In his article ‘The Ramayana: Its History and Character in the Cultural Heritage of India’ vol.1, Pusalker says: Valmiki composed an ornate poem, which was subjected to additions of various kinds in subsequent times. In its present form it has seven books (kandas) containing 24,000 stanzas. Before it was composed as an epic, the story of Rama was sung as a ballad in assemblies. The internal evidence shows that it was first sung before the sages in the forests, then on the streets of Ayodhya and then before the august presence of Rama himself at the horse sacrifice (Aswamedha). Later, when it passed into the hands of the Sutas for popularization among the masses, additional matter was added.
Ramayana calls itself a kavya, akhyana and itihasa. Valmiki wanted to portray the life of an ideal man, not an incarnation. Rama being treated as an avatara came about gradually from prince of Ayodhya to national hero to an incarnation of Visnu. The incarnation idea is mostly found in the first and last kandas, which were clearly written much later. As for example, Dasaratha’s putresti when the gods approach Visnu and request him to go down to the earth and slay the demon king Ravana, must have been added later to conform to the incarnation theory. Some incidents have been explained as the outcome of an earlier birth in the life of Dasaratha, Sita, Hanuman, etc.
There are two main recessions: northern and southern. Northern i) north-eastern: Nepali, Maithili, Bengali and Devnagari ii) north-western: Sarada and Devnagari iii) Western- 4 versions Southern i) Telugu ii) Grantha iii) Malayalam.
The three southern versions have almost uniform text and the northern versions have peculiar features of their own.
Tirtha or Tattvadipa by Mahesvara Tirtha; Bhushana by Govindaraja; Amrta Kataka by Madhava Yogin (1675-1750); Tilaka by Nagoji Bhatta or Ramavarma (1730-1810); Siromani by Sivasahaya; Dharmakuta by Tryambaka raja Makhi; Ramanujiya by Kandala Ramanuja; Viveka Tilaka by Varadaraja; Ramayana Kuta by Ramananda Tirtha; Caturartha Dipika; Ramayana Virodha Parihara; Ramayana setu; Tatparyatarani, Srngara Sudhakar; Ramayana Sapta Bimba; Manorama; Valmikihrdaya by Ahobala; Virodhabhanjini; Ramayana Tatparya Nirnaya by Madhavacarya; Ramayana Tatparya Nirnaya by Appaya Dikshitendra; Ramayana Bhushana by Prabala Mukunda Suri; Subodhini by Rama Bhadrasrama; Ramayanasaradipika; Gurubala Cittaranjini; Vidvanmanoranjini; Ramayana Sara Sangraha by Varadaraja Acarya; Vishaya Padartha Vyakhya by Deva Rama Bhatta; Kalpa Vallika by Nrsimha Sastri; Ramayanartha Prakasika by Venkatacarya; Ramayanakatha Vimarsa by Venkatacarya and others.
The Tikakara: Madhava Yogin
Govindaraja mentions Mahesvara Tirtha in his commentary. Mahesvara Tirtha begins his work by bowing to Narayana Tirtha who was either his father or teacher. Narayana has explained Siddhanta Bindu by Madhusudana Sarasvati. Thus Madhusudana Sarasvati (1540-1623) followed by Narayana Tirtha (last part of the 16th - beginning of 17th century) and Mahesvara Tirtha (first half of the 17th century), Govindaraja (later half of the 17th century) and Madhava Yogin (17th century).
The writer of the Tilaka commentary often quotes Kataka who might be Nagesa Bhatta because Siromani relates Tilaka Tika to Bhatta Patha. But Tilaka never mentions Nagesa or Bhatta, except at the end of the Yuddhakanda. Further probe reveals that Nagesa Bhatta was the teacher of the ruler of Srngaverapura, Ramavarma who also wrote a tika on Adhyatma Ramayana. Whether Nagesa wrote Tilaka or not, it was written in his time, i.e. towards the end of the 18th century (1730-1810). Therefore, Madhava Yogin wrote sometime between these two definite dates, 1675 and 1750 as ascertained by Varadacarya.
Madhava Yogin seems to belong to South India. In the beginning of his tika he mentions three deities: Lord of Kalahasti, Ekamranatha of Kanchi and Vedagirisvara of Tirukkalu Kunuram in the valedictory sloka. All the three are situated in present day Tamilnadu. He also gives Tamil names of many a flora and fauna. He seems to belong to the Parinamadvaita School of Philosophy and has written vyakhyas on all the Upanishads. He was well-versed not only in grammar and Vedanta but also in Tantra, Mantra, Yoga, Rasa Sastra, etc.
