(Last Updated on : 30/09/2009)
Valmiki is celebrated and legendary as the harbinger of Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic, Ramayana
, based on the acknowledgment in the text of the epic itself. Valmiki is the inventor of the Vedic poetic metre ?loka, which re-determined the form of Sanskrit poetry in several later works.
Valmiki is venerated as the first poet in Hinduism. At least by the 1st century CE, Valmiki's reputation as the sire of Indian poetry appears to have been already legendary, as Ashvagosha penned down in the Buddhacarita.
Valmiki was born as 'Ratnakar', with legendary tones and strings to become a Hindu sage. He was the tenth child of Pracheta. There is actually a religion established on Valmiki's teachings, named as Valmikism. The Ramayana consists of 24,001 verses in seven cantos (kandas) and speaks about the story of Lord Rama
. Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously, starting from 500 B.C. to 100 B.C. Maharshi Valmiki belongs from a Kirata Bhil community, which was essentially a backward caste community. His name before he went on to become Adi-Kavi (prime poet) who recorded the Ramayana, was Vailya.
Universally accepted and acclaimed as as adi-kavi, the foremost among the poets in India, he was also the principal to determine a metrical expression of gigantic proportion. He had the perceptivity to match the emotional elation of an optimistic soul, empowered with compassion and concern for every living being. It was in such a state of recognition of the human being with the universal that his eternal epic, the Ramayana, burst forth from his core.
Maharishi Valmiki is acknowledged by various Indian communities as the author of the Yoga Vasistha; this specific piece of work was instructed to Rama when he had turned cynical towards the world at large. The Yoga Vasistha is an unsurpassed piece of text which discusses a broad array of philosophical issues. Moreover, it appears to have been penned more than 5000 years ago. In Valmiki's hermitage he taught both girl and boy students. Valmiki is also known to have given Sita
shelter after her deportation from Ayodhya
However, this Sanskrit scholar, Valmiki is singly noted out as the author of Ramayana
, the acclaimed epic in Indian mythology ever written. Yet, his penning down the Ramayana was not just a mere cause or sake to perform for the society. His was a task of self-appreciation, of self-judgement, to make the story of that superlative man known to the world. Approximately three thousand years ago, Valmiki was residing in a remote forest ashram, practising asceticism with his disciples. One day, the wandering sage Narada visited the ashram and was asked by Valmiki if he knew of a perfect man. Narada said, indeed, he did know of such a person, and then recited to Valmiki and his disciples a story of an ideal man.
Some days later, Valmiki happened to witness a hunter killing a kraunchya (crane) bird. The crane's partner was left dejected and shed tears ceaselessly. Valmiki was overpowered by anger at the hunter's action and grieved at the bird's loss. He felt impelled to take an immediate action, but checked himself with difficulty.
After his anger and sorrow were cooled down, he was in a mood to question his outrage. After so many years of practising meditation and asceticism, he was still not successful to master his own emotions. For a while he had abandoned all hope, but then he recollected the story Narada had recited to him. He thought about the significances of the story, about the options weighed by the protagonist and how he had indeed demonstrated great command over his own thoughts, words, deeds and feelings. Valmiki felt enthused by the reminiscence and was filled with a calm composure, such as he had never felt before.
As he recalled the tale of that perfect man of whom Narada had spoken, he discovered that he was enumerating it in a specific metre and rhythm. He realised that this rhythm or metre corresponded to the descanting cries of the kraunchya bird, as if in homage to the loss that had invigorated his reminiscence. Right away, Valmiki resolved to compose his own version of the story, using the new form of metre, that others might hear it and be as invigorated as he was.
However Narada's story was only just a mere narration of the events, a mere plot outline. In order to make the retelling captivating and outstanding to ordinary listeners, Valmiki would have to add and beautify substantially, filling in details and devising incidents from his imaginative genius. He would have to dramatise the whole story in order to bring out the sinewy dilemmas faced by the protagonist.
However, Valmiki himself was in a huge dilemma, as he had no right to retell it his way. After all, this was not his story; it was a tale told to him; a tale of a real man and real events. At this point, Valmiki was visited by Lord Brahma
himself. The Creator of the universe assured him to set his worries apart and begin framing the work he had in mind.
Lord Brahma instructed Valmiki to recite the tale of Rama as he had heard it from Narada. Brahma also instructed him to recite those deeds of Rama that are already known as well as those that are not, his adventures, his battles, the acts of Sita - known and unknown. Valmiki had that intention to write as per instructed, so that Rama's tale may prevail on earth for as long as the mountains and the rivers exist.
Valmiki needed no further urging. He began writing his poem. He titled it, Rama-yana, meaning literally, The Movements (or Travels) of Rama.
The first thing Valmiki realised after wrapping his composition was that it was incomplete. The story would serve no good if could not be retold. During his time and age, a bard would generally recite his compositions himself, possibly earning some favour or payment in coin or kind. But Valmiki knew that while the structure of the story was his creation, the story itself belonged to all his countrymen. He recalled Brahma's exhortation that Rama's story must prevail on earth for as long as the mountains and the rivers exist.
Hence he taught it to his disciples, among whose numbers were two young boys whose mother had sought refuge with him years ago. Those two boys, Luv and Kusa, then journeyed from place to place, reciting the Ramayana as composed by their guru. In time, destiny brought them before the very Rama illustrated in the poem. Rama recognised at once that the poem mentioned him and comprehended that these boys could be none other than his sons by the ostracised Sita. Called upon by the terribly interested king, Valmiki himself then appeared before Rama and adjured him to take back Sita.
Later, Rama asked Valmiki to frame an annexed part to the poem, so that he himself, Rama Chandra, might realise what would become of him in future. Valmiki obeyed this extraordinary command and this annexed section became the Uttara Kaand of his poem.
Valmiki's Sanskrit rendition of the tale was a luminous work under any parameter, ancient or modern. Its appeal, beauty and originality is honestly matchless. It is a true masterwork of Indian literature, the 'adi-kavya' which stands as the fountainhead of Indian cultural proof.
Today, although, some are of the faith that the first and seventh kaands, as well as a number of passages within the other kaands, were all additions by later writers who chose to remain anonymous.
Perhaps the earliest retelling of Valmiki's poem can be found in the pages of that vast ocean of stories that one acknowledges as the Mahabharata
. When Krishna Dwaipayana-Vyasa, more popularly known today as Ved Vyas
, composed his equally legendary epic, he retold the story of the Ramayana in one passage. His retelling differs in small but significant ways.
Early Life of Valmiki, Indian Sage
: Early life of Valmiki was an entirely different one, in which he used to earn his living as a highway robber, by depriving innocent men from their belongings. Valmiki's family was wholly unaware of his guilts, which was brought to light by Lord Narada. In fact, it was Narada who helped Valmiki turn into a disciplined human being. He was changed from the robber in his early life, to Valmiki the sage, forever creating history by writing Ramayana.