Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Featured Author: Kamban (Kambar)

To follow up on an earlier post about R. K. Narayan, I wanted to say something about the medieval Tamil poet Kamban, since it is his version of the Ramayana that Narayan relied on to create the English-language Ramayana that you might be reading for class.

You can start with article about Kamban at Wikipedia, and there is also an article about his version of the Ramayana, the Ramavataram, which he composed probably around the year 1200 (although there is debate about that). The overall structure follows that of the Sanskrit version of Valmiki, but Kamban's work has many charming features of its own, and in his English adaptation R. K. Narayan sometimes refers to what "the poet" is doing in a particular scene — the poet he is referring to is Kamban.

If you would like to learn more about Kamban's version of the story and its distinctive features in more detail, you might enjoy this article online: Fire and Flood: The Testing of Sita in Kampan's Iramavataram by David Shulman.

Kamban the Procrastinator...

There is a great legend about Kamban and his poem, which says that he had put off composing the poem. When it was the night before the day when he was required to present the poem to the king, he imposed the help of the elephant-headed god Ganesha, who wrote down the whole poem that night as Kamban dictated it to him. You will also hear a similar story about how Ganesha was the scribe of the Mahabharata who wrote while the poet Vyasa dictated to him — but that story does not involve the procrastination factor as Kamban's story does.

If you are not familiar with the term "Tamil," you can learn more at Wikipedia, with articles about the Tamil people, Tamil language, and the state of Tamil Nadu, which is where Kamban lived.

The image below is a statue in Kamban's honor:

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