Saturday, 2 December 2017

The "Alu Kurumba Ramayana"

I just recently came across a research paper titled "The "Alu Kurumba Ramayana": The Story of Rama as Narrated by a South Indian Tribe" written by Dieter B Kapp, describing a version of Ramayana present in the oral tradition of the Alu Kurumba tribe. Dr. Kapp is a retired indologist, linguist, and university professor at the University of Cologne, and is known for his works on the tribal societies of South India.

The Alu Kurumbas are one such South Indian tribe. In the words of Dr. Kapp:
"The Alu Kurumbas, a small tribe numbering just about a thousand souls, live in the forest regions of the Nilgiri Hills of South India. Traditionally, they are occupied with food-gathering, hunting, practicing shifting cultivation. The language spoken by them is an independent member of the southern branch of the Dravidian family languages."
Since the Alu Kurumbas are a tribal community in South India, their oral tradition of the Ramayana is of great significance to us as it possibly presents us with a more indigenous version of the Ramayana, as opposed to the aryan-ized version by Valmiki! For that reason, without further delay, I am posting scans of the pages of this research paper, as it is not available for free online. I have underlined some important parts of each page in red and will comment on these aspects of the research paper just below the respective pages.

[While it is true that these texts may have their predominant source as the Aryan (Sanskrit) Literature, it is also likely that, if we consider the Ramayana as itihaasa, some traditional (indigenous) aspects of the Ramayana have also been incorporated into this non-indigenous text, just as it the case with other tribal versions of the epic. That being said, lets continue reading and see the similarities and differences between this version, and other folk Ramayanas as well as Valmiki Ramayana...]

[The presence of Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana is present in some of the South-East Asian versions of the Ramayana. As I have suggested in a previous post, the location of Ravana's Lanka is around these South-East Asian regions (i.e. Andaman and Nicobar Islands), and therefore those versions are a more native version of Ramayana than the Valmiki Ramayana, which would be termed as an Aryan version (invader's version) of the epic. Since, in history, we need to look at both sides of the story when coming to a conclusion (i.e. the Aryan side and the Native side) these South-Asian versions cannot be simply rejected just like that... Hence, the prevalence of the Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana story may have some truth to it!

Moreover, in these native versions of the epic, more than Ravana or Rama, it is Hanumana who is the hero of the epic, and is praised for his sexual prowess and vigor (वीर्य). For example, Thai Ramayana (Rama-kien) describes Hanumana's sexual exploits with Mandodari, her daughter and Vibhishana's daughter. Even in Valmiki Ramayana, his sexual exploits are evident, albeit in a poetic, symbolic manner, as I have mentioned previously.

As we shall see later in this research paper, Alumaru (Hanumana) is also the main hero of the Alu Kurumba Ramayana!]

[In Ala Kurumba Ramayana, only 3 wives of Dacara (Dashratha) are mentioned. In contrast, Valmiki Ramayana shows Dashratha as a lusty man, having 350 wives. In both versions, Dashratha was struggling for children. However, unlike Valmiki Ramayana, there was no Putrakameshti Yajna in Alu Kurumba Ramayana. Dashratha simply had to kill 101 elephants.

In addition, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Ravana did not know of Emme-Daruma-Raja (Lord Yama). When he learned about Yama from Indra, he cursed him to become a beetle. On the contrary, in Valmiki Ramayana, Ravana defeats Lord Yama in war (Valmiki Ramayana 6.7.13-15)]

[According to Alu Kurumba Ramayana, two of Dashratha's sons (Rama and Lakshmana) were incarnations of Civa-Perumanu's (Shiva) trident and Kisuna's (Krishna) sword, respectively. Unlike Valmiki Ramayana, they were not amshas of Vishnu. Likewise, unlike Valmiki Ramayana, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, the other two sons (Bharatha and Shatrughan) were just extras and had no divinity]

