SUNDARAKANDAM IN SRI LANKA…..


Sundare sundaro ramah ……

Sundare sundari katha……….

Sundare sundari sita …………

Sundare sundaram vanam,

Sundare sundaram kavyam…….

Sundare sundarah kapih ………

Sundare sundaram mantram…….

Sundare kim na sundaram…….

The beautiful  Sundara Kanda is the  chapter of the  Srimad Ramayana  which  speaks about the great devotee  Hanuman’s selflessness, strength, and devotion to  Lord Rama  ..

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 Hanuman was fondly called Sundara by his mother Anjani and Sage Valmiki chose this name over others as this kanda  deals mainly with Hanuman’jis journey to Lanka…………..

                     Everything  in this kanda is sunder ( beautiful) .

Rama is beautiful,  Sita is beautiful and the story is beautiful. 

             After  coronation of  Sugreeva as the King of Vaanaras,  Lord Srirama and Lakshmana spent four months during monsoon   in Maalyavan parvath in Hampi, Karnataka.

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  Lord  Srirama experienced unbearable pain due to separation from  our mother Sitadevi.  The Lord was worried about Sitadevi’s welfare and  used to lament uncontrollably. 

At the end of monsoon, Sugreeva deputed crores of vaanaras and bears in all directions in search of Sitadevi giving them one month’s  time to trace the whereabouts and inform for taking up next course of action. 

 Sugreeva explained geographical  particulars  about all the places  around  the world in detail .

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The vanaras headed by  Prince Angadha and supported by senior  Jambavan and Hanuman were assigned the task of searching in the southern direction.  Lord Srirama handed over HIS finger ring to Hanumanji  who was standing in a corner.

Our poorvacharyars give reason as to why Srirama selected Hanuman to give his  finger ring .  It was the time  at Kishkinda  when Lord Rama was in search of Mother Sita .   Hanumanji  was in thoughts  to see Srirama lamenting for a lady.

Hanumanji a brahmachari was wondering as to why a person of high stature like  Lord Srirama  tutored by rishis like Sage Vasishta, Vishwamitra was so emotional .

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Lord   Srirama  our antaryami   sensed Hanumanji’s  feelings .  To make Hanuman realise the greatness of    Sitadevi, Srirama selected Hanuman and handed over HIS finger ring with HIS holy name engraved on it. 

And it was also an indication that Paramatma  laments for all the  jivaatma in the same lines .

It was because of the  holy ring that Hanuman could cross the ocean and meet  Mother Sitadevi and obtain HER blessings.  When Hanumanji saw Sitadevi’s steadfast devotion towards   Lord Srirama, he regretted for his thoughts initially   .

Having understood HER greatness , Hanuman visualised both of them together in his heart and offered prayers.

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Hanumanjee introduced to  mother Sitadevi that he was “Rama dhoothan” whereas when he returned to Lord Rama as “Sitadevi’s messenger” to convey the good news about Sitadevi’s welfare, he addressed himself as “Raama daasan”. With Mother’s grace, our ego vanishes.  Our poorvacharyars comment that when Hanuman went as “rama dhootan”-, he was gifted with fire on the tail whereas when he returned as Sita dhootan, he was embraced by Lord Rama.  

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The vanaras who went in the southern direction explored all the places until they reached  SWayamprabha caves near Tirunelveli in Tamilnadu where they lost their way.

Swayamprabha a  advanced Sathwi  was the guardian for the caves owned by Mayasuran.  She transported the vanaras to the seashore after knowing about their devotion to Lord Rama .  Having reached the seashore, the vanaras were worried because the stipulated time  fixed by their King Sugreeva  was over and they could not trace Sitadevi. 

Angadha had lit a big pyre for them to sacrifice their lives.

He started lamenting about Sitadevi’s abduction, Jatayu sacrificing his life in Ramaseva after fighting with Ravana , their search expedition and failure in the assignment.

Sampaati-the eagle bird summoned Angadha and introduced himself as Jatayu’s elder brother , shared how he lost his wings while protecting Jatayu from the scorching heat of sun in the process loosing his wings and became immobile.

