Maharishi Valmiki is revered as Adi Kavi, the first poet, author of Ramayana, the first epic poem. Valmiki was born as Agni Sharma to a brahmin named Pracheta (also known as Sumali) of Bhrigu gotra. According to legend he once met the great sage Narada and had a discourse with him on his duties. Moved by Narada's words, Agni Sharma began to perform penance and chanted the word "Mara" which meant "kill". As he performed his penance for several years, the word became "Rama", the name of Lord Vishnu. Huge anthills formed around Agni Sharma and this earned him the name of Valmiki. Agni Sharma, rechristened as Valmiki, learnt the scriptures from Narada and became the foremost of ascetics, revered by everyone.
Vishnudharmottara Purana says that Valmiki was born in the Treta Yuga as a form of Bramha who composed Ramayana and that people desirious of earning knowledge should worship Valmiki. He was later reincarnated as Tulsidas, who the Ramcharitamanas, which was the Awadhi-Hindi version of the Ramayana.
It is also said that Maharishi Valmiki in his early life was a highway dacoit named Ratnakar, who used to rob people after killing them. On the advice of Narada Muni, Ratnakar performed great penance by reciting great Mantra of Rama Nama. After years of meditation, a divine voice declared his penance successful and bestowed him with new name Valmiki, the one who born out of ant-hills.
How Ratnakar became Valmiki
Ratnakara was the son of sage Prachetasa . When he was a young boy, he went into the forest. While playing he lost his way and began to cry. Just then a hunter came there looking for a prey. He saw the chubby boy and fondled and pacified him. The hunter had no children. He took the boy to his hut in the midst of the jungle.
Ratnakara's father searched for his son all around the hermitage, but could not find him. Finally he and his wife thought that the boy had become the prey of some wild beast. Both wept very much.
The hunter and his wife brought up the lad with great love. Ratnakara forgot his parents. He took the hunter for his father and the hunter's wife for his mother. He was taught how to hunt by the father. Ratnakara was a clever boy and learnt it quickly. He became a hunter with a sure aim.
To the birds and beasts of the forest, he became verily Yama, the God of Death. When he came of age, his foster father searched for a bride and celebrated his marriage with a beautiful girl from a hunters family. In a few years she gave birth to some children. Thus Ratnakara's family grew in size. It became very difficult for him to provide food and clothing to his large family. So he took to robbery. He began to attack people going from one village to another, frighten them and to away all that they had. If they opposed him, he killed them.
One day Ratnakara was sitting by the side of a road waiting for a victim. It happened that the great sage Narada was passing that way. Narada had his favorite musical instrument, a Veena, in his hands. As he played on the Veena, he was singing a song in praise of God. When he was thus lost in joy, suddenly Ratnakara rushed at him. He lifted the stout staff in his hands and shouted, "Look here! Hand over all you have or else I'll break your head."
But Narada was not an ordinary man. He was a divine sage, and one who wandered all over the Earth, the Heaven and the Underworld. He was not frightened by the loud shouts of Ratnakara. He smilingly, "My dear man, all that I have only this old Veena and the rags I we; If you want them, you can certainly take them. Why should you break my head for these?"
Ratnakara was astonished at these words. He looked up at Narada's face. There was neither fear nor anger; there was only peace. And how bright was that face! He was surprised to see a face tender and innocent like that of a child. He had never seen such a lovely face. As he gazed, his cruel mind melted into tenderness.
Narada sat beneath a tree and as played on the Veena, sang a song in praise of God. It was sweet like the song of cuckoo. Ratnakara was deeply moved. Noticing the change, the sage Narada paused in his song and said, "Brother, stealing is a sin. Killing animals is also sinful. Why do you do such evil?"
"Sire, what can I do Ratnakara replied, I have a large family. There are my old parents and my wife and children, They partake of my happiness and my troubles. I have to provide them with food and clothing. Hunting and stealing are all I know. What else can I do?"
The sage smiled and said, "My friend, will any member of your family partake of your sin also ? Go and ask them, and bring back their reply."
Ratnakara thought that Narada was trying a trick to make his escape. Narada understood it and again said, "Well, child, if you do not trust me, you can tie me to this tree and then go."
