The two Ramayanas
Torvi is a small village near the historic city of
On the Athani road, and just a few kms from
Torvi is famous for two things. One is the underground
Narahari, a Brahmin youth, grew up reading the Mahabharata written by a Kannadiga called Kumara Vyasa of Gadag. Kumara Vyasa was known as Narayana but once he wrote the magnum opus, people began calling him Kumara Vyasa or Gadugina Narayana. He was patronised by the Vijayanagar king Devaraya 2.
Narahari came under the spell of Kumara Vyasa and his writing and dreamt of penning a similar epic.
Around 1500, Narahari commenced writing the Ramayana. He is believed to have composed the entire epic sitting in the Narasimha temple at Torvi. It came to be called Torve or Torvi Ramayana and it has the distinction of being labelled by literary critics as the first Brahminacal adaptation of the epic. Narahari has based his epic on Valmiki’s version and it consists of 112 sections and more than 5000 poems.
Narahari’s Ramayana differs in treatment and adaptation from Nagachandra’s Ramayana. Nagachandra is believed to have been born in or around Bijapur (Vijayapura in earlier times).
Nagachandra was a Digambara Jain and his Ramayana follows the Jain tradition. He is believed to have written the Ramayana in 1105 during the period of the Hoysala King Veera Ballala1. In his writing, he has adhered to the Jain tradition of Vimala Suri (who at he beginning of the 1st Century AD is believed to have written Ramayana), Hemachandra and others.
Nagachandra lived for some time in the first half of the twelfth century in Vijayapura which is now known as Bijapur. However another Vijayapura near Talakadu in Mandya district has also staked claim as Nagachandra’s birthplace.
Nagachandra has composed two epics in Kannada- Mallinatha Purana, the story of Mallinatha, the nineteenth teerthankara of Jains and Ramachandra Charitra Purana or Pampa Ramayana.
He also buiit the Jain
in Bijaopur which exists even to this day. temple of Mallinatha
Nagachandra, who was also called Abhinava Pampa, treats Ravana as a tragic hero who fell prey to the beauty of Sita and went astray. Thus Ravana is imbued with the human fraility of envy and lust. He makes out Ravana to be a person of goodness but kidnapped Seetha only because of her beauty. Ravana for him, like the rest of Jains, is religious, brave and noble. Ravana, therefore, is invested with more virtue and is made a typical Jain tragic hero. Rama is a noble hero too and a non-violent one at that.
Nagachandra has adapted the Champu metre while Narahari has based his work on Shatpadi. If Ravana is a tragic hero in Nagachandra’s epic, he is the villian in Kumara Valmiki’s work.Nagachandra’s epic ends with Rama’s ascetism, while in Kumara Valmiki’s Ramayana, the Lanka king Ravana realises that Rama is none other than Vishnu and dies at his hands. Nagachandra does not let Rama kill Ravana. That deed is left to Lakshman and for this he has to go to hell.
In Torvi Ramayana, the war between Rama and Ravana is contained in the chapter called Yudhakanda. This chapter has become the staple diet of Yakshagana performances as it eugolises Rama as a hero and it has been accorded heroic treatment which suits Yakshagana. My personal opinion is that apart from Valmiki Ramayana, Narahari was influenced by Puranas and Madhwacharya and this shows up at several places in his narrative.
Narahari has also written another work based on the Ramayana called “Airvana Kalaga. It contains several episodes from Ramayana. It is composed in four sections (Sandhi) consisting of 296 poems.