You may know that 'Ramayana' is the story of Lord Rama. Rama Avatar is one of the Ten Incarnations (Dasavatharam) of Lord Vishnu. Sage Valmiki has written Ramayana in Sanskrit language. Therefore it is called Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam. He has divided the narration into sections or Kandams - 'Bala Kandam', 'Ayodhya Kandam', 'Aranya Kandam', 'Kishkinda Kandam' and 'Sundara Kandam', the fifth Kandam. Sundara Kandam comprises of 2885 slokas or verses spread in 68 chapters.
I will give a brief account of the story for you to ascertain the context. Lord Rama (Prince of Ayodhya), His wife Sita and His brother Lakshmana came to the forest to observe 'Vanavasa' (living in forest) for 14 years. The King Ravana (Asura) of Sri Lankatakes took Sita to his palace by foul means. There he kept Sita in a place called Asoka Vanam (forest). Rama was aggrieved by the separation of Sita. The brothers searched the forest after forest, place after place to find Sita. Lord Hanuman meets Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana and he makes his commitment to serve Rama. Hanuman assured them that finding Sita is his faithful duty.
Sundara Kandam: Story
With this assurance Hanuman commences his attempts to search Sita. From here our Sundara Kandam begins. From Skandhamana Parvatham - a mountain - Hanuman successfully crosses the Bay of Bengal. Reaches Sri Lanka and there he meets Sita. He identifies himself as Lord Rama's envoy (Rama Dootha) and hands over his Lord's Ring as his identity. At the court of Ravana Hanuman was disrespected and ill-treated. The army of Ravana set fire over Hanuman's tail. Hanuman took revenge by setting fire to the entire city of Sri Lanka. He gets back to Rama and shared the entire story and about his meeting with Sita as well as her eagerness for reunion with Lord Rama.
This is the most blessed Kandam or section in the whole of Ramayana and therefore it gains this unique name 'Sundara Kandam'. 'Sundaram' means beauty. Lord Hanuman's other name is 'Sundara'. In Sundara Kandam, Sage Valmiki speaks about the achievements of Hanuman. For Hanuman nothing is impossible. His attitude always reminds us self-confidence, faith and devotion to Rama, fearlessness, and trustworthiness.
Benefits of Sundara Kanda Parayanam
The events in this chapter bring confidence and hope from all corners. Hanuman's indulgence in the destruction of evils has proved that Dharma alone will triumph. People started believing in Dharma (good virtues). Only Lord Rama could destroy Adharma (all evil virtues). The Kandam teaches us that, if we want to be successful in life we have to practice Dharma. The significance of performing Sundara Kandam Parayanam will definitely result in prosperity and it will mitigate all problems you face in your daily life. Reading one chapter or sargam of Sundara Kandam is equal to chanting 1000 times Gayathri Japam.
Where to Recite? When to Recite? :
Recitation of Sundara Kandam of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is called 'Parayanam.' It can be read for any occasion like Rama Navami (Rama's birthday), Navarathri, Anniversary, Birthday, etc.
There are conventional methods for Sundara Kanda Parayanam. The Parayanam can be made either on a communal basis in temples, public mandapams (halls) or in your home. Parayana can either be made by a guru for the benefit of every listener to hear, or you yourself can recite the slokas in Sanskrit. To help people who don't know Sanskrit script, there are books comprising Sanskrit slokas along with English (or other Indian vernacular languages) transliteration.
How to Recite?
Though it is desirable to represent Rama either by Dasavarana Yanthra or statue, it would be sufficient if you worship your Ramayana Book. You may keep the Pattabhishekam image of Lord Rama. You must offer Naivedya (submit boiled milk added with Sugar) to God before and after the Parayana. If not at beginning at least offer Naivedya at the end of the Parayana. Lotus and Thulasi (Ocimum) flowers are the best to worship the Lord. If not available, any flower except Karavira (Arali) can be used. Offering to God Pomegranate would bring in immense benefits. You may commence with Chanting of Rama Gayathri or Shadakshari mantra before and after finishing you parayana. Find your Rama Gayathri and Shadakshari mantra below:
"Dasarathaya Vidhmahe, Sita vallabhata Dheemahi, Thanno Rama Prachodayath." - Rama Gayathri
Om Ram Ramaya Namaha (or Swaha) - Shadakshari mantra
How to PLAN and Cover the Parayanam within specified days:
Sundara Kandam Parayanam to Mitigate Specific Problem or Grief:
You may recite the slokas as per your capacity and convenience without following any plan or conventions. The purpose is to recite the slokas and complete Sundara Kandam. You may mitigate your specific problems by reciting certain chapters. The details are found below. I am reproducing below what Lord Shiva told to Goddess Parvathy: Whoever reads or listens to this book on theSundara Kanda Phala prapthi, would become a great devotee of Lord Rama and would lead a happy painless life.
At the end of the parayana you recite this sloka:
Yatra yatra Raghunatha KirtanamTatra
tatra kritha mastakanjalim
Bhaspavaan paripurna lochanam
Marutim namata rakshasanthakam
Meaning: We bow the Maruthi, Sri Hanuman, who stands with his folded above his forehead with atorrent tears flowing down his eyes wherever the Names of Lord Rama is sung.
You may conclude your Parayana for the specified day with Karpura Harathi.