Sometimes we miss things in this big, busy land of ours. An extraordinary gift has come my way by chance or predestination before Sri Ram Navami, which is a poignant festival for many people with its mixed memories; moreover it’s happening so soon after the thrill of the World Cup.
However there are good goings-on to encourage us, the neighbouring captains spoke gracefully and there’s such yearning out in the ether to put away the bad history and make glad new memories for us to sustain our lives with.
So I’m saying that in the cordial spirit of this World Cup, Sri Ram Navami too is a chance to remember that India can be rather wonderful. There’s this song I’d like so much for you hear on YouTube if you’d search for ‘Ramayana Storytelling Ram Bhajan’. Someone’s worked very hard on it, arranging a selection of fine paintings mostly in the miniature style and some in the calendar style. They flow the entire epic through pictures to the track of ‘Janaki jaane’, a lovely Sanskrit bhajan, with lyrics and translation in the Comments.
At this point, Mallus will say, “We know that one!” But I’m reasonably sure that lots of us non-Mallus don’t. The song is from ‘Dhwani’, a Malayalam romance film from 1988 directed by AT Abu, apparently a big hit back then with the beauteous Shobhana. It was veteran actor Prem Nazir’s last film and the only Malayalam film to have music by Naushad Ali, while the songs are by Yesudas.
Yes, but a Sanskrit bhajan on Sri Rama, is the Pope Catholic, you say? So let’s pause to remember how Goswami Tulsidas was able to write the Sri Ramcharitmanas in Hindi unmolested by purists only because he was protected by the Mughal Governor of Kashi, a certain Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan.
Let’s leap then in one bound across the centuries to Kerala, to Yusuf Ali Kechery (born 1934), a poet and film director and former President of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi. His Sanskrit teacher was the eminent scholar, Professor KP Narayana Pisharody. Do hear it yourself, but I think ‘Janaki jaane’ is worth singing or playing aloud on Tuesday at the temple.
Three amazing Indian energies combined to make it: a nice way for us to catch some grace and perhaps attain, in Yusuf Ali Kechery’s words, the ‘sukhaniketa’ or abode of happiness that is Sri Rama.
(Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture.)