Guhan - Part 1

மரபு விக்கி இருந்து

தாவிச் செல்ல: வழிசெலுத்தல், தேடுக

பொருளடக்கம்

A gift for his Lord

Guha was the king of Srngaverapura, what is presently known as Singraur, in the banks of Ganges. By profession he and his subjects were boatmen and hunters. From a description of the boats, we understand that these were not ordinary ferryboats. Kamban in fact details how the chariots in which Bharata came later, were dismantled piece by piece and were assembled again in the other bank of Ganges, ferried by the large boats of Guha, rowed by hundreds of oarsmen.

Valmiki introduces him as a friend of Rama. “The king of that territory, Guha by name, was a friend of Sri Rama, dear to him as his own life. He was a Nisada by birth, possessed of bodily as well as military strength (owning as he did a large army consisting of all the four limbs, viz., elephants, chariots, horsemen and foot soldiers) and well-known as a ruler of Nisadas.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Canto L, Sloka 33).

But the epic of Valmiki is silent about details such as how and when they became friends. It just mentions they were close friends. Kamban makes a small detour here as well. He gives a detailed description of his appearance first, which is not to be found in Valmiki. Guha had a drum with him, being a hunter, and a hunter’s dog too. And we gain a glimpse on the dressing habits of those days with a verse of Kamban.

‘kaazham itta kuRanginan.’ The word kuRangu stands for ‘thighs’ in Tamil. His thighs were covered with ‘kaazham.’ That is half-trousers, as they are worn today, from the waist till the thighs. ‘thayangura soozha vitta thodu puli vaalinan.’ He had cut a tiger’s tail and tied it around his waist as a belt. He had quite a strong physique and a real simple and honest mind. He heard about the arrival of Rama to his place and was too eager to see him.

Rama had at that time crossed the limits of Ayodhya and reached the forest, somehow managing to divert the attention of the people who followed him when they were fast asleep in the night. He was received by the sages in the forest and had his food with them – fruits, leaves and vegetables.

Guha had immense admiration for Rama and wanted to see him. He, flanked by his friends and relatives, went to the hermitage of the sages where Rama was staying. Kamban paints a picture of pure devotion, love and rustic innocence when he narrates the first meeting between Guha and Rama.

‘sutram appuram nirkka’, As soon as they reached the hermitage, his followers stood in a corner outside it. ‘sudu kaNai vil thurandhu,’ Guha unfastened the arrow-case and bow he was carrying and kept them down reverently, outside the ashram. ‘vaaL ozhiththu,’ Similarly he left his sword outside. ‘attram neetha manathinan,’ he who had no room for falsehood in his mind, ‘anbinan’ he who was full of love, ‘nal thavap paLLi vaayilai naNNinaan’ reached the doorsteps of the hermitage and stood there.

Guha was so careful about these things. He left his relatives and weapons outside the hermitage, before he even reached its doorsteps. But he was carrying something else. A token of his love, affection and devotion. A gift for his Lord. Just what could be the gift?

When love rules high

There are hundreds of stories to depict the power of love and pure devotion. We know the story that Krishna could not be weighed against gold – tons of it – offered by Sathyabama whereas the simple – and single – Tulasi leaf placed on the balance by Rukmini equalled His weight. We also know the story of Kuchela – Sudhama – who brought a very simple offering, aval, (rice flakes) to the palace of Krishna and how joyfully the Lord took it.

Here comes a simple boatman and a hunter. What would he eat as a delicacy? As a hunter, he frequented the forests and had a plentiful supply of honey. The best of it. He was a person who lived in the banks of the Ganges and naturally he lived on fish. What is good for him must be good for the Lord also. Therefore, Guha had taken along with him honey and the best of fish with him when he went to meet Rama who was staying in a hermitage, in the company of great sages! How would he know that the sages did not eat fish and that taking it inside the abode of a hermit is abominable?

‘sirungibEram enath thirai gangayin marungu thOndrum nagar urai vaazhkayan.’ Guha was a resident (the king) of Srngaverapura, on the banks of Ganges. ‘orungu thEnodu meen upagaaraththan.’ He had honey and fish alike, for being offered to Rama. ‘irundha vaLLalaik kaaNa vandhu eidhinaan.’ He came to see Rama who was in the company of hermits.