I bow to the Ramayana which has twentyfour ullasas or sargas, twenty four thousand slokas, and six great kandas. The nut of the Kataka tree is supposed to clear muddy water, hence the name of this commentary.Why this commentary on the Ramayana? Does it bring any worldly benefit? And there is not even any otherworldly benefit. The Sruti or Smrti tradition does not tell us that reciting the Ramayana is beneficial to people who want to become free from sins or go to heaven or better still, beyond the cycle of birth and death and attain liberation (moksha). On the other hand, the Ramayana is a poetical work, and Smrtighanta says, ‘reciting of poetry is to be banned’.
But Rama is an incarnation of Brahman and the Ramayana is a passport to Brahmaloka.
Who is worthy of reading or listening to Ramayana? All those who stick to the prescribed rituals are of pious bent of mind. Brahmana women, the slaves in Brahmana households and good sudras can also listen to this epic. Thus all four varnas are worthy. Only the mixed breeds cannot read it. Therefore, the story of Rama and this epic have a Rama is Pratipadya and the Ramayana is Pratipadaka.
First Sloka 1.1.1
The first poet Valmiki, in order to acquire the skill of writing a divine kavya, asks Devarsi Narada as to who could be its protagonist. Narada who had heard the story of Rama from Lord Visnu after his (Kasta Samadhi) communicated it in brief to Valmiki and asked him to write it down with all its hidden meanings and nuances. Valmiki wrote it in 24,000 stanzas. The first canto of this divine epic is Narada’s teaching to Valmiki: ‘never speak unless you are asked to’. It begins with tapassvadhyaya and ends with srutva caitat. Tapasvadhyaya means religious austerity and self-study. To Apastamba, self-study is also a form of austerity. The study of one’s own branch of learning is self-study. A person busy in self-study is said to be svadhyayanirata. Tapas and svadhyaya are taken together as one deed (dvandva samasa). But then anybody can practice austerities, therefore in order to show how rich in austerities Narada is, he is called munipungava. This denotes that Narada is the foremost of all who perform austerities. Those who understand the proper forms and meanings of words are known as vagvid. Panini and Patanjali, are vagvid. The best among the knowledgeables is Narada. Munipungava is a bull among sages that is a distinguished sage. Tapasvi, is one who performs austerities. The Vedas maintain that there is no better austerity than abstaining from eating. Fasting on auspicious days like the full-moon day, the eleventh day of the lunar month, etc. are well-known observances of tapas. It is also said that concentration of mind is also a form of austerity. Valmiki was such a tapasvi. Here the adjective used for Valmiki shows that he is worthy of listening to such discourses of a divine epic. Similarly the adjective used for Narada connotes that he is worthy of discoursing on such matters, as he has not only the necessary knowledge but also the oratorical skill. He has also the capacity to teach well.
Valmiki’s Query to Narada 1.1.2
Valmiki asks: who among men is the greatest? Who is the person embellished with all virtues? Who is gunavan, or who has good qualities like happiness, benevolence, etc.? Who is viryavan or one with special power that comes from possessing divine weapons and strength? Who is dharmajna, or one well-versed in the Vedic and Smrti literature and knows the niceties of religion, philosophy and morality? Who is krtajna or one who forgets evil deeds of others and considers even one good deed with much gratefulness? Satyavakya is one who speaks whatever he sees or hears. Drdhavrata, is one, even though surrounded by adversities, never forsakes the special vow to uphold dharma.
Rama’s Virtues 1.1.3-6
Rama possesses character and wealth, looks after the welfare of all in this world as well as the next. He wishes Ravana, his greatest enemy well and wishes him heaven after death. He knows all about atman, anatman, etc. has the skill of social behaviour and of ruling the subjects and is therefore known as Samartha, is attractive, always remains beautiful and whose body is uniformly good-looking. Another view is that Rama is a person who is good-looking to only one individual. But what purpose does this interpretation serve?
