The Sage Narada Summarizes the Ramayana to Valmiki
The ascetic Valmiki, who had been practicing austerities and studying
the sacred scriptures inquired from the learned and best of sages, Narada.
“O sage, at present who in this world is virtuous, who possesses prowess,
who knows the principles of religion, who is grateful for service rendered,
who is truthful, and who has firm resolve? Who possesses good character,
who is the well-wisher of all living beings, who is truly learned, who
is powerful, and who is the most beautiful person? Who has self-control,
who has conquered anger, who is effulgent, who is non-envious, and whom
do the demigods fear when angered in battle? This is what I wish to hear,
for I am filled with extreme curiosity. O great sage, you are capable of
knowing such a person.”
Hearing this request from Valmiki, Narada, who possesses knowledge of the three worlds, replied: “Listen.” Then with great delight, he began to speak. “O sage, listen as I describe the person who possesses the many rare qualities you have mentioned. There is such a person, born in the dynasty of Ikshvaku, whom people call by the name Rama. He is self-controlled and extremely powerful. He is effulgent, determined and has conquered His passions. He is intelligent, prudent, eloquent, glorious and the destroyer of enemies. He has broad shoulders, strong arms, the marks of a conch upon His neck, and a sturdy jaw. His chest is broad and His bow is large. His collar bone is covered by flesh and He is capable of subduing any enemy. His arms reach His knees. His head is quite attractive, and so too is His forehead. His gait is dignified. He is of average height and the limbs of His body are well-proportioned. His complexion is shiny and He is very strong. His chest is muscular and His eyes broad. His body possesses great splendor and all auspicious attributes. He knows the principles of religion, is true to His word and is engaged in the welfare of the people. He is illustrious, endowed with knowledge, pure, in control of His faculties and has a steadfast mind. Being the support of the world, He is equal in every respect to Brahma. He is endowed with great wealth and easily destroys His enemies. He is the protector of all living creatures, and the defender of religion. He is the defender of His own virtues and of His own people. He knows the four Vedas and their corollaries and is skilled in the science of war (Dhanur-veda ). He knows the meaning of all the sacred scriptures, and is endowed with a perfect memory and sharp mind. His popularity is universal. He is righteous, optimistic and skillful with words. He is always approached by the devout, as is the ocean by rivers. He is noble, equal to all, and His appearance is always very pleasant. He is endowed with all good qualities and He increases the bliss of His mother, Kausalya. He is as profound as the ocean and as steadfast as the Himalayas. He is as powerful as Lord Vishnu, and as pleasing to see as the moon. His anger is like the fire of destruction at the end of the world, and His forgiveness is like the earth. In liberality, He is equal to Kuvera, the treasurer of the gods; and in truthfulness He is like a second Dharmaraja, the god of justice.
In order to please his subjects, King Dasharatha affectionately wished to install his eldest son, Rama, who was endowed with all good qualities, as crown prince, especially since He possessed the best attributes and because His prowess was irresistible and He had the welfare of the people at heart. Then, seeing the preparations for Rama's coronation, Kaikeyi, the second wife of King Dasharatha, on the strength of the promise of a boon from the king, requested that Rama be banished from the kingdom and that her son, Bharata, be installed as king. Because of his truthfulness, Dasharatha was bound by the noose of duty. Thus he banished his beloved son Rama. In obedience to His father's order and to please His step-mother, Kaikeyi, Rama went to the forest, thus upholding His father's promise to Kaikeyi. As Rama departed, His dear brother, Lakshmana, who was endowed with great modesty and who was the source of increasing happiness for his mother, Sumitra, accompanied Him because of the great affection he had for Him. In this way, Lakshmana showed his fidelity to his elder brother Rama. Rama's consort, Sita, was as dear to Him as His own life. She was endowed with all auspicious attributes and was the very best of women. Sita followed Rama into the forest as the star Rohini follows her husband, the moon. Rama was accompanied some distance by the citizens, as well as by His own father, Dasharatha.
Rama met the pious soul, Guha, who was His dear friend and leader of the Nishadas, at the city of Shringerapura on the bank of the Ganges. Thereafter, He sent back His charioteer. In the company of Guha, Lakshmana, and Sita, Rama wandered from forest to forest, crossing many swollen rivers. By the order of the sage Bharadvaja, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita went to the mountain of Citrakuta. After building a pleasant cottage, the three of them enjoyed themselves in that forest. They resided there happily as if they were gods or gandharvas. After Rama had gone to Citrakuta, King Dasharatha was overcome with grief due to separation from his son. While weeping for his son, he went to heaven.