Guha stood outside the doorsteps of the hermitage and immediately Lakshmana came out to see him. ‘yaavaan? yaar? ena anbin irainjinan.’ ‘Who are you? Where are you from?’ Lakshmana asked him gently and lovingly. Note the word ‘irainjinaan.’ Lakshmana solicited for information – no matter he was a prince in exile and the person to whom he was speaking was a rustic. That’s a splendid quality of the Ayodhya family. Even as a boy, when returning from his gurukula, Rama, along with Lakshmana, used to walk his way back to the palace and did not use the chariot. Kamban describes the polite ways in which he used to converse with the citizens, whoever he comes across, so lovingly and showing all care and attention. Therefore there is no wonder that this trait could be seen in Lakshmana as well.

‘Bring him here,’ told Rama and Guha was brought to him. ‘kaNNanaik kaNNin nOkkik kanindhanan.’ Guha melted at the sight of Rama. ‘maN urap paNindhu mEni vaLaithu vaai pudhaithu nindraan.’ He fell at Rama’s feet. Stood before him, his body bent and stooping and his fingers covering his mouth in reverence.

‘iruththi eeNdu ennalOdum irundhilan.’ ‘Be seated here,’ said Rama, offering a seat close by. But Guha did not sit. ‘ellai neeththa aruththiyan.’ Boundless joy, love and devotion were welling up in him. ‘thEnum meenum amdhinukku amaivadhaagath thiruththinen koNarndhEn endraan.’ I have brought honey and very nicely cooked fish for you to eat. ‘en kol thriu uLam?’ What have you in mind?

I have brought the finest of fish for you to eat. I have cooked it exceedingly well. ‘amudhinukku amaivadhaagath thiruththinen.’ What would you do my royal Sir? Would you eat now?

Please remember. Rama was surrounded by sages and hermits and was in a discussion with them!


The Unbounded bound in love

'en kol thriu uLam?’ asked the simpleton. A direct translation would mean, ‘What do you intend to do?’ ‘Would you please have them now’, is what Guha conveys. Rama turned to the sages and smiled. ‘virutha maadhavarai nOkki muruvalan.’ He looked at the hermits and smiled. Quite a pregnant smile it was. It was not the smile that hides an embarrassment. It was not an apologetic smile either. It conveys, ‘I know that this fellow has brought something that is obnoxious to you all. But I look at the love behind his act. I am bound by love and anything that comes to me with love is acceptable to me.’ Let’s see the verse that follows.

‘ariyadhaam.’ It sure is dear to me ‘vuappa uLLaththu amaindha kaadhal theri tharak koNarndha endraal,’ if what is brought to me is impelled by love and devotion welling up in the mind. ‘amizhdhinum seerththa andrE.’ It is more delightful to me than elixir itself. ‘parivinin thazheeya ennin paviththiram emmanOrkkum.’ If what is offered is suffused with love and devotion, it is sacred for even the likes of me.

‘No matter what is offered to me. I go by love, affection and devotion. The offering of the devotee is saturated with love and that’s sufficient for me.’ Kamban makes Rama play both his human and superhuman roles here. It was the prince in exile and it was the Lord as well who was talking. ‘Though you may not like it, I value it because it is my devotee who has brought this,’ is what the verse connotes.

This verse, followed by the last line of the previous verse, ‘virutha maadhavarai nOkki muruvalan’ confirms that Rama’s smile was neither embarrassed nor apologetic. There is no reason for the Lord to feel embarrassed or to apologise to one devotee for the act of love of another devotee. He finds no difference between these two. Whether you offer the most delightful offering available on this earth and beyond, or you offer him what may look like ‘unacceptable’ in the eyes of others it doesn’t make a difference to Him. Both were created by Him, after all!

This is one of the scenes where Rama excels as bhakta-vatsala. One who is so very gracefully fond of his devotees. This scene, again, is unique in Kamban’s version of Ramayana and not found in Valmiki Ramayana. As we mentioned earlier, Rama was more a king than an avatar in Valmiki’s time and when Kamban wrote his version, he was more an avatar than a king. Kamban had an additional job of highlighting the divine qualities of Rama, more often than his predecessor.

