Episode 33: King Dasharata to perform the “Puthra-Kaameshti” Yaaga

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In the previous episode we witnessed that King Dasharata and the entire city of Ayodhya was deeply concerned because he was childless for a long period of time. Worries were growing as to who would succeed the Ayodhya kingdom after Dasharata. At that moment, one of his able ministers – Sumanthra proposed the idea of doing an “Ishti” yaaga (offering) as a solution to this problem and accordingly Sage Vasishta and all the other great Sages in king Dasharata’s courtroom accepted and approved this idea. In the due course, we also saw a brief history of Sage Rishyashringa who was supposed to be the only person in the world to perform this ritual successfully. How did Dasharata go about it from here? What was his plan of action? Let’s see in today’s episode.

Sumanthra and Sage Vasishta finish their advice by saying that if this “Ishti” yaaga has to be successfully done, Sage Rishyashringa and his wife Shaanta Devi should visit Ayodhya. Accordingly, King Dasharata pays heed to their advice and prepares himself to bring both of them to his palace. He goes to “Anga Desha” (his neighbouring kingdom) and requests “Romapaada” – the king of Anga Desha to send Sage Rishyashringa and his wife to Ayodhya.

“Sanathkumaarao bhagawaan poorvam kachithavaan tathaan!

Kaashyapaschtava puthroosmi vibhaantaka ithishruthaaha!!

Rishyashringairithiggraathaha tasya puthro bhavishyathi!

Naanyam jaanaathi viprendraha Nithyam vithyanu varthanaath!!”

The above slokas signify the advice given by Sumanthra and Sage Vashishta to king Dasharata and accordingly Dasharata too approaches Romapaada – the king of Anga Desha for his help in bringing Sage Rishyashringa to Ayodhya.

“Sapthaashta divasaan raajaa raajaanamidham abraveeth!

Shaanta tava suthaa raajan saha bhathraa vishaampathe!!

Madheeyam nagaram yaathu kaaryam hi mahadhyudhayam!

Tathethi raajaa samshruthya gamanam tasya dheemakhaha!!”

King Dasharata requests his counterpart, Romapaada for his help in this issue and Romapaada was happy to help him. Accordingly he requests his son-in-law, Sage Rishyashringa and Shaanta Devi to pay a visit to Ayodhya and to do the needful to king Dasharata. Thus when Sage Romapaada arrived at Ayodhya, all the sages enter into a huddle of discussion and ultimately came up with a good date for performing the ritual of “Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga”.

“Tasthvam kim varthase brahman gnyaathumichaamahe vayam!

Pithaa vibhaandakoosvaanam tasyaahamsutha aurasaaha!!

Rishyashringa ithigyaatham naama karmacha me bhuvi!”

Thus, all preparations were going on for performing the ritual. At the final point of the preparation, the procedure normally is to designate a horse (Ashvam) and allow it to run across numerous kingdoms around Ayodhya and finally it would return back. If in the mid-way this horse was captured by any king of any kingdom, this king who had sent the horse should wage a war against the opponent, win over him and bring back the horse. Accordingly, the horse was also let to run.

“Sambhaaraaha sambhriyam taanthe turakascha vimuchyathaam!”

Here, “Turakam” means horse. The horse was made to run and it covered a large area with its travel. Wherever it goes, will anyone dare to touch the horse that is sent by king Dasharata? Nobody did!! Moreover, the entire world knows why king Dasharata had sent this horse – Everyone was eager as to when will king Dasharata be blessed with a son! Hence, the horse came back after its marathon run and the first ritual of this great “Ishti yaaga” was successfully executed!

King Dasharata was extremely happy on the successful return of his horse. Now it’s time to start the main ritual. Hence, Sage Vashishta again guides him to send an invitation to all the kings and the great sages around Ayodhya to come and participate in the grand occasion.

It is to be noted particularly here that, although Sage Vashishta knows very well that upon performing this ritual successfully, Dasharata is going to be blessed with a son, he wants him to invite all the kings, sages, etc. and receive their blessings during the process of this ritual.

