Valmiki, an Introduction
Valmiki is a great sage and an equally great poet. He is believed to have lived in the time of Lord Rama, during the epoch Treya Yuga. He is the composer of the epic Ramayana, which narrates the life story of Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, who is also worshipped as the Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Valmiki’s Ramayana is a colossal epic poem sung in Sanskrit and consists of as many as 24,000 verses spread across seven chapters or cantos. It is also considered as Adi Kavya, the first epic poem and hence, Valmiki, its creator, is hailed as Adi Kavi, the first poet that the world has seen.
Valmiki Jayanthi is the birth anniversary of this great saint-poet. It is observed on Ashwin Poornima, that is, on the full Moon night in the month of Ashwin (September–October).
Legend of Sage Valmiki
The legend of Valmiki gives a remarkable account on the transformation of a ruthless dacoit into a great sage. He is said to have been born as Ratnakara, to sage Prachetasa, but was brought up by a hunter under the name Valia Koli. Ratnakara himself became a hunter, got married in due course and begot children.
Unable to support his family, he gradually began robbing travellers and soon grew into a feared dacoit. But, the meeting with the great sage Narada by chance changed his life dramatically, for the better. He turned a new leaf, undertook a very severe penance, meditating on God without any thought about anything else. Years rolled by and his body was covered completely by anthills. At last, with all his sins dissolved, he blossomed into a great sage and was called as Valmiki, ‘the one, who was born out of the anthill’.
Also, it was sage Narada once again, under whose prompting that Valmiki undertook the sacred task of writing Ramayana, the holy life history of Rama, who was the symbol of righteousness and nobility. Valmiki was not only the author of the immense poem, but also remained as an important character in it. Rama, while in exile in forest, visited Valmiki in his Ashram along with wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, and it was only on his advice that they stayed in Chitrakoot, near the sage’s Ashram. Also, when Rama was constrained to banish his pregnant wife Sita to forest, it was Valmiki who gave shelter to her in his Ashram, where she delivered her twin boys, Lav and Kush. Valmiki was also their teacher and Guru, who taught the young boys, all that the princes need to learn and master. He also narrated to them the life history of Rama and was instrumental in them joining their illustrious father.
Valmiki Jayanthi Celebrations
Valmiki Jayanthi is also known as Pragat Diwas and is celebrated with piety and enthusiasm by many devotees. People read select portions of his Ramayan on that day and offer worship to Lord Rama and also to Valmiki, the creator of his epic story. Shobha Yatras, grand processions are taken out in many places, in which tableaus depicting the life and achievements of Valmiki are displayed. There are also group chanting of Ramayan Kavya and also gathering of devotees in which prayers are offered to Valmiki. People do charity too and distribute food to the poor and the needy. They also visit temples of Lord Rama and Valmiki, offer flowers and light lamps.
A temple dedicated exclusively to sage Valmiki exists in the Thiruvanmiyur area of Chennai city. This is an ancient temple, believed to be as many as 1300 years old. It is said that Valmiki himself did penance in the place and hence, the locality is also known by the name Valmiki Nagar. Apart from Valmiki Jayanthi celebrations, a Brahmotsavam, an annual festival, is held here with enthusiasm. Also, as the sage was born on a Purnima night, special prayer sessions are held in the temple with devotion, during every full Moon night.