Lesson 1- SAGE VALMIKI
On the plains of the Ganga rose beautiful forests. The plains were dotted with ashrams or hermitages of holy sages. The lovely Tamasa flowed there. On its banks stood the ashram of Valmiki. Valmiki was a great sage. He was the son of Prachethasa muni, and so was known as Praachethasa also. For years and years he performed tapas – prayer and meditation, his mind focussed on God, totally oblivious of the world around him; and during these years an anthill had grown up around him. The word for anthill in Sanskrit is Valmika. When he had completed his tapas he emerged from the anthill, and came to be called Valmiki. One day sage Narada visited the ashram. Valmiki greeted him warmly, offered Arghya and Padya, water for washing his hands and feet. He requested him to be seated.
Valmiki then said to Narada, Great sage, I yearn to listen to the story of a superlatively worthy man. He should be righteous and truthful. He should be very powerful and also should be of rare valour. He should be a man who conducts himself with every one in such a way that he endears himself to them. He should be free from envy. He should be the scourge of evil men and the protector of the virtuous. Is there a man so endowed on earth? If there is, I pray, please tell me the story of this righteous man.
Narada was a very wise man. He was the son of Lord Brahma, and visited all the three worlds, Swarga- the heaven, Marthya- the earth and Pathala- the lower world. So he was known as Thriloka sanchari – one who travels in the three worlds. He knew all that went on anywhere in the three worlds. Sage Valmiki question pleased him immensely. He was happy that he had an occasion to narrate the story of a great person. He said, Sage Valmiki, it is hard to find a person who answers to your description. But there is one such virtuous man. He is Sri Rama, of the Ikshwaku dynasty.
Sri Rama is a man of rare valour and prowess. He is truthful, virtuous, intelligent and persuasive in speech. He has long arms; he is broad-chested and has a lovely head. He is endowed with a beautiful body and all the limbs are of right proportions. He has a shining complexion and every limb is attractive.
Sri Rama knows what is righteous, is dedicated to truth, obedient to his mentors and elders and lives for the welfare of his subjects. He annihilates his enemies and protects those who surrender to him. He is well versed in the four Vedas, the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvanaveda. He is also well versed in the six ancillary studies of the Vedas, Sikksha, Vyakarana,
Chandassu, Jyothisha, ˜Kalpa and Niruktha. He knows the essence of every branch of knowledge. He has mastered archery and martial arts.
Sri Rama is gentle towards one and all. In judging right and wrong he is totally impartial. And so, just as rivers flow towards the sea, all virtuous people gravitate towards Sri Rama.
Sri Rama is majestic like the ocean and courageous like the Himavantha. He is valiant like Lord Vishnu, and is pleasing like the Moon. But when provoked he is like the all destroying Conflagration. But he is patient like the Earth and munificent like Kubera. And in truthfulness, he is the very embodiment of Righteousness.
This Sri Rama, radiant in his virtues as in jewels, is the eldest son of King Dasharatha. He married Seetha, the daughter of king Janaka. When he was about to be crowned, a wicked thought arose in the mind of his stepmother, Kaikeyi. She wished that her son Bharatha, should be crowned king, and so she desired that Sri Rama should dwell in the forest for fourteen years. Sri Rama obeyed his stepmother, and went to the forest with his wife and his younger brother. When they were in the forest, rakshasa – Ravana by name – carried away Seeta by deception. Sri Rama wandered in search of Seetha and happened to meet Sugriva, a monkey hero. With his help Sri Rama laid siege to Ravana capital, Lanka and killed him. Rama and Seetha were thus happily reunited. When the period of exile ended, Rama went back to Ayodhya, and, acceding to wishes of one and all became the king. So Narada narrated the story of Sri Rama succinctly. It was a marvelous story. It exerted a profound influence on Sage Vamiki. Narada took leave of Valmiki and departed. But Valmiki mind was still with Sri Rama. It was afternoon and the hour for the afternoon rituals approached. Valmiki went up to the river for a bath and the rituals. With him was his disciple Bharadwaja. Pallucid were the waters of Thamasa. Nearby were the lovely woods. Turn where one might, green grass and green The Ramayana foliage greeted the eyes. The sound of flowing waters was delightful. Heightening the loveliness of Nature were two Krounchas – herons – which flew together and sported with each other. Valmiki heart rejoiced at the scene. There he stood drinking in the beauty of Nature.
But, even as the sage watched, a hunter let fly an arrow and pierced the male bird. Bathed in blood the bird fell to the ground, rolled about in anguish and died. The female bird began to cry piteously. It was a scene to melt any heart. Pity welled up in Valmiki heart. It seemed to him that the hunter had committed a crime. He turned towards him and exclaimed in great wrath.
ma nishada prathishtam twamagamaha
Oh unjust man that, without reason the bird slew, Because of your sin, may death overtake you A strange thing happened. Valmiki exclamation formed itself, not in prose, but in rhymed and rhythmical verse. Valmiki was himself struck by this. Bharadwaja also stood gazing at the master in silent wonder.
