Sunderkand forms a part of eight kands of Tulsidas” Ramcaritmanas. It is mainly considered a saga of Hanumans life of dedication and total surrender to his supreme master Rama The beauty of Sunderkand makes it a separate and independent reading apart from the rest of the epic. Devotees recite Sunderkand in prayer and in homage to Hanuman, the rightful claimant of being a monkey- god. It has been said that “Beauty is truth and truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth and ye need to know “ Satytam, Shivam, Sunderam” (Truth, righteousness and beauty) has always motivated us to right actions. Indeed a thing of beauty is a joy for ever. The real beauty of Sunderkand lies in its revelation of spiritual truth and the path of a successful life of worldly existence, devoted and dedicated to Rama who is the Divine Consciousness itself in human form. The recitation of Sunderkand elevates human mind to higher possible level and processes the path of liberation (moksha) Hanuman, as an aspirant of Self-realization ,crosses the ocean of life’s turmoil to discover Sita, the embodiment of perfect virtue and beauty. Thereby Hanuman in the process discovers the divinity in self. It is his devotion and surrender to Rama that absorbs him in good actions with inner calm and unaffected by any self-- consideration He becomes an embodiment of all great divine qualities put together in a man –devotion, dedication, selfless service, dispassion, strength, humility, knowledge and what not. In Valmiki Ramayan, Hanuman says, Identifying with this gross body, I am servant of Rama (master-servant relationship of dualist philosophy) Identifying myself as jeeva, I am a fraction of you (Qualified dualism) and identifying with the Self, the Atman, I am but You (Advait or Monism) Hanuman merges in his master passing through dualism, qualified dualism and finally monism.
Sunderkand commences with the departure of Hanuman in search of Sita and ends with Rama ready to cross the ocean for Lanka in order to liberate Sita, the mother of Perfect Beauty and Virtue .It symbolizes a fight between the good and the evil, between liberty and slavery. Sita suffers in Ravana’s custody. It symbolizes the part of common man’s life. The cycle of joy and sorrow runs unabated and one has to withstand it calmly and face calamities bravely. The sufferings of all good persons contribute immensely towards building of an ideally balanced devotional life in the world. Mandodari and Vibhisan are examples of the good among the devils. In this world, the pair of opposites does co-exist and we are required to discriminate for our good and this is possible with god’s grace alone.
The beauty of Sunderkand is experienced in its perfect blend of Vedic mysticism and poetic exuberance with spiritual truths and worldly communications. Who is Rama? He represents the nature of existence, consciousness, and awareness. He is the one without name and form, but embodied in human form . He is the one without a second, with no attributes, who has come to appear as man with attributes in the name of Rama. Vibhisan says that Rama is not the son of Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya. He in reality is the Lord of Time, Space and Causation. He is the one without attributes, the unborn, the First Cause and the eternal. (39/1)
Sunderkand presents Rama as a perfect man (Maryada Purushottam) who is all-powerful and acts truthfully to setup for us an example of a life of equanimity and peaceful co-existence.
Sunderkand stresses upon the need to recite the name of Rama and remember him in all situations. Recitation of Rama’s name is as old as the hills. It is considered a sovereign remedy for all ailments and obstructions. Rama’s name brings purity of heart, peace and righteousness. It absorbs the entire being during recitation and actively charges and guides our life. The recitation of Rama’s name from the innermost heart brings forth energy- power from an unknown source. Tolstoy says that if one dismisses God from his heart even for a single moment, Satan occupies the vacancy. Chanting of Rama’s name is bound to expel the Satan.
