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MAHARSHI VALMIKI

Out of the Ant-hill

Valmiki was not the name that his parents chose for the poet. His real name was Ratnakara. The word 'Valmika' in Sanskrit means an ant-hill. Since he came out of an ant-hill, he got the name of Valmiki. But how strange! How did he come out of an ant-hill? Now, that is a wonderful and delightful story.

Valmiki also lived in the age of Sri Rama - called the 'Treta Yuga' (the Age of Treta). In those days, there was a thick forest all along the banks of the river Ganga. Many sages built their hermitage in that forest for their 'tapas' ; that means they meditated on God. Among them was a sage by the name of Prachetasa. He had, a son called Ratnakara. When he was s a very young boy, one day he went into the forest. While playing he lost his we and began to cry. Just then a hunter came there looking for a prey. He saw the chubby boy and fondled and pacified him. The hunter had no children. He took the boy to his hut in the midst of the jungle.

Ratnakara's father searched for his son all around the hermitage, but could not find him. Finally he and his wife thought that the boy had become the prey of some wild beast. Both wept very much.

The hunter and his wife brought up the lad with great love. Ratnakara forgot his parents. He took the hunter for his father and the hunter's wife for his mother. He was taught how to hunt by the father. Ratnakara was a clever boy and learnt it quickly. He became a hunter with a sure aim.

To the birds and beasts of the forest, he became verily Yama, the God of Death. When he came of age, his foster father searched for a bride and celebrated his marriage with a beautiful girl from a hunters family. In a few years she gave birth to some children. Thus Ratnakara's family grew in size. It became very difficult for him to provide food and clothing to his large family. So he took to robbery. He began to attack people going from one village to another, frighten them and to away all that they had. If they opposed him, he killed them.

One day Ratnakara was sitting by the side of a road waiting for a victim. It happened that the great sage Narada was passing that way. Narada had his favorite musical instrument, a Veena, in his hands. As he played on the Veena, he was singing a song in praise of God. When he was thus lost in joy, suddenly Ratnakara rushed at him. He lifted the stout staff in his hands and shouted, "Look here! Hand over all you have or else I'll break your head."

But Narada was not an ordinary man. He was a divine sage, and one who wandered all over the Earth, the Heaven and the Underworld. He was not frightened by the loud shouts of Ratnakara. He smilingly, "My dear man, all that I have only this old Veena and the rags I we; If you want them, you can certainly take them. Why should you break my head for these?"

Ratnakara was astonished at these words. He looked up at Narada's face. There was neither fear nor anger; there was only peace. And how bright was that face! He was surprised to see a face tender and innocent like that of a child. He had never seen such a lovely face. As he gazed, his cruel mind melted into tenderness.

Narada sat beneath a tree and as played on the Veena, sang a song in praise of God. It was sweet like the song of cuckoo. Ratnakara was deeply moved. Noticing the change, the sage Narada paused in his song and said, "Brother, stealing is a sin. Killing animals is also sinful. Why do you do such evil?"

"Sire, what can I do Ratnakara replied, I have a large family. There are my old parents and my wife and children, They partake of my happiness and my troubles. I have to provide them with food and clothing. Hunting and stealing are all I know. What else can I do?"

The sage smiled and said, "My friend, will any member of your family partake of your sin also ? Go and ask them, and bring back their reply."

Ratnakara thought that Narada was trying a trick to make his escape. Narada understood it and again said, "Well, child, if you do not trust me, you can tie me to this tree and then go."

Ratnakara thought that was all right. He tied Narada to a tree and went home.

On reaching home, he first went to his father and said, "Father, I rob people to get food and clothing for you all. It seems that is a sin. Do you not share in that sin?"

His father was angry and said, "You sinner, you should not do such bad things. Am I to share your sins? No, never. You have to suffer for what you do."

