Authors: Vālmīki

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Indian poet

Author Works


Rāmāyana, c. 500 b.c.e. (The Ramayana, 1870-1874)


Vālmīki (vahl-MEE-kee) is one of those ancient authors who tantalize scholars because so little is known or can be known about them. According to Hindu tradition, Vālmīki lived in 867,000 b.c.e.; Westernized scholars have offered their own guesses ranging from about 700 b.c.e. to approximately 500 c.e. Vālmīki may be a legend that people long ago created to account for a great work of literature. The traditional story is that Vālmīki was a highway robber. Priests told him to ask his family, whom he supported through his thefts, whether they would be willing to share in hell the torments he would reap for his sins. His relatives declined. Distraught, he again consulted the priests, who told him to repeat the holy syllables “ma” and “rā.” Immobile, he complied while an anthill (valmīka) slowly arose around him (the source of his name). A thousand years later, the priests returned. Only then did Vālmīki realize that he had been chanting the name Rāma. Thereafter, to Vālmīki came Nārada, the messenger of the gods, who recited to the now-holy man the virtues and adventures of Rāma, the ideal hero and an incarnation of Vishnu. When he had heard the tale, Vālmīki mourned that he had no poetic power to pass on the tale to other men, until one day he saw a hunter kill a heron. Moved by his pity for the bird and his anger at the man, Vālmīki began to express himself in Sanskrit poetry. While he was reciting slokas, the god Brahmā appeared and ordered Vālmīki to use his newfound poetic power to sing of Rāma, his love for Sītā, and Rāma’s victory over the demons. The story of Rāma is famous and has been retold many times, regardless of whoever may have composed it first. Later renditions of the Ramayana include Kshmendra’s Ramayana-Kathasara-Manjari, Bhoja’s Ramayana-Champu, and Tulsīdās’s Ram-Charit-Manas. While Vālmīki may or may not have ever lived, the poem attributed to him still holds meaning for its readers. Untold millions of people in India and beyond have found inspiration and pleasure in the Ramayana.{$I[AN]9810000322}{$I[A]V{amacr}lm{imacr}ki[Valmiki]}{$I[geo]INDIA;V{am acr}lm{imacr}ki[Valmiki]}{$I[tim]0500 b.c.e.;V{amacr}lm{imacr}ki[Valmiki]}

Further Reading:Blank, Jonah. Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God: Tracing the Ramayana Through India. New York: Grove, 2000. A journalist travels India, visiting places mentioned in the Rāmāyaṇa as a meditation on the state of modern India.Brockington, J. L. Epic Threads: John Brockington on the Sanskrit Epics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. A collection of essays on specialized aspects of the Rāmāyaṇa, such as linguistic features and style, formulaic expression and proverbs, manuscript studies, and religion, by a renowned scholar.Griffith, Ralph T. H., trans. The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. 1915. Reprint. Yucaipa, Calif.: Light Mission Publishing, 2003. An elegant translation in rhymed verse.Kam, Garrett. Ramayana in the Arts of Asia. Singapore: Select Books, 2000.Pandurangarava, Ai. Valmiki. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1994.Pati, Madhusudana. The Ramayana of Valmiki: A Reading. Bhubaneswar, India: Orissa Sahitya Akademi, 1999.Richman, Paula, ed. Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.Richman, Paula, ed. Questioning Rāmāyaṇas: A South Asian Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Scholarly discourse on the various proto-Rāmāyaṇas.Sankalia, H. D. The Rāmāyaṇa in Historical Perpective. Delhi: Macmillan India Limited, 1982. A solid scholarly study by a noted expert.Smith, H. Daniel, comp. Select Bibliography of Rāmāyaṇa-Related Studies. Bombay: Ananthacharya Indological Research Institute, 1989. Extremely helpful research tool for Rāmāyaṇa scholars.Vālmīki. The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. Edited and translated by Robert P. Goldman et al. 5 vols. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984-1996. A magisterial translation with superb scholarly glosses.Vanamail, Devi. Sri Rama Lila: The Story of the Lord’s Incarnation as Sri Rama, Narrated by Sage Valmiki in the Ramayana. New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2000.Vartaka, Padmakara Vishnu. The Scientific Dating of the Ramayana and the Vedas. Pune, India: Veda Vidnyana Mandala, 1999.
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