Episode 26 – Structure of the Valmiki Ramayana – A detailed description

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Till the previous episode we saw how Lord Brahma had blessed Valmiki Maharishi to commence writing the great Ramayana text. In the process we also witnessed the three main divine events that led Valmiki Maharishi to author this text. Further, let’s go into the details of the Ramayana text little by little from today. In today’s episode we shall mainly see how does the structure of the entire text looks like, and let’s try to understand the intricate details of it.

We shall continue to look into the next “Sargam” (Chapter). Let’s look at the important slokas and understand the in-depth meaning of each of them.

“Praaptha raajyasya raamasya vaalmeekir bhagawan rishihi!

Chakaara charitham krisnam vichithra pathamarthavath!!”

This above sloka begins by saying “Praaptha raajyasya raamasya” – which means, by the time when Valmiki Maharishi begins to author the Ramayana text, Lord Rama had already returned to his kingdom after his fourteen-year period of exile. Hence we can infer clearly that, the Valmiki Ramayana was composed only after Lord Rama had returned to Ayodhya after killing Ravana and releasing Goddess Sita Devi from Lanka.

“Chathur vimsad sahasraani slokaanaam utthavaan rishihi!

Tathaa sarga shataan pancha shat kaandaani tathottharam!!”

This sloka is very important to analyze and understand in depth. Let’s look at each phrase and understand what it says. Here, Valmiki Maharishi talks about the numbers – Number of slokas, number of sargams (chapters) and number of “Kaandaas” (Parts). “Chathur vimsad” means twenty-four and subsequently “Chathur vimsad sahasraani” means twenty-four thousand, “Shata” means one hundred and subsequently “Shataan pancha” means five hundred. Hence we can infer here that the Valmiki Ramayana consists of twenty-four thousand slokas (verses), fit into five hundred “Sargams” (Chapters). It is to be noted here that, if we say twenty-four thousand slokas and five hundred sargams, it would not be exactly the same numbers when one counts it manually. It just means that, the text comprises around twenty-four thousand slokas and around five hundred sargams. Just as the case in “Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham”, if one counts the number of slokas, it would not be exactly four thousand, and it might be even much more. Hence, it is to be noted that these numbers are just approximate counts and shouldn’t be taken as actual figures.

Moreover, Valmiki Maharishi now talks about the different “Kaandas” – There are six different “Kaandas”, viz. “Baala Kaanda”, “Ayodhya Kaanda”, “Aaranya Kaanda”, “Kishkinta Kaanda”, “Sundara Kaanda” and “Yuddha Kaanda” – He doesn’t complete here.. He says Shat kaandaani tathottharam”which means that, the first six “Kaandas” form one part of the text, and there is a seventh “Kaanda” called “Utthara Kaanda” that forms another part of the text.

You may ask at this point, why didn’t he write it as “Saptha kaandaani” and why has he written has “Shat kaandaani” and then separately “Tathottharam”. Here’s where we need to understand a deeper meaning – Till the first six kaandas ending with the “Yuddha Kaanda”, is the part of the story that had already taken place before Valmiki Maharishi begins to author the text. The seventh Kaanda namely “Utthara Kaanda” is still yet to happen. It is important that we shouldn’t get confused here. Let me explain this in a bit more detail: At the time when Valmiki Maharishi begins to author the Ramayana, Lord Rama had just returned to Ayodhya and His coronation as the King of Ayodhya had just taken place – He hadn’t still sent Sita Devi again to the forest, Sita hadn’t delivered their two children, Lava and Kusa yet and these two children hadn’t learnt the Ramayana yet from Valmiki Maharishi – All these incidents haven’t taken place still. Hence we should clearly understand that, the Valmiki Ramayana is born in between these two major points of Lord Rama’s life – He has been coronated as the king of Ayodhya, however the further incidents hadn’t taken place yet. That’s why it is “Shat kaandaani tathottharam” – Whatever has happened so far is the first six Kaandas and whatever is going to happen in the future is the seventh kaanda – the “Utthara Kaanda”.

There’s much more evidence to this point in the subsequent slokas and sargams. Let’s continue to discuss this point with much more detail in the next episode!

Episode 25: Valmiki Maharishi commences to write the Ramayana text

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Till the previous episode we saw the three major events that influenced Valmiki Maharishi to write the Ramayana. The first event was the conversation between Sage Naarada and Valmiki Maharishi (Naarada-Valmiki Samvaadham) wherein Valmiki Maharishi asks sixteen questions to Sage Naarada. In reply, Sage Naarada gives the “Samkshepa Ramayana” to Valmiki Maharishi. The second event being, Valmiki Maharishi and his sishya, Sage Bharadwaja going to the banks of the river Tamasa for their customary bath and prayers, and after that they enter a garden to admire the nature. In that place, Valmiki Maharishi utters a curse to a hunter who shot a “Krouncha” bird with his arrow. After that, Valmiki Maharishi realizes that the curse came out of his mouth in the form of a grammatically correct “Sloka”. It was at this time of ponder that Lord Brahma enters Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram and this is the third event. Lord Brahma showers his divine grace on him to start writing the Ramayana story. Now how did he start to write? How did he manage to convert a 32-sloka Ramayana into a 24,000-sloka Ramayana? Let’s see today!

Lord Brahma blesses Valmiki Maharishi by saying that this Ramayana story that would be composed, would live forever in this world till the day the Sun and the Moon would exist, and subsequently He vanishes from the spot.