After the death of King Dasharatha, the best of brahmanas headed by Vasishtha urged Bharata to accept the post of king. Bharata, however, did not wish to, but instead went to the forest to placate Rama. Reaching the great soul Rama, whose prowess was unfailing, the noble Bharata entreated his brother. He spoke the following words, “O Rama, You alone are the king, for You are the knower of the principles of righteousness.” The countenance of Rama, who was most magnanimous and whose glory was very great, was very pleasing to behold. Powerful Rama did not wish to take over the kingdom because of the order of His father. He therefore presented Bharata with His own sandals as His representatives in the kingdom. Only after repeated requests was Rama able to convince Bharata to return to Ayodhya. Being unable to accomplish what he desired, Bharata touched the two lotus feet of Rama. Taking up the rule of the kingdom, Bharata resided in the town of Nandigrama outside of Ayodhya, and waited anxiously for the return of Rama.
After Bharata left, Rama, whose promise was true and who had conquered His own senses, foresaw the arrival of the citizens of Ayodhya seeking audience with Him there. With His mind set on only one thing, His father's order, He left that place and entered the Dandakaranya Forest. Upon entering that great forest, Rama, whose eyes were like red lotuses, killed the rakshasa Viradha. Thereafter, He saw the sages Sharabhanga, Sutikshna, Agastya and Agastya's brother, Idhmavahana. On Agastya's request, Rama happily accepted a bow, a sword and a pair of quivers with an inexhaustible number of arrows. All these had originally been given to the sage by Indra. While dwelling in the forest with the aborigines, Rama was approached by all the forest sages who requested Him to kill the demons and rakshasas. He vowed to kill all the rakshasas in the forest. To the sages dwelling in the Dandakaranya Forest, who were themselves as potent as fire, Rama promised to kill all the rakshasas in combat. In that very forest, in a region called Janasthana, dwelt a rakshasi named Shurpanakha. She could assume any form at will, but was disfigured by Rama. Then, after hearing from Shurpanakha, all the rakshasas were roused to fight. Rama killed in battle Shurpanakha's brothers Khara, Trishira and Dushana, as well as all of their foot soldiers. While dwelling in that forest, Rama killed fourteen thousand rakshasas that were staying in the Janastana region of the Dandaka Forest.
After hearing about the slaughter of his kinsmen, Ravana was overcome with anger. He then sought the help of one rakshasa named Marica. Marica repeatedly entreated Ravana, “O Ravana, it is not wise to make enmity with the powerful Rama! You should be tolerant of Him.” Ravana, however, did not heed Marica's words, being impelled by destiny. Accompanied by Marica, he went to Rama's hermitage. The sorcerer Marica lured the two princes, Rama and Lakshmana, far away. Ravana carried off Rama's wife, Sita, after wounding the vulture Jatayu. Seeing the wounded vulture and hearing from him about Sita's abduction, Rama, the descendant of the Raghu dynasty, was overwhelmed with grief. With all His senses disturbed, He began lamenting. Then, with great sadness, Rama cremated the vulture Jatayu.
While searching the forest for Sita, Rama came upon a rakshasa named Kabandha. His body was deformed and frightening to behold. Rama killed the rakshasa and cremated him, after which the rakshasa achieved heaven. As Kabandha ascended, he told Rama to seek out Shabari, an aborigine woman, who was very religious, “O descendant of the Raghu dynasty, approach that female hermit, for she is knowledgeable in all aspects of righteousness.” Then Rama, who was very powerful and the destroyer of enemies, approached Shabari. Rama, the son of King Dasharatha was appropriately worshiped by Shabari.