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Sampaati was informed about Jatayu’s Raama kainkaryam and he too resolved to do the same.  He informed the vanaras about Sitadevi’s whereabouts with his sharp vision in the far away land, Lanka.  Having done this Raama kainkaryam, Sampaati regained his lost wings and flew away.

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SAMPAATI CONVERSING WITH ANGADHA AND OTHER VANARAS NEAR SEASHORE

Now that the whereabouts of Sitadevi were known, the vanaras started contemplating as to who would cross the ocean which was measuring 100 yojanas (1000 miles) to meet   mother Sitadevi.  Each vanara  expressed their  ability to cross few yojanas . 

Angadha said that he could cross 100 yojanas but would not have the energy to return. 

The aged Jambavaan who knew Hanuman’s capabilities approached Hanuman and started enumerating his strength and skills.  Due to a  Sadhus curse Hanuman who had forgotten his capabilities now remembered them .

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He confidently proclaimed that he would finish the yeomen task of locating  mother Sitadevi saying that like Rama’s arrow which never failed to hit its target, he would accomplish the task.

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All the vanaras vowed to observe fast until Sitadevi was found.  Reposing confidence to the vaanaras,  Hanuman stood on Mahendragiri parvatham near Thirukurungudi in Tamilnadu and after offering prayers to Suryan, Indran, Vayu, Rama , He increased in size and leapt on the sky to cross the ocean.

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HANUMAN LEAPING FROM MAHENDRAGIRI

MAHENDRAGIRI MOUNTAIN

Thus starts Sundarakandam,-the most beautiful kaandam as everything is beautiful in it.  EVery household in India has a copy of Sundarakanda .  It is a normal practice in Srivaishnava wedding to present Sundarakandam to the groom as it is considered very auspicious. 

Our poorvacharyars have clearly indicated that

Lord Rama is the Paramatma

MOther Sita is the Jivatma suffering in this material world for reunion with Paramatma

Lanka is the samsara(material world)

ten headed Ravana is our ten senses

Hanuman is the acharya(gurudeva) who extols Paramatma’s qualities to Jivatma, gives the holy name to Jivatma,

submits Jivatma’s plea to Paramatma, 

destroys Lanka(samsaara) with the fire of knowledge

reunites Jivatma with Paramatma.

The jivatma who gets illusioned with material world leaves Paramatma and ends up in trouble loitering in the material world until an acharya intervenes and imparts supreme knowledge about the Lord, gives us the mantra to attain  HIM, submits our plea to the Lord and ensures our union with the Supreme Lord by destroying our desires (samasara)

 

                              And our journey to SriLanka to have the darshan of all the holy places begun last month and an attempt is being made to reproduce the divine bliss to millions of Hari bhaktha .

Hanumanjee  faced the first hurdle which was a friendly gesture by Mynaaka parvatham who was  a close  friend of Vayu bhagavan ( Hanumanjee’s father )

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He offered fruits and asked Hanuman to take rest but Hanuman refused politely by embracing the mountain for its gesture saying that he intended to reach Lanka by evening and was lacking time.

Hanuman won Mynaakam  with his friendly gesture. He didn’t succumb to any temptation.

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The second hurdle came in the form of Surasa who was a Naagamaatha( mother of snakes).  The devas prompted her to test Hanuman’s capabilities.  Surasa obstructed Hanuman’s way saying that she wanted to swallow Hanuman to satiate her hunger.

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Hanuman replied that he would fulfil her wish after completing  Lord Srirama’s mission. Surasa refused.

  Hanuman displayed his intelligence in tackling this hurdle.  He asked Surasa to open her mouth to such an extent so that he could enter into her mouth.  Hanuman started increasing his size and Surasa also widened her mouth.  When Surasa had opened her mouth widely, Hanuman suddenly decreased his size,entered into her mouth and before she could close her mouth, he came out of her mouth swiftly. 

Surasa  was pleased with Hanuman .She blessed him assuming her true form.

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 Nagadeepa also known as Nayanateevu,  is an island near the North-western part of Srilanka is now identified as the place where this incident took place.

  There is a big temple for Naagamaatha known as Nagapooshani temple. This is also considered as one of the eighteen shakti peetams.

