The greatest ode to Lord Ram

The “Ramcharitmanas” is undoubtedly one of the greatest lyrical compositions in Hindi literature. Writing in the 16th century, Tulsidas chose to pen verses in Awadhi rather than Sanskrit, thus breaking with the literary tradition, and, importantly, making Lord Ram more relatable to the lay person.

Pavan K. Varma, author of the best-selling “Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker”, has selected some of the most evocative stanzas from Ramcharitmanas, offering a succinct commentary for each that capture the very core of the original in “The Greatest Ode to Lord Ram: Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas; Selections & Commentaries,” published by Westland.

While centering the philosophical aspect of the Ramcharitmanas — the immutability of the soul over the merely corporeal; the transience of worldly pleasures; and the placing of wisdom above knowledge — the book describes a devoted son, a loving sibling, a committed lover, an ideal ruler and also a human, almost bereft of divinity. Indeed, Ram is a god and a man; he is comprehensible.

“Tulsidas’ seminal work employs a unique poetic linguistic tool that unravels even the most profound concepts with utmost simplicity, blending philosophy with breathtaking verse. Varma’s compelling new selection and commentary achieves this effect by combining the aesthetics, romance and imagery of the original work with the unadulterated spirituality that sparkles through the conduct of a great god,” the publisher said in a statement.

Pavan K. Varma is a writer-diplomat and now in politics, where he was till recently an MP in the Rajya Sabha. He was earlier advisor to the Chief Minister of Bihar, in the rank of a Cabinet minister.

He was Ambassador to several countries, and also Director of the Nehru Centre in London, official spokesperson of the MEA, and Press Secretary to the President of India. Author of over a dozen successful books, Pavan K. Varma was conferred an honorary doctoral degree for his contribution to the fields of diplomacy, literature, culture and aesthetics by the University of Indianapolis in 2005.

He was also conferred the Druk Thuksey, Bhutan’s highest civilian award, by the King of Bhutan in 2012. In 2018, on the instructions of the Shankaracharya of Sringeri, Varma was conferred an honorary doctorate by Sri Sharada Institute of Indian Management.

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