• Item #: 0581
RAMAYANA THE traditional orthodox view is that Vaalmeeki wrote the Raamaayana during the life-time of Raamchandra, Judging from normal experience, however, it would appear that the story of Raama had been in existence, through not as a written work, long before Vaalmeeki wrote his epic. It looks as though Vaalmeeki gave form to a story that had been handed down from generation to generation. That probably explains some of the difficult features in the story – e.g., the slaying of Vaali and Seeta’s exile under Raama’s orders. In Vaalmeeki’s work Raama is portrayed as a great and unique man, not as an incarnation of God. True, in some chapters there are references to him as an incarnation of God. True, in some chapters there are references to him as an avataar of God, but in the body of the narrative the Raama pictured by Sage Vaalmeeki is not God himself but a great price endowed with divine qualities. Even during Vaalmeeki’s days, the idea was prevalaent, to some extent, that Raama was an avataar. Centuries later, Kamban and Tulsidas sang the Raamaayana, and by that time it had come to be accepted that Sri raama was an avataar of Vishnu. Raama and Krishna were synonyms for Vishnu: and Vishnu, in turn, meant Raama or Krishna. Temples had come into existence with ritual worship of Raama as God. In a situation like that, how could the later poets portray Raama as a mere hero? Any such attempt would have failed. Kamban and Tulsidaas were devotees of the highest order. They were very different from historians and novelists. The story begins with the visit of the Saint Naarada one morning to Vaalmeeki asked him: “O, all-knowing Naarada, tell me, who among the heroes of this world is the highest in virtue and wisdom?” Knowing though his supernatural power why Vaalmeeki put the question, Naarada answered: “Raama is the Hero that you ask for. Born in the Solar dynasty, he is at present ruling in Ayodhya.” Sage Naarada then briefly narrated to Vaalmeeki the story of Raama. So impressed was Vaalmeeki when he heard Raama’s story that even long after naarada had left, his mind was full of it, and he was pondering on it as he went to the river Tamasa for his morning ablutions. As he was walking along the river-bank he saw in a nearby tree two loving krauncha birds sporting and singing in their joy of life and love. Suddenly, the make bird fell down, hit by a hunter’s arrow. The female bird, seeing her lover rolling on the ground, lamented in piteous fashion. Observing this, Vaalmeeki burst into a curse: “O, hunter, as you have killed one of these love-intoxicated birds, you will wander homeless all your long years.” But in a moment the sage recovered himself and was wondering why he lost himself in anger: “What right had I go curse the hunter? Why was I deceived by emotion?” Recalling the words of his curse, the Rishi marveled at the rhythm of the words. He discovered that his pity had taken shape in a beautiful sloka. He thought that all this was part of the mysterious leela of God and went into meditation. To Vaalmeeki in meditation appeared the four-faced Brahma, and he said: “Be not afraid. These things happened to start you on the story of Raama. From sorrow (soka) sprang verse (sloka) and in this metre and rhythm the story should be told. I shall give the vision to see all that happened, aye even how the characters thought and looked, as clearly as one sees a thing lying on the palm of one’s hand. And you shall sing it, with my blessings, for the benefit of the world.” Vaalmeeki and his disciples then repeated the verse again and again and fixed its pattern firmly in their minds. Then Vaalmeeki composed the Raamaayana in that metre and taught it to his disciples. Thus was the holy Vaalmeeki-Raamaayana born. The tale of the Lord and His Consort born as mortals, experiencing human sorrow and establishing dharma on earth, was sung by the Rishi in words of matchless beauty. And Brahma’s words have come true: “As long as the mountains stand and the rivers flow so long shall the Raamaayana be cherished among men and save them from sin.”
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