Lot of people in the modern day world unfortunately misunderstand the meaning of the word “Story”. They think that the word “story” means, describing something that had not happened in realty. In other words, people misinterpret all stories as mere “fictions”. However, in olden days, the concept of a “Story” was just the opposite – A story meant a history of what had exactly happened. For instance, if we say “Ramayana Story”, it is a story that had actually happened in realty. Why am I saying this? It’s only today that we have the entire concept of a “fiction”, and this concept never existed in those days and ages. For those people, only the Ithihaasas and the Puraanas were stories. Also, all these stories were not written out of imagination. But we misinterpret the meaning of a story in the modern day because we’re obsessed with reading daily newspapers and magazines, which are a prime source of “fictions”. Hence, it’s important for us to clearly distinguish between the “fictions” and “real stories”.

Now, Valmiki Maharishi sits down to commence writing the Ramayana text in a much bigger detail. The moment he again thinks as to how to convert a 32-sloka text into a larger one, Lord Brahma again blesses him from His abode!

“Hasitham bhaashitham chaiva gathiryaa yasya jeshtitham!

Tat sarvam dharma veeryena yathaavat sam prapashyathi!!”

The above sloka signifies that Valmiki Maharishi, with the divine grace of Lord Brahma, was able to see from his place, each and every incident that took place in Lord Rama’s life, right in front of his eyes – The instances where Rama laughed, where Rama cried, where Rama walked, where Rama talked… Whatever Rama and Sita have done, Valmiki Maharishi was able to view everything in minute detail! One might immediately ask, “Are these things possible in realty?” In the modern day life we see something called “Highlights” of an event especially in sports, wherein the broadcaster re-telecasts the entire game or important moments in the game compiled and consolidated, at a later time! If this can be possible today, it would have been possible in the ester years too! Moreover, for the amount of devotion, concentration and determination the ancient sages of this land had, anything might have been possible for them!

Moreover, for the human mind to be on this track, only the divine grace is needed and nothing else! All of us today keep praying for this “Divine Grace” from Bhagawan every day, however, if He intends to shower His grace, it’s just a matter of a few seconds! But this requires immense devotion from our side and this is why our elders and ancestors have emphasized a lot on various spiritual practices to be followed meticulously. Hence, it’s out duty to follow what our ancestors have laid down! Are we following all this today? Each of us has lot of different agendas and problems in life, and the problem with all of us today is that, we never prioritize Bhagawan in our daily life! This is the irony today – We keep running in search of so many things. But little do we think that whatever we are running for is just for a momentous pleasure and nothing else! If we really need to experience the permanent pleasure of our “Aathman” (The inner soul), we need to give atleast some importance to our everyday spiritual practices. I’m not saying that we should just sit at home and keep praying. Of course we need to work and earn money to make a living. But all I’m trying to say is that we need to strike a balance between our materialistic life and our spiritual quest! Just like how we split of savings and invest in different options like banks, mutual funds, etc. we should be able to split our time for the materialistic duties of life as well as our spiritual duties. Only if we are successful enough in doing this, we would be able to find the real happiness in our lives!

Hence, with the divine grace of Lord Brahma, Valmiki Maharishi was able to see in front of him, all what had happened in Lord Rama’s life and thus he commences writing the great Ramayana. In the next “Sarga” (Chapter) he says how did he sing this text, how many chapters and slokas does it contain, how many “Kaandams” (Parts) it has, etc. Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 24: Lord Brahma “rephrases” Valmiki Maharishi’s first sloka!

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In the previous episode, we witnessed that at a point when Valmiki Maharishi was feeling low and sad, Lord Brahma enters into his ashram. Upon seeing Lord Brahma, Valmiki Maharishi gets surprised and he offers all the respects to him and gives him a seat (Aasanam) to sit. Lord Brahma looks at Valmiki Maharishi and asks him the reason for his sadness and thus he narrates what had happened in the garden – the story of the hunter and how the poor bird was shot dead and a sloka came out of Valmiki Maharishi’s mouth in the form of a curse. On hearing the entire episode, Lord Brahma smiles and consoles Valmiki Maharishi by saying that he would help him modifying the sloka. Valmiki Maharishi gets surprised as to how can he do that. What did Lord Brahma do? How did he go about it? What meaning did he derive from the sloka of Valmiki Maharishi? Let’s find out today!

Let’s look at the particular sloka composed by Valmiki Maharishi again for better understanding and let’s see what meaning did Lord Brahma infer from it.

“Maa nishaada prathistaanthamagamah shaashwatheessamaaha!

Yath crouncha mithunaath deham avadih kaama mohitham!!”

Lord Brahma re-shapes the meaning of the above sloka in the following manner: “The two “Krouncha” birds that were sitting happily on the top of the tree are none other than Goddess Sita Devi and Lord Rama. But however a hunter by name Ravana separated them and if we pray towards the Lord who destroyed this Ravana, we can get all the goodness and prosperity in our life!” To be more precise, the word “Maa” in Sanskrit denotes “separation”, according to Valmiki Maharishi, because; let’s remember for a moment that he composed this sloka as a curse to the hunter who “separated” the two poor birds. But Lord Brahma uses that same “Maa” to denote “Maathaa Lakshmi” (Mother Lakshmi Devi). Where does Goddess Lakshmi reside? She resides in the heart of Lord Vishnu! Hence, if we worship this Lord Vishnu who killed Ravana by his arrows, one would get all kinds of prosperity in this world. Hence we can see here that, if we change the context of one alphabet “Maa”, the entire meaning of the sloka changes!