Why is Sage Vasishta so particular about this? There is a beautiful in-depth meaning for this move. Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 32 – Sumanthra guides King Dasharata

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In the last couple of episodes, we were able to witness the beauty and the significance of the city of Ayodhya, which was the capital of the great Ikshvaaku Dynasty. Valmiki Maharishi had been mentioning numerous good things about Ayodhya, but at the end he says that there is just one worry for the king and amongst the people of Ayodhya – There was no successor for the kingdom, that is, King Dasharata was childless for a very long time. At this stage, King Dasharata, being worried, consults his minister Sumanthra. What was the guidance given by Sumanthra? Let’s see today!

Upon Dasharata’s request for Sumanthra’s guidance, Sumanthra recalls a story that he had heard long back from the yester kings of Sanaka and Sanathkumara. He says that, at this time when the kingdom is in a fix over who would succeed, to get a solution for this problem the king can perform an “Ishti Yaaga”. Here, “Ishti Yaaga” is a form of “Ashvamedha Yaaga” (“Ashvam” in Sanskrit means horse), wherein a horse would be let out and sacrificed in prayers for something to happen. If this procedure is followed with the prayer of wanting a son, it is called “Puthra Kaameshti Yaaga” (A prayer for the want of a son). Hence Sumanthra says to Dasharata that if he has to have a child, it’s better that he performs this “Puthra Kaameshti Yaaga”. However, he also adds that there’s only one sage in this world who can perform this ritual successfully – and that person is Sage Rishyashringa. (Rishyashringa in Sanskrit, Kalaikkotttu Munivar in Tamil). Sage Rishyashringa was the son of Sage Vibhaandaka. Once the ritual is performed successfully, an angel would appear from the heaven and offer a “Havis” (Havis can be equated to a form of a Divine Nectar) and upon offering this “Havis” to Dasharata’s wives, he would be able to have children.

Upon hearing all this from Sumanthra, Dasharata is puzzled. He again asks Sumanthra, “You’re talking about somebody by name Rishyashringa, Vibhaantaka, etc. How and where will I go and find all these people? Where are they?”. At this stage, Sage Vasishta (The “Kula Guru” of the entire Ikshvaaku Dynasty) gets up and gives the identity of Sage Rishyashringa.

“Ashtou babhoovur anisya tasya maathya yasashvinaha!

Drishtihi jayanthaha vijayaha suraastraha raashtravardhanaha!!

Ahoopo dharma paalascha sumanthraha ashtamo hasith!”

In the above verse, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes King Dasharata’s courtroom – He says that there would be eight ministers seated on one side and another eight “Kula Gurus” (including Sage Vasishta) on the other side. Dasharata sits among these sixteen people and all these sixteen people are experts in giving the right advice at the right time.

At this time, both Sumanthra and Sage Vasishta narrate the history of this great Sage Rishyashringa: Over a period of time, Sage Rishyashringa was born and brought up in a forest. He doesn’t know anything what happens in a kingdom and in a city. He doesn’t even know what is the taste of good food, desire, etc. He is such a staunch sage without any of these feelings in him. But once upon a time, the king of the neighboring country – Anga Desha wanted to do an offering with the help of Sage Rishyashringa in the want of rain, as his kingdom was facing an acute drought situation. So he sent a few women, who slowly seduced him and brought him to his kingdom. The moment Sage Rishyashringa’s feet touched the kingdom of Anga Desha, it began to pour down and the drought situation was completely eradicated. Thus, the king of Anga Desha was happy and he gave his daughter “Shanta Devi” in marriage to Sage Rishyashringa. Hence Sumanthra says that Sage Rishyashringa is currently living with Shanta Devi in a place, which is in the outskirts of the city of Ayodhya. (Even today we can worship this place. It is called “Shringiberipuram” wherein there is a separate temple dedicated for Shanta Devi and Sage Rishyashringa).

Upon hearing this, Dasharata is very happy. Now, what did Dasharata do after hearing this story from Sumanthra and Vasishta? Let’s wait to find out from the next episode!

Episode 31 – Everything is beautiful about Ayodhya… But…

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In the previous episode, we began to look into the Ramayana text written by Valmiki Maharishi and in that, we started looking into the significance and the beauty of the city of Ayodhya – The capital of the Ikshvaaku dynasty. Eventually we also saw the various kings who ruled the kingdom and subsequently a short description about Dasaratha (Rama’s father). We also saw that Lord Rama was the 35’th king of Ayodhya. Today, we shall continue witnessing the beauty of Ayodhya, as described by Valmiki Maharishi and also by Kambanaataazhwar, who authored the Ramayana story in Tamil. Starting from today, I shall also try to incorporate some excerpts from the Kamba Ramayana, along with those from the Valmiki Ramayana, and we shall appreciate the beauty of both the versions at the same time!

