Niti Passages of the Old Javanese Ramayana Kakawin

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Niti Passages of the Old Javanese Ramayana Kakawin

by. Mitsuru ANDO

Key Words: Ramayana, kakawin, niti, Manusmrti, Kamandaka
(Associate Professor, Aichi Gakuin University)
Journal of Indian and Buddhist Studies Vol. 44, No.2, March 1996 (963-971)


The Ramayana kakawin (RYK hereafter), an Old Javaneses poem of the well-known Rama story, is the oldest literary work extant in the Old Javanese language. Since H. Kern published its romanized edition and Dutch translation as early as 1900, scholars seem to have paid their academic attention mainly to the Sanskrit sources of the text. It is Hooykaas who came to the conclusion that the poet of the RYK based his kakawin not on Valmiki's Ramayana but on Bhatti's Rava. navadha or Bhattikaya. According to Hooykaas's comprehensive and intensive examination of the story and poetical elements of the RYK (Hooykaas 1955; 1958), the poet related the famous Rama story in his kakawin while at the same time weaving a variety of poetical embellishments, the technique typical of the Bhattikavya. Hooykaas also pointed out that the poet of the RYK left his model from Canto 17 onward, its reason being unrevealed yet.

Although there seems almost nothing to be added to Hooykaas's arguments with regard to the main source of the RYK, it should be-worth noting that he once invited the collaboration of Sanskrit scholars to trace the source of didactic passages found in the RYK. In the , RYK, two sets of so-called raja-niti passages are interpolated in the main framework of the Rama story. One appears in the scene where Rama instructs his younger brother Bharata how to conduct himself as a king (RYK 3.53-84). The other set is found in the teachings of Rama addressed to Wibhisana after the death of Rawana, in which Rama preaches to him about the conduct of a king (RYK 24.48-86). Hooykaas seems to have been unsuccessful in identifying the original occurrence of these teachings. That is probably why he presented in his articles (Hooykaas 1995b; 1995c) the English translations of these Old Javanese passages in
order to attract Indologists' attention. To the best of the present author's knowledge, however, neither Hooykaas himself nor any other
scholar has given a clear solution. This article will hopefully shed some light on the question Hooykaas raised some forty years ago.


The influence of Sanskrit literary tradition on the Old Javanese literature is not missing in the genre of didactic literature. It may be convenient to give here a brief outline of these texts before examining in detail the didactic passages of the RYK.

So far at least five texts which deal with didactic teachings in the Old Javanese language have been handed down to us, as shown below:

Nitisastra (NS) : a typical subhasita-samgraha in Old Javanese; probably composed at the end of the 15th century; influenced by so-called Canakya's aphorisms (Sternbach 1979, pp. 20-21)

Sarasamccaya (SS) : a typical subhasita-samgraha; composed probably in the 14th century; mainly based on the Sanskrit Mahabharata (ibid., p. 14)

Slokantara (S1) : a collection of 84 Sanskrit slokas followed by explanations in Old Javanese; corresponding to the Sanskrit niti texts while taking subject matter from smrti literature; probably composed at the 11th century (Gonda 1976, p.243)

Tantri Kamandaka (TK) : a kind of the Old Javanese Pancatantra; directly influenced by the Tantropakhyana based on the Pancatantra of Durgasimha; some material taken from the Sanskrit Pancatantra of Purnabhadra; 44 Sanskrit verses interspersed (Sternbach 1979, p. 22)

Kamandaka Raja Niti (KRN) : prose treatise on statecraft (Pigeaud 1968, p. 202; Hooykaas 1956, pp. 22-34. )

Except for the KRN, which is available only in the form of manuscripts and Hooykaas's summary of contents (Hooykaas 1956), these texts have been edited and translated (NS-Poerbat jaraka 1933; SS-Raghu Vira 1962; Sl-Sharada Rani 1957; TK-Hooykaas 1931). Beside the introductory studies made by the editors of separate texts, L. Sternbach has exhaustively traced parallel Sanskrit passages from the whole of the niti collection in Old Javanese (Sternbach 1979).