To reach this place, one has to drive from Jaffna for about 38 kms upto Pungudutheevu .  From Pungudutheevu drive for about 15 kms on a bridge to reach jetty. 

Our journey to this wonderful place is recorded in this video

                   Regular boat services at an interval of one hour is available to go to Nagadeepa.  The fare for the boat ride is LKR 50/- and will take about 20 minutes .

It is one way-the boat stops near the buddhist monastery and the return would be pick up from Nagapooshani temple or vice-versa .  Autos ply between these two places for a nominal charge of Rs.10/- LKR. 

In Nagadeepa, there are two places to be visited- the first one is the Buddhist monastery as Buddha had visited this place and changed the factionist Naagas into pious people and made them follow Buddhism. Nagapooshani amman temple  can be reached by auto.   Devotees perform  milk abhishekam to the naagas in the temple. 

The third hurdle for Hanumanjee  was   a rakshasi  named Simhika.    Lying on the ocean  she had the power to pull the shadow of anyone flying over her.   She  used her strength to deaccelerate Hanuman’jis  speed by pulling his shadow. 

Hanumanji realised the gravity and the unexpected hurdle .Breathing  Lord Rama’s name he waited for the right opportunity.     The moment  she opened her mouth wide to swallow him, Hanumanjee  entered into her mouth  like a bee  and piercing her stomach came out of her thus killing her.  Simhika was in a pool of blood.   Hanumanjee thus  encountered the third hurdle with his strength.

This place is identified as Thiruketeeswaram on the North-western part of Srilanka (between Jaffna and Anuradhapura) about 116 kms  north-west  of  Anuradhapura-a famous site for Buddhists

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Also, Kethu-one of the navagrahas who is Simhika’s son prayed to Shiva at this place.  Hence this place is known as Thiruketeeswaram.

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  Mandodari’s father built this temple.  Presently the Shiva temple is undergoing renovation.

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Hanumanji landed on Suvela parvatham in Srilanka . 

This place is now known as Ramboda

After sunset, Hanumanji took a miniature form and was encountered by Lankini- a rakshasi when he was trying to enter into Lankapura.

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Lankapura is considered as the places around Sigiriya and Kandy.

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RAvana ruled from Sigiriya Fort

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Hanuman defeated Lankini and started searching for Sitadevi in all the places including the Pushpaka vimanam, palaces of RAvana’s queens, Ravana’s palace, Mandodari’s palace, kitchen etc.

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  He found heaps of food in the kitchen but didn’t have the slightest temptation to eat.  He searched every nook and corner of Lanka but could not trace  mother Sitadevi. Hanuman was worried that he  had to look  many ladies which was against his brahmachari vow. 

But he convinced himself that if you have to search for a deer, you will have to search amongst deer.  Likewise, a woman has to be searched amongst women.  AS he respected all women as his mother and sister, his mind was very clear and was only focused on our Mother’s ( Thayar’s ) welfare.

 

After searching for the second time, Hanumanji was worried .He  sat on a rock  and decided to end his life as he knew that if he returned without seeing Sitadevi, he would be the cause for destruction of Ishvaku race and the vaanaras. 

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Hanuman however regained his determination and realized his mistake. 

He understood that though he  prayed to all the gods  he  forgot to offer prayers to  Mother Sitadevi

Recollecting HER appearance as an ayonija,  

He immediately prayed to Sitadevi guarded by Rama and Lakshmana to disclose her whereabouts similar to the way SHE chose to appear to King Janaka.

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 By the grace of Sitadevi,  Hanumanji spotted Ashoka vanam- a beautiful garden which he had missed to explore

This place where Hanuman sat and contemplated on Mother Sita is identified as MANIKATUTHER located between Ramboda and Nuwara Eliya.

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It is about 20 kms from RAmboda hill and Nuwara Eliya is about 50 kms from Manikatuther. 

Manikatuther is located in Labbookelle Tea Estate in Kondakalai village on a hill.  WE need to take an auto to go up the hill which has a muddy path from the base. 

AFter reaching a certain point, we have to trek up the hill through Labbookelle Tea Estate .

