Bala Kanda – 1: Valmiki’s Inspiration
The sage Valmiki was in his ashrama when he saw that he had a visitor. It was the divine sage Narada. After welcoming Narada, Valmiki asked him who was the one who was principled, conscientious, truthful, had the respect of everyone, handsome, courageous, and whom even the Gods feared to fight with.
Narada then said that Rama descended from the Ikshavaku dynasty, was most valorous, steadfast, and conscientious. He was powerful, skilled with the use of the bow, truthful, pure in conduct, and learned. Rama looked as brilliant as the full moon and was like Dharma himself.
Narada then narrated the story of Kausalya’s son Rama introducing him as the son of King Dasharatha. He told the story of how Rama had to go into exile to the forests and how his father pined away for his son and died in grief. In the forests, the Lanka king Ravana abducted Seetha after Lakshmana disfigured Ravana’s sister, the demoness Shurpanakha.
Rama then befriended the vanara Hanuman and, with his help found out where Seetha was. He then went to war against Ravana, aided by the vanara king Sugreeva. After a long war, Rama killed Ravana and returned to Ayodhya.
Narada told Valmiki that the world would be righteous, free from disease and famine when Rama ruled. Narada then told Valmiki that whoever reads Ramayana, the legend of Rama will be liberated from all their sins.
After narrating this tale, Narada left from there. Valmiki then went to the Tamasa River for his rituals. There he saw a pair of herons mating when suddenly a hunter’s arrow killed the male. Seeing the female grieve, Valmiki was moved. He cursed the hunter saying, “Oh hunter, may you never attain a state of rest for killing a bird that was mating with its partner.”
The way Valmiki uttered the curse surprised him because of how the words were composed. The four verses had letters in a metre and had come out of grief. So, he called it Shloka (since it had come from his grief or Shoka).
After he returned to his ashram, a guest arrived. It was none other than the creator Lord Brahma. The creator then referred to the shloka Valmiki had uttered and told him to use it to write the Ramayana. Brahma told him to write the story of Rama that included the plight of Seetha that had not been revealed to the world.
Brahma told Valmiki that the Ramayana would flourish as long as the mountains and rivers exist on this earth. He then vanished, leaving Valmiki in a state of surprise. Valmiki then decided that he would compose the entire story of Rama in verses similar to the shloka he had uttered.
Valmiki then entered into a state of meditation where he saw the story of Rama in its entirety. He then composed the Ramayana, the story of Rama, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The story described Rama’s birth, his breaking of the great bow, meeting with Parashurama, and exile. The story described Rama’s grief when Seetha was abducted.
Valmiki’s Ramayana then narrated the story of Hanuman, who flew to Lanka in search of Seetha. The killing of Ravana, the coronation of Vibheeshana, Rama’s return, his ascension to the throne, and Seetha’s desolation were all described by Valmiki.
Valmiki composed the legend of Rama even while Rama was present on earth and ruling over it. A total of 24,000 verses were composed in six books or kandas with five hundred sargas or chapters.….. to be continued