On the shore of Lake Pampa, Rama met the monkey Hanuman. On the request of Hanuman, Rama then met the monkey chieftain Sugriva. Then the strong Rama related to Sugriva the story of His life from His very birth, as well as that of His consort, Sita. After the monkey Sugriva heard the whole story of Rama, he developed great affection for Him and established friendship with Him with a sacred fire as witness. Then the monkey chieftain, Sugriva, out of affection for Rama and with sadness, informed Him about his enmity with his brother Vali. At that time, Rama promised to kill Vali, after which Sugriva described Vali's strength, for Sugriva always doubted Rama's personal strength. In order to convince Rama of Vali's strength, Sugriva showed Him the carcass as large as a mountain of the demon Dundubhi, who had been killed by Vali. Slightly smiling, the strong-armed and greatly powerful Rama took one look at the skeleton and then, with His big toe, kicked it a distance of eighty miles. To instill confidence in Sugriva, Rama, with one mighty arrow, pierced the trunks of seven Palmyra trees standing in a row, the mountain behind them and the seven lower worlds.
After seeing this, the monkey chieftain was pleased at heart and had faith in the ability of Rama. He went with Rama to Kishkindha, the stronghold of Vali, which was a cave in the mountains. Then the best of monkeys, Sugriva, who was the color of gold, roared ferociously. Hearing that mighty roar, the king of monkeys, Vali, sallied forth from his cave. Reassuring his wife, Tara, Vali confronted Sugriva. Rama thereupon slew Vali with a single arrow. After slaying Vali as per the advice of Sugriva, Rama bestowed the kingdom to Sugriva.
Assembling all the monkeys, Sugriva dispatched them in all directions to look for Sita. On the advice of the vulture Sampati, the strong Hanuman leapt eight hundred miles across the salt ocean to the island of Lanka. Arriving at the city of Lanka, which was protected by Ravana, he saw Sita in the Ashoka garden, where she was absorbed in thoughts of Rama. After presenting Rama's ring to Sita, Hanuman related to Her a message from Rama, thus assuaging Her grief. Then he demolished the gateway of the garden. After killing five generals and seven sons of ministers and crushing Aksha, the son of Ravana, he was captured. Knowing that on the strength of a boon from Brahma he would be released from the brahma-pasha weapon, Hanuman deliberately tolerated the rakshasas as they carried him, bound as he was. Then the great monkey set fire to the city of Lanka, except where Sita was, and departed from there to convey the good news to his dear master Rama. Having reached the great-souled Rama, Hanuman, who was of immeasurable prowess, circumambulated Him and informed Him, “I have actually seen Sita.” Then, in the company of Sugriva, Rama went to the shore of the great ocean and agitated it by firing arrows as bright as the sun. Then the deity of the ocean, who is the lord of all waters, appeared before them. On the advice of the ocean, Rama had Nala build a bridge over the ocean. Crossing it to the city of Lanka, Rama killed the demon Ravana.
Upon finding Sita, Rama felt terribly ashamed that She had been in the home of another man. In the assembly of monkeys, Rama revealed His mind to Sita. Being unable to bear such criticism, Sita entered into a blazing fire. Thereafter, by the declaration of the deity of fire, Agni, it was made known that Sita was faultless. All moving and nonmoving beings within the three worlds, including the demigods and sages, were pleased by the great feat executed by Lord Rama. After being worshiped by all the demigods, Rama was very satisfied. Installing the rakshasa Vibhishana as king of Lanka, Rama had accomplished His purpose, was free from anxiety and thus rejoiced. He thereupon received a boon from the demigods that all those monkeys who had been killed in battle would regain their lives. Surrounded by His friends, Rama departed for Ayodhya in a flower aircraft called Pushpaka.
On arriving at the hermitage of the sage Bharadvaja, Rama, whose prowess was insurmountable, sent Hanuman ahead to inform Bharata of their return. After narrating once more the story of His life, He boarded the flower aircraft Pushpaka with Sugriva and other companions and departed for Nandigrama. Having shaved off His matted locks of hair in Nandigrama with His brothers, and having regained Sita, the sinless Rama again received His kingdom.
In the kingdom of Rama the people will be joyful, happy, contented, well-fed, religious, free from disease, and free from the fear of famine. They will never see the death of their sons, nor will there be widows; and the women will always be devoted to their husbands. There will never be any fear of fire, nor will any living creatures drown in water; neither will there be any fear from the wind or from fever. There will never be fear of hunger or theft. The cities and states will have ample wealth and food-grains. Everyone will always be as jubilant as in the Golden Age of Krita-yuga. He will perform one hundred horse sacrifices and other sacrifices with abundant quantities of gold, giving 100,000 cows in charity to the learned, as ordained in the sacred scriptures, and immeasurable wealth to the brahmanas. He will establish royal dynasties one hundred times more glorious than others. The four castes in this world will remain fixed in the execution of their particular duties. Having served His kingdom for eleven hundred years, He will return to His own transcendental abode in the spiritual world. This narration about Lord Rama is as pure, holy, and destructive to sin as are the Vedas. One who studies it will become freed from all sins.