Hence, Lord Brahma affixes this new meaning to the sloka and asks Valmiki Maharishi to “start writing”! Valmiki Maharishi was again surprised by this statement of Lord Brahma and asks him back, “What should I write now?” Lord Brahma asks back, “Didn’t Naarada come before me? Didn’t he tell you the excerpts of the Samkshepa Ramayana already?” It’s only at this point that Valmiki Maharishi realizes the entire mystery what was going around him – It was the divine game that was taking shape, so as to make Valmiki Maharishi write the Ramayana! Now, Lord Brahma declares that it was He who sent Goddess Saraswathi (Goddess of education) on to his mouth and made him sing that first sloka. It’s the will and the wish of Lord Vishnu that His “Charithra” (story) is to be propagated to the entire world through Valmiki Maharishi, and saying this, Lord Brahma, by showering His divine grace, asks Valmiki Maharishi to commence writing the Ramayana story!

“Shloka evasthvayam vaddho naathra kaaryaa vichaaranaa!

Macchandaadeenamath brahman pravruthyeyam saraswathi!!”

From the above sloka, it’s evident that it was with the instruction of Lord Brahma, Goddess Saraswathi prevailed in Valmiki Maharishi’s mouth and it was She who sang the first sloka! So he says to Valmiki Maharishi to continue to sing with this divine grace and intervention.

“Raamasya charitham krisnam kuruthvam rishi sapthama!

Dharmaathmano bhagavathaha lokhe raamasya dheemathaha!!

Vriddham kathaya dheerasya yathaade naaradaachrutham!”

At this point in time, Lord Brahma asks Valmiki to remind himself about the Samkshepa Ramayana that Sage Naarada had already given to him earlier. Valmiki Maharishi now realizes that all of these people had pre-planned all these events that took place earlier and that, Bhagawan had chosen him to be that person who would propagate His life story to the entire world! What a fortune!!

“Yaavad hyaasyanthi girayaha charithasya maheethale!

Thaavad Ramayana kathaa lokeshu pracharshyathi!!”

Now towards the end of this conversation, Lord Brahma proclaims that the Ramayana story that is going to be sung by Valmiki Maharishi would exist in this world until the day when the Himalayas, the river Ganges, etc. would exist in the world – This means that the Ramayana would exist permanently in this world and nothing or nobody can ever destroy it! He continues saying that until the Ramayana exists, Valmiki Maharishi’s name and fame and significance will also co-exist with it! Some people might come up in the middle and try to spread  false proclamations that this entire story is false, there’s no proof of Lord Rama’s existence, etc., and they would try to argue, involve in fights, etc. But as time progresses, none of the arguments would stand and everything would automatically subside down! By saying this, Lord Brahma vanishes from that spot!

Now, Valmiki Maharishi has Sage Naarada’s Samkshepa Ramayana with him, along with the initial sloka that he had made, and also the divine grace of Lord Brahma. It’s all set for him now to start writing the Ramayana story. How did he manage to write the text? How did he manage to elongate a 32-sloka story into a great 24,000-sloka epic? Let’s wait to see in the next episode!

Episode 23 – Lord Brahma enters Valmiki Maharishi’s Ashram

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In the previous episode we witnessed the second major event that pushed Valmiki Maharishi to commence writing the Ramayana text. It is to be recalled that the first event was “Naarada-Valmiki Samvaadham” (The conversation between Sage Naarada and Valmiki Maharishi), wherein the “Samkshepa Ramayana” was born. Subsequently, Valmiki Maharishi and Sage Bharadwaja go to the banks of the river Tamasa for their daily bath and spiritual practices. This is the second event. After their routine, instead of returning back to the ashram, they enter a beautiful garden and get carried away by the beauty of two small “crouncha” birds sitting on top of a big tree. At that moment, a hunter comes and kills one of those birds and Valmiki Maharishi curses the hunter for his deed. After this, Valmiki Maharishi heads back to his ashram with all his fury and disbelief. What happens after returning to the ashram? Here’s the third event. Let’s see in today’s episode how it unfolds!

As mentioned towards the end of the previous episode, Valmiki Maharishi recollects his curse to the hunter, which had come out in the form of a “Sloka”. Hence, his “Shoka” (Distress in his heart) came out of his mouth through a “Sloka” (Verse). To his utter amazement, he discovers that this sloka is perfectly within the rules and regulations of the Sanskrit language! Basically if we’ve to write something in Sanskrit, firstly the “Chandas” should be correct. That is, the “Drishtup, Anushtup, Bruhathi”, etc. should be well within the rules, and also it should be clear with the number of alphabets/words used for the sloka. Also, the “Paadams” and “Vardhams” should be perfect. Upon thinking about all these, he found that all the above-said rules are satisfied in his sloka perfectly!

“Paada vardhaha aksharasamass tanthrilaya samanvitaha!

Shokaastasya pravirthome shloko bhavathu naanyathaa!!”

The above sloka signifies that Valmiki Maharishi was overwhelmingly surprised by his first sloka, confining perfectly to the “Samskrita Vyaakarnam” (Rules and regulations of the Sanskrit Language), however it conveys a negative message – A curse. Hence he was sad that his first ever sloka turned out to be a curse, rather than meaning something good. He starts to feel that this sloka should not be his first composition and this should be erased out. It is only at this point in time that Lord Brahma (The Universal creator) enters inside Valmiki Maharishi’s ashram! Here’s the third event!

