Many a times, I have heard my mother mention about the greatness of Sundara Kandam in Ramayana. As a brief prelude, Ramayana - the great epic is divided into seven kandams or portions namely the Bala Kandam, Ayodhya Kandam, Aranya Kandam, Kishkinda Kandam, Sundara Kandam, Yuddha Kandam and Uttara Kandam. But it is often mentioned that even if one has not read Ramayana in entirety, reading Sundara Kandam with utmost devotion can equal reading the epic itself. Sundara Kandam is famously stated as the Heart of Ramayana.
My mother's multiple and casual mention of the power of Sundara Kandam made me look for it on www.flipkart.com - an online book portal. The search landed me at this book - The Hidden Gems in Sundara Kandam by K. Lakshman, the original rendition of this book in Tamil by Amman Sathiyanathan. The book priced at Rs 150 on this site presents Sundara Kandam in easy to understand English with beautiful illustrations, in black and white. In this book, the heart of Ramayana is rendered in a tale like format.
The book begins with a prologue elaborating importance of Sundara Kandam in Ramayana, why it is named so, what portion of the great epic does it span, why it is revered as the Heart of Ramayana. The author explains different versions of Ramayana he has referred to in writing this book. The next portion is the tale itself - Sundara Kandam beginning with Hanuman's crossing the sea in search of Sita, surveying Lanka, meeting Sita in Ashoka vana, setting Lanka ablaze thereafter in a bid to scare Ravana, crossing the sea again to meet Rama and convey the news - "Sighted Sita".
The story telling is not abrupt as chosen/necessary references are taken from previous portions to complete the reader's understanding. The epilogue section sails seamlessly with brief accounts from Yuddha Kandam and Rama Pattabishekham (coronation ceremony after return from forest exile for 14 years) providing the neat end. Many important questions that hit the reader's mind during elaboration of the tale are discussed with authors' opinions and answers in the epilogue section.
No Sanskrit verses in here, no heavy prose, this book is meant for all those who wish to do some devout reading of something godly and spiritual, not merely a one time read and definitely not a "finish in one go" book too.
Cover of the Book
Illustration showing Sita handing over her crest jewel to Hanuman in Ashoka Vana, Lanka
Illustration showing Hanuman setting Lanka on fire, his tail ablaze