Have you ever heard the song called “Teri Mitti” from ‘Kesari’? It narrates the strong emotions of all the characters fighting impossible odds against death. But have you ever given a thought as to why certain events travelled through ages while others lost battle with time. Notably, the Indian civilisation was repeatedly attacked by barbarian hordes. But the thriving continuation clearly demonstrates the fate of those decisive battles were in favour of Indian warriors and heroes.
The perennial stream of Indic civilisation doesn’t lack events of valour and sacrifice but many of them got forgotten or ignored due to lack of written history. Without written history, oral narration becomes prey to adulteration and easy to be discarded as folklore or multiplicity of versions.
Without written history, glorification of any character won’t have been possible. In fact, It would be next to impossible for mankind to know the basic outlet of a plot lest there were Poets and writers. They give their narration and nourishment to the story and share the fascinating experience and knowledge with the masses.
The First Poet
In our scriptures ‘Agni puran’ there comes a shloka which says
संसार काव्य कविरेव प्रजापतिः |
जन्माष्ट वै रोचते विश्वं तथदं परिवर्तते ||
It means a boundless domain of poetry; a poet is like the Creator of the Universe (Bhagwan Brahma). As the Creator makes changes to the Universe as he pleases, in the same manner poets are also the master of their free will to bring about the changes in the society.
Maharishi Valmiki is one among those prominent poets. His Ramayan is the first chronicled history of Bharat. He was the first poet who shared accounts of events of the life of Prabhu Shri Ram by turning them into an epic. For this reason, he is honoured as Adi Kavi.
The Hindu art, religion and cultural history have been primarily affected by two major literary works of ancient India: The Ramayan and the Mahabharat. The Ramayan has travelled through centuries and civilisations of the Indian origin and culture. It has irreplacably influenced every living being not only in India, but also across the world.
The Hindu epic Ramayan has fervently carved out the building blocks of sanatan Dharm and its massively diverse culture. The great Indian values and heritage owe its existence to Valmiki’s narration of events of Ramayan. Even in today’s generations, the basic human ethics and values can be traced out back to the Ramayan. The Epic answers all questions and solves problems of modern day life. The solutions to our problems lie in following the guidance presented in the epic.
Early life as Ratnakar
Maharishi Valmiki was not always known as he is now. His birth name was Ratnakar. As he grew up, Ratnakar became an expert hunter. Later, as he attained marriageable age, he married a girl from the hunter community itself. When the family grew in size, it became difficult for him to make ends meet. To gain more resources, he resorted to robbery and loot.
He started looting passersbyes. Moreover, killing innocent people became his routine. His reign of terror became so infamous that people would fear to cross the highway where he had made his ‘adda’ to loot travelers. To put it simply he was the foremost criminal of that particular area. But as we know “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” His future was waiting for him with something else in his destiny that he was least aware off.
Fateful encounter with Narad Muni
On one eventful day, he met Narad Muni, who was passing by the same forest where Ratnakar stayed. Ratnakar attacked Narad Muni in his usual style. But Narad, a sage that he was, was unperturbed. Out of pity for the man, Narad enquired Ratnakar as to why he had taken to robbery to earn his bread and butter. When Ratnakar explained to him his helplessness, Narad asked him to go back to his family and ask them if they would partake of his sins.
When Ratnakar did so, to his utter shock, his family refused to heed to his request. He again visited Narad and asked for his forgiveness. Narad Muni apprised him of the Ram mantra. But Ratnakar was unable to pronounce the word, Ram. Therefore, Narad asked him to pronounce the word backwards, that is Mara.
The first shlok
Once the sage went to bath in the river Pampa. While bathing, his eyes fell on a pair of herons birds in love by the riverside. As he was watching the birds, an arrow from a hunter struck and killed the male bird. The female bird cried out in sorrow at the sight of its dead companion. Pained and angered by what happened to the birds, he uttered the first shlok.
The shlok was:
मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः। यत्क्रौञ्चमिथुनादेकमवधीः काममोहितम्॥
Meaning “O cruel hunter, you will never get respect in this world because you have killed the innocent heron who was engaged in making love.”
However, the first shlok that Maharishi Valmiki recited had nothing to do with the Ramayana. It was, in fact, a curse for the hunter who had acted in such a cruel manner. But the shlok was grammatically perfect and there was a perfect metre of rhythm in it.
Lost in thought after reciting the shlok when the Maharishi returned to his ashram, he was visited by Narad Muni again. Narad Muni pointed out his shlok and reminded him of his talent and poetic ability and asked him to write the Ramayan.
Bhagwan Brahma enlightens him with story of Shri Ram
For years together, Ratnakar chanted the mantr and went in deep penance. Propitiated by it, Lord Brahma appeared before him and saw him covered by an anthill and gave him name Valmiki and told him the story about Bhagwan Ram in flash back and then there was no looking back.
This is how Ratnakar became Valmiki – The Adi Kavi who gave the nectar to the world in form of Ramayan. From a robber to the foremost poet, Ratnakar’s journey from a life of unscrupulousness to that of divinity, really stands out.
Maharishi Valmiki’s influence
In the field of Literature, many great writers have been influenced by Valmiki’s Ramayan. Even the masterpieces by the great Kalidas were inspired from Ramayan. Prominent impacts of Ramayana in his works can be seen in ‘Raghuvamsa’, ’Meghdoot’, ‘Abhgana Shakuntala’, ‘Vikramorvasiya’ and ‘Kumarasambhava’. Not only the epic, but its characters were also adopted in literary works by several writers and poets.
Lakshmana Suri, a poet of the 19th century, delivered many great works based on Ramayan. It includes the likes of ‘Prapanna Vibishanam,’ ‘Paulastya Vadham,’ ‘Gayatri Ramayanam’ and the ‘Ramayana Sangraha.’ The Tamil poet, Kambar wrote Kambaramayanam in the 12th century, the Telugu poet, Gona Budda Reddy wrote the Ranganatha Ramayanam. The Kannada poet Kuempu wrote Ramayana Darshanam. The Telugu poetess, Molla wrote Molla Ramayana, the 15th century Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha wrote Krittivasi Ramayana. The most popular poem inspired by Ramayan is its 16th century Awadhi version, Ramacharitamanas,was written by Tulsidas.
“As birds are made to fly and rivers to run, so the soul follows duty.” Ramayan by Maharishi Valmiki still remains as a living force in the lives of every Indian. In fact the epic Ramayan is not just tale of Ram’s life. It is the story of how our Maryada Purushottam Bhagwan Ram lived for others. By his tale, storyteller hope to inspire the generations to live as Ram did. On this day of Valmiki Jayanti let’s remember the greatest poet of all time.
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