“Aajagaama tatho brahmaa loka karthaassyambuhu!

Chathurmukho maha tejaaha drishtum tat muni pungavam!!”

In order to meet the “Muni Pungava” Valmiki Maharishi, the Lord of creations – The four-faced Brahma with his brilliant radiance (Tejas) (Chathurmukho maha tejaaha) comes to his ashram.

“Valmeekarathatham drishtvaa sahasothyaaya vaakyataha!

Praanjalipprayatho bhudhvaa tasthou para vismithaha!!

Poojayaamaasa tan devam paadhya arghya aasana vandanaihi!!”

The above verse says that Valmiki Maharishi offers all the respects to Lord Brahma in the form of “Paadhya”, Arghya”, “Aasanam” (that is, in the form of water, a seat, etc.) and welcomes him (Vanadanaihi). After offering everything to Lord Brahma, Valmiki Maharishi stands at the side of him with folded hands.

Lord Brahma has a look at Valmiki Maharishi once, right from his head to toe and asks him if he’s sad about something. Valmiki Maharishi replies in the affirmative and continues to say that he composed a sloka recently with all the grammatical correctness, however it was a curse and not a good message. Lord Brahma smiles at him and tells him, “Do not worry, oh Valmiki!! I’ll help you to transform that bad sloka into a good one!” Upon hearing this, Valmiki Maharishi was surprised as to how he could do that!

This is the significance of Sanskrit language. If we change or replace even one alphabet with another, the entire meaning of the sloka changes. Also, we can be free in using any “Shabdaa” (phrase) anywhere in the sloka and any word at any place in the sloka. Such is the science behind this great language. In fact, the entire language of Sanskrit was not discovered or formulated as a language. It has only the rules and regulations (Vyaakarnam) and it’s upto the individual as to how to use these rules and regulations and customize them depending on the context. Quite similarly and interestingly, today we see most of the computer languages like C, C++, Java, etc. following the same principle – What we learn in theory is just the rules and regulations in the form of commands, syntax, etc. and depending on the application we bend them and customize the syntax, commands, etc. accordingly!

Hence in this way, Lord Brahma consoles Valmiki Maharishi saying that he would help him in changing the meaning and context of the sloka. How did he do that? What was the new context of the same sloka? Let’s see in the next episode!

Episode 22: Valmiki Maharishi curses a hunter!!

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In the previous episode we saw that Valmiki Maharishi and his sishya (student) Sage Bharadwaja go to the banks of the river Tamasa for taking bath. This was after Sage Naarada leaves the Valmiki Ashram after narrating the “Samkshepa Ramayana” to Valmiki Maharishi. What did Valmiki Maharishi and Sage Bharadwaja do after taking bath? Did they head back to the ashram? Or where did they go instead? Let’s see the interesting set of events that unfolded in today’s episode!

Valmiki Maharishi, instead of going back to his ashram, on this particular day heads into a beautiful garden, which is full of greenery on all four sides. Both he and his sishya were somehow attracted towards the natural beauty of that particular place and they enter into the garden.

“Tasyaabhyaasethu mithunam charantham anapaayinam!

Dadharsha bhagawanshtathra crounchayo chaaro nishchvanam!!

Tasmaath mithunaadeham pumaamsam papa nischayaha!

Jagaana vaira nilayaha nishaadastascha pashyataha!!”

From the above slokas, we can understand that once Valmiki Maharishi enters the beautiful garden, he comes across a big banyan tree, upon which two beautiful “Crouncha” birds were sitting – One male and one female bird, together. He starts to admire these two birds enjoying the nature around them in complete bliss. Seeing these two beautiful birds, Valmiki Maharishi also enters into a state of bliss, carried away by the beauty of the surroundings as well as the beauty of these two little birds.

But at that moment, a hunter comes in the middle, releases his arrow on one of those beautiful little birds. The arrow hit one of them and it falls on the ground dead! Upon seeing this, Valmiki Maharishi was extremely disturbed! Just like during a music concert, while we’re deeply engrossed into the beautiful music, somebody from behind drags a chair or a mobile phone starts to ring in an awkward way, our concentration gets disturbed and all of a sudden we would never know what’s happening around us and we get frustrated, here too, Valmiki Maharishi gets extremely frustrated when the hunter comes in and puts one of the beautiful birds to death!! Immediately he blurts out a curse to that hunter – But the most interesting and important point here is that, this curse came from Valmiki’s mouth in the form of a “Sloka”. Thus, the “Shoka” (Distress) in his mind, came out through his mouth in the form of a “Sloka” (verse). It is to be noted that Valmiki Maharishi has never sung a sloka till this point of time in his entire life.

“Purohpeete thataakasya parirvaahaha prathihkriyaa”!!

This is a common saying in Sanskrit. It means, whatever we have in our mind it’s better to pour it out through words. We should never keep too much of both happiness and sadness in our mind, just like in a big lake, which is about to overflow with excess water, the exit points in the lakes (pipes) should be opened up so as to prevent the entire lake from breaching its walls and destroying an entire town/city. Hence we can also see in this case, that Valmiki Maharishi had extreme sorrow for that poor bird in his mind, and this sorrow came out through words in the form of a “Sloka”.

“Maa nishaada prathistaanthamagamah shaashwatheessamaaha!

Yath crouncha mithunaath deham avadih kaama mohitham!!”

