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Monday, April 4, 2011

Valmiki's Balmikis

(Valmiki writing the Ramayana)
Many agree that Valmiki is the First Poet of classical Sanskrit.  Not only did he write 24,000 foundational verses of the Ramayana, but he did so in unique styles now known as shloka (sloka) and kvaya.

Sloka (meaning “song”) has become the basis for classical Sanskrit poetry and Indian epics.  Valmiki is said to have spontaneously composed the very first sloka after stopping to bathe in the river Ganga.  Wikipedia reports that Valmiki told his disciple, “Look how clear is this water, like the mind of a good man!”  Valmiki then noticed two birds that looked like a couple in love.  Upon seeing their happiness, his own heart was filled with joy.  Suddenly, one of the birds was hit by a hunter’s arrow.  As it fell to the ground, the anguished Valmiki cried out to the hunter:  You will find no rest for
the long years of Eternity  For you killed a bird in love and unsuspecting.

That poetic cry became the first sloka, and Valmiki later repeated its meter pattern throughout the Ramayana.  The Ramayana then became the very first kvaya.  Wikipedia reports that a kvaya is a Sanskrit literary style that is “characterized by abundant usage of figures of speech, metaphors, similes and hyperbole to create its emotional effects.”  In English, it might be referred to as a “court epic.”

The reader may have already noted that Valmiki was speaking with a disciple before composing his first sloka.  That is because Valmiki was more than just a literary giant – and the Ramayana is more than just a work of art.  Many believe that Valmiki was a spiritual Avatar, and that the Ramayana is one of his divinely-inspired Scriptures. 

The Balmikis make up one such group of believers.  Their beliefs, according to Wikipedia, include the following:  There is one God; Valmiki is God’s incarnation on Earth; all humans are equal (no caste system of any kind); the Ramayana is a scriptural model for ideal human behavior (Rama the ideal king, Sita the ideal wife, Lakshmana the ideal brother, and Hanuman the ideal devotee); humans have a profound kinship with the animal kingdom; and divine goodness can overcome evil.


Copyright April 4, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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