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
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
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
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
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
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
Tears of joy welled up in Valmikis 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
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.