In the above sloka, Avadih kaama mohitham – Yath crouncha mithunaath” means, “These two beautiful “Crouncha” birds which were in complete bliss with each other were separated by you – Oh hunter!” and thus Valmiki Maharishi continues in his curse, “Hey Nishaada (Nishaada means hunter), you’ll face all kinds of bad omens (Shaashwathee samaaha) in your life and your entire life would be ruined!” Once he cursed that hunter, Valmiki Maharishi didn’t like to be at that beautiful garden even for a minute more, and he takes Sage Bharadwaja along with him and returns to his ashram with anger and disbelief.

After returning back to his ashram, Valmiki Maharishi tries to recollect the curse that he gave, which had come out in the form of a “Sloka”, and he’s amazed with himself as to how did he compose such a grammatically correct sloka, all by himself! What happens next? What are the next series of events that unfolded after this? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

 

Episode 21: Valmiki Maharishi goes for a bath to the banks of River Tamasa

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Till yesterday we saw the various incidents that took place as part of the “Naarada – Valmiki Samvaadham” (The conversation between Sage Naarada and Vaalmiki Maharishi). We saw that Valmiki Maharishi asked Sage Naarada a set of sixteen questions and in turn, Sage Naarada explained Lord Rama’s life in a brief, which is called as “Samkshepa Ramayana”. However, Sage Narada thinks and feels for a while that this story has to be elaborated in a bigger detail, so that all the people in the world would be able to enjoy it and follow it’s principles in their lives. It is at this point that Bhagawan showers His grace and the next series of events commences. In today’s episode we shall start with what happened after Sage Naarada left the Valmiki Ashram.

Now we’re going into the next Sarga (Chapter) and let’s look at the sloka for better understanding:

“Naaradassathu thath vaakyam shruthvaa vaakya vishaarathaha!

Poojayaamaasa dharmaathma sahasishyo mahaamunim!!”

The above sloka says that Valmiki Maharishi, along with his “Sishya” (Student) Sage Bharadwaja, offers all the respects to Sage Naarada while he’s leaving from their ashram. After Sage Naarada leaves, Valmiki Maharishi looks at Sage Bharadwaja and tells him, “Just now Sage Naarada has left. It’s getting late for our “Nithya – Naimitthika Karma” (Daily routine prayers) and hence let’s quickly go, have a bath and come back”. Normally the two of them go to the banks of the river Ganges daily for their bath and their daily routine prayers. Even today we can see that the Bittur ashram of Valmiki, is quite close to the banks of the river Ganges, but even before reaching the Ganges, there’s another river by name “Tamasa”, which is a small tributary of river Ganges that flows very close to their ashram. Valmiki Maharishi thinks that a majority of the time in the day had gone in the conversation between himself and Sage Naarada and now there’s no time to walk up to the Ganges for their bath and hence, for this day we shall go to the river Tamasa for the day’s bath and duties.

“Samuhurtham gadhe tasmin deva lokham munistathaa!

Janaama tamasaa dheeram jaanhavyaastvavi dhoorakaha!!”

Here in this sloka we can see the detail in much more clarity. “Jaanhavi” is another name of river Ganges. Valmiki Maharishi says that this Jaanhavi River is very far to walk down. However, there’s this river Tamasa that is not very far off (avi dhoorakaha). So both of them start walking down towards River Tamasa now.

“Satudheeram samaasaadhyam tamasaayaa munistathaa!

Sishyamaahashitham paarshve drishtvaa teerthamakarthamam!!

Akarthamavitham theertham bharadwaaja nishaamaya!

Ramaneeyam prasannaambu sanmanushyamano yathaa!!”

For people who know Sanskrit, it might be very interesting to note here that the second sloka is incomplete. This kind of “Incomplete slokas” can be found at various places in the entire Ramayana text and this can be considered as the specialty and the uniqueness of this great text. If we see the commentaries that were done by the Aalwars and the Aacharyaas, these “half-slokas” would be mentioned in atleast a hundred places. The gross meaning of this half sloka is as follows:

Valmiki Maharishi talks with his sishya Sage Bharadwaja and exclaims to him, “Oh Bharadwaja.. Look at the clear water in this Tamasa River! Such is the natural beauty of this place!” He says “Ramaneeyam prasannaambu sanmanushyamano yathaa!!” He continues to convey this message with a beautiful comparison – Just as the hearts and minds of “Saadhus” (Good people) are so clear and pure, the water that flows through this river is also so pure…

Here’s an important message for all of us:

If we’re amidst people who are pure and clear in their minds and hearts (Saadhu Samaagamam), even our minds and hearts would become as pure as theirs. This is the main reason why people say that we need to choose our friends/companions very carefully in our lives! If by mistake, we end up choosing the wrong people as our companions, then we would be pulled into the wrong path and ultimately we would fail to realize the purpose of our birth in this world! Also, if we have a healthy relationship with Bhaagavathaas (Ardent devotees of Bhagawan), they would clear away all the confusions that we have in our minds and pull us into the “Bhakti Maarga” (Path of devotion towards the Lord).

Hence we see here that both Valmiki Maharishi and Sage Bharadwaja enter inside the river Tamasa for their bath. After finishing bathing and their regular prayers, normally great sages and aacharyas head back to their home/ashram straightaway and never waste their time in doing unwanted stuff like gossiping, roaming around needlessly, etc. However on this day quite peculiarly Valmiki Maharishi and his sishya did not return home directly, but they went somewhere else!

Where did they go and what happened next? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 20: From “Samkshepa Ramayana” to “Valmiki Ramayana” – The transformation!!

