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Bhavartha Ramayana – Eknathi Ramayana

Bhavartha Ramayana is the oldest available version of the Ramanyana in Marathi language. Bhavartha Ramayana, also known as Eknathi Ramayana, is a classic work in Marathi composed by Sant Eknath. Eknathi Ramayana is a voluminous narrative of the story of the Ramayana, running into 40,000 couplets. Here, Eknath uses the story allegorically to urge the society into action against the Ravanas of his age. Eknath is equally conscious of the poetic values and the message he has to spread through this work.

It is generally believed that Uttara Khanda of the work was composed by a disciple of the saint. According to legends, Eknath had composed only 44 chapters of Yuddha Khanda and the work was completed by a certain Gavab. However, modern researchers aver that Ekanth composed the entire Yuddha Khanda excluding the story of Ahimahiravana and the later portions which were composed by Jyarajasuta.

Sant Eknath based his Ramayana story on three texts – Valmiki Ramayana, Adhyatma Ramayana and Ananda Ramayana. While the story is generally taken from Valmiki Ramayana, the devotional spirit pervading the work may be attributed to Adhyatma Ramayana and Ananda Ramayana.

The author’s familiarity with Gaudiya and North-Western recensions of the Ramayana is attested by the fact that he incorporated several items found therein and not found in the Southern recession in his story. These include references to Shanta, the daughter of Dasharatha, the curse of Tara, Ravana beating up Visbhishana, the dialogue between Narada and Kumbhakarna and the story of Kalanemi. He has also included several aspects peculiar only to north-western recension like the dialogue between Vibhishana and Nikasha, the pulling of the hair of Mandodari etc.

Bhavartha Ramayana incorporates several elements from Adhyatma Ramayana. These include Rama’s display of the form of Bhagavan Vishnu at the time of his birth, the destruction of umbrella of Ravana and the final ascension of Bhagavan Sri Rama to heaven. Again, Eknath incorporates several episodes from Ananda Ramayana which are not seen either in Ananda Ramayana or Adhyatma Ramayana into his story. These include the marriage of Dasharatha and Kaushalya, the pilgrimage of young Rama, the presence of Ravana at the time of marriage ceremony of Sita, the beating up of Manthara by Bharata, Lakshmana killing the daughter of Surpanakha and the story of the marriage between Ravana and Mandodari. Eknath himself has also made some deviations from the story. He follows Valmiki Ramayana more closely in Uttara Khanda.

Sant Eknath (1523 – 99 CE) was a saint, social reformer, and an outstanding poet who influenced generations. He revived the Bhagavata spiritual tradition and attracted people of the lower castes to its fold and added new dimension to Marathi poetry. He wrote several philosophical works, commentaries on Sanskrit texts, and narratives on the lives of saints and other literary compositions.