“Kaameevaa na kadaryovaa rushamshaha purushad kvachith!

Drashtum sakhyam ayodhyaayaam naa vidhwaan na cha naasthikaha!!”

Valmiki Maharishi says through this sloka that, if one searches the entire city of Ayodhya, he/she wouldn’t be able to find anybody who is an atheist (Naasthikaha) and who is uneducated (Avidhwaan). Here we can see that Valmiki Maharishi has written straight to the point in Sanskrit. However, if we take a glance into the Kamba Ramayana, Kambar has very beautifully portrayed the city of Ayodhya in a slightly different style. He says the following:

“Kalvaar ilaamai porul kaaval illai; Kalvi karkka vallaar ilaamai..”

Kambar is in the process of describing the city of Ayodhya. He says that “Everything is good in this city, but I do not like it”. Why? Because, he continues to say, there is no shop here that sells locks and keys (Porul Kaaval illai). What is the reason? It’s because, there are no thieves in this place (Kalvaar ilaamai). He continues further: There is no teacher in this city, why? There is nobody who is uneducated – Everybody are well-educated here in this city (Kalvi karkka vallaar ilaamai). In this manner, Kambar has indirectly praised the city of Ayodhya. From all these descriptions, we can infer the greatness of the city of Ayodhya to a large extent.

Now let us again trace back to Valmiki Maharishi’s description. He continues further:

“Sva karma nirathaa nithyam braahmanaa vijithendriyaha!

Dhyaanaaddhyaana sheelaascha samyathaascha paridhiggrahe!!”

Valmiki Maharishi further describes with the above sloka that, whoever were Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, all of them lived by strictly performing their respective duties and roles in the society. (It can be interesting to note here that Hinduism even in those days had these sects).

“Na anasuyakaha na cha ashakthaha na avidhwaan vidyatekvachith!

Naasthiko naanrutho vaapi na kaschit bahusshruthaha!!”

He further explains that there was nobody who was greedy and jealous (Anasuyakaha), there was nobody who was an illiterate (Avidhwaan), there was nobody who was without strength (Ashakthaha). there was nobody who was an atheist (Naasthikaha) and there was nobody who was a liar – Everybody were so truthful and honest!

Everything was so good in this way, however, Valmiki Maharishi says here, “BUT…” there was one drawback! What is that? The only issue was that, king Dasaratha was childless for so many years. This was the only reason why the entire city of Ayodhya, including Dasaratha were concerned about. Hence, one fine day, Dasharatha convenes his court and tries to ask his minister “Sumanthra”, as to how to go about this.

What did king Dasharata ask Sumanthra? What was the reply of Sumanthra on the king’s query? What did Dasharata do after that? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode!

Episode 30: Commencing the Ramayana story – A beautiful description of the city of Ayodhya

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In the previous episode we saw the beautiful and a touching description of how Lord Rama himself listens to the Ramayana story from his two little sons, Lava and Kusha. With that, we shall now move into what Lava and Kusha sang in front of Lord Rama. Today, we shall see a beautiful description of the city of Ayodhya – The capital city of the “Ikshvaaku Dynasty”. Valmiki Maharishi starts with the following slokas:

“Eshaam cha sagaro naama saagaro yena khaanithaha!

Sashti puthra sahasraani yam yaantham parya vaarayan!!

Koshalo naama udithaha spheethaha janapadho mahaan!

Nimishtaha sarayu dheere prabhutha dhana dhaanyavaan!!

Ayodhyaa naama nagaree tathraaseen lokha vishruthaa!

Manu naa maanavendrena maakuree nirmithaasvayam!!”

Valmiki Maharishi thus describes the beauty and the significance of the city of Ayodhya. He says, on the banks of the river Sarayu, there was a city by name Ayodhya, which is also called as “Aparaajitha” or “Abhedhya”. The word “Aparaajitha” here means, “This city is literally unconquerable”, or “This city cannot be destroyed”! Valmiki Maharishi also adds that high walls all around guarded the city. We can worship the city of Ayodhya even today, in the present day Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and it’s surprising that even to this day, due to lot of controversies, Ayodhya is carefully guarded by loads of security guards from the Indian army. Perhaps, since Lord Rama is a great king, even to this day, he has got the due respect from the security forces of His own country!

