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Valmiki Ramayana.jpg
Vālmīki ṛṣi composing the Rāmāyaṇa.
Titles/honours Deepanshu Kulshreshtha
Philosophy Dharmic movement called Valmikism is based on Valmiki's teachings.
Composed Rāmāyaṇa and Yoga Vasiṣṭha

Valmiki (Sanskrit: वाल्मीकि; Vālmīki)[1] is celebrated as the harbinger-poet in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Rāmāyaṇa, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself.[2] He is revered as the Ādi Kavi, which translates to First Poet, for he invented śloka[3] (i.e. first verse or epic metre), which set the base and defined the form to Sanskrit poetry.

Early life

Replica of sage Valmiki at Dwaraka Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh

The Uttara Khanda tells the story of Valmiki's early life, as an unnamed highway robber who used to rob people after killing them. Once, the robber tried to rob the divine sage Narada for the benefit of his family. Narada asked him if his family would share the sin he was incurring due to the robbery. The robber replied positively, but Narada told him to confirm this with his family. The robber asked his family, but none agreed to bear the burden of sin. Dejected, the robber finally understood the truth of life and asked for Narada's forgiveness. Narada taught the robber to worship God. The robber meditated for many years, so much so that Ant-hills grew around his body. Finally, a divine voice declared his penance successful, bestowing him with the name "Valmiki": "one born out of ant-hills" (Valmikam in Sanskrit means Ant-hill).[4]

Writer of the Rāmāyaṇa

The youthful sage Nārada at the white-bearded Vālmīki's hermitage
Sītā in Vālmīki's hermitage

The Rāmāyaṇa, originally written by Vālmīki, consists of 23,000 ślokas and 7 cantos {Kaṇḍas} including the Uttara canto {Kaṇḍa}. Rāmāyaṇa is composed of about 480,002 words, being a quarter of the length of the full text of the Mahābhārata or about four times the length of the Iliad. The Rāmāyaṇa tells the story of a prince, Rāma of Ayodhyā, whose wife Sītā is abducted by the demon-king (Rākṣasa) of Laṅkā, Rāvaṇa. The Vālmīki's Rāmāyaṇa is dated variously from 500 BC to 100 BC, or about co-eval with early versions of the Mahābhārata.[5] As with many traditional epics, it has gone through a process of interpolations and redactions, making it impossible to date accurately.

Vālmīki is also quoted to be the contemporary of Śrī Rāma. Śrī Rāma met Vālmīki during his period of exile and interacted with him. Vālmīki gave shelter to Sītā in his hermitage when Rama banished her. Kuśa and Lava the twin sons of Sri Rama were born to Sītā in this hermitage.Vālmīki taught Rāmāyaṇa to Kuśa and Lava, who later sang the divine story in Ayodhyā during the Aśvamedha yajña congregation, to the pleasure of the audience, whereupon, King Śrī Rāma questioned who they were and later visited Valmiki's hermitage to confirm if the Sita, the two children claimed as their mother was in fact his wife in exile. Later, he summoned them to his royal palace. Kuśa and Lava sang the story of Śrī Rāma there, and Śrī Rāma confirmed that whatever had been sung by these two children was entirely true.

The first śloka

The Killing of Krouncha Heron

Vālmīki was going to the river Ganges for his daily ablutions. A disciple by the name Bharadvāja was carrying his clothes. On the way, they came across the Tamasa Stream. Looking at the stream, Vālmīki 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. Vālmīki 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. Vālmīki'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. Vālmīki became very angry. His lips opened and he cried out,

मां निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः। यत्क्रौंचमिथुनादेकम् अवधीः काममोहितम्॥'

mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhāṁ tvamagamaḥ śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
yat krauñcamithunādekam avadhīḥ kāmamohitam[6]
You will find no rest for the long years of Eternity
For you killed a bird in love and unsuspecting[7]

Emerging spontaneously from Valmiki's rage and grief, this was the first śloka in Sanskrit literature. Later Vālmīki Muni composed the entire Rāmāyaṇa with the blessings of Lord Brahmā in the same meter that issued forth from him as the śloka. Thus this śloka is revered as the "first śloka" in Hindu literature. Vālmīki Muni is revered as the first poet, or Ādi Kavi, and the Rāmāyaṇa, the first Kāvya.

His first disciples to whom he taught the Rāmāyaṇa were Kuśa and Lava, the sons of Śrī Rāma.

प्रचेत्सोऽहं दशमः पुत्रो राघवनंन्दन | न स्मराम्यनृतं वाक्यमिमौ तु तव पुत्रकौ || 96:16

In another verse, it is also stated that he is from the lineage of the sage Bhārgava

संनिबद्धं हि श्लोकानां चतुर्विंशत्सहस्रकम् | उपाख्यानशतं चैव भार्गवेण तपस्विना || 94:24

As God's incarnation

The Vishnudharmottara Purana says that Valmiki was born in the Tetrayuga as a form of Vishnu who composed the Ramayana, and that people desirious of earning knowledge should worship Valmiki.[8]

The Balmiki community found in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat worship Valmiki as their ancestor and as God.


  1. ^ Julia Leslie, Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions: Hinduism and the Case of Valmiki, Ashgate (2003), p. 154. ISBN 0-7546-3431-0
  2. ^ Vālmīki, Robert P. Goldman (1990). The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An Epic of Ancient India 1. Princeton University Press. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-691-01485-X. 
  3. ^ P. 505 Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, Volume 3 By Sunil Sehgal
  4. ^ Suresh Chandra (1998). Encyclopaedia of Hindu gods and goddesses. Sarup & Sons. pp. 262–3. ISBN 9788176250399. 
  5. ^ Goldman, Robert P., The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An Epic of Ancient India pp. 23
  6. ^ IAST encoded transliteration (modified from original source to accurately reflect sandhi rules)
  7. ^ Buck, William and van Nooten, B. A. Ramayana. 2000, page 7
  8. ^ P. 166 Mythology of Vishnu and His Incarnations By Manohar Laxman Varadpande

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