Valmiki was not the name that was chosen by his parents. The real name was called as: “Ratnakara“. The word Valmiki in Sanskrit is called as: “ANT – HILL”. When Ratnakara was immersed in deep meditation for ages/months/years, an ANT-HILL was formed surrouding and over his body. When he came out of the ANT-HILL, with an enlightened human being, he was given a title as “Valmiki” and henceforth people started to recognize him as Valmiki rather than as Ratnakara. Valmiki (Sanskrit: वाल्मीकि) is celebrated as the harbinger-poet in Sanskrit literature. The epic Ramayana is attributed to him. He is revered as Adi (First Ever) Kavi (Poet), the first poet, author of Ramayana, the first epic poem.
Early Life: Maharishi Valmiki was born in Treta Yuga as Ratnakara (Few of them even call him as Agni Sharma) to Sage of Caste Brahmin called Prachetasa (Also called as Sumali) of Bhrigu Gotra. At a very young age, he got lost in the forest. A hunter took him under his care. Soon Ratnakara turned out to be an excellent hunter. Ratnakara was married to a beautiful girl. As his family grew, Ratnakara found it next to impossible to feed them. As a result, he choose robbery as one of his profession to balance his family life, that included even killing of human beings. As the day passed, on one fine day sage Narada Maharishi was passing through the jungle when he was attacked by Ratnakara. He asked Narada to handover whatever he has possessed. As the story said, Narada, being one of the enlightedned human being, was neither scared of life, nor was he afraid of the threat he had possessed by Ratnakara. He was at complete peace and that attribute was exhibited in his qaulity and behaviour.
Narada with a composed tone and a smiling face said to Valmiki that: My dear man, I only have one instrument with me, which is Veena and with that instrument, all I do is, chant the holy name of Lord. You can very well have it, if you want. Why do you need to kill someone for such a small instrument. Ratnakara was really astonished with this statement, as he gazed upon the face off Narada more closely, there was no exhibition of Hatred, Anger or fear. It was a state of complete Tranquillity. Narada Sat beneath the tree and played his Instrument Veena and praised the Lord. As Ratnakar gazed in Naradji’s eyes, his mind started to deviate in a different path altogether, a path of peace, happiness and lot of love and compassion.
After few hours passed by, Sage Narada asked Ratnakara whether the family, for whom he took the job off robbery, which is a very big sin, will partake in his sins also. Ratnakara with lot of pride, said “Yes”, they are my family. They will take bare my sins. Narada with a short smile, said, Oh very well then, can you go and check with your family. Ratnakara came under an assumption that, the sage is trying to trick him to get escaped. Narada understood the problem and said to Ratnakara that: – Until you come back, you can tie my hands and legs/knees to the tree, so that I won’t run away. Ratnakara agreed to this point, tied Narada to the tree and went to his home to question his family. Ratnakara went home to asked his mother, father and Wife, whether they would distribute the sin, that he has acquired so far, in the field of Robbery, theft and killing humans.
Everyone in the family refused to take his SIN, now at this point, it was very first realization of “LIFE”, it was like an EYE-OPENDED to him. He ran/rushed towards Sage Narada and fell for his feet and sought his forgiveness and asked him to bless him to become a better human being. On accepting his forgiveness, Narada taught him the holy name of the LORD ‘Rama‘ and asked him to meditate on the name RAMA, until the time Narada came back. Ratnakara followed his instructions and meditated for years, during which his body got completely covered by an anthill. When Narada came to see him, he removed the anthills from his body. He told Ratnakara that his penance paid off and the Lord was pleased with him. Ratnakara was blessed with the honour of a Brahmarshi. He was given the name of Valmiki since he was reborn from the ant-hill or Valmika. Later, Sage Valmiki built his ashram on the banks of River Ganga.
There also exists another side of the story about Valmiki having been a thief before turning into a rishi. The Nagara Khanda of the Skanda Purana in its section on the creation of Mukhara Tirtha mentions that Valmiki was born to a Brahmin family, with the name of Lohajangha and was a devoted son to his parents. He had a beautiful wife and both of them were faithful to each other. Once, when there was no rain in the region of Anarta, for twelve long years, Lohajangha, for the sake of his hungry family, started robbing people that he found in the forest. In the course of this life he met the seven sages or the Saptarishi and tried to rob them as well. But the learned sages felt pity on him and showed him the folly of his ways. One of them, Pulaha gave him a Mantra to meditate upon and the Brahmin turned thief got so engrossed in its recitation that ant-hills came up around his body. When the sages returned and heard the sound of the mantra coming from the ant-hill, they blessed him and said, “Since you achieved great Siddhi seated within a Valmika (an anthill), you will become well-known in the world as Valmiki [Source: Wikipedia]
Story Continues:- Valmiki was going to the river Ganges for his daily ablutions. A disciple by the name Bharadwaja was carrying his clothes. On the way, they came across the Tamasa Stream. Looking at the stream, Valmiki said to his disciple, “Look, how clear/still the water is, like the mind of a perfect human being“. And then he decided to bathe in the water today. When he was looking for a suitable place to step into the stream, he saw a crane (or few stories narrate as “birds”) couple mating. Valmiki felt very pleased on seeing them. Suddenly, out of blue an arrow hit to the bird very strongly, leading to the death of a male bird on the spot. Filled by sorrow, its mate screamed in agony and died of shock. Valmiki’s heart melted at this pitiful/horrifying sight. He looked around to find out who had shot the bird. He saw a hunter with a bow and arrows, nearby. Valmiki became very angry. His lips opened and he cried out,
मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः।
mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhā tvamagamaḥ śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
yat krauñcamithunādekam avadhīḥ kāmamohitam
You will find no rest for the long years of Eternity
For you killed a bird in love and unsuspecting
Emerging spontaneously from Valmiki’s rage and grief, this is considered to be the first shloka in Sanskrit literature. This shloka is revered as the first shloka in Hindu literature or Vedic Literature. While Valmiki’s mind dwelt so intensely on the slokha or verse that had sprung from his lips, Brahma – The Lord of all creation appeared before him & said to Valmiki – “O great Sage, the entire act what you saw, was meant to happen and it was my creation and so the verse that came out of your lips was also inspired by me”. Now, I provide my blessings to you to create one of the most sacred text of all time, narrating the story of Lord Vishnu as Rama, called as “Rama – Ayana” = Ramayana in the form of Slokas, a poetic one. You will see the entire events with your own eyes, whatever you say will be true, your words will be the truth and hence the sacred text, ramayana was born. He thought the first slokas to Rama’s Son: Kusha & Lava (Twins).
Before getting a closure on the Brahmarishi – Valmiki, would like to point out a little bit on Ramayana:-
- Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is composed of verses called Sloka, in Sanskrit language, which is an ancient language from India and a complex meter called Anustup Chanda.
- These verses are grouped into individual chapters called Sargas.
- These chapters or sargas are grouped into books called Kaandas where Kaanda means the inter-node stem of sugar cane, or also a particular phase of the story or an event in the course of story telling.
- Thus the structure of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is arranged into six Kaandas or Books, A total of 24,000 verses, and they are:
- Bala Kanda ( Book of Youth) [77 chapters]
- Ayodhya Kanda (Book of Ayodhya) [119 chapters]
- Aranya Kanda (Book of Forest ) [75 chapters]
- Kishkindha Kanda (The Empire of Holy Monkeys) [67 chapters]
- Sundara Kanda ( Book of Beauty ) [68 chapters]
- Yuddha Kanda ( Book of War ) [128 chapters]
We will discuss more on Ramayana, in our subsequent articles.