Valmiki Maharishi now gives a brief account on the various great kings who ruled Ayodhya before the advent of Lord Rama – It all started from Lord Surya (The Sun), and subsequently Manu, Ikshvaaku, Khatvaanga, Aja, Dileepa, Maandhaata, Amshumaan, Bhageeratha, Kakutsa, Dasaratha, etc. It is to be noted here that Lord Rama was born as the 35’th king of Ayodhya to the great king Dasaratha. Each and every king had ruled the kingdom of Ayodhya for innumerable number of years with such austerity and sincerity that, the entire clan can be proud of. It is in this dynasty, that King Aja’s successor Dasharata was ruling the kingdom for more than 60,000 years (Valmiki Maharishi mentions 60,000 years – There are of course a lot of debate going on with this number, but this is not of importance here).

Before describing much about Rama, Valmiki Maharishi has devoted almost 8 to 9 slokas in praise of Dasharatha. He says in that, “Why is Rama considered to be great? It’s only because he’s the son of a great father!” This is the reason why Lord Rama is often referred to as “Dasharataatmaja”. One may wonder, why does Lord Rama need to derive his fame from his father, who was afterall a normal human being on the earth. The answer is very simple: This is the main purpose of Bhagawan’s birth in the world as Lord Rama – To be an exemplary son to a father! We as children should behave in such a way that our parents should feel that if at all they have another birth in this world, they should have us as their children again! On a lighter note, if at all such chances of praying to God exists with our parents today, majority of them would say “No” to have us as their children again in their next birth!!! 🙂 If we get a chance, we may ask our father: “Oh father, do you wish to have me as your son/daughter in your next birth also?” and I’m sure the reply from our father would be “I’m regretting to have you as my son/daughter in this birth itself, and now you’re talking about the next birth!!” 🙂 But Dasharata did not say this way! This can be seen from a beautiful verse of Kulashekara Aalwar, as part of the “Dhivya Prabhandam” in Tamil, as follows:

“Unnayum un arumayayum un noyin varutthamum onnaagakkollaadhu

ennayum en sollum ketterumin vanam pukka endhaai

Ninnaye maganaagappirapperuven ezhu prappum nedunthol vendhe!!”

Here we can see that Dasharata is in tears while Rama is departing for the fourteen-year exile. He says, “Oh Vende!! (Vende in Tamil means “Son”) You neither saw your father, nor your mother grieving! All you saw was one promise that your father had made! If at all I want to ask God for something, I would want you to be my son for all the seven births that I would be taking in this world from now!” (Ninnaye maganaagappirapperuven ezhu prappum) Thus from this accord, we can clearly see that our parents should be proud to have us as their children!

What does Valmiki Maharishi say more about the city of Ayodhya? What are the other significances of this great city? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 29: Lord Rama listens to his own Charithra!

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In the previous episode we saw how the slokas in the Valmiki Ramayana are musically aesthetic and so pleasing for the ears of a person to listen to. Also, we saw that Lava and Kusha start singing the Ramayana and Valmiki Maharishi had made sure that the children by-hearted all the 24,000 slokas. In today’s episode we shall move on and see how the Ramayana was propagated to the world and how did Lord Rama himself get to listen to His own life story!

“Prasanno valkalam kaschith baddhoudaabhyaam mahaayashaaha!

Preethaha kaschin munisthaabhyaam samsthithah kalasam dadhou!!”

The above sloka says that these two children, Lava and Kusha start to sing the Ramayana charitha (story) to all the rishis (saints) by going to their ashrams one by one. Each and every rishi is deeply moved by the way these children sing and also by the significance of the Ramayana story and thus all of them bless the children – One rishi had five rupees with him, and he gave it as blessing to these children. Another rishi had just one deer’s skin (normally in those days, rishis do their meditation by sitting on the deer’s skin, spread on the floor), and he gave it as a blessing to them. Another rishi had nothing with him at all! But after these children sang the Ramayana to him, he blessed “Oh dear children, this story will be listened by none other than Lord Rama himself, in a very short while from now!” The children were extremely happy after listening to these words from the rishi – If Rama himself would listen to it, what more do we need in life after that? Similarly, another rishi blessed them saying that, “Oh children… Your music would spread across to every nook and corner of this world!” Thus, with all such blessings from various great saints of those times, the Ramayana was successfully propagated to the entire world!

