Compassionate Brahma was born in this world in the form of Valmiki for briefly writing the story of Rama. It was extended up to a billion stanzas for removing the three types of sorrows of the people of this world belonging to the four castes.
Lord Siva tells Parvati in Skanda Purana that Brahma became Valmiki and Saraswati, his speech. After performing many austerities he composed the holy story of Rama. Thus Valmiki is a form of Brahma himself. He is called Bhagavan Prachetasa or son of Pracheta. Every sacred thing should be heard from one’s guru – says ancient tradition. So Valmiki was waiting for his guru Narada to receive his guidance. Then Narada appeared there as per the instruction of Brahma. Valmiki worshipped Narada and asked him a question ‘who in this world…’ etc. The divine sage Narada became very happy to hear the question regarding the story of the Supreme Lord. He narrated the story of Rama in brief in a few sentences and left. Afterwards while Valmiki was walking on the banks of the river Tamasa, he happened to see a kraunca hit by a hunter. Then the stanza ‘ma nisada pratisham’ effortlessly emerged from his mouth. He returned to his hermitage and stood contemplating on that incident with a sense of wonder. Then there appeared Brahma, the god with four faces and told Valmiki that the stanza had emerged according to his desire. He instructed sage Valmiki to compose the story of the Ramayana in metrical stanzas, and then left for his divine abode. Then Valmiki composed the Ramayana in twentyfour thousand slokas. The Ramayana is a manifestation of the Parabrahma Vidya (or the science of the ultimate reality) called Gayatri which has twentyfour syllables. The slokas starting with ‘tapassvadhyaya…’ are indicative of the letters of the Gayatri mantra. There are twentyfour slokas which contain the letters of the Gayatri mantra. In every group of one thousand slokas the first contains the letter or syllable from the Gayatri. Sage Valmiki has placed these letters in order. The first syllable of the Gayatri is ‘tat’.
First Sloka 1.1.1
In the sloka ‘tapassvadhyaya…’ the word tapas signifies a vow or restraint or austerities like fasting which bring clarity of the mind. This is substantiated by the Vedic statement, Yasya Jnanamayam Tapah (he whose tapas is knowledge). The word tapas also signifies the knowledge of Brahman on the Supreme Being or the Absolute Reality.
The word Svadhyaya denotes the meaning of study accompanied by the understanding of the intended sense, which is its result. Niratam means one who concentrates his mind on tapas and svadhyaya. The word tapas, derived from the verb root tapa alocane (contemplation), giving the sense of knowledge makes the reader remember Brahman on the basis of the Vedic statement Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma, Brahman is existence, knowledge and infinity. So this relates to remembrance of one’s favourite deity. Thus the kavya has an auspicious beginning with the word tapas. Tapasvi means a person who has performed austerities.
Valmiki is, a child of Valmika, an anthill. This is stated in the Brahmavaivarta Purana: ‘then spoke the lustrous Brahma, the grandfather of the universe. Since he is born in an anthill, he will be known as Valmiki’.
In the word Narada, Nara means, the supreme being. The ancient saying naratiti narah proktah paramatma sanatanah substantiates it. That which relates to Nara is Naram. Naram means the knowledge of the supreme soul. One who gives it is called Narada. Naram also means that which belongs to naras or ordinary mortals, i.e. ignorance. One who destroys (dyati) that ignorance is Narada. This is explained in the Naradiya Purana as ‘Narada always sings the story of Narayana, which destroys the fear of sin. Narada moves about eliminating the darkness of people, which results from their ignorance’.
Valmiki’s query 1.1.2-6
Valmiki cites various qualities and asks Narada as to who in this world is endowed with all virtues? Here the word guna means special excellences, which are separate from the ordinary visible qualities, because the reply to this question mentions such excellences. The excellence by which one defeats the enemies without himself being injured is called Viryam and one who has it is called Viryavan. Dharmajna is a person who knows both the general and special dharmas. Krtajna is he who considers even a little help rendered by others as great. Satyavak is one who speaks the truth under all circumstances. Drdhvrata is he who does not break a vow until it yields the desired result. Caritra is the behaviour that has come down as a tradition in one’s family. Caritreeeena Yuktah is one who possesses all good behaviour. The phrase Sarvabhutesu implies that the person does good even to those that offend him. Aidvan knows everything worthy of knowing. Samartha is a person who is able to perform tasks which others cannot. Kascaica priyadarsanah is the person whose sight is endlessly dear to all. Sight can become dear only for handsome limbs. Hence it means a person who has exquisite limbs. Atmavan is one who controls his mind or who is courageous.
Jitakrodhah is a compound word, in this krodha implies all the six bad qualities of the mind, namely kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (avarice), moha (infatuation), mada (intoxication or arrogance) and matsarya (envy). Jita is one who has subdued them. So the phrase denotes he who has subdued all the six internal enemies.
