga cycle they do it. Nowhere in the world can we see such an amazing geographical and historical knowledge. In Kanyakumari, the priests’ Sankalpam ( a vow or intention to do a ritual or Puja) mentions the place as ADI SETU. Local Sthala Purana says that Sri Ram came here to get the blessings of Devi Bagavathy.
Now, how do we reconcile this contradiction? First let us look at the facts:
Rama built the bridge from East coast of peninsular India (Tamil Nadu) to Sri Lanka is sung by later poets called Alwars and Nayanmars. But the confusion is about the place. Rama did consult the local engineers under the leadership of Nala is also in Ramayana. Any engineer with sound local knowledge would recommend the shallowest point in the sea. So naturally Nala would have recommended a place near Rameswaram. Even NASA space image has confirmed that a natural bridge like formation is seen from the space. So Rama would have used this natural formation of rocks and filled in the gaps with the help of the monkey brigade. This story travelled far away up to Indonesia where we see sculptures depicting monkeys building the bridge. This was sculpted 1300 years ago.
Why then Kanyakumari was called ADI SETU, the original bridge? This may be due to another bridge connecting Sri Lanka existed in the ancient days. Two Tamil Academies situated in the South near the sea were devoured during two Tsunamis. This was confirmed by Tamil literature. Then they moved south and established the third Tamil Academy called Tamil Sangam in Madurai. People knew that the Indian land mass extended far beyond the modern Kanyakumari. Even today the rocks can be seen near the shore line.
Another possibility is that Rama himself might have first constructed one bridge there and later abandoned it knowing the difficulty. One may wonder why then there was no mention about it in Valmiki Ramayana, the main source for all the legends of Rama. Here comes the strangest fact. Tamils knew many more things than Valmiki. After all local Tamils were by the side of Rama when he invaded Sri Lanka. Valmiki was sitting in the forests of Uttar Pradesh. This is confirmed by a few more references.
A Tamil poet brings a lot of jewellery donated to him by a generous king. But his wife and other women folk in the household were so poor they did not even know what to wear where. Which was nose ornament, which was ear ornament, which one was for hand and feet, they couldn’t figure out. They wore them at wrong places. The poet compared it to the monkeys who were trying to wear Sita’s jewellery which she threw on the floor from the airplane in which she was abducted by Ravana (Ref. Puram 378 by Unpothi Pasunkutaiyar).
Tamils were the one who said even squirrels took part in the building of the bridge (Tondar Adippodi Alvar-Tirumalai 17) Please read my article Two Animals that Inspired Indians for more details.
Tamils were the one who mentioned a magic done by Rama. When he was consulting the engineers about construction of a bridge under the shade of a huge banyan tree the birds in the tree were making big noise. When Rama ordered them to keep quiet all fell silent. Two thousand year old Sangam literature uses this simile to compare the noise in a town of Tamil Nadu (Akam 70 by Kaduvan Mallanar).
Even Krishna’s bathing in river Yamuna and hiding the girl’s clothes is mentioned first in Tamil literature and then only in Sanskrit literature. The Bull Fighting practised by Krishna and his Yadava clan is also mentioned in detail in Tamil literature (Please read my article Bull Fighting from Indus Valley to Spain via Tamilnadu).
Ahalya’s story came as a small reference story in Ramayana. Indra who came in the guise of a cat and molested her was painted at Tirupparankundram temple near Madurai, reports Paripatal ( 19-50), another Sangam period Tamil work.
One must remember all the Rama and Krishna stories were referred to as passing remarks in Tamil literature- as similes. That means all Tamils knew Ramayana and Mahabharata during Sangam period.
REFERENCES in TAMIL:
தாதை ஏவலின் மாதுடன் போகிக்
காதலி நீங்கிக் கடுந்துயர் உழந்தோன்
வேத முதல்வன் பயந்தோன் என்பது
நீ அறிந்திலையோ நெடுமொழி அன்றோ
( சிலப்பதிகாரம் 14:46-49, கவுந்தி அடிகள் கூற்று )
நெடியோன் மயங்கி நிலமிசைத் தோன்றி
அடல் அரு முந்நீர் அடைந்த ஞான்று
குரங்கு கொணர்ந்து எறிந்த நெடுமலை எல்லாம்
அணங்கு உடை அளக்கர் வயிறு புக்காங்கு
( மணிமேகலை 17: 9-12 )
குரங்கு செய் கடல் குமரியம் பெருந்துறை
( மணிமேகலை 5:37, புத்த மத காப்பியம் )
குமரித் தல புராணம் இக்கதையை உறுதி செய்வதாக தமிழ் அறிஞர் மு ராகவ ஐய்யங்காரும் எழுதியுள்ளார் (ஆராய்ச்சித் தொகுதி பக்கம் 30-31)
குரங்குகளுடன் அணில்களும் இம் முயற்சியில் ஈடுபட்டதை தொண்டரடிப்பொடி ஆள்வார் ( திருமாலை 17 ) குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார்
குரங்குகள் மலைய நூக்கக்
குளித்துத்தாம் புரண்டிட்டு ஓடி
தரங்க நீர் அடைக்கல் உற்ற
சலம் இலா அணிலம் போலேன்
(இது பற்றி நான் எழுதிய ஆங்கிலக் கட்டுரையைக் காண்க)
குமரியில் பெண் தெய்வம் உறைகிறது என்றும் அங்Kஉ நீராட யாத்ரீகர்கள் வருவர் என்றும் கி. பி .முதல் நூற்றாண்டில் உருவான பெரிப்ளூஸ் என்னும் நிலநூலும் கூறும். சிலப்பதிகாரம், மணிமேகலை, ஆள்வார்கள் நாயன்மார்கள் பாடல்களும் இக்கருத்தைப் பல இடங்களில் கூறும்.
2000 ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன் மதுரைக்கு அருகில் திருப்பறங்குன்றத்தில் அகலிகை கதையையும் அதில் இந்திரன் பூனை உருவத்தில் இருப்பதையும் ஓவியமாக வரைந்திருந்தனர். இதை சங்க இலக்கியமான பரிபாடல் கூறும்:
இந்திரன், பூசை: இவள் அகலிகை;இவன்
சென்ற கவுதமன்; சினம் உறக் கல்லுரு
ஒன்றிய படி இது ( பரிபாடல் 19: 50-52 ) (பூசை=பூனை)
(பழந்தமிழகத்தில் ராமாயண கிளைக் கதை ஓவியங்கள் கூட அந்த அளவுக்குப் பரவி இருந்தன).
கடுன் தெறல் இராமனுடன் புணர் சீதையை
வலித்தகை அரக்கன் வவிய ஞான்றை
நிலம் சேர் மதர் அணி கண்ட குரங்கின்
செமுகப் பெருங்கிளை இழைப் பொலிந்தா அங்கு
அறா அ அருநகை இனிது பெற்றிகுமே
( புறம் 378 ஊண்பொதி பசுங்குடையார் )
வென்வேற் கவுரியர் தொல்முது கோடி
முழங்கு இரும் பௌவம் இரங்கும் முந்துறை,
வெல் போர் இராமன் அருமறைக்கு அவித்த
பல்வீழ் ஆலம் போல,
ஒலி அவிந்தன்று இவ் அழுங்கல் ஊரே
( அகம். 70, கடுவன் மள்ளனார் )