While these children were singing and walking on the streets of Ayodhya, it was Bharata (Rama’s brother) who sees them first! Valmiki mentions this episode beautifully in the following sloka:

“Radhyaasu raja maargeshu dadarsha bharathaagrajaha!

Sva veshmacha aaneeya tatho bhraatharaucha kushee lavau!!”

Bharata, upon seeing these two kids singing so beautifully, becomes so moved and he thinks for a moment that these kids have the exact looks of Lord Rama himself, and in that way, Bharata wanted Rama to listen to their beautiful singing of the Ramayana. Hence, out of love and affection, he brings these two kids into the palace.

“Uvaacha lakshmanam raamaha chathrugnam bharatham tathaa!

Shuuyatha medhadhaadkhyaanam anayor deva varchasoho!!”

Bharata goes to Rama and tells him that he should listen to these two kids singing so beautifully. But Rama asks him back, “Do you think we have time to listen to stories?” Bharata immediately replies to him, “You first listen, and then let’s see if we really have time or not!” Rama is convinced with Bharata’s answer and thus he accepts Bharata’s wish. The two children are called into the courtroom of Lord Rama and thus they’re asked to sing. While these kids were singing, all the people who were in Rama’s court were so mesmerized and are lost completely in the divinity of these children’s singing – Lord Rama is no exception here! He is completely moved to tears upon listening to the children singing his own life story!

It is to be noted at this point that, Lord Rama had already sent away Sita Devi and He is in a state wherein he terribly misses her presence with him. When He listens to his story from these two children, He remembers all his past and all those happy moments that he spent with Sita and Lakshmana in the forest and is completely moved to tears. At this time, Lord Rama has a feeling that he should no longer sit in his “Simhaasana” (The king’s throne), but go and sit amidst the audience in the court, so as to listen more deeply and immensely to these kids. Valmiki Maharishi brings out this emotional moment of Lord Rama beautifully in the following sloka:

“Sachaabhi raamaha parishadgathasshanaihi vubhooshayaa saapthamanaa babhoova ha!”

This is again a “half-sloka”. It may be recalled that we saw one more “half-sloka” like this when Valmiki Maharishi cursed the hunter. In this sloka, at the end we would find the word “Ha!” It signifies that even Valmiki Maharishi was so moved by what’s happening to Lord Rama and for a moment he’s unable to write further! So, whenever he comes across such moving and emotional situations he just stops at that point by saying “Ha”, which means, he’s exclaiming! What happened here is that, Rama slowly got up from his seat and silently without the knowledge of anybody in the court, came down and sat amongst the audience! (Sachaabhi raamaha parishadgathasshanaihi”) He had to do it silently for one more reason: If the king gets up from the throne in front of the audience, it means that the court session is over. He didn’t want that to happen and hence he came down while the audience was so engrossed with the singing of these children, that nobody saw him getting up! When the slokas were over, it was only then the people saw that the throne was empty!! People were shocked to see the empty throne and started shouting, “Where is Rama???” He’s nowhere, but within all of us!! Thus, Lord Rama himself was so moved by listening to his story!

It can be seen interestingly here that, in the Rama-Avataar, Lord Rama himself listened to his own story, and also during the Krishna-Avataar, Lord Krishna also listened to his own story in the “Vishnu Sahasranaama” authored by Bhishma, towards the end of the great Mahabharata war! This seems to be a good coincidence between both the incarnations of Lord Vishnu!

Thus with this, we come to the end of the introductory part of the Valmiki Ramayana. Starting from the next episode, we shall commence looking into each incident of the Ramayana in detail, starting from the significance of the city of Ayodhya, King Dasharata, how was Lord Rama born, etc.

Episode 28 – Sweetness of the Ramayana Slokas – A beautiful description by Valmiki Maharishi

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In the last couple of episodes we were discussing the important points regarding the structure of the Valmiki Ramayana text, which has seven “Kaandams” (Parts), more than 500 “Sargams” (Chapters) and more than 24,000 slokas (verses) embedded into them. Before we actually move into the Ramayana story, we still have a few more aspects to be discussed, with regards to the sweetness of this great text, how the Ramayana was propagated, how did Lord Rama himself enjoy listening to the text, etc. Let’s see one by one.