[The story of Dashratha accidentally killing the son of the elderly couple is similar to the accidental death of the son of the elderly Sudra-Vaishya couple in Valmiki Ramayana, that Dashratha narrates to Kaushalya (Ayodhya Kanda Sections 63-64). In both versions, the elderly couple was blind, and were thirsty for water, which their son went to fetch for them. Likewise, in both versions, Dashratha went hunting for an elephant and accidentally struck the son. However, some differences are that in Valmiki Ramayana, this incident did not occur in an attempt for progeny. Instead, Dashratha went for leisure hunting before his marriage, and that is when the incident transpired. In addition, in Valmiki Ramayana, the son does not ask Dashratha to replace his position when approaching his elderly parents (after the son's death). Instead, he asks Dashratha to go to his parents and plead forgiveness from them. Furthermore, in Valmiki Ramayana, the parents curse Dashratha for killing their son, and then burn themselves alive to unite with their son in heaven.

One other difference is that there is no mention of the greedy, selfish wife of this son in Valmiki Ramayana. The mention of the wife is only in the Alu Kurumba Ramayana. The curse by the son that his wife would become a dog can be interpreted in a more logical way as her being made an outcaste. As mentioned in Manusmriti 3.92, dogs are likened to outcastes. Hence the wife being converted into a dog can be a metaphor for her being made an outcaste due to her greedy behavior. This would suggest that the son and his parents belonged to higher castes, another stark difference from Valmiki Ramayana where the son was a low caste, as his mother and father were a sudra and vaishya, respectively.

Also, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Ramaru (Rama) is the son of Cumitire (Sumitra) and Laccumana (Lakshmana) is the son of Kocale (Kaushalya). In Valmiki Ramayana it is the reverse. Also, in Alu Kuruma Ramayana, Caturuguna (Shatrughan) is the son of Kayigeyi (Kayekai), instead of Sumitra]

[Since King Janagaru (Janaka) wanted Rama to stay back with his wife Cide (Seetha) and rule Midile (Mithila), it seems that Mithila had a matrilineal system of inheritance, where power gets transferred through the female line. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, Mithila did not have a matrilineal system of inheritance. Also, in Valmiki Ramayana, Barada (Bharatha) and Shatrughan stay back in their maternal kingdom of Kekaya, due to their own will. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, they stay back in the Mithila kingdom on the wishes of their brother Rama.

In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Dashratha agrees to send Rama to exile as he was bound by a promise to Kayekai. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, it was more of Kayekai refusing to have sex with Dashratha and Dashratha's lusty nature that could not handle sex-deprivation that forced himself to send his son into exile]

[In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Bharatha was present in Mithila at the time of the coronation. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, he was present in Kekaya at the time. In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, when Bharatha returned to Ayodi (Ayodhya), Dashratha was still living. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, he was dead at the time. In both versions, Bharatha abuses his mother for forcing Dashratha to send Rama into exile.

In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Ravana only had three brothers: Gumbagaruna (Kumbhakarna), Ayi-Ravana, and Mayi-Ravana. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana are not mentioned. In addition, Ravana's other brothers were Khara, Dushana, and Vibhishana. However, they find no mention in Alu Kurumba Ramayana.

In Valmiki Ramayana, Shurpanakha's insult urges Ravana to kidnap Seetha. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, no such insult of Shurpanakha is mentioned. Ravana just kidnaps her because she was a beautiful lady, and he wanted her in his harem. In Valmiki Ramayana, Ravana asks Mareecha to disguise himself as the deer. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, it is Kumbhakarna who disguises himself as a deer. In Valmiki Ramayana, it is Seetha who hears the voice that sounds like Rama's and asks Lakshmana to go after the deer. When he refuses to do so, she abuses him, by accusing him of lusting after her (Aranya Kanda Section 45). Lakshmana however, knew all along that this is a trick of Mareecha, who disguised himself as a deer. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, this speech of Seetha is not present. Instead, it was Lakshmana who was worried that Rama's life was in danger, and that is why he leaves the hermitage to search for Rama.

In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Lakshmana makes a Lakshmana Rekha that he asks Seetha to not cross. However, this Lakshmana Rekha is not present in Valmiki Ramayana. In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, the beggar comment by Lakshmana suggests that Lakshmana suspected that Seetha's life was going to be at risk. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, it is instead Rama who had that feeling and it was he who foreshadowed Seetha's kidnap (not Lakshmana).]

