When we talk of the mythological epic Ramayana, a heavy tome running thousands of pages and Lord Rama comes to mind. While we are all familiar with sage Valmiki’s work on the saga of good winning over evil, what author Viswanadha Sobhanadri has done is split the epic in short stories accompanied by beautiful illustrations to appeal to a younger audience. Written in Telugu, the book Kalpavrukshamu – Valmiki Ramayana Kathalu consists of 180 short stories accompanied by beautiful illustrations. Through his book, Sobhanadri takes the reader on a historical tour and introduces them to all the characters of Ramayana in a simple, easy to understand format.
Ramayana divided into seven kandas (parts) traces different periods in the lives of the main characters, Balakanda introduces Lord Rama, Ayodhyakanda depicts the relation between villagers and family while the Aranyakanda talks about Lord Rama, Sita and Laxmana’s journey through the thick forest. This is followed by the Kishkindhakanda, Sundarakanda, Yudhakanda and Utharakanda. In his book, Sobhandri says another person followed Lord Rama when he left his people at the banks of river to enter the dense forest along with Sita and Laxmana, the author himself.
“I was so mesmerised with the story and got so involved that it was like travelling with Lord Rama himself. This is how I experienced the Ramayana,” says Viswanadha Sobhandri. Hailing from a well-known family in Nandamuru near Vijaywada, Sobhanadri is a B.Com graduate with a PG diploma in marketing management. He is the nephew of the 20th century Telugu writer Viswanatha Satyanarayana.
The author’s foray into literature happened in 2004 when a few priests appreciated his chanting of the Vedas at the Shiva temple constructed by his grandfather in Nandamuru. “There are many people in my village who can’t understand Vedas. I had a good grasp on them and wanted to simplify them so understood them as well. Encouraged by the priests, I saw it as an instruction from God and began to note down the chanting in a simpler format,” says Sobhanadri who established a magazine called Vedamataram in 2004.
Talking about his Kalpavrukshamu – Valmiki Ramayana Kathalu, he explains, “These days, we go to personality development classes where they teach us the same values taught in Ramayana. They are going back to the roots to teach history and values. Instead if we read Ramayana, right from our childhood, we don’t have to attend any personality development class when we grow up. The epic includes everything a parent should teach their child.”
Of course, to read Ramayana one has to focus. The thought of turning the epic into short, easy to read stories came to him when 90-year-old retired justice, P Kodandaramayya gifted him the 12000 page book and asked him to read all the seven kandas. Initially, the author could read only 50 pages a month where he forgot most of the previous parts. “After a few months, when the judge called to ask me my opinion of the book, I didn’t want to lie to him. It would have been embarrassing if he talked about a phrase and I had no clue about it,” recalls Sobhanadri who decided to finish reading the Ramayana in two months.
After reading the entire book, wanting to apply his newfound knowledge somewhere, he decided to rewrite the Ramayana in a shorter form. “The difference between other versions and my book is that there is an end to every story. The original Ramayana only has one end so many miss the continuity. In my book, all the kands are divided into 180 short stories. They are simple to understand and can be read whenever one gets time. They can finish the story and remember it for a lifetime since it is short and simple.” Since he wanted children to understand the lessons described in the epic, he kept the language simple and clear.
Through his concise version, he wants to help inculcate values such as respect towards parents, the bond between siblings, the love between a wife and husband, relationship between a teacher and student and importance of friendship. “It teaches them to fight for your loved ones. If one follows the path of duty and adheres to justice, he will have the willpower to fight for truth and the confidence to tell truth without fear,” adds Sobhanadri.
With foreword by chief ministers of Telangana and AP and other prominent personalities, Kalpavrukshamu – Valmiki Ramayana Kathalu should be on the list of books to read for youngsters wanting to try their hand at mythological epics.