The scenic beauty is inexplicable. When we visited this place, the whole area was engulfed in fog , it was drizzling and cool breeze was soothing .  Presently , there is only a small shiva linga under a tree. 

Sri.Kanakaraj, a disciple of Chinmaya Mission who accompanied us informed that on a clear day, we can view both Ramboda and Nuwara Eliya.

The village is named as Kondakalai because while Ravana was forcibly taking Sitadevi to Ashoka vanam, Sitadevi’s hair got deranged.

He also informed that the food given by RAvana to Sitadevi was thrown away by HER which fell scattered in the surrounding forests.  The remains became  fossils  known as “SITA GOOLI” have been certified by American researchers as vitaminised rice balls dating few   thousands of years . These balls are considered as symbol of auspiciousness.  We were fortunate to get them to be placed in our altar.

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SITA GOOLI AND LEAVES OF ASHOKA TREE

Near Manikatuther, there is a  temple for Sriman Narayana seated on Garuda with Sridevi and Bhudevi.  Mahavishnu is bluish in complexion .  But the locals address this temple as “Rama temple”. 

During Margazhi,(Dec-Jan), early morning Pooja is performed and bhajans are conducted in the nights during the whole month. Few rare beautiful pics from Ramayanam are hung on the walls inside the temple.

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When Hanumanji entered Ashoka Vanam (presently known as Hakgala Botanical Gardens in Nuwara Eliya), the flowers blossomed , birds chirped and the weather was very pleasant.  Some flowers dropped on Hanuman’s body which added to his beauty.

Hanuman jumped from one tree to the other in search of Sitadevi.  Finally, he found a sobbing lady under a tree and looking at her appearance, the colour of her sari  and the jewels which were hanging from the tree, Hanuman guessed that it was Sitadevi.  His joy knew no bounds.

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He was contemplating as to how he has to pick up a conversation with her. Meanwhile, RAvana arrived and started persuading  Sitadevi.  When Sitadevi rebuked him, he became so wild that he wanted to strangle her but was stopped by his wife Daanyamaalini. 

Mother Sita underwent all these troubles for our upliftment.!

He left after warning her that she would be killed and served as breakfast at the end of two months in case she doesn’t concede to his request.

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The rakshasis who were threatening her were chastised by Trijata-Vibhishana’s daughter who disclosed the dream she had. 

She dreamt about Rama’s victory, Sitadevi’s reunion  with Srirama, Ravana’s death, anhilation  of rakshasa clan, Vibhishana’s coronation and advised the rakshasis to stop  torturing Sitadevi as SHE alone could protect them from SRirama’s wrath. 

The rakshasis stopped harassing and slept.  Sitadevi who was totally devastated, decided to end her life by hanging HERSELF from Simshuka tree with her hair.

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Hanumanji who was sitting on the Simshuka tree became worried at HER approach.  To save HER from this disaster, Hanuman softly sang Srirama’s story  starting from HIS appearance,wedding, banishment , Ravana’s foul play in kidnapping Sitadevi, Jatayu’s death, Sugreeva’s friendship, their search operation etc. When Sitadevi got convinced that he was Rama’s messenger, Hanuman presented the holy ring given by Srirama to her and pacified HER that SRirama would kill Ravana ,resuce HER and return to Ayodhya to rule the world.

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Thus , the entire Ramayana was sung by Hanuman. This place is known famously known as “SITA ELIYA-SITA AMMAN TEMPLE” located about 4 kms from Nuwara Eliya on a lower altitude. Nuwara Eliya,also known as “Little England” located in the Central highlands of Srilanka  is one of the coldest regions in Srilanka .

The thought that Sitadevi sitting under the tree in the cool Ashoka gardens without any protection against the harsh weather conditions made us feel depressed.

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Hanuman convinced Sitadevi that Srirama would come at the earliest and rescue HER.  Unable to tolerate Sitadevi’s distress, Hanumanji offered to carry HER on his shoulders and unite HER with Srirama. 

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He expanded his form to convince about his capabilities.  So, we can see  two sets of footprints in Sita Amman temple-one small and the other one huge .  Sitadevi shared few incidents with Hanuman to be conveyed to Srirama so that HE would believe Hanuman and also gave HER choodamani to be handed over to Srirama.