[In Valmiki Ramayana, Rama's arrow kills Mareecha. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Rama's arrow does not kill Kumbhakarna and as a result, he is able to return to Lange (Lanka) alive, along with Ravana. Hence, Alu Kurumba Ramayana does not portray Rama as strong of a warrior as Valmiki Ramayana does.

In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Hanumana is portrayed as a great bhakta of Rama. This is shown by the fact that he was singing Rama's name even before meeting Rama. His bhakti was more spiritual, than material. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, Hanumana's bhakti for Rama was more material than spiritual. It only began after his first meeting with Rama, and was due to Rama's valor, fear of Rama's anger, and the sensual relationship the two shared. I have talked about this briefly in an earlier post.

In Valmiki Ramayana, Hanumana was a minister of Cukiriva (Sugriva). However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, he is Sugriva's son. Also, there is no evidence of Bali-Balu (Valin) being a brother of Sugriva in Alu Kurumba Ramayana. In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, the conflict between Valin and Dundubi is briefly mentioned. However, it is also mentioned that Dundubi asked a boon of immortality from Shiva. However, Shiva sent him to other gods for that boon, who refused to give it to him. This is not present in Valmiki Ramayana.

Furthermore, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Shiva is an inferior god.]

[In Valmiki Ramayana, the Valin-Dundubi fight happened in a cave. However, this is not the case in Alu Kurumba Ramayana. Furthermore, in Valmiki Ramayana, after Valin threw the dead Dundubi into Rishi Matanga's hermitage, the latter cursed Valin that he would not survive if he goes within a 1 yojana radius of Rishi Matanga's hermitage (Kishkindha Kanda Section 11). However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, it was Dundubi instead, that was cursed.

The story of Lakshmana kicking the bones of Dundubi, and causing them go to the world of gods is also not present in Valmiki Ramayana. Furthermore, in Valmiki Ramayana, Valin did not have a boon of invincibility. In addition, he was killed unfairly by Rama, when Sugriva was already engaged in fight with Valin. However, in the Alu Kurumba Ramayana, there was no Sugriva-Valin fight. Instead, only Rama fought with Valin and killed him fairly. In addition, unlike in Valmiki Ramayana, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana there is no mention of Sugriva's lusty nature and his reluctance to help Rama when engaged in honeymoon with Valin's wife Tara.

In Valmiki Ramayana, on Hanumana's way to Lanka, he encounters Mount Mainaka (which I asserted in a previous article, symbolizes a woman Hanumana had sexual relations with), Surasa, and Simhika. However, none of these are encountered by Hanumana in his way to Lanka, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana. Furthermore, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Hanumana comes across as a very brave individual. He does not hide in fear from Ravana when searching for Seetha upon reaching Lanka. Instead, he reaches Lanka and openly challenges Ravana. On the other hand, in Valmiki Ramayana, Hanumana was scared of Ravana and was constantly hiding from him, when searching for Seetha in Lanka (Valmiki Ramayana 5.10.12, 5.18.28-31, 5.49.16-20).]

[In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Hanumana's bravery is exemplified in the manner he openly challenges Ravana in Ravana's own kingdom, without an army for support, and even manages to defeat him. However, he was not a fool to engage in a large scale war with Ravana when he was without an army. Instead, he very cunningly challenged Ravana to a one on one competition, where the chances of him prevailing were higher than if he had to deal with Ravana's army. Hanumana's cunningness/shrewdness is further shown in the manner he exploits Ravana's excessive ego, pride,overconfidence and insecurity to burn down Lanka. After defeating Ravana once, Hanumana injured Ravana's ego and made him more insecure. This in turn urged Ravana to comply, in an attempt to redeem himself, with Hanumana's next challenge of burning his tail, when it was quite obvious that Hanumana was planning on causing massive destruction to Lanka.

