Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Valmiki - Composer of Ramayana


The sage Valmiki is the composer of the epic poem Ramayana. He was the son of a sage named Prachetasa. While he was a young boy, he got lost in the forest, and was found by a hunter. The hunter brought him up like his son, giving him the name of Ratnakara. After the death of his adopted father, Ratnakara tried to support his family by hunting. However, as he could not make ends meet, he became a dacoit. He was notorious for his cruelty, for he would kill with impunity during his robberies.

One day, while wandering in the forest in search of a victim, he saw the divine sage Narada, singing the praises of Lord Naryana accompanied by the music of his Veena. He brandished his sword before the sage and asked him to hand over the valuables, but of course the sage had no wealth on his person. Ratnakara was astonished that the Rishi was so serenely happy without any material possessions. As he heard the divine name of the Lord being sung, the evil that had seeped into his nature due to his profession melted away.

He fell at the feet of the sage and said, "O great one, I have been a sinner all my life. I know nothing other than hunting and thievery. I have no other means of supporting my family. What else could I have done?"

Narada said, "You have sinned for your family. Go to them and ask them if any of them will share the punishment for your sins."

Ratnakara then asked each of his relatives if they would share in the punishment for the crimes committed by him, for he had committed those sins to support his family. Needless to say, none would agree to it. Their stand was, "It is your duty to provide for your family. How you do it is your affair. If you choose to loot and kill for that, then it is your fault. We are entitled to the fruits of your labor, but the sins belong to you and you alone."

The scales fell from Ratnakara's eyes. He realized that nothing, could justify his evil deeds. He returned to Narada and said, "Sir, What will become of me? How can I even hope to atone for the countless sins that I have committed so far? You alone can point me to the right path."

Narada initiated the hunter into the divine name of Sri Rama, and asked him to perform a penance, chanting the name of the Lord. The hunter chose a spot under a tree and began his penance. Years passed, and Ratnakara was still there, chanting the name of Rama. An ant-hill had grown around him, since he had not moved for a long time. Sage Narada returned to the same forest, and awoke Ratnakara from his long penance. Narada said, "O Ratnakara, by the act of your Tapas, you have cleansed your past deeds. You shall be henceforth known as Valmiki, the sage." (In Sanskrit, Valmika=Ant-hill).

Valmiki established his Ashrama (hermitage) in the forest and devoted his days to austerities and in chanting the name of the Lord. One day, while at a nearby stream, he saw a pair of Krauncha birds, happy in each others' company. As he was admiring their beauty, an arrow flew out of nowhere and struck the male bird dead. The sage turned in the direction from which the arrow had flown and saw the hunter. In his anger and sorrow, he cursed the hunter.

Now, Valmiki had not had any formal education, so he was surprised that the curse that he had uttered had come out in the shape of a hymn in Sanskrit. He was also displeased with himself for letting his anger get the better of himself and for cursing a hunter, who after all was only earning his living.

While Valmiki was brooding over this episode, Lord Brahma appeared before him and said, "It is the will of the Lord that you shall compose the story of the life of Rama. That epic shall be called Ramayana. Whoever reads this divine work, shall attain the regions reserved for the blessed in the after-life."

This is the story of how the sage Valmiki began the composition of the epic-poem Ramayana.

Last Modified At: Fri Nov 5 20:32:54 2004