Glory of Bharath  »  Literary Giants of Bharath - Part One

Valmiki is celebrated as the harbinger-poet 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 translates to First Poet, for he invented sloka (i.e. first verse or epic metre), which set the base and defined the form to Sanskrit poetry.

The Uttara Kanda tells the story of Valmiki's early life, as an unnamed highway robber named Ratnakara who used to rob people after killing them. Once, the robber tried to rob the divine sage Narada for the benefit of his family. Narada asked him if his family would share the sin he was incurring due to the robbery. The robber replied positively, but Narada told him to confirm this 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 meditated for many years, so much so that Ant-hills grew around his body. Finally, a divine voice declared his penance successful, bestowing him with the name "Valmiki": "one born out of ant-hills" (Valmikam in Sanskrit means Ant-hill).

Ramayana The Ramayana, originally written by Valmiki, consists of 23,000 slokas and 7 cantos {Ka??as} including the Uttara canto {Kanda}. Ramayana is composed of about 480,002 words, being a quarter of the length of the full text of the Mahabharata or about four times the length of the Iliad. The Ramayana tells the story of a prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon-king (Raksasa) of Lanka, Ravana.

Valmiki is also quoted to be the contemporary of Sri Rama. Sri Rama met Valmiki during his period of exile and interacted with him. Valmiki gave shelter to Sita in his hermitage when Rama banished her. Kusa and Lava the twin sons of Sri Rama were born to Sita in this hermitage. Valmiki taught Ramayana to Kusa and Lava, who later sang the divine story in Ayodhya during the Asvamedha yaj˝a congregation, to the pleasure of the audience, whereupon, King Sri Rama questioned who they were and later visited Valmiki's hermitage to confirm if the Sita, the two children claimed as their mother was in fact his wife in exile. Later, he summoned them to his royal palace. Kusa and Lava sang the story of Sri Rama there, and Sri R?ma confirmed that whatever had been sung by these two children was entirely true.

The first sloka

Valmiki was going to the river Ganges for his daily ablutions. A disciple by the name Bharadvaja 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 saw a crane couple mating. Valmiki felt very pleased on seeing the happy birds. Suddenly, hit by an arrow, the male bird died on the spot. Filled by sorrow, its mate screamed in agony and died of shock. 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 cried out.

"ma nisada pratistham tvamagamah sasvatih samah

yat krau˝camithunadekam avadhhih kamamohitam"

"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 was the first ?loka in Sanskrit literature. Later Valmiki Muni composed the entire Ramayana with the blessings of Lord Brahm? in the same meter that issued forth from him as the sloka. Thus this sloka is revered as the "first sloka" in Hindu literature. Valmiki Muni 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 Kusa and Lava, the sons of Sri R?ma.

- October 11
- December 09

  Copyright © 2009. Optimized for 1024 x 768 resolution; IE 5.5 & above.