Ratnakara thought that was all right. He tied Narada to a tree and went home.
On reaching home, he first went to his father and said, "Father, I rob people to get food and clothing for you all. It seems that is a sin. Do you not share in that sin?"
His father was angry and said, "You sinner, you should not do such bad things. Am I to share your sins? No, never. You have to suffer for what you do."
Ratnakara went to his mother and said, "Surely, mother, you will share my sin, won't you?" But she also scolded him and sent him away. He then went to his wife and said, "Do you know how I earn to provide you and your children with food and clothing? It is by robbery. But I steal for your sake. Therefore you are also partners in my sin. Isn't that so?"
The wife was displeased and said, 'What are you saying? What have we to do with your sin? You are my husband, and my children are your children. It is your duty to look after us and give us food and clothing."
Ratnakara's eyes were opened. He realized that he alone was responsible for all his sins no one else would share his sin. As soon as it was clear to him, he ran to Narada. He untied the sage and amidst weeping, narrated to him all that had happened in his home. Falling at Narada's feet he asked the sage, "Oh, sire now what of me? How can I atone for all the sins I have committed? You are my only savior."
Narada lifted him up and wiped his tears. He consoled him saying, "Do not be afraid. I shall teach you a way to wash off your sins." So he taught Ratnakara the sacred name of Rama - 'Rama Nam'. He made him sit beneath a tree and asked him to go on repeating the sacred name of Rama. He said, I shall come here again, Till then you should not get up and go away." Then the sage departed.
Ratnakara continued his 'tapas’ chanting the name of Rama. His eyes were closed. His whole mind was concentrate on the chanting of the name of the Lord He forgot his existence. He had neither food nor sleep for days and days. And in this way quite a few years passed. An ant hill grew all around and above him. He could not even be seen by anybody.
At last one day the sage Narada again came that way. Of course, he knew that Ratnakara was inside the anthill. Very carefully he cleared that anthill still Ratnakara was wholly lost in his 'tapas' and did not wake up to the world around him. Narada chanted the name of Rama in his ears. Then he opened his eyes and saw the sage standing before him. He saluted him from where he was sitting. Narada helped him to get up. He also gently touched him all over. Ratnakara felt new life flowing through him. He touched the sage's feet; Narada lifted him up and embraced him. He said to him, "Ratnakara, you are blessed. God is pleased with your 'tapas'. You are now a sage of the highest order, a Brahmarshi. As you are now reborn from a Valmika (the ant-hill), will here after be famous as Valmiki."
Tears of joy welled up in Valmiki’s eyes at these words. He prostrated before Narada again and said, "Sire, all this is your kindness. The company of good men uplifts man. I am myself a proof of this." Narada blessed him and went his way.
The sage, Valmiki, now formed his ashrama or hermitage near the river Ganga. His fame spread every – where Many other sages went with their families and settled down in his ashrama. This sons became the disciples of Valmiki.
One day Sri Rama with his wife Seetha and brother Lakshmana came to Valmiki's ashrama. Valmiki's joy knew no limit. With the help of his disciples he waited on them with great enthusiasm. His disciples brought them water to wash their hands and feet, and spread mattresses for them to sit upon. They offered the guests fresh milk and tasty fruits.
After resting a while, Sri Rama narrated his story. He had come to the forest so that his father's promise might be fulfilled. Valmiki was very pleased to hear it. He said, "Ramachandra, there is none so truthful as you are. You have given up your kingdom so that your father's promise may be kept. Giving up a king's throne, you have come to the forest. You are not an ordinary man but the Almighty Himself. The power of your name is such that I have changed from a sinful hunter to a sage, a Brahmarshi. Your grace is great."
Sri Rama smiled. Then he said to Valmiki, "O great sage, we have come he to live near your hermitage. Please show us a suitable spot." There was a hill very near Valmiki's hermitage. It was called Chitrakuta. It was a beautiful place with many kinds of plants full of flowers and trees bearing fruits. Valmiki guided Rama to that hill. Sri Rama lived for a while on the hill with his wife and brother.