Shiva and Bhawani are watching the entire sequence of Sunderkand. Shiva says that God’s grace is essential for perfection of duty. It requires total surrender to God’s will. The inherent divinity in man blooms out in full if he recites the name or remembers it in all his activities of life. One has to revel in utter devotion and faith in God and loyalty to Rama. Without it victory even in dream cannot be achieved. (46-47/2) There exists no calamity except the absence of Rama in the heart. (32/2) God’s grace is required for a successful life of fulfillment. (30/2) God’s grace makes the tiniest of the tiny overcome the mightiest of the mighty. (16) Sita says that God, the kind and benevolent God, can remove all obstructions and obstacles of life. (26/2)
Sunderkand depicts the character of Hanuman and Vibhisan among those who are fully engrossed in Rama, the one Satvik and Rajsik and the other Rajsik and Satvik Vibhisan is seen chanting Rama’s name in all situations. He aspires to look at the lotus feet of Rama, which are treasured in the heart of Sita, in Bharat’s thought, in Nishadraj’s acts, in the liberation of Ahilya and served by Brahma and Shiva. He wishes to touch the feet of Rama that chased the masked deer (48/1)
The beauty of Sunderkand mainly relates to the beauty of Hanuman’s character and actions It exhibits his beautiful example of crossing the ocean of life’s turmoil in order to achieve the divinity in man. Mind has been linked to monkey for all its wavering thoughtfulness Mind and monkey, both are restless and unsteady. Under Sugreeva, the inherent qualities of Hanuman could not reveal itself. It was from day one , when Hanuman came in contact with Rama that his mysterious qualities began to unfold itself, even in his seemingly insignificant monkey-form of appearance. Rama’s association and blessing extolled him to the height of a Monkey-god. It was Rama who recognized his talents and virtue .He became his chosen ambassador in search for Sita. As a confidant, Rama gave him his ring for Sita .
As a result of God’s grace he got inspired by Jamvant and realized his own potency of flying over the vast waters of the ocean enroute Lanka. In the name of Rama and Rama constantly in his thoughts, like a child’ play, he flew over straight as Rama’s arrow to his aimed destination. (1/4)
By the grace of God alone, one finds good support in one’s mission. Lord Ocean asks the mountain Mayank to rise above so that Hanuman may rest on it for a while and remove his fatigue. (1/5) Even the gods dispatch Sursa, the mother of serpents, to test his wisdom. (2/1)
Hanuman was possessed of great yogic powers and he got an opportunity to exhibit some of them in negotiating obstructions enroute Lanka. He outwitted Sursa by exhibiting some of the eight kinds of miraculous powers acquired by the yogis. Hanuman was a perfect yogi. He had the faculty of reducing his body to atom size (Arhima), expanding it infinitely large (Mahima), becoming infinitely heavy (Garima) or infinitely light (Laghima), unrestricted access to space (Prapatti), power to realize the desired one (Prakramya), power of absolute Lordship (Drastava) and power to subjugate all (Vashitva).
Hanuman was ever aware of his surroundings He spotted and killed the demon who would entrap the remote flying object and eat it up. (3/2) He succeeded in easily setting aside the mountains to clear off his flight-way. (1/4) With these yogic qualities, Hanuman entered the entirely unknown enemy country Lanka, disguised in his tiniest form. While entering Lanka, he had to overpower the watch-demon at the gate, when detected by her even in his tiniest posture, and he performed it easily. (4/2) Then he visited under disguise the palace of Ravana and the residence of Vibhisan.
Hanuman was adept in social and political planning. His first appearance before Sita was determined by his psychological insight .He did not go straight away. While deciding to wait all night on the treetop, he saluted her first and waited for a proper time. At first he dropped the ring of Rama to make Sita mentally prepared. (12) Then he chanted in the praise of Rama Sita was now curious to see the man who praises Rama in the enemy country. (13/4) She expressed her eagerness to see such a stranger. Now proper background was prepared When Hanuman appeared before her, she was taken by surprise to see a vanar (monkey). She was suspicious. at first sight. Hanuman had to dispel her doubts. He narrated the meeting of Vanaras with Rama and their fellowship. Trust was restored. The success of the first meeting between the two strangers in a demon country reveals Hanuman” understanding of the situation and rising equal to the occasion.
Hanuman knows how to console the emotion-bound tearful Sita. He assures her that Rama’s love for her, as he understands, is just twice deeper than her love for him. (13/5) Sita seems impressed and assured. Now he delivers Rama’s message in a very romantic phrase telling her that Rama feels pangs of sorrow and grief, while in separation, from even the sight of those objects which, while in union, brought them joy and romance. (15/3) He further tells her that Rama says that these pangs of grief are only felt in his heart and that heart lies with her there. (15/3-4) Hanuman assures Sita that the delay in her rescue was due to her unknown whereabouts. When Sita looked doubtful over the might of Vanar-sena (army of monkeys), as against the mighty demon- army, Hanuman, understanding the viewpoint, exposed his real self to her. satisfaction. (16/4) Thereafter he destroyed the protected garden, killed demons including one of Ravana’sons Achcha Kumar. He fought with his another son Meghanath who had conquered Lord Indra. After harassing him for long, Hanuman got himself entrapped in obeisance to Brahmastra, which Meghanath played against him. (19)He did so as he wanted to see Ravana’ court where he was taken as a prisoner by his son with pride..