Ratnakara went to his mother and said, "Surely, mother, you will share my sin, won't you?" But she also scolded him and sent him away. He then went to his wife and said, "Do you know how I earn to provide you and your children with food and clothing? It is by robbery. But I steal for your sake. Therefore you are also partners in my sin. Isn't that so?"

The wife was displeased and said, 'What are you saying? What have we to do with your sin? You are my husband, and my children are your children. It is your duty to look after us and give us food and clothing."

Ratnakara's eyes were opened. He realized that he alone was responsible for all his sins no one else would share his sin. As soon as it was clear to him, he ran to Narada. He untied the sage and amidst weeping, narrated to him all that had happened in his home. Falling at Narada's feet he asked the sage, "Oh, sire now what of me? How can I atone for all the sins I have committed? You are my only savior."

Narada lifted him up and wiped his tears. He consoled him saying, "Do not be afraid. I shall teach you a way to wash off your sins." So he taught Ratnakara the sacred name of Rama - 'Rama Nam'. He made him sit beneath a tree and asked him to go on repeating the sacred name of Rama. He said, I shall come here again, Till then you should not get up and go away." Then the sage departed.

Ratnakara continued his 'tapas’ chanting the name of Rama. His eyes were closed. His whole mind was concentrate on the chanting of the name of the Lord He forgot his existence. He had neither food nor sleep for days and days. And in this way quite a few years passed. An ant hill grew all around and above him. He could not even be seen by anybody.

At last one day the sage Narada again came that way. Of course, he knew that Ratnakara was inside the anthill. Very carefully he cleared that anthill still Ratnakara was wholly lost in his 'tapas' and did not wake up to the world around him. Narada chanted the name of Rama in his ears. Then he opened his eyes and saw the sage standing before him. He saluted him from where he was sitting. Narada helped him to get up. He also gently touched him all over. Ratnakara felt new life flowing through him. He touched the sage's feet; Narada lifted him up and embraced him. He said to him, "Ratnakara, you are blessed. God is pleased with your 'tapas'. You are now a sage of the highest order, a Brahmarshi. As you are now reborn from a Valmika (the ant-hill), will here after be famous as Valmiki."

Tears of joy welled up in Valmiki’s eyes at these words. He prostrated before Narada again and said, "Sire, all this is your kindness. The company of good men uplifts man. I am myself a proof of this." Narada blessed him and went his way.

The sage, Valmiki, now formed his ashrama or hermitage near the river Ganga. His fame spread every – where Many other sages went with their families and settled down in his ashrama. This sons became the disciples of Valmiki.

One day Sri Rama with his wife Seetha and brother Lakshmana came to Valmiki's ashrama. Valmiki's joy knew no limit. With the help of his disciples he waited on them with great enthusiasm. His disciples brought them water to wash their hands and feet, and spread mattresses for them to sit upon. They offered the guests fresh milk and tasty fruits.

After resting a while, Sri Rama narrated his story. He had come to the forest so that his father's promise might be fulfilled. Valmiki was very pleased to hear it. He said, "Ramachandra, there is none so truthful as you are. You have given up your kingdom so that your father's promise may be kept. Giving up a king's throne, you have come to the forest. You are not an ordinary man but the Almighty Himself. The power of your name is such that I have changed from a sinful hunter to a sage, a Brahmarshi. Your grace is great."

Sri Rama smiled. Then he said to Valmiki, "O great sage, we have come he to live near your hermitage. Please show us a suitable spot." There was a hill very near Valmiki's hermitage. It was called Chitrakuta. It was a beautiful place with many kinds of plants full of flowers and trees bearing fruits. Valmiki guided Rama to that hill. Sri Rama lived for a while on the hill with his wife and brother.

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Look here! Hand over all you have or else I'll break your head
About Maharshi Valmiki
Introduction
You are Here! Out Of The Ant-hill
The 'Ramayana ' In Slokas
A Queen Comes To A Hermitage
Sri Rama Hears His Own Story
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