Ramayana! When we hear this word what comes to our mind? Yes! The most beloved and popular epic of India. “Valmiki” is a man who wrote Ramayana , but how much do we know Valmiki? Valmiki was born to the Naga clan. There is no clear picture about valmiki’s birth because there are not many written evidences found about his birth. Valmiki literally means one born out of Ant-hills. Let’s see how he got this name “Valmiki”.
Valmiki’s Early Life
In his early life he lived in Uttara Kaanda and was called as Ratnakar. People in Uttara Kaanda were scared, when they heard his name because Ratnakar was a Robber. He used to kill people and rob them. One day when a celestial sage Narada was passing by, ratnakar attacked him. For the benefit of his family, Ratnakar had plotted to rob Narada. When Ratnakar lifts his dagger to kill Sage Narada & thereby rob him, Narada gets into a conversation with Ratnakar.
Sage Narada: Ratnakar! Is your family also ready to share the sin with you what you have done for their benefit?
Ratnakar: Yes! They are ready to share it.
Sage Narada: are they ready to share the punishment and suffer along with you?
Ratnakar: Yes! They are ready to suffer it. (Replied confidently)
Sage Narada: ok! Please go back to your family and confirm it with them.
(Ratnakar goes back to his family and asks them whether they were ready to suffer with him but he was shocked to know that no one agreed to suffer the punishment with him and he was all alone. As a Robber Ratnakar realized the truth of life.)
Ratnakar: Narada! Please forgive me, I seek redemption for my sins.
Sage Narada: Ratnakar! Here are some mantras which I give you so that you can attain salvation for your sins.
The mantras which Sage Narada had given to Ratnakar included Lord Rama’s name, which should not have been used by the murderers., Confused Narada, looks around to only find trees all over the forest.
Sage Narada: Ratnakar! Please meditate by chanting the mantra as “Mara-mara-mara” (mara means tree) which is the phonetic cipher of “Rama” (ma/rama-rama-rama-rama/ra).
Ratnakar: ok! I will do as you say Narada.
Robber Ratnakar continued his meditation for years and years and a huge Ant – Hill grew around his body. The villagers who saw the Anthill grow around Ratnakar, started calling him “Valmiki” (born out of a ant-hill). After years of penance Valmiki heard a voice that his penance was successful and brought him the name “Sage Valmiki”. Sage Valmiki Set up a ashram for the villagers in the forest he once hunted & robber people, The redemption & penance had made a robber into a sage.
After Valmiki’s Redemption one day Sage Narada visited Valmiki’s aashrama.
Valmiki: Welcome! Narada.
Sage Narada: Thank you.
Valmiki: O Narada! As you know everything, can you please tell me who among the heroes of this world is the highest in virtue and wisdom?
Sage Narada: Valmiki! Here is the answer for the question you asked. Rama, who was born in solar dynasty and who is presently ruling Ayodhya is the Hero of highest in virtue and wisdom.
Sage Narada briefly explained the story of Rama to Valmiki and left back. Narada’s narration of Rama’s story had deeply influenced Valmiki. Since then all Valmiki could think of is Rama & his wise virtue.
One day as Valmiki walked through the banks of River Tamasa, he found two loving Krauncha birds singing in their joy of life and love. All of a sudden the male bird fell down which was hit by a hunter’s arrow. The female bird Howled with sadness seeing her lover rolling on the ground. Observing all this which was happening Valmiki burst into curse. “O heartless hunter, you will wander homeless since you have killed one of these love – intoxicated birds”. Within a moment Valmiki came back to his normal senses and started thinking why he lost himself in anger? What right he had to curse the hunter? Why was I taken by the emotion? Valmiki started thinking about the curse and marvelled these words through a beautiful rhythm. These words had taken the form of a beautiful “Sloka”. He then realised that it was a magical leela of God and went back to Meditation. When Valmiki was on his deep meditation, four faced Brahma appeared and said: “Be not afraid, These things happened to start you on the story of Rama. From sorrow (soka) sprang verse (Sloka) and in this metre and rhythm the story should be told. I shall give you the vision to see all that happened, aye, even how the characters thought and looked, as clearly as one sees a thing lying on the palm of one’s hand. And you shall sing it, with my blessings, for the benefit of the world.”
Valmiki and his devotees re-versed and fixed the pattern of the Sloka’s again and practised it. Later on Valmiki composed the Ramayana and taught it to his devotees. In this way the holy legend Ramayana was built up.
Ratnakar who got the name as Valmiki by his meditation then started to write his legend Ramayana. In his writings he has characterized Lord Rama as an enormous and confident person, but not as an embodiment of God. In some of the chapters of Ramayana it is mentioned as Lord Rama is the avatar of God. But according to Sage Valmiki, Rama is not god himself but he is a person blessed with heavenly aspects. During the time of Valmiki, people also had the common thinking that Rama was an avatar of god but not god himself.
Valmiki’s epic Ramayana passed on from generation to generation. Tulsidaas and Kamban who were the two well known Hindu poets, reformers and philosophers, sang the Ramayana. When people heard the Ramayana which was sung by these poets, they accepted that Lord Rama was an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Both Lord Rama and Lord Krishna were the forms of Lord Vishnu. People built up temples for Lord Rama and worshiped him as a god. At this situation no other poets could describe Rama as a common man.