A person who reads this narration called Ramayana will achieve long life and after death, will enjoy with his children, grandchildren and other relations in heaven. The brahmana who reads this will achieve mastery of speech, the kshatriya will become ruler of the world, the vaishya will achieve success in business ventures, and the shudra will achieve greatness.
How the Ramayana Was Compiled
Having heard those words of Narada, the eloquent Valmiki, who was a
pious soul, assisted by his disciples, worshiped Narada. After being duly
worshiped by Valmiki and receiving his permission to leave, the sage Narada
ascended into the sky. After remaining in Valmiki's hermitage for a period
of forty-eight minutes, Narada had ascended to the realm of the gods. Then
Valmiki went to the shore of the Tamasa River, which was not far from the
Ganges. Arriving on the bank of the Tamasa River, he saw that the bank
was not muddy and spoke to the disciple standing at his side: “O Bharadvaja,
this bathing place is free of mud. The water of this pleasant place is
as peaceful as the mind of a saintly person. Child, put your water pot
down and hand me my bark cloth to wrap myself with. I am going to bathe
here in this most excellent ford of the Tamasa River.” Having spoken thus,
Bharadvaja, who was an obedient disciple, handed to his guru, the great
soul Valmiki, the bark cloth for bathing. Taking the bark cloth from the
hand of his disciple, Valmiki, whose senses were fully under his control,
began to wander about, seeing everything that was there in that extensive
Near that spot, the sage saw a pair of herons moving about the forest as they flirted in love, making a charming sound. Shortly thereafter, he saw a very sinful hunter, who was full of enmity to other creatures, shoot with an arrow the male heron of the pair. Seeing her mate flopping about on the ground, with blood smeared all over his body due to a fatal wound, she began to wail piteously. Knowing that they would soon be separated by death, the male heron, whose crest was reddish like copper, desired to enjoy with his mate one last time, thus he extended his wings as he united with her.
The sight of the bird's being struck down in that way by the hunter aroused the sage's compassion. On seeing the wailing heron and considering the hunter's action sinful, the sage spoke the following words.
O hunter, so wicked are you!
Now be you without peace for years;
For as the herons made love true,
You killed the one, left one in tears.
Having spoken in this way, he began to reflect, “What is it that
I have uttered, being stricken with grief for the plight of the bird?”
Thinking about this for a while, the highly learned sage Valmiki came to
a conclusion and spoke the following words to his disciple: “Let these
words uttered by me due to the pangs of grief, which were arranged in four
feet of an equal number of syllables and which are therefore easily sung
to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument, be accepted as only a poetic
verse, and nothing more.” Valmiki's disciple, being pleased by the excellence
of the verse, memorized it as the sage spoke it. Seeing this, Valmiki was
After that, the sage took his bath in the ford of the river according to scriptural rules. Thinking about what had occurred, he departed for his hermitage. Then the humble and learned disciple Bharadvaja picked up the full water pot and followed after his spiritual master. Having entered the hermitage, Valmiki sat down and discussed various topics with his disciple, all the while thinking about the verse he had uttered. Just then, the creator of the world, the four-headed Lord Brahma, arrived to see the great sage. Seeing him, Valmiki immediately stood up. He stood there with folded hands and was unable to speak, being struck with wonder. After worshiping Lord Brahma with water for washing the feet and hands, a seat to sit on and words of praise, Valmiki bowed down to him according to scriptural rules and inquired about his well-being. After sitting on the most glorious seat, Lord Brahma requested Valmiki to also sit down. Accepting Brahma's request, Valmiki took his seat. While sitting next to Brahma, who is known as the grandfather of the universe, Valmiki's mind began dwelling on the incident of the herons. He thought to himself: “The wicked hunter committed a great blunder with malicious intent. He killed for no reason the heron who was cooing so pleasingly in the rapture of love.” Contemplating the plight of the female heron, in the presence of Brahma, he recited the verse again. Once more he returned to mental contemplation, being overcome with grief.