As was briefly mentioned in #1, the RYK contains the two sets of niti passages, both of which are related to the conduct of king, such as the moralistic virtues he should have, the defective characters he should avoid, and the way he should govern the people. A comparison of these passages with the Old Javanese niti texts reveals that it seems impossible to regard any of them as the source of the RYK. Indeed some separate verses of the RYK may be related to the niti texts, but their relationship cannot be attested to in a series or a set of the teachings. Accordingly it is hard to believe that the poet of the RYK took material directly from these texts. Furthermore the RYK do not correpond with either the Bhattikavya nor Valmiki's Ramayana in the episodes in question. This is apparently one of the reasons why Hooykaas could not succeed in identifying the source of the niti passages of the RYK. Then, are they as a whole independent of preceding texts dealing with similar subjects?

Before answering this question, we should be reminded that the niti passages included in the RYK are intended of those who are expected to become kings. Therefore in order to pursue the source of the niti passages of the RYK, we should not only refer to the niti texts in general, in Sanskrit or in Old Javanese, but also look further into the rich stock of Sanskrit raja-niti tradition and those Sanskrit texts related to the morals of the kings.


A cursory survey of several Sanskrit texts touching upon the dharmas and the nitis of the kings could lead to the assumption that the Manusmrti (MS hereafter) and the Kamandakiya Niti Sara (KNS hereafter) may have been known to the poet of the RYK.

One remarkable set of the teachings in the niti passages of the RYK is the 'astabrata' (RYK 24.52-60), in which a king is advised to follow the virtues of the eight gods. The names of the gods and their virtues mentioned in these passages can be summarized as follows:

24. 53 Indra-rain 24. 54 Yama-punishment
24. 55 Sun-absorption of water 24. 56 Moon-welfare
24.57 Wind-unawarely pleasant 24.58 Kubera-wealth and peace
24.59 Waruna-binding by the nagapasa 24.60 Fire-burning one's enemies

Almost the same statement appears in the MS. First, in the seventh chapter of the MS, which deals with the duties of a king, the king is
said to have been created out of the eternal components of Indra, the Wind, the Sun, the Fire, Varuna, the Moon and Kubera:

MS 7.4 indranilayamarkanam agnes ca varunasya ca/ candravittesayos caiva matra nirhrtya sasvatih//

Hence he is equated with these gods because of his grandeur:

MS 7.7 so 'gnir bhavati vayus ca so 'rkah sa dharmarat/ sa kuberah sa varunah sa cendrah svaprabhavatah//

Then in the section of the duties of the king in the ninth chapter, the virtues of the gods and the equivalent actions for the king to follow are described (MS 9.303-311). Here the god of wealth, Kubera, is not mentioned and instead the name of the Earth (prthivi) and her viture is stated:

MS 9.303 indrasyarkasya vayos ca yamasya varunasya ca/ candrasyagneh prthivyas ca tejovrttam nrpas caret//

MS 9.311 yatha sarvani bhutani dhara dharayate samam/ tatha sarvani bhutani bibhratah parthivam vratam//

Nevertheless the MS seems to be the only text that illustrates the activities of the eight gods as the model for the conduct of the king. It
is worth pointing out that the RYK mentions the virtue of the Earth in a different section (RYK 24.80), and the description is equivalent of that in MS 9. 311.

The TK, an Old Javanese niti text briefly mentioned in #2, also contains a corrupt Sanskrit verse which is identifiable as the same as MS 9.303 (Hooykaas 1931, p. 50). But the Old Javanese comments following the Sanskrit verse do not explain any of the virtues of the gods as in the RYK. Furthermore, the term 'saptadevavrtti' (the activities of the seven gods) is used in the TK, instead of the 'astabrata' as in the RYK.


RYK 3. 79 states five kinds of danger: the posting of officers to hot regions, thieves, rebels, favoured but wicked subjects, and the greed of the king. The corresponding expression is found in the KNS, which runs as follows:

KNS 5.81 ayuktakebhyas corebhyah parebhyo rajavallabat/ prthivipatilobhac ca prajanam pancadha bhayam//

Here all the dangerous elements except the first one are the same as those in the RYK. Such correspondence cannot be sought out in any other Old Javanese text.