When the context comes to the “sweetness”, Valmiki Maharishi begins describing the following way:

“Veda vedhye pare pungsi jaathe dasharataatmaje!

Veda praachedasaa daasith saakshaad raamaayanaathmanaa!!”

Here, it’s said that the Ramayana text is equivalent to that of the sacred “Vedas”, in the Hindu literature. Lord Narayana was born as Rama in this world, and at that time, the Vedas thought to themselves, “Is this incarnation only for my Lord? Isn’t it necessary that I also be born on this earth?”And thus, the Vedas incarnated themselves in the world in the form of the Ramayana. Here we can see the amount of significance given to this Ramayana text. Hence, whatever the “Shaastras” and the “Vedas” try to convey, Valmiki Maharishi (referred to as “Veda praachedas”, in the above sloka) also conveys the same messages, but in a much more lucid form so as to be easily understood by people like all of us.

To add more to it, Valmiki Maharishi further explains that all these slokas in the text are so beautiful when they are sung. Lava and Kusha (Rama’s two sons) were equipped with very high levels of knowledge in music. Hence, it was very beautiful to hear from then when they were singing the Ramayana text.

“Paathye geyecha mathuram pramaanaihi sthribhiranvitham!

Jaathibhihi sapthabhir yuktham tanthreelaya samanvitham!!”

The above sloka explains, just like how in the Veena (A traditional Indian musical instrument), when we make sounds with it’s chords (Tanthee), all the seven swaras (notes) of music would be beautifully displayed, the Ramayana slokas, when they are sung with full devotion and focus, would reveal the beautiful musical notes imbibed in it. This is what Valmiki Maharishi describes as “Tanthreelaya samanvitham” in the above sloka. Perhaps we can experience this beauty when we sing!! This is to be done who has the knowledge about music and who are musicians!

Hence in this way, Lava and Kusha start singing all the slokas one by one by employing the instruments of Veena and the Tanpura (An instrument that can be equated to the modern day “Drone”, which is like a scale for singing) on their own. They go one place after the other while singing the Ramayana, and wherever they go, people are so moved and attracted to their singing. Paathye geyecha mathuram” means, it feels so good to hear even if we just chant these slokas and it feels even better if one can sing these slokas.

“Rasaihi shringaara karuna haasya raudhra bhayaanakaihi!

Veeraadhi bheerasair yuktham kaavya medha dadhaagathaam!!

Valmiki Maharishi further adds that, apart from the musical beauty of the Ramayana slokas, we can also witness the “Nava-Rasas” (The nine feelings)Shringaara, Karuna, Haasya, Raudhra, Bhayanaka, etc. in the entire Ramayana text at different occasions.

“Vaachovitheyam tat sarvam krithvaa kaavyam anindhithau!”

The above verse says that, Valmiki Maharishi made the children Lava and Kusha to by-heart all the slokas, before they started to propagate it to the rest of the world. (Vaachovitheyam means one needn’t look into the book and read something). If one can chant all the 24,000 slokas of the Ramayana text without seeing the book, the pleasure and bliss obtained from it is unique! We all just know around a few thousand slokas to explain some details from the Ramayana, and this excites us so much. But for those people who have that lifetime opportunity to recite all the 24,000 slokas by-heart, it’s a unique opportunity, undoubtedly!

Now these two children, having by-hearted the text upside down, start to propagate it to the world. They go to every Rishi (Saint)’s place and recite the text to all of them. How did they do that? How did they receive their blessings? Let’s witness in the next episode!

Episode 27 – “Utthara Kaanda” – Also an integral part of Valmiki’s Ramayana?

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In the previous episode we witnessed that the Valmiki Ramayana is comprised of over 24,000 slokas (verses), fit into over 500 sargams (chapters) and 6 Kaandas. However, the seventh Kaanda, namely the Utthara Kaanda happens much later after Valmiki Maharishi had composed the Ramayana text, however, we also saw that the text that he composed, also has the Utthara Kaanda in it. This is where he says “Shad kaandaani tathootharam”.