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Till the previous episode we saw various important excerpts from the “Samkshepa Ramayana” narrated by Sage Naarada to Valmiki Maharishi. In that we saw primarily the unique physical characteristics of Lord Rama that makes Him beautiful and also His unique personal character that can be a role model for all of us today! What happened next after Sage Naarada completed his “Samkshepa Ramayana”? What was the thought process of Sage Naarada and how did Bhagawan answer his thoughts? Let’s see in today’s episode!

Sage Naarada concludes his brief narration of Lord Rama’s story with the “Phalasthuthi” which can also be inferred as “The Benefits of reading/reciting the Ramayana”.

“Idam pavithram paapagnam punyam vedaiyscha samyatham!

Yaf pateth raama charithram sarva paapaihi pramuchyathe!!

Yethathaakyaanamaarushya patham raamaayanam naraha!

Saputhra pouthra saganaha prethyasvarge maheeyathe!!”

In the above slokas, Sage Naarada proclaims to Valmiki Maharishi that this “Rama Charithram” is equivalent to that of the Vedas and whoever reads or recites or chants or writes this Ramayana story will be totally freed from all types of sins he/she had committed in their lives so far. Moreover, those who recite the Ramayana will get the unique opportunity to reach heaven along with his/her family members. We can infer from here as to how Ramayana is capable of giving the ultimate “Moksha” (Salvation) to all of us who tend to read or recite it with full devotion and Lord Rama becomes pleased by this act of ours!

Here, it’s very important for all of us to note that, at this point in time, the so-called Ramayana that we have today, never existed – Let’s remind ourselves for a moment that we’re still at the point wherein Valmiki Maharishi has just asked the sixteen questions and he has just come to know who Lord Rama is.

At this moment of narrating the above sloka, Sage Naarada has a deep look at Valmiki Maharishi once and stops here. He thinks for a moment that this Ramayana story is not yet sung and documented in detail, in a way so that it reaches people around the world! Now how will that happen? Who would sing and propagate this “Rama Charithra” (Lord Rama’s story) to the world? Who’s that right person who would be able to take up the responsibility to elaborate this story and propagate this to the world? If great people have such questions in mind, which are extremely beneficial to the world, it’s Bhagawan’s duty to answer and fulfill their wishes. In that way, the moment Sage Naarada had these questions in mind, Bhagawan had his answers ready and He decided that the person who would be elaborating and propagating the Ramayana to the world would be none other than Valmiki Maharishi himself! Hence, with His grace, He sequenced all the further events that followed, in a way that Valmiki Maharishi became an instrument in the hands of the Lord for propagating His own “Charithra” (Story).

How did the further events unfold? What happened next? What were the further incidents that motivated Valmiki Maharishi to start writing the Ramayana text? Let’s witness those interesting events in the next episode!

 

Episode 19 – Excerpts from the “Samkshepa Ramayana” – How long is the “Rama Rajya”?

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In the previous episode we experienced the different unique physical features of our beloved Bhagawan in the form of Lord Rama, as described by Sage Naarada to Valmiki Maharishi. Of course, Sage Naarada doesn’t stop with just describing His unique physical features alone and he continues to describe His specialties in various other aspects too. What are those aspects? Let’s witness today!

Sage Naarada continues in his description of Lord Rama:

“Rakshita jeevalokasya dharmasya parirakshitaa!

Rakshita svasya dharmasya svajansscha rakshitaa!!”

Here, Sage Naarada describes that Lord Rama had a very beautiful quality of looking after everybody and everything equally. In other words, it means that Lord Rama knows how to balance between looking after his family as well as His kingdom. In modern day corporate we talk about the concept of “Work-life Balance”, that is, the capability of a person to focus equally on his/her professional life as well as family or personal life. It can be of great interest to the readers that this particular concept was already in existence thousands of years ago and this is exactly what Lord Rama was known for. Since He was able to govern the Ayodhya kingdom without even the smallest blemish and this is the reason why we still praise His governance as the “Rama Rajya” and this also serves as a benchmark for the modern day functioning of our present-day government too! However at the same time, He never compromised the quality time that He spent with His beloved wife – Goddess Sita Devi. That’s why even today when we talk about Lord Rama we never talk about him alone. He’s described as “Mythilithan manavaalan” in Tamil and “Siya ke Ram” in Hindi – both of them mean that He’s always Goddess Sita’s Rama. Hence, Sage Naarada concludes by saying that it is this Rama who’s also the dearest son of Kaushalya Devi (Wife of King Dasaratha) who is also the embodiment of all the sixteen noble qualities that Valmiki Maharishi asked!

It is to be noted by the readers here that when Sage Naarada mentions all the above qualities of Lord Rama, it can be implied that by the time Sage Naarada meets Valmiki in his ashram, the entire story of Ramayana had already taken place. In other words, Rama had returned back to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile and has been crowned the King of Ayodhya and it’s only after this, that the meeting between Valmiki Maharishi and Sage Naarada is taking place. But, it is also to be noted that Lord Rama is still continuing to rule Ayodhya at this point in time and He had not yet returned to his abode of “Vaikunta”.

Dhanadena samathyaage satve dharma ivaaparaha!

Tamevam guna sampannam raamam sathya paraakramam!!

 

Avizchitha lankaayaam raakshasendram vibheeshanam!

Kritha krityastathaa raamaha vijraaha pramamodaha!!”

