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BRIEF OUTLINE

Then Narad gave a brief account of Ram’s career: his near-accession to the throne; his 14-year exile due to the devious machinations of Manthara, the personal attendant of Kaikeyi; the death of his father on hearing of Ram’s departure to the forest, accompanied by his wife, Sita, and faithful half-brother Lakshman; Bharat’s trip to Ram’s forest exile, Ram’s reluctance to cut short his exile; Bharat’s insistence on ruling as a regent after placing Ram’s wooden sandals on the throne of Ayodhya; Ram’s meeting with rishis like Bharadwaj, Gautam, etc.; killing of rakshas; kidnapping of Sita by Ravan; discovery of Sita by Hanuman after crossing the ocean; the invasion of Lanka and the killing of Ravan; the yeoman services rendered by Hanuman, before and during the war with Ravan; installation of Vibhishan on the throne of Lanka; and the liberation of Sita. The brief account ends with Ram’s coronation as king of Ayodhya. The narrative as intended succeeds in kindling Valmiki’ s interest in the hero who forms the central theme of the great epic.

A DESPICABLE ACT

After taking leave of Narad, the sage went to the banks of river Tamasa and witnessed a hunter’s cruel deed in killing a male crane. He had gone to the Tamasa for afternoon ablutions. As he was coming out of the river after bathing, the sage witnessed the ghastly scene. He was greatly moved by the piteous cries of its mate. He lost self-restraint and cursed the hunter in the following verse:

No fame is thine for endless time,
Because, base outcast, of thy crime,
Whose cruel hand was fain to slay,
One of this gentle pair at play!

The Sanskrit original is in the famed anusthup chand, the metre in which the entire Ramayan has been composed. It is for the first time that the metre makes its appearance in this form in the Sanskrit literature. The metre is to be found initially in Vedic prosody. After the crane incident this metre has become part of ornate poetry in Sanskrit.

The ghastly scene and its aftermath was a bitter experience for a gentle sage like Valmiki. The sage then plunged into a despondent mood. He, however, pronounced, “Let this utterance made by me while I was stricken with grief, set in four metrical verses, each containing an equal number of letters (eight) and possessing the rhythm of a song that can be sung to a lute, be accepted as (real) poetry and not otherwise." 

Valmiki’s talented pupil Bharadwaj, who followed his master like a shadow, committed to memory the couplet spontaneously uttered by the sage while in grief.

BRAHMA’S ASSURANCE

The sage continued to brood over the incident till one day Brahma appeared before the sage and inspired him to compose the epic in the metre in which he had expressed his grief, after Valmiki had recited the couplet before Brahma. That is how the story of Ram came to be composed in verse by the sage. Ramayan is regarded as adi kavya – the oldest epic. Pitamah Brahma assured the sage that he would get details of Ram’s story and nothing of what he was going to write would be false. Armed with this assurance he began to compose the great epic. After the epic was composed it had to be broadcast. For this, the sage chose his disciples, Lav and Kush. They were none other than Sita’s twin sons born while she was in exile forced upon her by Ram, to ward off gossip by an arrogant washerman. The boys were born at Valmiki’s ashram where the sage gave shelter to their mother while she was carrying them. At the time of Ram’s Ashvamedha yagna, Lav and Kush went to Ram’s palace in Ayodhya and narrated the story of Ram in a melodious voice. Bhagwan Ram recognized them as his sons.

The place where the sage composed the Ramayan is believed to be at Bithur, near Kanpur.

Of the seven kandas it is believed that Valmiki himself wrote Ayodhya, Aranya, Kishkindha, Sundara and Yuddha kandas, (second to five). The other two kands, first and seventh, Bal and Uttarakands, are not in the Adi Ramayan written by Valmiki; it is believed that they were written subsequently as Valmiki has been described as a Puranik personage in them.

Ramayan or Ram’s story is not a myth, but believed to be true by Hindus. Ram is not a fictitious character but worshipped as an incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu. The story of the Ramayan has spread far and wide from Mongolia in far north to Indonesia in the south. Not all these are in Sanskrit. They are in the local dialects. Ram’s life has been narrated in almost all Indian languages. This shows the hold the epic hero has on the minds of the people.

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