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Significance of Sundarkand in Ramayana

Sundarkand forms part of Ramcharitmanas of Goswami Tulsidas which is commonly known as Tulsi Ramayana. It is the essence of the Ramcharitmanas, and is awarded as much importance as the Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata.

Like the Gita, the Sundarkand can be read independently. It has a powerful theme: When you are on a good mission, God gives you strength to overcome all obstacles.

Sundarkand commences with Hanuman’s departure for Lanka in search of Sita and ends with Rama and his army’s preparation to reach Lanka across the sea. This entire episode is called sundar or beautiful because every act described in it is auspicious, elevating the human mind and promoting right human values.

Hanuman initiates action for the friendship between Rama and Vibheeshana because of which eventually, Vibheeshana comes to be accepted in Rama’s camp. The Sundarkand paves the way for the reunion of Rama and Sita.

Even Lanka’s burning is described as a beautiful act as it is to destruct evil. Throughout the episode Hanuman resorts to right speech and right action, hallmarks of a perfect man. Sundarkand also describes various human emotions like love, anger, sorrow, disgust and fear.

It describes the unmatched strength of Hanuman: Both physical and mental. Good and evil co-exist. In the city of evil- doers there is Vibheeshana in Lanka, a perfect example of goodness and purity. Also, Mandodari in Ravana’s palace advises him on right behavior.

Reciting the Sundarkand confers liberation or moksha on devotees as it depicts the process of liberation. Hanuman as an aspirant of self-realization crosses the ocean to reach Lanka to find Sita.

The ocean of Samsara and discovery of Sita by Hanuman symbolizes the discovery of divinity which completes the process of liberation. The aspirants struggle to attain self-realization – Hanuman’s efforts in negotiating obstacles en route to Lanka and Sita’s efforts to unite with the Supreme Spirit represented by Rama.

In Sundarkand, the entire sequence is being watched by Lord Shiva and Bhavani. Their dialogues form the core of the episode’s teachings. Lord Shiva states that God’s grace is essential for completing difficult tasks. But to obtain God’s grace one has to constantly do good, and those who take Rama’s name in speech, thought and action will be trouble-free.

Hanuman tells Ravana that Rama gives shelter to those who take refuge in Him, despite past misdeeds. Similar surety is given by Lord Krishna in the Gita: Even the worst sinner can overcome sin with right knowledge and by invoking God and practicing yoga. Rama tells Vibheeshana that if one gives up vanity, fad and falsity and comes to Him, he can get transformed into a model of virtue.

Description of Rama’s love for Sita is an extraordinary example of man’s devotion to his wife. Chastity in a husband-wife relationship is applicable equally to both man and woman. The suffering of Sita in Lanka while in Ravana’s custody shows that even good people like Sita have to suffer in life.

If suffering is a part of life, then the best course is to meet it bravely and ultimately rise above it rather than surrender to it. Sufferings of good people contribute towards achieving a bigger aim in the cosmic plane.

In Sundarkand everything ends on a positive and bright note. Hanuman finds Sita, ultimately leading to her rescue from the clutches of Ravana. Vibheeshana is liberated from evil surroundings and is accepted in Rama’s camp. Rama learns the secret of crossing the sea from the sea God.

Tulsidas ends stating that those who listen to the Sundarkand with reverence are empowered to cross the ocean of worldly existence.

R K Langar
(Source: An article published in the Speaking Trees section of Times of India in October 2002)