Here is where lot of different opinions exists today. However, I shall try to give a much more lucid explanation from a few other sources and try to illustrate what exactly happens. Of course, this is purely my way of describing the events; however there might still be differences in opinions amongst the modern day scholars and historians.

The explanation goes like this: In the later part of the Valmiki Ramayana itself, Valmiki Maharishi explains that Lord Rama, after sending Goddess Sita Devi to the forest once again, plans to do an “Ashwamedha Yaaga” (A kind of a divine offering) and for that, He had his “Yaaga shaala” (Venue to perform the offering) at a place called “Naimishaaranya” (This place can be worshipped even today, in the present day Indian State of Uttar Pradesh). It is at this place where Sita’s two sons Lava and Kusha sing the entire Ramayana text in front of Lord Rama during the offering. It can be understood from the following verse in Tamil (also called prabhandham), which is a quote from the famous “Naalaayira Divya prabhandhams” authored by the twelve “Aalwars”. This verse is of Kulasekhara Aalwar. He says,

“Mithilaicchelvi ulaguyya thiruvairu vaaytha makkal shembavalatthiralvaai than charithaikkettaan!”

Here we can see the context much more clearly: “Mithilaicchelvi” – Sita Devi; “Ulaguyya thiruvairu vaaytha makkal” – The two sons who were born in this world from Goddess Sita Devi; “Shembavalatthiralvaai than charithaikkettaan” – Means that Lord Rama, through these two children – Lava and Kusha, listened to his own life story!

Have we ever witnessed a “Kshathriya prince” narrating stories? But interestingly here, it was Lava and Kusha, although being “Kshathriya princes” who sang the Ramayana story. While these two children were walking in the streets singing the Ramayana, it was Lord Rama’s brother, Bharata who saw them first. Upon seeing these children he was amazed and became engrossed in the way they were singing the Ramayana, and he brings them to Naimishaaranya. Bharata was so mesmerized that he wanted Lord Rama to listen to these children. Further, it is said in the Valmiki Ramayana that this text was sung in front of Rama himself, for the next 32 days! Hence, by this time Valmiki Maharishi had composed the entire Ramayana and its only after composing it, he had taught it to Lava and Kusha.

Every day Lord Rama comes to his throne by around 9 AM and he listens to the two children till 12-12:30 PM and after that he goes on to look after the duties of the kingdom. It is only during these days that Lord Rama becomes immensely attracted to these two children and he conveys his wish to Bharata that he wants to see the mother of these two kids along with their “Aachaarya” (Teacher). Bharata is extremely happy within himself that the day had finally come for Lord Rama to pose this question, and he immediately brings Valmiki Maharishi and Sita Devi to the venue.

It is to be noted here that, even when Sita comes to the venue, Lava and Kusha are still present in front of Rama and are still singing the Ramayana story. Whatever Sita and Rama spoke at this moment, whatever Sita asked Rama, Sita disappearing into the earth – All of these events are present in the Valmiki Ramayana and these kids are still in the process of singing it! It doesn’t end here. In the last “Sargam” of Valmiki Ramayana, it is also described how Lord Rama will descend back to “Vaikunta” and even this sarga was being recited by Lava and Kusha within these 32 days. This is why I said previously that we shouldn’t get confused! Sometimes, when we go through the Ramayana text, we would not be able to figure out if the Utthara Kaanda happened before or after Valmiki Maharishi composed the text. In fact, in due course of singing the Ramayana text in front of Rama, Lava and Kusha proclaim “Our ‘Aacharya’ is an extremely pious person and he will be able to know the past, present and the future at the same time and it’s only with the divine grace of Lord Brahma that he has authored this great story! It’s this reason why we also know how you would be descending towards the Vaikunta too!”

So from the above accord, it becomes quite evident that Lord Rama, after listening to the Utthara Kaanda, is still ruling the kingdom of Ayodhya and only after many years he descends back to Vaikunta. This is why Valmiki Maharishi says “Shad kaandaani tathottharam” – The first six Kaandas comprise of the events that had already happened before, and the seventh Utthara Kaanda comprises of the events that are going to take place in the future!

Moving on from here, we’ve to see how was the Ramayana story propagated to the world and how sweet and pleasing are the slokas of the Ramayana, to any listener. Let’s witness the beauty of it in the next episode!

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!