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Valmiki composes the Ramayana
Valmiki (Sanskrit: वाल्मीकि, vālmīki) (ca. 400 BC, northern India) is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e. first verse, which set the base and defined the form to Sanskrit poetry. The Yoga Vasistha is attributed to him. A religious movement called Valmikism is based on Valmiki's teachings as presented in the Ramayana and the Yoga Vasistha.

At least by the 1st century AD, Valmiki's reputation as the father of Indian poetry seems to have been legendary. Ashvagosha writes in the Buddhacarita,
"The voice of Valmiki uttered poetry which the great seer Chyavana could not compose."
(Also, this verse seems to indicate a belief in some relation between Valmiki and Chyavana as the preceding and following verses recount similar instances of original geniuses whose achievements could not be made by their fathers or ancestors.)

Early life

In Uttara Khanda chapter of the Ramayana tells a story about Valmiki's early life as an unnamed highway robber. Once, the robber tried to rob the divine sage Narada for the sake of his family. Narada asked him if his family would share his sin incurred due to robbery. The robber replied positively, but Narada told him to confirm with his family. The robber asked his family, but none agreed to bear the burden of sin. Dejected, the robber finally understood the truth of life and asked for Narada's forgiveness. Narada taught the robber to worship God. The robber mediated for years, even ant-hills grew around his body. Finally a divine voice declared his penance to be successful and named him "Valmiki" - one was born out of ant-hills.

Writer of the Ramayana

The , originally written by Valmiki, consists of 24,000 verses in six cantos (some say seven i.e. including the Uttara Ramayana) ( ). The Ramayana tells the story of a prince, Rama of Ayodhyamarker, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Rākshasa) king of Lanka, Rāvana. The Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BC to 100 BC, or about co-eval with early versions of the Mahabhārata. As with many traditional epics, it has gone through a long process of interpolations and redactions, making it impossible to date accurately.

The first śloka

Valmiki was going to the river Ganga 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 is this water, like the mind of a good man! I will bathe here today." When he was looking for a suitable place to step into the stream, he heard the sweet chirping of birds. Looking up, he saw two birds flying together. Valmiki felt very pleased on seeing the happy bird couple. Suddenly, one of the birds fell down, hit by an arrow; it was the male bird. Seeing the wounded one, its mate screamed in agony. Valmiki's heart melted at this pitiful 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 uttered the following words:

/*ॐ माँ निषाद प्रतिष्ठा त्वमगमः शास्वती समः यत् क्रोच मिथुनादेवकमवधी काममोहितं*/
mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhāṁ 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 his rage and grief, this was the first śloka in Sanskrit literature. Later Valmiki composed the entire Ramayana with the blessings of Lord Brahma in the same meter that issued forth from him as the śloka. Thus this śloka is revered as the "first śloka" in Hindu literature. Valmiki is revered as the first poet, or Adi Kavi, and the Ramayana, the first kavya.

His first disciples to whom he taught the Ramayana were Kusha and Lava, the sons of Rama.

See also



References

  1. Julia Leslie, Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions: Hinduism and the Case of Valmiki, Ashgate (2003), p. 154. ISBN 0754634310
  2. E. B. Cowell, tr., The Buddhacharita of Asvagosha, Book I, Verse 48. Clarendon Press (1894)
  3. Ilapvuluri Panduranga Rao, Valmiki, Sahitya Akademi, India (1994) - Makers of Indian Literature - ISBN 8172016808
  4. is composed of about 480,002 words, a quarter of the length of the full text of the Mahabharata or about four times the length of the Iliad.
  5. Goldman, Robert P., The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India pp. 23
  6. Sacred-Texts.com IAST encoded transliteration (modified from original source to accurately reflect sandhi rules)
  7. Buck, William and van Nooten, B. A. Ramayana. 2000, page 7


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