Hanuman was satisfied to be in Ravan’s court. After all an ambassador should have firsthand account of the political seat of power of the enemy. Ravan was happy to find a prisoner before him but the thought that he was a daredevil and had killed his son made him angry and sad. Seeing that the prisoner is reassured and not at all afraid, he asked him who was he and who was behind him ? He also wanted to know if he had not heard of his mighty name and greatness. (21/1) Hanuman in Ravan’s court is not a mere Vanar. He is the representative of Rama He is diplomat and adept in dealing with the political situation. He reminds Ravana of his weaknesses just to belittle his ego. He replies point-wise in a very accurate and calculating language .He informs him that he is representative of the one, who is the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the universe, the one who has created all beings, sentient and insentient and who is the Xavier of gods. He represents the one who broke down Shiva ‘ bow leading to humiliation of all failed kings present there (Ravana was present there), and whose wife he had deceitfully abducted. (21)
Further he tries to remind Ravana of his failures in order to make him realize his mortal existence. He says that I am well aware who you are. I know about your fight with Sahasravahu and Bali (both had belittled Ravana) Then Hanuman speaks in self- defense He says that he ate the plants and fruits of the protected forest because he was hungry. When he was attacked, he had to act in self- defense. He killed those who attacked him. (22) In the next step, he charges Ravana, accusing him of his wrong confinement by his son. He says that he willingly accepted his trap, as he wanted to be in the court. He confidently pleads with Ravana to shirk his ego-sense and surrender to the lotus feet of benevolent Rama. (23/1) There was nothing wrong in doing so.
Hanuman’s arguments are impressively strong and are an excellent example of political diplomacy. To conclude, it should be clearly understood that religion in India is considered a way of life. It is not merely dogmatic or theoretical. It is practiced everyday in our life. Hence the sages have always included ethical and moral teachings in religion in a very easy and natural way for the grasp of the ordinary people. Sunderkand embodies many such teachings. through characters, dialogues, incidents and situations etc. Vibhisan says that anger, passion and avarice are the doorway to hell. Devotion to Rama alone is supreme (38) He asks Ravana to discriminate between vice and virtue, as the pair of opposites co-exist. (40/3) The famous saying of the Bible that do not cast pearls before the swine otherwise they will rend it, reminds us of Kakbhusund’s words that the crooked and the low heed not the gentle words but only understand the language of fear and warning. (38) Rama also says that there is no love if not based on fear in some context. (57) Rama says that it is useless to find discrimination- faculty in a man who is fully attached in life. An avaricious man can never take up the life of renunciation. To expect calm and tranquility in an angry man or to talk of divinity with a libertine is just like sowing seeds on a fallow land. (58)
Sunderkand describes picturesque and prosperous Lanka in full glory and its ruler. Hanuman at first views it from a mountain- top. It looks very pleasant It is surrounded by oceans from all sides. Its boundary walls are jetted with diamonds and jewels .. (3) The example of architectural planning of township is praiseworthy. There are beautiful rows of planned houses and markets beside wide roads .The transit facility is varied, easy and affordable. The greenery is enticing. The ladies look attractive and charming like nymphs ad elves. The opulent Lanka is well protected by a strong army of demons. In this land of material prosperity, there is ample personal freedom. Intelligent ladies like Mandodari and Trijeta make their own decisions. The gate – keeper of the land is a lady –demon. Ravana’s wife Mandodari marries Vibhisan after her husband’s death. This clearly shows that personal decision on marriage, widow - marriage was common in those days of prosperity. Sunderkand depicts that such a materially prosperous country like Lanka, unfortunately had as its ruler a king who was egoist, autocrat and totalitarian . He would not listen to his ministers and advisors against his will and whim. Sunderkand hints at the truth that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It says that the kingdom, which is surrounded by ministers, physicians and philosophers and advisors, who do not speak out the truth for fear or consideration, is bound to fall. (37). How beautifully is laid down a universal truth!
In Sunderkand, every thing ends in beauty on a positive and optimistic note. All is well that ends well. Hanuman finds out the whereabouts of Sita and her liberation is assured . Vibhisan is rescued to Rama” patronage. Rama is ready to enter Lanka to liberate Sita. Sunderkand unveils the truth and beauty so far hidden from us. The habitual recitation of Sunderkand results in amazing calm and tranquility. It gives us inner strength to face calamity boldly and with ease. Tulsidas concludes the Kand by saying that those who listen to the Kand with reverence get empowered to cross the ocean of worldly existence.