Rama is atmavan that is one who has control over his desires and senses and has conquered his mind. He is described as jitakrodha. Krodha includes desire to kill. But a person who does not indulge in unnecessary or unprovoked violence can be said to have conquered anger. He has that special glow emanating from a beautiful body which compels everyone to keep on looking, and it is known as dyuti (glow) and one who possesses that special grace is dyutiman. Anasuyaka is one who is not jealous of another’s knowledge, wealth or progress. Jealousy is asuya and one who is not jealous is known as anasuyaka. “Who is such a divine person who possesses all these qualities? I want to hear of him”. That was the query of Valmiki. It is quite unusual to find these qualities together in one place. Therefore I have very great anxiety to know it. I ask you because you alone are able to answer”. The word maharsi is an adjective. It is used purposefully to denote that Narada has the power to go beyond the senses. He is trilokajnah or the knower of the three worlds, bhuh, bhuvah and svah. Narada knows whatever has happened or is happening in them.
Narada’s Description of Rama's Qualities to Valmiki 1.1.7 -20
Rama is the abode of infinite benevolence. He is niyatatma, one who has control over his inner self, dhrtiman one whose mind does not waver in times of adversity or prosperity; Vasi, one who has conquered all his senses. He has buddhi (mind or intellect) which is the means to acquire knowledge. His inner self is governed by sattva (intellect) which has the capacity to remember what has been said once.
Rama is vagmi that is one who has eloquence. He is sriman, one who possesses beauty, grace and wealth. The word Sriman appears repeatedly. Madhava Yogi explains the recurrence of this word by saying that it is due to the great regard shown to Rama that his virtues are mentioned again and again. It adds to the beauty of the work and should not be considered a flaw. He is Satru-nibarhana, one who kills his internal and external enemies at the right time in the right manner.
Besides, Rama has some physical attributes in accordance with the Samudrika. Rama is vipulanso, that is, one with big shoulders. Vararuci mentions that possession of long arms is a sign of Brahman. Rama is Kambugrivo his neck is adorned with three lines like a conch-shell. He has prominent hanu or cheeks or Mahesvasa is one having a large bow. Gudhajatru is one whose collar bones are not visible due to the muscled chest. He is arindama is one who removes obstacles of one’s devotees. A king is also known as arindama as he subdues his enemies like elephants, etc. Ajanubahu is one having knee-long arms. Sulalata means one whose forehead is adorned with specific lines says Katyayana. Vikrama means footsteps slow and graceful. Samah means neither big nor small. Samavibhaktanga is one whose limbs are neither long nor short. They are even. Snigdhavarnah is one, dusky and dark-complexioned. Pratapavan is one whose valour inspires mortal fear in the hearts of his enemies. Pinavaksah, is one having well-formed chest. This has been described as a sign of beauty in Rama. Visalaksah, is one having large eyes. He is Laksmivan, having Laksmi in the form of Sita by his side. Rama is righteous, true to his word and he never breaks a vow. He is yasasvi, his fame for having killed the demon king Ravana shall remain as long as the Moon and the stars shine. Jnanasampanna is one who possesses knowledge pertaining to the Supreme Being, Brahman.
The Vedic lore states: Atha yadatah paro divo jyotirdipyate sarvatah prsthesvanuttamesu. How is it that the same Rama who knows that he is Brahman himself says elsewhere that he is a mere mortal, the son of king Dasaratha Atmanam manusam manye Ramam Dasarathatmajam? This is explained by the fact that while in the human form, whenever rajas and tamas become predominant at the time of asamadhi (in awakened state) he tends to forget his true self, as in sleep or in dream. That is why it is said: Na tadasti prthivyam va divi devesu va punah Sattvam prakrtijairmuktam yadebhih syattribhirgunaih meaning there is no one here or in heaven, free of these three natural gunas. If that is so, why try to negate this human side of the personality. Trying to prove that it is not so, is just a waste of energy. Rama is Brahman. When Sita is abducted and he cries aloud for her, it is due to this very natural human instinct. The next three adjectives are derived from his knowledge of Brahman. Suci means having taken a bath in the morning, repeating Gayatri mantra, practising yogic recaka-puraka etc, overcoming anger and hostility by restraint and maintaining the purity of the three parikaras (sthula, suksma and antara). Vasya is having control.