Dyutiman is brilliant. Asuya is finding flaws even in excellences; he who is free from asuya or feared by gods or demons in battles is anasuyaka. Etat means he who possesses all the qualities cited above. Trilokajna is a person whose knowledge encompasses all the three worlds. Amantrya implies he attracted Valmiki’s attention for achieving similarity of thought. Kasya Bibhyati Devasca shows the abundance of qualities that makes gods afraid. This does not apply to Brahma etc. It relates to somebody else (Rama).
Again, since an ordinary mortal cannot be expected to possess all the great qualities cited in Valmiki’s question, it finally culminates in the Supreme God who came down in human form for the world’s protection. Narada is happy for the opportunity he luckily got to analogise the excellencies of the Lord. This is indicated by the word Prahrsta. Buddhva Laksyami means, ‘I am going to describe a great person who has the numerous rare qualities cited by you’. The verb Sruyatam in the imperative mood gives the idea that it was the right time for Valmiki to hear about that great man.
Virtues of Rama 1.1.8-20
Here sage Narada describes the Supreme Being who doubtlessly possesses all the great qualities cited. Prabhava is the place of origin. So it means one who was born in the dynasty of the Ikshvakus. In Rama all beings rejoice. Nama has the sense of ‘well-known’. Niyatatma is the self-controlled mind. Vasi is he whose sense organs are under restraint. The buddhiman has intelligence which consists in attention to others, the capacity to grasp and remember and the skill to postulate right ideas and leave the wrong ones. In the word Nitimaan, the suffix maan may be understood either in the sense of abundance or of adorability. Vagmi is an orator. Sriman possesses wealth unsurpassed. What is intended here is the wealth of knowledge of the Vedas as found in the statement ‘Rg, Yajus and Saman are the immortal wealth of the good people’. Vipulamsa is one who has strong and high shoulders, mahahanu, full and plumpy cheeks, mahoraska, a broad chest. It is said that the chest, head and forehead bring happiness if they are wide. Gudhajatru is a person whose jatrus (the bones that join the chest with the shoulders) are not conspicuous. Arindama is subduer of internal foes like lust, anger, greed, etc. An ajanubahu has knee-long arms, susirah, a well-rounded head and sulatata, a good forehead. Having four horizontal lines on the forehead is described as a sign of prosperity. Suvikramah is a person who has a steady gait. If the gait of a man resembles that of a lion or an elephant, it is said to be good. Samah etc: Rama had the right height, neither too tall nor too small. Sama Vibhaktangah means one whose limbs are well-proportioned. It purports to say that the ears, arms etc., on the two sides are equal in length. Snnnn igdhavarna: Rama’s complexion is comparable to a clean sapphire’s colour. A pratapavan strikes terror in the hearts of enemies. In the word lakshmivan, lakshmi means perfection of all limbs. Subhalakshanah is a person who has all auspicious signs outlined in Samudrika Sastra. A dharmajna is aware of righteousness. A satyasandha keeps his promises and vows. Jnanasampanna is a person who has knowledge on all subjects. Suci is one who is pure internally as well as externally. A vasya is obedient to his elders and sriman possesses abundant wealth. A dhata is able to govern and nourish the whole world, and a ripunisudana destroys the enemies of his dependents. Raksita Jivalokasya suggests fulfilment of the desires of his subjects by eliminating all their woes.
Dharmasya Pariraksita is protector of dharma. Rama makes people follow the rules of their respective castes and asramas (stages of life). Rakshita Svasya Dharmasya is protector of one’s own dharma. Here the word dharma connotes performance of sacrifices, study of the Vedas and giving gifts to the deserving. Svajanasya Rakshita is the protector of his dependents and relatives etc. Even though their protection is implied in the epithet Raksita Jivalokasya, its separate mention is to emphasize that Rama paid special attention to their protection. Vedavedangatattvajnah shows Rama had learnt all the four Vedas and the accessory systems like the Siksa (Phonetics) both by text and by meaning. Rama was an expert in the science of weapons. Sarvasastrartha Tattvajnah: one who knows the real meaning of all sastras viz. Sankhya, Yoga, Tarka (logic), Vaisesika, Purvamimamsa, Uttaramimamsa Vedanta and Vyakarana, besides the Smrtis (texts on dharma). Knowledge of the texts is not enough. One must not forget what has been learnt or experienced. Pratibhanavan suggests imagination or pratibha which is defined as the intellectual faculty that possesses newer ideas continuously. Sarvalokapriyah implies dear to all people or one to whom all people are dear. A sadhu is he who helps even those who have caused him harm, and adinatma is he whose conscience is not disturbed even in a series of crises.
