This paper examines the problem of theodicy as seen by the medieval Tamil poet, Kampaṉ. God appears throughout Kampaṉ's retelling of the Rāmāyaṋa as the ideal man, Rāma, an incarnation of the great god Viṣṋu, the source of the moral law and universal order (dharma). But in the famous episode in which Rāma slays Vālin, the king of the monkeys, Kampaṉ challenges the assumption of the deity's righteousness and freedom from evil. Kampaṉ's treatment of this issue is unusual among South Indian devotional texts because of its clarity and boldness; the answers suggested by the poet lead the devotee to a recognition of the relativity of dharma and to an acceptance of a basic dimension of evil within the deity. This conclusion is seen to be consistent with the positive attitude of the South Indian theistic traditions toward mundane reality—an attitude that contrasts markedly with important elements of the classical Sanskritic tradition.

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