The first sloka
Valmiki was going to the river Ganges for his daily ablutions. A disciple by the name Bharadwaja was carrying his clothes. On the way, they came across the Tamasa Stream. Looking at the stream, Valmiki said to his disciple, "Look, how clear is this water, like the mind of a good man! I will bathe here today." When he was looking for a suitable place to step into the stream, he saw a crane couple mating. Valmiki felt very pleased on seeing the happy birds. Suddenly, hit by an arrow, the male bird died on the spot. Filled by sorrow, its mate screamed in agony and died of shock. Valmiki's heart melted at this pitiful sight. He looked around to find out who had shot the bird. He saw a hunter with a bow and arrows, nearby. Valmiki became very angry. His lips opened and he cried out,
ma ni?ada prati??ha tvamagama? sasvati? sama?
yat krauñcamithunadekam avadhi? kamamohitam
You will find no rest for the long years of Eternity
For you killed a bird in love and unsuspecting
Emerging spontaneously from Valmiki's rage and grief, this is considered to be the first shloka in Sanskrit literature. Valmiki later composed the entire Ramayana with the blessings of Lord Brahma in the same meter that issued forth from him as the shloka. Thus this shloka is revered as the first shloka in Hindu literature. Valmiki is revered as the first poet or Adi Kavi and Ramayana, the first kavya(poem).
Ramayana, originally written by Valmiki, consists of 24,000 shlokas and 7 cantos (ka??as) including Uttara Kanda. Ramayana is composed of about 480, 002 words, being a quarter of the length of the full text of Mahabharata or about four times the length of Iliad. Ramayana tells the story of a prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the demon-king (Rakshasa) of Lanka.The Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BCE to 100 BCE or about co-eval with early versions of Mahabharata. As with many traditional epics, it has gone through a process of interpolations and redactions, making it impossible to date accurately.
Valmiki is also quoted to be the contemporary of Rama. Rama met Valmiki during his period of exile and interacted with him. Valmiki gave shelter to Sita in his hermitage when Rama banished her. Kusha and Lava, the twin sons of Shri Rama were born to Sita in this hermitage.
His first disciples to whom he taught the Ramayana were Kusha and Lava, the sons of Rama, In another verse, it is also stated that he is from the lineage of the sage Bhargava.
Lav and Kush later sang the divine story in Ayodhya during the Ashwamedha yajna congregation, to the pleasure of the audience, whereupon, King Rama questioned who they were and later visited Valmiki's hermitage to confirm if Sita, the two children claimed as their mother was in fact his wife in exile. Later, he summoned them to his royal palace. Kusha and Lava sang the story of Rama there and Rama confirmed that whatever had been sung by these two children was entirely true.
Valmiki Jayanti marks the birth anniversary of the great author and sage, Maharishi Valmiki. Every year, Valmiki Jayanti falls on full moon day which is known as Purnima, during the month of Ashwin whereas in the Gregorian calendar it corresponds to the month of September-October.
There are several Valmiki temples in India, but the most prominent one is known to be situated in Chennai. Take a look at some interesting facts about the Maharishi Valmiki Temple:
• The Maharishi Valmiki temple situated in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai.
• The temple stands on the East Coast Road in the aptly named Valmiki Nagar.
• Valmiki temple is believed to be around 1300 years old.
• It is believed that after writing the epic Ramayana, Maharishi Valmiki rested at the spot where the Valmiki temple now stands, reported India.com.
• The Valmiki temple now falls under the supervision of the Maruntheeshwarar temple that was constructed during the Chola reign, is another prominent temple in the city.
• It is believed that sage Valmiki visited the Marundeeswarar temple to worship Lord Shiva following which the region was named Thiruvalmikiyur which gradually changed to Thiruvanmiyur.
Valmiki is a great example of how people are uplifted by the company of good men. By coming into contact with Narada, he became a great sage, a Brahmarshi; and he also gave the 'Ramayana' which the world can never forget. It is one of the great epics of the world. People of other countries read it in their own languages. The study of the 'Ramayana can reform our lives. We can never forget Valmiki who gave this great epic to us. Let us offer our salutations to that great sage and bard.