Samadhiman is one who can meditate according to will on the Brahman, form or formless. Samadhi is explained as the process of uniting one's mind with Parambrahman. In samadhi, the mind does not waver as it becomes absolutely focused, like the flame of a lamp. To some, vasya means dependent and samadhivan means having taken a vow. But that is not correct. The verse already contains the word satyasandha which means having taken a vow. As for dependence, that denotes a person seeking favour and not capable of granting them. Rama is an incarnation of Brahman, and therefore Prajapati Brahma himself. But having taken the human form, he has consequently adopted the related characteristics (as apparent by his love and grief for Sita or his showing dependence). He conforms to the norms set for human beings until he remains in the human form. This is the difference between being Prajapati himself and being like Prajapati. There are instances when he betrays his real self for example, banning Bhargava from this world, granting Brahmaloka to Jatayu, giving permanent reign to Vibhisana, blessing Hanuman with a long life (till the end of the kalpa), bridging the ocean, giving all his followers the boon to go to Brahmaloka along with their family, and also allowing them to take any form at will. All this shows that he is like Brahman. Such examples are not seen in other incarnations, like the Krisnavatara. There the Visnu element is more prominent. Dhata, is said to create and nourish. It is said “Ramaya ramabhadraya ramacandraya vedhase”. Since Rama is considered to be Brahman, the epithet applies to him as well. He looks after all the people as a father looks after his children. Ripunisudana is one who destroys his enemies. He protects the people by giving them food and water etc, and saves them from theft and other losses. Thus he protects them effectively. On the other hand he also protects dharma. Dharma is the way of life as described in the Vedas and Smrtis. It includes the laws of the four varnas and four asramas. He upholds and maintains these laws. Not only is he the protector of dharma of others but also his own. Apastamba Dharma Sutra gives details. Rama is the protector of his own dharma. He also protects his people who include his kin as well as his devotees. It is said that he would establish hundreds of ruling houses: rajavamsan satagunan sthapayisyati raghavah. And also, that he looks after those who go to him even once.
Rama is well-versed in the four Vedas and six Vedangas (Chanda, Kalpa, Vyakarana, Jyotisa, Nirukta and Siksa) and knows their true meaning - paramartha. He is well-versed in archery, Dhanurveda, which teaches about holding the bow in a particular manner, releasing the arrow and using divine weapons. It is said to be a separate branch of learning, hence a Veda. Similarly, Ayurveda and other branches of learning, along with their vyakhyas, smrtis and sutras are treated as sastras: Sarva sastrartha tattvajna sabda or word is the basis of knowledge. Therefore, grammar is supposed to be the most important sastra. Other texts like Kamandaka, etc are also sastras. Rama knows all such sastras with their meaning. Mere text is not enough, one should know the meaning as well. He is also smrtiman. Once he has heard or read the Vedas or sastras he never forgets them. So he has pratibhana and is pratibhanavan. Sarvalokapriya is one who always takes care of everyone who sees him or remembers him. Sarvalokanam priyam yasmat sah means he has a quiet, sweet and benevolent nature.
Rama is Adinatma, he has a nice disposition like a sage or a brahmana. It does not mean he is timid. The Gita says a true kshatriya has a pleasing disposition. Vicaksana is one skilled in proper conduct. While performing religious rites, he is accompanied by priests and scholars and in conferences by his ministers and chiefs as described by Kamandaka in the Mahabharata. By the rule, yatha raja tatha praja, the people around him are also of pious nature. Arya, by virtue of belonging to the whole world, is universally respected.
Sarvasama remains unperturbed in all kinds of situations. He is overwhelmed neither by joy nor by sorrow. Mahesvaratirtha believes that this refers to his remaining unprejudiced towards his friends or foes or even to those who are indifferent to him. But how can it be so? Is Rama a sanyasin who has renounced the world? Rama possesses all the virtues that come naturally to the kshatriyas.
Rama has gambhirya, meaning he is unfathomable like the sea. Similarly at the time of war, when all the troops have fled, he would be standing like a rock. This denotes his perseverance. Also, when parted from the dear ones or faced with bad times, when one does not lose heart that is also perseverance. In both these circumstances, he is as unshaken as the Himalayas. Here some people raise the question of Rama’s lament after Sita’s abduction, and say that he lacked perseverance. But it is not correct, because as has been said earlier, Rama shows his emotions because he is in a mortal frame and as long as he resides in this world he has to observe the deha-dharma, the way natural to a human body. And further, had he not lamented the disappearance of the virtuous and chaste Sita, he would have been considered heartless. Therefore, expressing natural feelings is only human, and there is nothing wrong with it. Rama is like Visnu in valour. Visnu is known for conferring benefits, whereas Prajapati is known for creation. Yet Vishnu is Prajapati and Prajapati is Vishnu as elaborated in Brahmasiddhanta. Rama is both Vishnu and Prajapati. When looking after his subjects, he is the Moon. When fighting a battle, he is the fire of death. When not retaliating for the wrongs done unto him, he is as forgiving as the earth. (The mother earth grants pardon to every stream that erodes her) In granting wealth for religious purposes like yajna etc, he is like Kubera (Dhanadena), possessor of nine types of wealth or navanidhi (without Kubera’s avaricious nature). In steadfastness, he is dharma or the sun-god. Thus Tamevam gunasampannam is the gist of Ayodhyakanda.