After taking Sitadevi’s blessings, Hanuman decided to meet Ravana and convey Rama’s message.  So, he uprooted the trees in Ashoka vanam .  He defeated the rakshasas who came to fight, destroyed one-fourth of Ravana’s army including 80000 kinnaras, five army chiefs, Ravana’s son-Akshakumara and finally voluntarily got bound by Indrajit’s brahmastra as Hanuman wanted an audience with Ravana.

All these incidents took place at Hakgala Botanical Gardens.

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Hanuman was taken to RAvana’s assembly in Sigiriya Fort.  Hanuman introduced himself as Sugreeva’s minister and Srirama’s messenger , informed the killing of Vali who had humbled RAvana earlier ,  advised Ravana to return Sitadevi and save his clan from Srirama’s wrath. 

Ravana ordered Hanuman to be killed but was intercepted by Vibhishana who said that a messenger should not be killed but could be punished. 

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Ravana ordered that Hanuman’s tail be burnt.  Hanuman’s tail was wound with cloth dipped in oil and fire was lit.  When Sitadevi learnt about this, having faith in HER CHASTITY, SHE prayed to Agnideva to protect Hanuman from burning. 

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Hanuman realised that though his tail was burning, he didn’t feel any burning sensation or pain. Hanuman wanted to express his gratitude to firegod by offering the tall mansions to agni. Hanuman freed himself from rakshasas’ clutches and jumping from one building to the other including RAvana’s palace and assembly , he lit fire in all the places. 

AS Lankapura  was furnished with gold, the fire spread immediately . Fire spread within no time to  Ravana’s assembly on Sigiriya fort due to the strong winds that blow there.

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Hanuman burnt the whole Lanka including Ravana’s airports at WEragantota , Ussangoda (the southern tip of Lanka).  Hanuman cooled his burning tail in the waters near Ussangoda.

The sand in Ussangoda is red in colour.  Usually red sand would be wet whereas here it is as hard as rock.  No vegetation grows here. This is a protected site.  It is advisable to visit this place in daytime . 

Ussangoda near Hambantota, 83 kms east of Galle, is a sea coast on the southern part of Srilanka.

 Hanuman became worried about Sitadevi’s welfare as the entire Lanka was burning.  But he heard from celestial beings about Sitadevi’s safety and Vibhishana’s house not burnt.  The pleased Hanuman returned to Ashoka vanam and after personally seeing Sitadevi assured her about Rama’s arrival and returned to Kishkinda after taking Mother Sita’s blessings.

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Hanuman returned to the vanara camp and shared with them Sitadevi’s welfare.  He informed them in detail about his entire journey.  They started the return journey to Kishkinda to inform the good news to SRiraram, Enroute  stopped for a while at Madhuban near Hampi to satisfy their hunger. While all the vanaras were satiating their hunger by drinking honey and eating fruits, Our Hanuman was engrossed in Rama kirtana which was his food.

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HANUMAN’S IMAGE AT MADHUVAN NEAR HAMPI

Hanuman and other vanaras headed by Angadha returned to Maalyavan parvath and informed about Sitadevi’s welfare and presented the choodamani to Srirama.  A beautiful temple for the Lordships at the place where this incident took place can be seen in Hampi.  Srirama praised Hanuman and  embraced him for completing the mission thus emphasising that HE COULD BE ATTAINED ONLY WITH HANUMAN’S GRACE.

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The place where Hanumanji conveyed Sitamata’s welfare and offered Choodamani to Srirama-Hampi,Karnataka

Our poorvacharyas say that  when Hanuman submittd to Srirama without Sitadevi, his tail got burnt but when he got Sitadevi’s blessings, he was blessed with Rama’s hug.  

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This emphasizes  Thayar’s intervention as PUrushakaaram in our Srivaishnava sampradayam.   Thus ends Sundarakandam.

Pics credits  :  Few from Social media 

                  The Yudhakanda post to follow which will cover all the places in Srilanka

Adiyen Ramanuja dasan

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