Turning to Guha, Rama said, ‘inidhin naamum uNdanam andrO.’ Let it be taken as having been eaten, delightfully. ‘I accept what you have brought and let it be considered that it has been eaten.’

“Here is thy footstool and there rest thy feet where live the poorest, lowliest and lost,” sang Rabindranath Tagore. His feet are naturally to be found among the poorest, lowliest and the lost. As Tagore said, “Pride can never approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of the humble among the poorest, and lowliest and lost.” The all-encompassing cosmic power – omniscient – is bound by a thin thread. The thread of love.


A brother in the making

When speaking of the ways in which Rama responded to love, it is apt to see how he responded to Guha. Guha was the first person – king or not – who was not his equal that Rama met after he accepted his exile. No doubt his citizens followed his chariot with equal zeal. ‘We will all go to forest along with Rama. Let’s see who remains in Ayodhya for anyone else to rule’ was what the people of Ayodhya had in mind when they followed him. But then the standards that Rama set for himself would not allow such a thing to happen. He would neither relent and return nor allow the citizens to follow him. His intentions to enable Bharata to rule a country that had loyal subjects were true and sincere.

That is, Rama no doubt allowed himself to be bound down by love. But he never allowed that to come in the way of performing his duties. The case of Guha was no different. Let’s see how Rama responded to the love and devotion of Guha and how beautifully and lovingly he handled the situation when that love called for rewriting the way he intended to undergo what he was ordained and what he had accepted.

‘I need to cross the Ganges,’ said Rama. ‘pongum nin sutrathOdum pOi uvandhu inidhu un ooril thangi,’ you go back to your town with all your kith and kin and stay there happily and ‘naavaayOdum saarudhi vidiyal endraan’ bring us a boat in the morning for us to cross the river.

Guha was not aware of the fact that Rama was on exile then. He was shocked however to see him wearing the tree-bark and could not understand the reason for his royal sire wearing a dressing that was worn only by sages and hermits. ‘ip paar kulaam selva’ ‘My respected Sir, who is the protector of this entire earth,’ ‘ninnai inganam paartha kaNNai eergilaak kaLvanEn yaan’ ‘I am such a base thief who has not yet plucked off my eyeballs that have seen you in such a condition.’ ‘innalin irukkai nOkkith theergilEn.’ I am burdened with the sorrow that fills my heart in seeing you wearing the tree-bark and therefore, I will not go back to my place. ‘aanadhu iya, seyguven adimai endran.’ Let me remain here. Allow me to stay with you to do whatever little service that I can.’

And then Guha enquired with Lakshmana the reason why Rama and he left the boundary of Ayodhya, relinquishing all the royal attire and other associated paraphernalia. He was so overwhelmed with grief when he came to know the reason. Rama realised that this was a person whose love knew no bounds.

‘seethayai nOkki,’ Rama turned to Sita and looked at her and then ‘thambi thirumugam nOkki,’ he turned to Lakshmana to look at him. ‘theerak kaadhalan aagum endru karuNayin malarndha kaNNan.’ His eyes lit up with compassion. ‘His love for us is endless,’ Rama told them. Turning to Guha he said, ‘yaadhinum iniya naNba iruththi eeNdu emmodu endraan.’ ‘My friend who is dearer than anything to me! Stay here as you please, along with us.’

Note the word ‘friend.’ This is the first endearing term that Rama uses and establishes a personal relationship between him and Guha. Let’s go on to see how this friend becomes a brother soon. Let’s also see how Guha could not notice this difference at all, drunk with the joy of being called ‘a friend’.

Stay with us

That was the night on which Rama and Sita were for the first time having their nightly rest in the jungle. Rama slept on a bed of straw while Lakshmana stood guard, remaining wakeful throughout the night. Guha stood by his side. ‘thumbiyin kuzhaathin sutrum sutrathan.’ His kith and kin stood like a herd of elephants close to him. ‘thoduththa villan.’ His bow was bent and drawn. ‘vembi vendhu azhiyaa nindra nenjinan.’ His mind was boiling with anger and was full of sorrow too.