In Balakanda, it has been established that Rama is an incarnation of God. In this kanda his birth in the Ikshvaku family, the gift of divine weapons and wealth through the blessings of Viswamitra and the events till the killing of Tataka have been described. The use of such words as vipulamsa and laksmivan shows he had reached youth and had married Sita. He is Satyaparakrama because he has acquired indomitable power over his enemies by virtue of his truthfulness. By the term Satyaparakrama his dwelling in the Satyaloka as Lord Hiranyagarbha, known as Satya and all the events till the covenant with Bhargava are given in brief. Evam gunasampannam: the possession of these virtues, eternal, rare and benevolent, makes him worthy of being appointed the crown prince of Ayodhya.
Eighteen classes of subjects including ministers, priests, etc. were looked after by Rama. Rama is the eldest son of king Dasaratha who had the welfare of his subjects at heart. The king wanted to make him the crown prince in order to please his subjects. Although he also wanted the same thing, it is said in the Vedas that others’ desire should be considered and honoured. It was a tradition that the king, in his own lifetime, duly appoints his successor by anointing him heir apparent (yuvaraja). He could then use a white umbrella and sit on the throne (bhadrasana), both of which are the signs of royalty.
Story of Rama 1.1.21
Seeing the preparations to appoint Rama as the crown prince, Dasaratha’s youngest wife Kaikeyi asked him to grant the boons promised to her earlier. (These preparations start with acquiring a chair made of the udumbara wood, and end with making a drink mixed with curd, purified butter, honey, water, etc.). These boons were promised to her long ago by king Dasaratha, when he was helping Indra in his fight against the demons. The asuras used their maya on him but Kaikeyi saved him by using the skill taught to her by the sage Dhavalanga. Her name is derived from Kekaya which is actually the name of a place, but is also used for the king of Kekaya janapada.
Bharata's Appeal to Rama 1.1.36
Bharata pleads with Rama, saying, “How can I go back? The kingdom might have been given to me by our father and mother, but you alone are worthy of ruling it”. That is why he tells Rama, “You are the king”. Why should this theory be accepted? “Because you are dharmajna, you know the code of conduct, you are aware of the time-honored tradition that if there is an elder brother living who also possesses all the virtues, a younger brother is not to be made king. Therefore, you must come back” said Bharata in accordance with law. On the other hand, Rama who could bear the hardships of forest life with his great physical strength was also not willing to rule. There are four causes or hetu catustaya for his reluctance to go back. He is paramodara, a person who gives up his own happiness for others. Udara is compassionate. Rama is paramodara because he is willing to renounce his kingdom in favour of Bharata. (Sumukha) He is smiling even in the forest. To massage his feet and look after his comforts, he has Lakshmana. To fulfil all his worldly needs, he has lokamata Sita. In his own kingdom, he had the difficult duty of looking after the welfare of his people. In the forest, he has no such obligation. Instead, he has the satisfaction of yoga. Therefore, he thinks there is more happiness in the forest than there was in his kingdom. And since fate has given him this opportunity, he is happier still. Although Bharata offered the kingdom repeatedly Rama does not accept it because he wants to uphold his departed father’s word. This enhances his glory. The greatest cause is his father’s order. Since his father had asked him to go into the forest for fourteen years he does not want to go back.
After Bharata left, Rama thought that the people of Ayodhya, and also Bharata would keep coming back to see him. So in order to stop them from doing so he decided to move to a remote place. As demons and thieves peopled Dandaka, he became careful and entered, prepared to meet the hazards. Dandaka, the abode of king Danda, which was a janapada, a habitat for commoners once, became a forest due to the curse of Sukracarya. By the rule Kutsayam kan, it became Dandaka and later when many more woods grew around it, it came to be known as Dandakas in the plural.