Then Valmiki himself said, Bharadwaja, did you hear? The curse I pronounced on the hunter was in a new form, wasn’t it? It has a rhythm about it. It can be set to tune and sung. It can be sung to the accompaniment of the rich sound of a well-tuned veena. Let us call this form of utterance, which I spoke in shoka (sorrow), a shloka. And so was born the first shloka of the world.
Valmiki then had his bath and performed the rituals on the banks of the river. He offered arghya to the Sun God. Then he returned to the hermitage with his disciple. With him and other disciples the sage engaged in the study of the Vedas and other duties. But his mind ruminated over the killing of the bird and the curse he uttred in the form of a shloka.
Just then Lord Brahma arrived at the hermitage. Valmiki was both astonished and delighted that Lord
Brahma himself had come. At once he rose and respectfully bowed to the Lord and welcomed him with appropriate hospitality. He begged him to be seated. He praised the Lord and again bowed to him and made respectful enquiries. Lord Brahma indicated that Valmiki should sit near him and so he did. Valmiki mind once again turned to the episode of the herons.
Lord Brahma knew all that had happened. Smiling, he said, Great sage, you are pondering over what happened this afternoon, aren you? The curse you pronounced is metrical. It was meaningful that you called it a shloka. It was I that made the curse take a metrical form. I had an object in doing so.
This afternoon Narada narrated to you briefly the story of Sri Rama, did not he? Tell it to the world in great detail. Let the history of Sri Rama unfold itself before you as if everything happened before your very eyes. Narrate the holy story of Sri Rama enchantingly in shlokas. There will not be a single false word in your narration. There will be neither exaggeration nor mere poetic fancy. And so it will be a sacred work, and, at the same time a great poetry. People will read it as long as the sun and the moon shine in the world, as long as stars glitter in the firmament and as long as water rises in the seas. And, by composing this poem you will be Adi Kavi – the first poet. May good fortune befell you. With these words Lord Brahma departed.
After the Lord had left, Valmiki mind dwelt upon the words he had uttered.ma nishada prathishtam twamagamaha shashwathi samaha. He said the shloka to himself over and over again. And so the words of sorrow took firm root in his mind in the form of shloka. He ruminated over the story of Sri Rama which sage Narada had narrated. By Lord Brahma grace the chain of events of that story unfolded vividly before him. The characters of the story moved before him with the glow of life. The power of his tapas enabled him to witness the characters weep and rejoice, and speak and move about in their characteristic dress and ornaments.
The entire story of the Ramayana took form in his mind. He narrated, in twenty four thousand shlokas – the story Narada had told him briefly, in a masterly work. And thus Valmiki composed the great epic , the Ramayana, which is a veritable treasure- house of priceless gems. It was a lovely poem. It was brimful of the nava rasas – nine poetic sentiments – œamour, valour, compassion, marvellousness, humour, terror, repulsiveness, fury and serenity.
It could be sung with seven notes – shadja, rishabha, gandhara, madhyama, panchama, daivatha and nishada. It could be sung to the accompaniment of the veena. The composition delighted the sage disciples.
After composing the epic, sage Valmiki sent for Lava and Kusha who were in his hermitage. They were princes; and twins. They lived in the ashram and were the sage disciples. The two were exceptionally proficient in music. They could play on musical instruments like the veena.
They were endowed with enchantingly sweet voices. The twins in their apparel of tapaswis, were charming like the Ashwini brothers. Lava and Kusha came up to sage Valmiki and offered obeisance, and stood respectfully near him. The sage drew them to himself affectionately and made them sit near him.
He then taught the Ramayana to them. Lava and Kusha began to sing the epic melodiously.
Examination on Lesson – 1
Choose answers to all the questions . All the best !!
Q1. Who is the Aadi Kavi (1st poet) of the world ?
Ans: a)Sage Narada b)Lord Brahma c)Sage Valmiki d)Sage Bharadwaj
Q2. Who first told the short story of Shri Rama to Sage Valmiki ?
Ans: a)Sage Bharadwaja b)Lord Brahma c)Sage Narada
Q3. On the bank of which river was the hermitage of Sage Valmiki situated ?
Ans: a)Yamuna b)Tamasa c)Saraswati d)Ganga
Q4. Who did say Sage Valmiki teach the epic Ramayana to ?
Ans:a) Lord Brahma b)Lava & Kusha c)Sage Bharadwaj d)Ravana
Q5. What is the name of the World’s first great epic that Sage Valmiki composed ?
Ans: a)Mahabharat b)Bhagawat Gita c)Poem d)Ramayana
Correct Answers below:
Q.1 Ans – (c) Q. 2 Ans – (c) Q. 3 Ans (a) Q.4 Ans (b) Q. 5 Ans (d)