Thus, Sage Naarada concludes, “Oh Valmiki, so far I’ve been speaking about Lord Rama, who’s an embodiment of all the noble qualities that you had mentioned. And, He, with all his might and valor destroyed the entire Raakshasa (Demon) clan and coronated Vibhishana (Brother of Ravana) to the throne of Lanka and thus got into the “Pushpaka Vimaana” and returned back to Ayodhya! Hope you must have listened to it carefully!” In this way, Sage Naarada narrates the entire Ramayana story within 32 slokas and it’s known as “Samkshepa Ramayana”.

“Prahurshta mudhithor lokaha tushtaha pushtaha sudhaarmikaha!

Raamaha seethaamanuppraapya raajyam punaravaapthavaan!!”

With the above sloka, Sage Naarada also adds that Lord Rama had got both His beloved wife Sita Devi as well as the kingdom that He had lost. This implies that by this time, Rama had already got back his kingdom and had started ruling it. He also adds how many years would Lord Rama rule Ayodhya and when would be return back to Vaikunta. It’s a beautiful sloka that follows:

“Dasha varsha sahasraani dasha varsha shataani cha!

Raamo raajyamupaa shruthvaa brahmalokham prayaaschathi!!”

Sage Naarada says that Rama would rule the Ayodhya kingdom for the next eleven thousand years before he descends back to Vaikunta. Let’s look at the beautiful way in which this count of eleven thousand is mentioned here: In Sanskrit, “Sahasram” means thousand; “Dasha sahasram” means ten thousand; “Shata” means hundred; “Dasha Shata” means, ten multiplied by hundred, which is thousand. So, ten thousand plus thousand is equal to eleven thousand!! Thus, by this sloka, Sage Naarada conveys to Valmiki Maharishi that this “Rama Rajya” is going to last for eleven thousand years and after that, Lord Rama would descend back to Vaikunta.

Every text in the Hindu Literature would consist of something called as “Phalastuthi” at the end, which means “The benefits of reciting this text”. Sage Naarada, before leaving Valmiki’s ashram describes this “Phalastuthi” to Valmiki Maharishi at the end of his “Samkshepa Ramayana”. What does he say in that? What are the benefits of reciting the Ramayana as per Sage Naarada? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode!

Episode – 18 – Excerpts from the “Samkshepa Ramayana” – Experiencing the beauty of Lord Rama

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In the previous episode we saw the continuation of the “Naarada-Valmiki Samvaadham” and as part of this we saw how the “Samkshepa Ramayana” was born. I had given a brief explanation about “Samkshepa Ramayana” that it comprises of 32 slokas (verses) and it narrates the entire story of Lord Rama’s life within this. In today’s episode we shall see some excerpts from it and let’s experience the beauty of our beloved Bhagawan, in the form of Lord Rama, as described by Sage Naarada.

Sage Naarada continues in his reply to Valmiki Maharishi’s sixteen questions. We’ve seen in the previous episodes that Valmiki Maharishi was focused to know more about the internal characteristics and qualities of Lord Rama rather than his physical or external characteristics or features. However if we closely look at Sage Naarada’s reply, it’s just the opposite – He starts his reply by describing Lord Rama’s external appearance first, and then goes into the sixteen internal noble qualities. Why does he do so? Let’s have a  look at the slokas to get a closer understanding. Narada’s detailed reply is as follows:

Ikshvaaku vamsapprabhavaha raamo naama janaishruthaha!

Niyataathma mahaveeryaha dhyuthimaan druthimaan vashi!!

Buddhimaan shrimaan vaagmi shriman shatru nibarganaha!

Vipulaamsaha mahabaahuhu kambugreevaha mahaahanuhu!!

Mahorasthaha maheshvaasaha goodaschathru arindamaha!

Aajaanu baahuhu sishiraaha sulalaataha suvikramaha!!

Shamassama vibhaktaankaha snigdha varnaha prathaapavaan!

Veenavakshaha visaalaakshaha lakshmeevaan shubha lakshanaha!!”

Here we can see the importance that Sage Naarada gives to Lord Rama’s physical appearance and dedicates eight slokas in describing the same, and then goes on to describe the sixteen noble qualities of Him. He also gives the justification for it by saying that it was Rama’s extraordinarily beautiful physical characteristics that attracted me towards Him, more than His noble internal qualities and he continues to say that perhaps if Valmiki Maharishi also gets to see the appearance of Lord Rama, even he would no longer talk about His inner qualities but talk only about the beautiful external features of Him.

Even in our day to day life, if someone says that Bhagawan is the ultimate “Parabrahma”, He’s omni-present, He’s the person who’s responsible for the entire birth and death cycle in this world, He’s an embodiment of the “Pancha Bhootaas” (Earth, fire, wind, water and air), etc., how much would our minds involve into “Bhakti” (devotion) towards Him and how would we be able to focus and pray? This is a human limitation – We’ve never seen Bhagawan in reality in today’s world and if we’re asked to focus on a thing that we’ve never seen or experienced in our lives, how would we be able to focus our mind upon? Of course, I’m not saying that all the above-mentioned statements are false, however, only if we have a photo or an idol of Bhagawan with beautiful physical features and a handsome looking face with a smile, we would be able to portray a mental image of Him and be able to focus on our prayer! Hence from this explanation, we can see how significant and relevant for a person to consider Bhagawan in all His beautiful physical appearance, so as to inculcate the “Bhakti” or “Devotion towards Him. For instance, if we talk about Lord Rama, what do we immediately relate to? A tall, well-built figure with a beautiful smile and His eyes full of “Karuna” (Mercy), a bow in His hand, the ever-beautiful Goddess Sita Devi to His right, and His younger brother Lakshmana to His left – Only if we remember this image, our minds and hearts are going to dwell in “Bhakti”!

