English Commentaries

Valmiki’s Curse 1.2.15

As it is not considered improper for a kshatriya to kill birds and beasts while hunting, similarly a nishada (a hunter) can kill. But he did so while the birds were making love and hence Valmiki says he shall never be established in any country, city or village by building a house or acquiring land. And this curse is not merely for this nishada’s lifetime, but shall hold true for eternity, through his future generations.
Why was Valmiki, who was not easily swayed, provoked into subjecting the nishada to such a dire curse? The commentator says, it is due to the law that “one's sins will eat him away”. Usually sages pardon the rakshasas who do them harm because they observe the normal brahmana tenets which uphold self-restraint. Then why this curse? The commentator says no stigma is attached to Valmiki because what he said was involuntary. How? The lord ordained so and the goddess of speech hidden in his mouth motivated it. Why did the goddess bring out the first verse from a heavy heart? Because it was ordained that the kavya he was to write should have sadness as the prime emotion. The beginning, the middle and the end had to be clearly sombre. Besides, the purpose of this kavya is to show that lord Rama is going to kill Ravana who is the most evil spirit tormenting the three worlds. The curse is aimed at Ravana also. He is the nishada, because he tortures the gods, seers and mankind.
The commentator explains through several grammatical rules that the word kraumca applies to a person, lean and thin. Rama has undergone a lot of upheavals losing his kingdom, going into the forest and has become lean. From this lean couple, namely Rama and Sita, Ravana has taken one (Sita) apart and thus has caused her such grief which is worse than death. Rama and Sita enjoyed their conjugal happiness in accordance with dharma. Since Ravana has separated them, he is warned that whatever happiness, wealth, kingdom, sons and grandsons, servants, etc. were granted him for a long time to come, will serve him thus far and no further. This is the purpose of writing this epic which has been indicated and vindicated by Valmiki right at the beginning.

Manishada 1.2.16-17

When the verse 'ma nishada' came out of the mouth of Valmiki he started cogitating in his mind. What is that he had uttered, seeing the grief of this bereaved bird was the question in his mind. Is it prose or poetry, or is it only a manifestation of meaningless Sanskrit words?
Reflecting on this, the intelligent, knowledgeable and intellectually sound sage Valmiki made up his mind. When there is a dilemma over choosing a good or a bad word, prose or poetry, a person who knows the right solution has divine grace.

Metre of the Slokas 1.2.18

Influenced by the grief of the bereaved bird, whatever has come out of Valmiki’s mouth is a sloka, a quartet with equal number of letters in each line like the Gayatri mantra it has eight letters in each line (pada). Thus it is not an uncrafted verse but follows the norms set by works on Chanda Sastra (grammar). It can he sung to a stringed or a percussion instrument. "O Bharadvaja! Learn this sloka" tells Valmiki.

Contemplation of Valmiki and Brahma's Grace 1.2.23-37

Having entered the asrama, Valmiki sat down with his disciples and started teaching them. The commentator says Valmiki became engaged in meditation upon the four-faced Rudra and Amba. But there are others who feel that although he was teaching, his thoughts were still distracted by the killing of the male bird. Then the creator Brahma comes to see Valmiki. He the creator of Bhu, Bhuva, Sva, the three worlds along with swarga, etc. and the Pancakrtya (the five elements). He is also the eternal being, the most luminous one, whose light outshines the Moon, planets, stars etc. Brahma comes in his four-faced form. This is significant to the commentator who traces the importance of the fourfold incarnation of Vishnu (Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, Satrughna) through the fourfold division (Caturvyha ridya). Further, this form suggests he is the origin of the four Vedas. As Valmiki was meditating on this form, Brahma came to see him and also to see what was happening after this verse had broken forth from his mouth. This answers any doubts that may have arisen as to why Brahma came to see the sage, instead of the latter going to see him. Seeing him, Valmiki was astonished but he got up quickly from his seat, bowed to him and stood before him with his hands folded in greeting.
Prostrating in obeisance and then standing folded hands constitutes one of the sixteen ways of greeting a guest. Valmiki greeted Brahma without any voluntary thought. After the first shock of surprise of seeing the creator had subdued, he welcomed him offering water to wash his feet and to drink, and gave him a seat and enquired about his health. Asking Brahma about his health is enquiring beyond the domain of birth-death. When Lord Brahma was seated, Valmiki with his thoughts centred upon him became engaged in meditation.
Papatmana is one who is sinful and one whose heart is tarnished by evil feelings. As Valmiki's heart was wailing, he deliberated on the reason for the nishada (a Papatmana) to kill the krauncha.
Brahma, the omniscient, understood the turbulence going on in Valmiki's mind because of the curse and smilingly said to him: “you have indeed composed this sloka and you shall not think about it”. Valmiki was wondering why inside his mind the problem of the sloka was cropping up, although he was meditating on Brahma. Answering this unspoken question, Brahma told him that the sloka emerged from his lips because he had so ordained. Brahma wanted Valmiki to write the whole kavya to the metre of the sloka.
Brahma says, “O Brahman! Sarasvati came out of your mouth according to my wishes and with her help you have to compose an epic based on the entire life of Rama." Since Valmiki was wondering how he should do it, Brahma says “Rama alone is the righteous one (dharmatma) in this world at this time. Whatever is known about Rama or is not known will be revealed to you. In the middle of telling this story, many things will become clear like the mystery of Brahman, the philosophy of everlasting bliss as also the ideal conduct to be followed in this world. Write the story of Rama in a poetical format”.
Valmiki was thinking that although due to Brahma’s directions and goddess Sarasvati’s help, he might find it easy to write an epic, he had no one to popularise it. Then what was the purpose of writing it? To this Brahma answers, “Your epic Ramayana shall be popular as long as the mountains stand and the rivers run on this earth and it shall be done without any effort on your part because of my grace (kripa). By writing this you shall come to stay in Brahmaloka, (seven higher and seven lower worlds). These worlds are a part of the enormous cosmos.

The poetic style of the Ramayana 1.2.40-43

The epic had the twin qualities of oja and prasada in equal measure. It is sweet, as in Vaidarbha style of poetry which employs appropriate words for depicting distinct emotions. Composed by a sage and a seer, and Sarasvati, the goddess of learning, it is not based on fiction. It is a passport to Brahmaloka.