Visnu’s bow 1.1.42
Agastya offers Rama the divine bow along with other weapons. Indra had given the bow to Agastya. The commentator traces its history. In the beginning, Lord Rama defeated Bhargava and obtained from him Visnu’s bow from him, which was kept with Varuna. Indra took it from Varuna and brought it to Agastya to be given to Rama. Similarly, other weapons etc were also collected. In the Aranyakanda Agastya says Indra has given him this bow which belonged to Visnu, thus establishing the fact that it is really Visnu’s bow. It might also mean that Indra is Paramesvara Visnu and Aindra is Vaisnava. Indra also gave him two quivers which had unlimited number of arrows. Paramapritah: Rama was very pleased at having acquired weapons worthy of his stature.
Marica’s Advice to Ravana 1.1.49-50
Khara and Dushana were Visrava’s sons by another wife and were Ravana’s half-brothers. The word Ravana is derived from Visravas. The rule is, that for the ‘son of Visravas’, both Visravana and Ravana can be formed. Varyamanopi: in spite of being forbidden by Marica seven times that it was not proper to go against mighty Rama and abducting another’s wife it was clearly inviting trouble, and that he might also end up like Khara, etc., Ravana was so much concerned over the killing of his kinsmen that he compelled the famous Marica to assist him in abducting Sita.
Rama’s Reaction towards Sita and her Entry into Fire 1.1.82
Rama spoke harsh and hurtful words to Sita in public. Talking like this in front of others shows it was not Rama’s, but other’s suspicion that caused this. Unable to stand such words, Sita entered the fire. It shows that since she was a true sati, she could invoke fire at will. In fact, it was Lakshmana who lit the fire. Then while they looked on, the Fire-god told him, “Sita is pure in body and soul, totally without sin. Accept her.” Having thus established Sita’s inviolate virtue, Rama was pleased. He was worshipped by all the gods.
Another version of the text states that Rama’s pleasure and the god’s worship should be taken as one action, not separately. Having heard Agni’s words that Sita was pure, Rama accepted her. The three worlds and their moving and unmoving beings along with the gods and sages were satisfied with that action of Rama and hence all the gods worshipped him. But Madhava Yogi takes the two verses separately.
Rama’s Rule 1.1.90-97
Narada narrates the story in the future tense. In Rama’s rule the people will be happy with wealth, offspring’s and cattle. They will be free from malice, jealousy, anger. One is the outer sign of happiness and the other a state of mind. There will be no fear of drought or robbery. They will not see their sons dying before them. Women will not be widows. They will not live after their husbands’ death, either following them in death, or provided for by dutiful sons. Another interpretation of the word vidhava is one having many mates. There shall be no polyandry, no fear from hunger and no dearth of food. In the Krtayuga everyone was happy because they had no connection with adharma. In the next phase, Tretayuga, one fourth of life will be taken over by adharma. But due to the presence of Rama and Lakshmana it cannot enter their kingdom. Therefore, people will be happy.
Having described Rama’s reign, Narada goes on to tell the rest of the story. Rama performed a hundred Asvamedha yajnas. When performed without any wish for worldly gains, they grant the performer the Brahmaloka. Although Rama is Brahman himself, and does not need any means to gain his own loka (world), still since he is residing in a human form, he performed these yajnas in order to expiate the seven sins. Having given away untold wealth, he will go to Brahmaloka. He will establish many pious dynasties in different areas like Kamarupa, Kanyakubja, etc, which shall rule forever.
Rama will go to Brahmaloka after ruling the kingdom for eleven thousand years with his yogic wisdom. That is why it is said: Sve sve karmanyabhiratah samsiddhim labhate narah and Svakarmana tamabhyarcya siddhim vindati manavah A person achieves success by doing his duty. Rama is Brahman. Brahmaloka is obtainable only by yogis who, like Rama, perform yajna, charity, etc . It is the world of Brahma, Visnu or Siva. It is over and above Bhu, Bhuva and Sva and even beyond Satyabrahmaloka. It is the loka of Brahman, the Supreme Being. The Lord says people, hostile and cruel, will be sent to innumerable dark, demonic births. But it is strange that Narada has not used the term Visnupada to denote the state of true bliss.
Benefits of the Ramayana 1.1.98-100
Narada lists the benefits of the study of Ramayana. He says it purifies. It gives long life and assures heaven after death. It benefits the four castes. A brahmana becomes skilled in speech (sabda brahma). A kshatriya becomes king or the owner of land. A vaisya gets twice or thrice the value for his goods. Even the sudras gain higher castes.