The Verandah Ramayana

Have you ever been instructed by your parents to go around the temple 3 times, 9 times etc with the promise of good destiny in doing so? In all probability, our ancestors made the custom of doing rounds in a temple complex as a fitness motive and placed a religious story around it and it does make sense that step count on your fitness watch increases along with the goodwill count on god’s watch. But imagine if there was a temple, where if you do 3 complete rounds, you can learn an epic story in addition to all the benefits. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well,  I invite you with me to one such grand experience.

In Hampi, one of India’s 36 UNESCO World Heritage sites, lies several majestic temples – all in ruin today thanks to historical invaders. Hampi has many wonders to blow your mind, but one stand out spot is the Hazara Rama Temple built between 1513-1521 AD by the great emperor Krishnadevaraya. The name might lead you to think it has a thousand Rama statues or something, but sadly this is not the Hindi Hazara as many guides would like gullible travellers to believe. Hazara means Verandah in old Kannada and in this temple, more than the idols or the sanctums the Verandah is what which steals the highlights. The Ramayana is sculpted in panel after panel on the Verandah or the sanctum walls and arranged in 3 rows one above another in clockwise fashion. Thus, if you complete one round, you can read the lowest panels and know 1/3rd of the Ramayana and when you complete all 3, voila, you have an amazing  story watching session complete. I thought it was a pretty neat incentive to make people go round and round. Well played KDR.

I painstakingly took the pictures of all the beautiful carvings one panel after another through the entire epic and this post is a small dedication to the amazing ambition and passion of our ancestral emperors and sheer creativity of the sculptors. Let it be known that there is no official explanation to each panels and it is only my own interpretation that i am using here to move the story. And as always as some part of the temple was destroyed by invaders or by nature, we have lost some critical scenes in the temple storyline. You will realize what is missing as we go along. That is if you know Ramayana already. If you don’t, buckle up – a new pacy verandah story for you.

I hope you stay till the end. In case you plan to drop off in between – i am insisting now itself that you make Hampi part of your travel plan in the near future and Hazara Rama a must see inclusion in it. We have some amazing history to witness, while all I saw in Hampi was just groups of foreigners clicking away photos of walls without knowing the story that each chisel is depicting.

Anyways enough jibber jabber – here goes the Verandah Ramayana – as imagined by KDR and narrated by truly yours.

There was this dude Shravan who carried around his old parents on his shoulders and served them all day 

There was this King Dasaratha who liked to hunt from far away. One day, he took aim and struck Shravan instead .. Oh No!

Shravan dies 😦 and Dasaratha goes to his parents to seek forgiveness. His parents are pretty sad and curse Dasaratha that he will also die due to sadness from separating from his son

Time moves on. Dasaratha decides to have kids in spite of above said curse. (Silly). So he conducts a Yagna to beget sons (Silly, should have asked daughters). Agni the fire god springs out from the fire and grants tasty payasam to Dasaratha.

I didn’t mention before right. Dasaratha has 3 wives (Still does Yagna). So he gives tasty payasam to all 3 wives – Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. Drink and you shall have sons!! (how simple)

Ta Da! Enter the Hero. Dasaratha has 4 sons. Lakshamana, Bharatha, Shatrugana and no prizes for guessing – Rama!

As the princes grow, up comes Vishwamitra the Guru and takes Rama and Lakshmana under his tutelage. First Assignment – Kill the Demon Tadaka. Status- Successfully completed.

(Note how the panels stretch across the perpendicular walls. Sigh, sculptors)

The tutelage journey continues and now has hit the Ashram of Sage Gautama ( The sitting majestic dude). He has cursed his wife to be invisible as a stone due to some illicit marital problems earlier. But the hero is here for salvation. As soon as his feet touches the rock, Ahalya returns. Behold!

(The whole scene is depicted in stone. Ah the irony)

More Demons are killed as the hero becomes an expert in warfare under Vishwamitra’s able guidance. The weapon of choice always seems to be Bow and Arrow. Looks like Rama prefers long range weaponry.

All the valour shouldnt go waste. What is it going to be useful for if not getting a life partner. King Janaka has arranged for a Swayamvaram for his daughter and bang right on time are Rama and Vishwamitra to exhibit their trained valour.

Janaka has this amazing bow which cannot be unstrung or broken easily. So he challenges suitors to break it and all great guys come forward to try including Ravana who will enter the story shortly but as expected our man Rama is the one to break it. As said, its his favourite weapon after all.

Everybody cheer for Rama! Rama! Rama!

And as promised to the Bow Breaker, Janaka gives his daughter Sita in marriage to Rama.

Who wouldn’t marry into the emperor’s family? Janaka marries off more girls in his extended family to the 4 sons of Dasaratha

The grooms and brides reach hometown Ayodhya and are dutifully paraded to the public. Of course, victory parade has to happen.

Training Done! Marriage Done! What else ? OK yeah promotion. Dasaratha decides Rama should become King. But his second wife is being coloured by her aide Manthara that her son should get the throne.

Kaikeyi has a boon due from Dasaratha from a long back story regarding when she saved his life. So, very convenient now , Kaikeyi with her mind fully coloured by Manthara seeks the boon from her husband – cue suspense bgm -….

that Rama be banished in exile for 14 years and Bharatha be made king!!!  (Ah that curse and the book have come together)