In Valmiki Ramayana, Ravana has also been portrayed as very egoistic and insecure. That is one of the reasons why Seetha was able to manipulate him into taking her to Lanka. In addition, Valmiki portrays Hanumana as a very shrewd/cunning individual, just as was done in Alu Kurumba Ramayana. However, he has also been portrayed as an individual that is, at times, prone to foolish, impulsive decisions. For example, he attempted to wage war singlehandedly against Lanka, when it was quite obvious that he would be captured and therefore unsuccessful in it. Furthermore, in Valmiki Ramayana, Hanumana was portrayed as an average warrior, who got defeated by Ravana in war. All Ravana needed to do was land 2 solid punches at Hanumana, to render the latter incapable of continuing the fight (Valmiki Ramayana 6.59.60-69)

In Alu Kurumba Ramayana, the flames from Hanumana's tail burned down Seetha. On the other hand, in Valmiki Ramayana, they did not harm her (Sundara Kanda Section 56).]

[In Valmiki Ramayana, it took Rama only 3 days to conquer Lanka (Valmiki Ramayana 6.91.16). On the other hand, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, the conquest of Lanka took a full 18 days.

In Valmiki Ramayana, the items used to build the bridge did not float because of Rama's name. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, they did float just because of the uttering of Rama's name. This is similar to Ramacharitamanas, by Tulsidas, where stones with the name Rama written on them floated, whereas the rest sunk. Likwise, the story of Hanumana bringing the entire mountain to Rama to save Lakshmana (in Alu Kurumba Ramayana), finds a parallel in Ramacharitamanas, where Hanumana carries the entire mountain to Rama as he is unable to locate the Sanjeevani Booti. This story is also present in Yuddha Kanda Section 101 of Valmiki Ramayana, where Hanumana is unable to identify the correct herbs and brings the entire Mount Mahodara to the physician Sushena, so that Lakshmana could be treated.

In Valmiki Ramayana, Rama finds it very difficult to kill Ravana. However, this is not the case in Alu Kurumba Ramayana. Instead, the stronger warriors in Alu Kurumba Ramayana are Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana, as we shall see later on. In Valmiki Ramayana, Kumbhakarna died before Ravana. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, he did not fight the war, and surrendered after Ravana's death, when he was woken up from his long sleep. In Valmiki Ramayana, by the time Rama invaded Lanka, more than 14 years had passed. However, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, only 13 years had passed by this time.

Furthermore, in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, there is no mention of Indrajita or any other of the brave Rakshasa warriors of Ravana.]

[I had earlier said that in Alu Kurumba Ramayana, when Hanumana crossed the ocean and reached Lanka, he did not encounter Surasa or Simhika. However, when he traveled to the netherworld, he encountered Mangea-Karaci, who seems to be an amalgamation of Surasa and Simhika. Just like Surasa, she invited Hanumana into her mouth, resulting in Hanumana increasing and decreasing his size rapidly so that he could enter and exit her mouth quickly (Valmiki Ramayana 5.1.160-168). In addition, Simhika was described as a clutcher of shadows, and had dragged Hanumana towards her (Valmiki Ramayana 5.1.184). This is similar to how Mangea-Karaci used the strong wind to drag Hanumana towards her. Furthermore, as I have shown in a previous post, Simhika loved Hanumana. We see a parallel in Mangea-Karaci, in the way she asks Hanumana to marry her.

The fact that Hanumana agrees to marry this lady whom he barely interacted with, and fathers a son from her, (according to Alu Kurumba Ramayana), sheds a great deal of light on his sexuality, and is in sync with Valmiki's depiction of Hanumana's sexuality that I have described elsewhereHanumana's interaction with Mangea-Karaci in Alu Kurumba Ramayana is also of interest to the reader as it continues to show how clever and shrewd Hanumana was, in using "ruse" to save his own life and nullify the curse on Mangea-Karaci.

Also, take note of how, according to Alu Kurumba Ramayana, Hanumana is portrayed as a protector of Rama and Lakshmana. In the case of the passage above, he uses his tail to protect the two brothers. This version of the Ramayana also portrays Goddess Kali in a negative light, as we will see in the subsequent passages, where the author makes a mockery of Goddess Kali and the devotion of her devotees towards her...]