Another instance which may suggest the relationship of the RYK to Sanskrit texts is the idea of the seven kinds of darkness (peter pitu) in RYK 24. 74-76. It recounts that a king is subject to be covered by seven kinds of darkness: his intoxication by praise from other people, his arrogance caused by his great might, his lust for gold, his cruelty in battle, his cunningness, his confusion because of his yuong age, and his handsomeness. Although we do not come across the same expression in other texts, an interesting reference to the similar kinds of defects of the king is made in the KNS:

KNS 14.61 vagdandayos ca parusyam arthadusanam eva ca/ panam stri mrgaya dyutam vyasanani mahipateh//

It thus enumerates seven defects of the king: verbal and bodily violence, spoiling of others' property, drinking alcohol, ladies, extravagance, hunting and gambling. The first three among them are called "the defects caused by anger", and the other "the defects caused by lust". Then each defect is explained in detail (KNS 15. 7-67).

The problem in this case is that although the notion of the king's defect and the number of the items enumerated are the same, the contents do not show close affinity with those in the RYK. It is of some interest to note, however, that the advice of abstinence from gambling is not missing in the RYK, but appears in a different set of the teachings (RYK 3.69). The bad consequence of drinking alcohol is also stated there (RYK 3.67), which is comparable with the description contained in KNS 15.60-65.


It has thus been indicated that some raja-niti passages of the RYK correspond with those of the MS and the KNS. If closer attention is
paid to the relationship of the RYK within these Sanskrit texts, a few more moralistic teachings of the RYK may be regarded as showing some connection with the MS and the KNS. For instance, the virtue of modesty is repeatedly instructed in the RYK (3. 53; 3. 55) and the KNS (1.21; 1. 22; 1. 25). Respect for brahmanas is advised in the RYK (3. 59) and the MS (7.38-39). Both the RYK (24.48-50) and the KNS (4.3) include the teaching that a king should take the lead in doing the right thing.

On the other hand, some of the niti subjects of the RYK are unrelated in the MS and the KNS. For instance, the principle of proper reward and punishment is repeatedly instructed in the RYK (3.57; 3.58; 3.74; 3. 80) while the MS and the KNS do not prescribe it. Construction of hospitals, temples and roads is also encouraged in the RYK (3.54; 3.70), but parallel passages can be found only in the SS (222; 369), which was composed later than the RYK. The king's virtue of love for his people is told only in the RYK (3.71), and the origin of the Sanskrit term jananuraga' used there is also unidentified.


It is needless to say that more extensive research into Sanskrit texts on niti and dharma should follow this preliminary examination in order to find out the possible source or sources of the niti passages in the RYK. Suppose the assumption that the RYK is partly based on the MS and the KNS is correct, one more question may be raised: did the poet of the RYK use the original Sanskrit versions or the Old Javanese versions or adaptations of these texts, if any?

There is an Old Javanese text of Indian dharma which was generally held to date back to about 1000 A.D. (Gonda 1976, p. 240). As the title of the text "Kutara Manawa" (KM) indicates, one of its sources seems undoubtedly the Manusmrti. Manu's code of law is also mentioned in several Old Javaneses inscriptions in connection with the term 'kutara' (> Skt. 'kuthara' "axe") (Naerssen 1956, p. 111; Zoetmulder 1982 s. v.) . At the present time the KM is accessible only through Jonker's unpublished thesis (Jonker 1885) and several extant manuscripts (LOr 2215 etc., see Pigeaud 1968-74), which the present author has not yet managed to consult.

Some traces of the KNS in the KRN were already pointed out by Hooykaas. As was already mentioned in #2, this text is also available
only in the form of manuscripts (LOr 2265 etc., see Pigeaud 1968-74). But according to Hooykaas's summary of the text, which is said to cover some 9051o of contents of the text (Hooykaas 1956, p. 31), the KRN does not illustrate any subjects to share with the RYK.
It is thus essential at this stage to examine those manuscripts of the KM and the KRN before arguing the possibility of the RYK taking material from the MS and the KNS. It is, however, easy to assume that the poet of the RYK had no difficulty in interpreting and adapting Sanskrit texts such as the MS and the KNS if they were at his disposal; he was skilled in Sanskrit, even in Sanskrit poetics, enough to make use of the Bhattikavya as his model of composition.


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