Sage Naarada has beautifully portrayed Lord Rama’s physical appearance – “Mahorasthaha” – Meaning, very tall and well-built (96 “Ankulas” which can be equated to almost 8 feet in height) “Maheshvaasaha” – For that 8-feet height, He holds a bow in Hands that is just a little less than His height, “Aajaanu baahuhu” – Meaning, He has broad shoulders, “Sishiraaha.. Sulalaataha.. Suvikramaha..” – Meaning, all His body parts, right from His head, shoulders, arms, stomach, abdomen, thighs and legs are evenly and so beautifully built, “Shamaha.. Sama vibhaktaankaha.. Snigdha varnaha” – Meaning, His eyes are full with “Karuna” (Mercy) and kindness towards all His devotees, and His entire body is bluish black in color, “Veenavakshaha..” – Meaning, He has a broad chest; “Visaalaakshaha” – Meaning, He has beautiful and elongated eyes, that come as far as His devotees are situated.

Such is the beauty of Lord Rama in His external appearance!! There are a few more important aspects to be discussed as part of the “Samkshepa Ramayana” description of Sage Naarada, before moving forward. What are they? Let’s wait till the next episode!!

Episode 17 – “Naarada – Valmiki Samvaadham” – Sage Naarada replies Valmiki Maharishi

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Till the previous episode we saw a series of sixteen questions that Valmiki Maharishi asked Sage Narada, upon his arrival to meet him. We discussed each of the sixteen qualities in detail and also tried to relate it to the modern day leadership aspects. In today’s episode let’s continue the conversation between Sage Narada and Valmiki Maharishi as part of the “Naarada-Valmiki Samvaadham”, and see what Sage Naarada had got to reply.

 Sage Naarada says the following:

“Bahavo durlabhhaaschaiva yethvaya keerthithaa gunaaha!

Mune vakshyaamyaham budhvaa thairyukthashruyathaam varaaha!!”

Valmiki Maharishi initially surprises sage Naarada with his non-stop sixteen questions and now Sage Naarada composes himself to reply to him. He says “Bahavo Durlabhaaha” which means that, “All these sixteen noble qualities that you had mentioned so far, is very rare and is almost impossible to find integrated into one individual. However, I’m not saying that there’s no answer to your questions. But give me a few minutes to recoup myself and then let me give you the answer!” The phrase “Aham budhvaa” means, “I’ll let you know”. Hence, Sage Naarada conveys here that he’ll recoup his thought process for a moment and get back to Valmiki Maharishi. After saying this, Sage Naarada is silent for five minutes.

There’s an interesting and a deeper explanation to this, as follows:

Valmiki Maharishi looks at Sage Naarada and thinks for a moment if he doesn’t know the answer. He gets this sort of a feeling because normally when a Sishya (Student) asks a doubt, the Guru (Teacher/Master) should give an answer immediately. But here, Sage Naarada asks Valmiki Maharishi to wait for a few minutes. But Sage Naarada is not keeping silence because he doesn’t know the answer. The moment he listens to the sixteen questions from Valmiki Maharishi, he immediately knew the answer. But at that moment when the answer flashes in Sage Naarada’s mind, he is overwhelmed and his devotion knew no bounds for that person who’s supposed to be the answer! Hence, in the above sloka, the word “Budhva” doesn’t mean “I’ll get back after knowing the answer”. It means that, “I already know whom are you asking about, however, I’ll recoup and compose myself within a few moments and then give you the answer!”

 Now, Sage Naarada replies back: “Oh Valmiki Maharishi! You had asked me sixteen questions. But for all the sixteen put together, I have only one answer for you!” He says,

Ikshvaaku vamsapprabhavaha raamo naama janaishruthaha!”

 The answer is very simple! That person who is an embodiment of all the sixteen noble qualities is none other than the king who’s born in the “Ikshvaaku” dynasty, Lord Rama – Son of the great king Dasaratha! He’s born in the clan of Surya (The Sun God), and also born to the ancestral tradition of the great king Manu and Kaakutsa!

Sage Naarada continues and says to Valmiki Maharishi “Now, I’ll tell you in a brief accord about Lord Rama. Listen to me very carefully. The apt time will come for further actions on this and let’s wait!” Saying this, Sage Naarada narrates the entire story of the Ramayana within just thirty-two (32) slokas (verses). It’s called as “Samskhepa Ramayanam”, meaning “Ramayana in brief”!! (If that was the case today, it would have been extremely easy for us too and we needn’t have to write this many episodes!! 🙂 ) It’s only because it has more than 24,000 slokas (verses) composed as a “Mahaa Kaavyam” we’re taking this much of time to see it in detail. But having said that on a lighter note, we can listen to the Ramayana in nine days, nine years or we can even read one sloka per day – Such is the amount of in-depth and a rich meaning, this great Ramayana has. “Vengya Kaavyam” is Ramayana’s nickname – It means that the Ramayana has more in-depth meanings to each and every sloka, rather than just the outer meaning to it. We can infer thousands of inner meanings to each of the sloka and thus is the significance of this great epic!

What did Sage Naarada describe about Lord Rama in his “Samskhepa Ramayanam”? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode!!