[The passage above reveals the presence of a grown up son (Maccavalla) of Hanumana, from Mangea-Karaci. This suggests that the time period between Rama initially saving Seetha from Ayi-Ravana/Mayi-Ravana and Hanumana going to the netherworld to rescue Rama/Lakshmana ought to be at least 15 years. Furthermore, in this passage, the sweat of Hanumana impregnating Mangea-Karaci is a metaphor for Hanumana's seed (i.e. his sperm). As I have mentioned in a previous article, the mouth of Surasa and Simhika, which a thumb-like (i.e. size of penis) Hanumana penetrated was a metaphor for their vagina. Therefore, this penetration symbolized sex between Hanumana and Surasa/Simhika. Since, Mangea-Karaci is an amalgamation of Surasa and Simhika, it seems highly likely that her mouth which Hanumana penetrated was a metaphor for her vagina. During this sexual penetration, Hanumana had released a few drops of his seed/sperm, which impregnated her, leading to the birth of Maccavalla.]

[The Alu Kurumba Ramayana further emphasizes Hanumana's cunningness, in the way he is able to fool the members of the netherworld into believing that Goddess Kali is actually speaking to them, and thereby enjoy all the food offered to the deity. He also manages to fool Aravalli into believing that Rama will actually marry her, so that she would agree to provide assistance to Rama, thereby allowing Rama to defeat Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana.

As mentioned earlier, the passage above presents Goddess Kali in a poor light. She is presented as a deity who is limited to the idol, does not accept offerings from her devotees, and is unable to rescue her devotees from the deceit employed by Hanumana.]

[Here it is mentioned that Rama agreed to the marriage. However, it is not mentioned in detail the conversation between Hanumana and Rama prior to the latter agreeing for the marriage.

Did Hanumana tell Rama about his plan to spoil the marriage, or did Rama actually wish to marry her and not be monogamous?

The ending seems to suggest that Aravalli moved to Lanka, where she married Kumbhakarna and ruled the territory. Since Rama gives the control of the land to this lady, it could potentially suggest that Lanka had matrilineal traditions.]

In conclusion, there are a few more interesting points regarding the Alu Kurumba Ramayana that I would like to address:
  • This version of Ramayana ends with Rama uniting with Seetha, and does not show Uttara Kanda events, thereby supporting the claims I made in an earlier post that Uttara Kanda is a later addition to the Valmiki Ramayana.
  • From the above passages, there is some evidence that Seetha accepted Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana as her husbands after the Pandya king gave her to them. When Rama saves Seetha for the first time from Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana, they think that she was abducted by Rama, instead of freed/rescued by him. Now, if they had held Seetha as hostage against her will, why would thoughts that she was abducted (instead of freed/rescued) by Rama rise in their minds (i.e. abduction only happens when the victim is not willing to go with the perpetrator)? They ought to have thought that Rama had saved her from them. The fact that they instead think that Rama had abducted Seetha suggests that Seetha was willingly living with them (Ayi-Ravana and Mayi-Ravana) and therefore, when Rama took her away from them, it was her abduction, not rescue. This would also explain why both the brothers were willing to take the pain to go to Ayodhya and plan for a way to bring Seetha back to the netherworld!
  • Unlike Valmiki Ramayana, in this version of Ramayana, there is no major emphasis on how devoted Seetha was to her husband Rama. There was also no Agni Pariksha by her to show Rama that she was pure. Instead, there was a burning of her body into ashes, followed by the amalgamation of these ashes to form her again. How one interprets this is entirely upto themselves... What are the various aspects that fire and its associated heat can symbolize? 
  • As I mentioned earlier, in this version of Ramayana, Hanumana was the most glorious character, and can be coined the hero of the epic. He was a very intelligent, shrewd, cunning, brave, and sexually attractive man. Furthermore, his devotion to Rama, and the extent to which he was ready to exert himself to save Seetha is praiseworthy.
Image result for The "Alu Kurumba Ramayana"
Hanumana - The Hero of The "Alu Kurumba Ramayana" - Source


  1. jai raam dut mahaveer mahardura hanumaan ji ki....

  2. in thought you were going to do who killed karna

    1. That post will take some time to make. I will need to go through the entire KMG Mahabharatha (for the relevant passages) when making that post. When I am free for a few days at a stretch, I will make that post.

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