Valmiki Ramayana

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Maharshi Valmiki, the author the Ramayana, is also one of the personages appearing in the Rama story. He is one of the earliest sages whose hermitage Rama visits in his sojourn through the forest after leaving Ayodhya. When Rama banishes Sita, it is Valmiki who shelters her and rears up her twin sons. Though the author, and a contemporary of the heroes in the Ramayana, he gives pretty little information about himself. This is as it should be, since he was a sage who had dedicated his life to contemplation on God and service to humanity.

The date of Valmiki and his composition is around 4400 B.C.

The text as available to us now consists of 24,000 verses – 24,253 to be exact – and is divided into seven kandas or Books. Each kandas is subdivided into sargas or chapters (total number of sargas being 647) and these comprise shlokas or verses. Though the work is almost entirely in the shlokas or the anushtubh metre, bigger metres like indravajra or upendravajra have also been employed.

Three pathas or recensions of the Ramayana have been discovered so far: the Dakshinatya (southern), the Gaudiya (Bengali) and the Vayavya (north-western).

There are some well-known commentaries in Sanskrit. They are:

1. Tilaka or Ramabhirami by Nagoji Bhatta
2. Shiromani by Shivasahaya
3. Bhusana by Govindaraja
4. Tattvadipa by Maheshvara Tirtha
5. Ramanujiyavyakhya by Kandala Ramanuja
6. Vivekatilaka by Varadaraja
7. Dharmakutavyakhya by Tryambakaraja

8. Ramayana-kuta-vyakhya by Ramananda Tirtha

A ceremonial recitation of the text, especially during he Ramanavami (in April) and the Navaratri (during September- October) celebrations, is believed to confer great religious merit.