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Assamese Saptakanda Ramayana – Short Information

Saptakanda Ramayana stands as a significant cultural and literary treasure within Assamese literature. Attributed to the renowned Assamese poet Madhava Kandali, this 14th-15th century rendition of the Ramayana showcases a unique blend of linguistic prowess and cultural adaptation. It holds the distinction of being among the earliest translations of the Sanskrit epic into a regional language, contributing to the rich tapestry of India's diverse literary traditions.

Madhava Kandali's rendition deviates from the traditional heroic portrayal of characters, presenting a non-heroic perspective on Rama, Sita, and others. This departure from convention, explicitly acknowledged by the poet himself, rendered the work unsuitable for purely religious purposes. This unconventional approach stirred reactions from later poets, with Ananta Kandali expressing his concerns about this distinctive feature.

The loss of the first (Adikanda) and last (Uttarakanda) cantos of Madhava Kandali's work added a layer of complexity to its preservation. However, the 16th-century efforts of Madhavdeva and Sankardeva to insert these missing sections ensured the completeness of the epic. Their contributions demonstrate the ongoing reverence and dedication to preserving and extending the literary heritage of Assam.

The historical context surrounding the creation of Saptakanda Ramayana is also intriguing. The poem was composed upon the request of Boraha king Mahamanikya, further connecting it to the socio-political milieu of its time. The poetic work not only serves as an artistic expression but also as a reflection of the tastes and preferences of the common people, as Kandali adapted his writing to cater to a broader audience.

The use of various meters in Saptakanda Ramayana adds to its aesthetic appeal and showcases Madhava Kandali's mastery of poetic forms. The popularity of the pada meter in later Assamese compositions underscores the enduring influence of this work on the literary traditions of the region.

In portraying Rama and Sita as human characters with remarkable qualities and occasional human weaknesses, Kandali infused a relatable dimension into the epic. This approach reflects a deep understanding of the human experience and contributes to the timeless appeal of the narrative.

The origin of the poem, inspired by the Boraha king's reported vision of a naked man riding an upturned bowl full of milk, adds a layer of mysticism to the creation of Saptakanda Ramayana. This visionary origin story further embeds the epic within the cultural and spiritual fabric of Assam.

In conclusion, Saptakanda Ramayana not only represents a literary milestone in Assamese literature but also serves as a testament to the dynamic interplay between cultural adaptation, artistic expression, and the preservation of regional traditions.