Valmiki shows a bit of a touching conversation between Guha and Lakshmana. ‘I will stand guard here. You may have your rest, offers Guha. “As such I shall with my kindred guard in everyway, bow in hand, my beloved friend, Sri Rama reposing with Sita. Nothing in this woodland is unknown to me, wandering (as I do) all the time in it. We can (also) undoubtedly get the better of surpassingly huge and exceptionally mighty army consisting of the four limbs (viz., elephants, chariots, horseman and foot soldiers.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Canto LI, Sloka 6-7)

‘I cannot sleep when my brother is lying on the grass,’ says Lakshmana. “Being protected by you who keep your duty alone in view, O sinless Guha, we all are not (the least) afraid (of any) in this land. But so long as Sri Rama (Son of Dasaratha) remains lying down on the ground with Sita, how can sleep be had by me, much less nourishment intended to keep the body and soul together or amenities of life? Behold him, who cannot be withstood in battle by all the gods and demons (put together) fast asleep with comfort on a bed of straw with Sita!” (Ibid, Sloka 8-10)/

That was a quality that was ingrained in the nature of Rama. Sita would later recall in Asokavana how Rama’s face was like a lotus in blossom – unchanging like it was painted on canvass – when the throne was offered to him as well as when he was asked to go to the jungle.

Guha’s mind was working on something else. Rama was asked live in the forest. He wanted his Lord to stay with him. That would not be in violation of what was imposed on Rama. He would still be in the forest, under his care, though.

‘ai iru pathOdu aindhu aayirar uLar,’ he told Rama in the morning. ‘We are 50,000 strong. ‘aaNai seigunar silai vEdar.’ These hunters are at your service and would wait on you for your orders. ‘dhEvarin valiyaraal.’ (You need not be worried about their prowess!) They are stronger than the celestials. ‘uigudhum adiyEm em kudilidai orunaaL nee vaigudhi enin mEl oru vaazhvu ilai piridhu.’ We would consider ourselves fortunate and blessed if you stay with us just for one day.

Where He resides…

Guha was one such person who fulfilled all the conditions that Huxley speaks of. That was why the Lord was close to him.Aldous Huxley in his introduction to Perennial Philosophy said, “The Perennial Philosophy is primarily concerned with the one divine Reality substantial to the manifold of things, lives and minds. But the nature of this one Reality is such that it cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfil certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart and pure in spirit.”

Well, Guha was one such person who fulfilled all the conditions that Huxley speaks of. That was why the Lord was close to him. Please note that we have not mentioned that Guha was close to the Lord. It was the other way about. Rama when replying to Guha’s request speaks as if he were speaking to a child. The verse reads like the excuse that a father would give to his child, giving some promise to postpone avoiding immediate commitment.

‘annalum adhu keLaa agam nirai aruL mikkaan.’ Rama heard his request, and his mind was filled with compassion. ‘veN nira nagai seidhaan.’ He smiled. ‘veera ninuzhai yaam puNNiya nadhi aadi, punidharai vazhipadu utru, eNNiya sila naaLil kurughdhum inidhu.’ My dear brave man! I have a few things to do. I have to go and have my holy dip in waters in different places and I have to meet sages, fall at their feet and get their blessings. I will come back to you and stay with you in a few days, when I come back.’

‘eNNiya sila naaLil.’ In a few days. There is a pun on the use of the word ‘eNNiya.’ It means to count. Count the days. I would come back in a few days. It also means, ‘to think, to decide.’ I will come back to you at the end of the ‘few days’ that I have thought of staying in the forest, at the end of which I sure will come and stay with you.

It sounds strange that Rama uses an intended pun in order to pacify this hunter. This was something that he never did in any other circumstance. His words were always straight and set very clear – excepting perhaps on one other occasion, in his conversation with Surpanakha, when he was in a playful mood when the ogress grew lusty about him.

Rama is not able to say ‘no’ to the request of Guha. He could say that to Sugriva and also Vibishana when they requested him to come to their palaces. ‘I am under a vow to live in the forest for a specified number of years. I am not supposed to enter any city during this time. I am therefore not able to come there,’ was his clear and firm response to both. The reader would recall that it was Lakshmana who presided over the coronation of both Sugriva and Vibishana and consecrated them to the throne.



Hari Krishnan


பங்களிப்பாளர்கள்

Hariki மற்றும் Dev

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