Here is an interesting story, about how authors had to seek approvals from different sections of the audience for whom the story has been written.

According to a tale, when Kamban had composed his Ramayana, he wanted it to be accepted publicly in the temple of Lord Vishnu at Srirangam. When he went there with his manuscript, the assembled priests declined from accepting it, as they were competent only in Sanskrit, and Kamban had written his version of the epic in Tamil. They expressed their inability to judge the epic, but suggested a way out by telling him that about 3000 scholars of the Shiva Temple at Chidambaram were experts in Tamil, and if he could seek their approval, then they would have no problem. Chidambaram was both a centre of pilgrimage and learning.

When Kamban reached Chidambaram, it wasn’t easy for him as he was unable to get all the priests together, as someone or the other was always busy. Some put off the meeting for some purpose and Kamban ended up spending months without any result. Kamban then prayed to Lord Vishnu and urged him to intervene, after all, he was the subject of the epic (Lord Ram being an avatar of Vishnu). Lord Vishnu suggested him a way out. The lord suggested that he visit the chief scholar’s house the next day, where all the 3000 scholars would be present for the funeral of the son of the chief scholar, who had died of snakebite. The lord further suggested that if there was any objection, then Kamban was to say, that he could revive the child by the recitation of the epic.

Next morning, Kamban reached the house of the chief scholar to find all of them had assembled there as suggested by Lord Vishnu. When Kamban asked them to have a look at his epic, they were outraged at the suggestion. They admonished him about his poor sense of timing and his complete insensitivity to the occasion. To this Kamban suggested that he could revive the dead child, by his recitation, if they allowed him to do so. He then picked up the lines he had written about Lakshman, when he was struck by the snake-arrow and was revived with the help of Hanuman. As he recited, a cobra emerged from nowhere and sucked out the poison from the boy’s wound and died in front of the assembled people reviving the boy. The assembly was amazed at the power of Kamban’s poetry and endorsed it immediately.

The story doesn’t end here. Later when Kamban goes back to the temple of Lord Vishnu, the priests were still not quite satisfied. They then suggested that Kamban seek the approval of the Jain community, thus impressing upon them that he had taken care of Jain doctrines in his epic. He was then sent to an over-critical scholar and a courtesan, whom he charmed by his verses. This way, Kamban was sent to different segments of people, thereby showing to each segment, that there was something for all of them, in his epic. This way, he binds the audience to his epic.


Story collected by: Utkarsh Patel

Source: The Collected essays by A. K. Ramanujan

Location: Tamil Nadu

Image Source: Wikipedia