Vicaksanah is one who is diligent in doing his duties in time. Sarvada suggests people can at any time approach Rama just as rivers, the ocean. The simile implies there is no time restriction for the devotees to approach God. The word abhigate shows the Lord is the final resort for the devotees. The simile also suggests that there is no recourse other than Lord Rama and that the devotees finally become one with him. Aryah is one worthy of respect, and sarvasama is he who has no animosity towards his foes, friends or neutrals. Sadaiva Priyadarsanah means one whose sight is dear in all circumstances; looks fresh at all times. Sarvagunopetah means one who has all virtues, cited or not.
Rama is equal to the ocean in depth, which means ‘he has unfathomable wisdom’. Dhairya is unassailability even by mind. Even though Rama himself is Visnu, the similarity is described, assuming the difference on account of the adjunct human form. Or, it means Rama is comparable only with himself in valour which purports to say that he has none as his upamana (standard of comparison). Somavat shows Rama, like the Moon, is the cause of happiness to all. Kalagni etc.: Rama’s rage could not be extinguished even by a fight. Ksamaya shows means the patience of Rama that makes him tolerate or pardon all offences of others. Dhanadena means he is equal to Kubera (the god of wealth) even though he used to give away a lot. This shows the inexhaustibility of Rama’s treasures and his generosity. Satye etc. means Rama was comparable to the Sun in steadfastness.
Tamevam etc. having said that all virtues were present in Rama, they are here illustrated. From here onwards, the story of the Ayodhyakanda is summarized. So it should be understood that the earlier slokas indicate the story of the Balakanda. There, from the word Ikshvakuvamsa Prabhavah, the birth of the Lord is indicated. By the words mahavirya and satrunibarhana, Rama’s expertise in weaponry and killing of Tataka etc. are suggested. Laksmivan is the abridgement of Rama’s marriage with Sita. Satyaparakramam as an epithet gives in a nutshell all activities like blocking Parasurama’s power to reach the higher worlds. Evam Gunsampannam means one who is endowed with extraordinary virtues. Sreshtha Gunair Yuktam means he who possesses the best qualities that make him worthy of being coronated. Satya Parakramam is one who had valour that was never futile. Prakrtinam etc. show Rama performs deeds which bring good to the creatures both in this and the next world. Priyakamyaya shows he has a wish to do what was desirable to the people. Yuvaraja is a prince who is crowned even when his father (the king) is alive so that the junior can take the responsibility of the whole administration. Yauvarajya is the state of being a crown prince. The two stanzas (19 to 20) make one sentence and say that the king wanted to make Rama the crown prince.
Bharata’s desire to crown Rama 1.1.36
Sumahatma is one who has a large heart. Ayacat means begged. An adage states it is enough if a supplicant stands humbly before great persons. The idea is that the wish of the supplicant is suggested and there is no necessity of saying it in so many words. Even then Bharata openly begged in order to show his humility. The word dharmajna implies that while an elder son, endowed with all virtues is there, his younger brother does not deserve to become the king, and Rama knows this dharma. Therefore Bharata says to Rama ‘you are the king’. The word Rama, according to grammar, means a person whose nature is to make the surrendered happy. Sumukhah is one who has a pleasing face. Here Rama is sumukha because he has a supplicant. Paramodarah is the one engaged in giving all that the supplicants want. Mahayasah: according to a saying in the Visnupurana, supplicants who approach the kings of the Kakustha dynasty never return disappointed. Rama thus was famous and reputed. Rama was mahabalah, he could eliminate all the demons with a single arrow. The word api should be construed with all the adjectives used here. In spite of all these qualities and qualifications, Rama did not want the kingdom. Due to his reverence for his father, Rama did not want the coronation proposed by Bharata.
When did Valmiki write the Ramayana 1.1.88
Having narrated the story up to Rama’s return from exile the divine sage tells the later part of the story (Uttarakanda) as it would occur in future. By this is meant that Valmiki wrote the Ramayana while Rama was on the throne, ‘when Rama had obtained the kingdom’. It is also said ‘the auspicious soul (Valmiki), sitting in a yogic position, sees everything that had taken place like an amalaka fruit on the palm of his hand’.
The Ramayana is equal to the Vedas because it elucidates all the meanings of the Vedas.
Benefits of the study of the Ramayana 1.1.95-97
Here the fruit of study for each section of the society is described. When a brahmin studies it, he becomes an expert in SabdaBrahman, a kshatriya will have an empire, and a vaisya will make abundant profit. ‘Pathansudrah’: Pathan here means, ‘when a sudra hears it from a brahmin who reads it’, he will have the benefit of becoming the best in his class. For those that are ineligible to read, the result comes from hearing because ‘when one hears the Ramayana devotedly’ or ‘when a sudra reads the Ramayana, he becomes the best among his own people and worthy of worship’. The particle ‘ca’ implies all intermediate castes.
Valmiki who wanted to compose the Ramayana in 24 thousand slokas, started it with the first letters of the Gayatri and completed it with its last syllable (Yat).