by Swami Krishnananda
Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, which is considered as the Adi Kavya, equivalent to Veda itself, is something whose exposition it is rare to obtain. Vedah prachetasadasit sakshat ramayanatmana is a famous verse which makes out that the whole of the Veda has been expounded in epic language by the Adi Kavi Valmiki in the Ramayana. The power, the force, the literary style, the mellifluous movement of the whole theme of presentation and a subtly permeating undercurrent of immortal power in the whole epic of the Ramayana make it an almost unparalleled scripture in the world.
All Sanskrit literature originated in its form as sahitya from the time of Sage Valmiki himself. There was, as we are told, no versification or presentation of any subject in the form of a sloka before Valmiki for the first time uttered words which became a sloka [verse] though what he expressed to all is a shoka [sorrow]. Manishada pratishtatum samagah sashvatisamah yat krouncha mithunadekam sokam avadhim kama mohitam. This seems to be the first verse ever available to us in Sanskrit literature, originated from the mouth of Valmiki Adi Kavi, who uttered these words not as a kavi but as a person in distress at the sight of a fowler shooting an arrow of death-bringing strength to a male bird, krouncha, [dove] which was with its partner. Valmiki felt deeply grieved. “How cruel you are to bring death to a joyfully seated dove.” A curse was imprecated at once by this great sage, which he spoke in anger. That imprecation, that curse, came in the series of these words: manishada pratishtatum samagah sashvatisamah yat krouncha mithunadekam sokam avadhim kama mohitam. Manishada pratishtatum samagah: O fowler, don’t live for long. That means to say, let this be the end of your life. Why? Yat krouncha mithunadekam sokam avadhim kama mohitam: When the male krouncha was with his partner with joy, you killed him. This is the cruelest of acts that one can deal to one who is most innocent. As you have dealt a deathblow to one of the two doves who was most innocent and not deserving of this harm, I utter this word of immediate annihilation of yourself.
When these words were uttered in a state of anger as a curse to bring death to the fowler instantaneously, Brahma the Creator descended and blessed Valmiki, the sage who uttered these words. “Glory to him who has uttered this first verse of glorification of the great Lord.” Where is the glorification of the great Lord in these words? Valmiki never knew that within the words of curse that he uttered there was a prayer to the Almighty Lord Narayana hiddenly present, unwittingly made present inside in the form of a systematic verse of thirty-two letters. Though the obvious meaning of this verse of thirty-two letters is a curse, it had another meaning altogether which was a glorification of Lakshmi-Narayana. Manishada: O abode of Mahalakshmi, is another meaning of these words. Ma means Lakshmi, nishada is one who is abode. Pratishtatum samagah: May your glory be forever and ever.
This is the meaning of this Sanskrit style. You can juxtapose the words this way or that way. In one way it is a death-bringing curse, and arranged in another way the very same words mean glory to Adinarayana. O abode of Mahalakshmi, may you be glorified forever and ever. Why? Yat krouncha mithunadekam sokam avadhim kama mohitam: Because you have been a conduit for bringing an end to Ravana, who was attached in a sensuous manner to objects. You brought an end to this crude way of living. May you live long. May you live long. May your glory be immortalised, O Narayana, the abode of Lakshmi.
“O, you have uttered these words?” Brahma immediately said, “You have started the glory of Rama, incarnation of Narayana, who came to end this tyranny of Ravana. I ordain you to write the whole epic Ramayana story from now onwards, commencing with this great glorification of Narayana.
There is also a secret behind the Adi Kavya Ramayana, which is for every thousand verses, the first verse commences with one letter of the Gayatri mantra. Tapah svadhyaya nirataam tapasvi vagvidam varam, naradam paripapracha valmikih muni pumgavam is the first verse. ‘Ta’ is the first letter. Tat savitur varenyam is how the Gayatri commences; and the next one thousand verses starts with the next letter of Gayatri. The twenty-four thousand verses of the Valmiki Ramayana have hiddenly, within them, at every thousandth verse, a letter of the Gayatri mantra. These verses are sometimes culled out separately as Gayatri Ramayana, and devotees recite it every day.
Valmiki Ramayana is a wondrous, immortal epic with a wondrous, immortal message. May God bless you!