Lord Brahma then laughingly addressed the sage. “O brahmana, fret no longer over this metrical verse. It was intended for you alone. It was I who caused you to utter it. O best of sages, using the metrical format of this verse, describe in full the transcendental activities of Lord Rama. The Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared in this world as Lord Rama, the most righteous and sober person. Describe those activities as you heard them from the sage Narada. Whatever activity, whether known or confidential, about the all-knowing Rama, as well as about Lakshmana, or even about all the rakshasas, as well as whatever there is that is known or confidential about Sita, all that will be revealed to you. Not one word of yours in this poem will be proven false. Compose the auspicious and mind-pleasing story of Lord Rama, using the pattern of this metrical verse. As long as there are mountains and rivers on the earth, the story of Lord Rama will endure among people. As long as this story of Lord Rama composed by you endures, you will dwell in this world and in the upper worlds.”
Having spoken thus, Lord Brahma vanished from sight. Thereafter, the great sage, along with his disciples, was astonished. Then all Valmiki's disciples repeated that verse. Experiencing continual ecstasy, they then spoke with wonder. “What the great sage recited with four feet and an equal number of syllables was nothing but his grief transformed into a metrical verse by dint of his having uttered it.” Thus it occurred to the thoughtful sage to compose the entire Ramayana in such verses. Then the illustrious and broad-minded sage composed hundreds and thousands of captivating metrical verses extolling the glorious deeds of Lord Rama. That poem has made the sage famous. Listen to the story composed by the sage Valmiki which tells of Rama, the best of the Raghu dynasty, and of the death of the ten-headed demon Ravana. This story is adorned with the proper use of compound words and elision2 of letters, and its words are full of meaning and uniform sweetness.
Valmiki Summarizes the Ramayana
Having heard the entire theme of the Ramayana, which is conducive to
religious merit and economic development, Valmiki tried to uncover the
details of the highly learned Rama. Sitting on a mat of kusha grass with
its tips pointing east, Valmiki sipped water according to scriptural regulation
for his purification. Then he joined his hands and began considering
how to achieve his goal of composing the Ramayana. The sage was actually
able to perceive everything regarding Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, Dasharatha
and his queens and kingdom. How they laughed, talked, walked and actedÑall
that he saw by mystic power. Moreover, whatever Lord Rama, who was true
to His promise, did in the company of Sita and Lakshmana as they wandered
in the forest, he was also able to see. While situated in yogic trance,
the pious soul Valmiki saw everything that happened in the past as clearly
as one sees a fruit in one's hand. The great sage saw all that by dint
of his yogic ability, then he prepared to compose the story of the all-glorious
Rama. That story contains elaborations on the four principles of dharma,
artha, kama and moksha (religiosity, economic development, sense enjoyment
and liberation). As the ocean is full of gems, so is the Ramayana full
of literary adornments. It attracts the ears and minds of everyone. The
sage then began composing the story of the Raghu dynasty exactly as he
heard it recited by the great soul Narada.
He described Lord Rama's birth, His superlative prowess, His benevolence to all, His popularity with the people, as well as His forgiveness, gentleness, and truthfulness. He also described many wonderful stories, such as: when Rama was with the sage Vishvamitra; how He married Sita; how He broke the great bow of Shiva; the dispute between Him and Parashurama; His exceptional qualities; the preparation for His coronation; the ill will of Queen Kaikeyi towards Him; the interruption of Rama's coronation and His banishment; King Dasharatha's grief and lamentation and how he attained the heavenly world; the grief of the citizens, and how He sent back those who followed Him into the forest; His conversation with the chief of the Nishadas and how He sent His charioteer back to Ayodhya; His crossing of the Ganges and encounter with the sage Bharadvaja; how, on the advice of Bharadvaja, He went to Citrakuta; how He constructed a hut; the arrival of His brother, Bharata, who tried to convince Rama to return to Ayodhya; how Rama offered water in the obsequial rite of His father; how Bharata installed Rama's sandals and took up residence in the village of Nandigrama; Rama's arrival at the Dandakaranya Forest; His killing of the rakshasa Viradha; His visit with the sage Sharabhanga, and encounter with the sage Sutikshna; Sita's sojourn with Anasuya, the wife of sage Atri, and how she offered sandalwood paste on the body of Sita; Rama's visiting the sage Agastya and receiving a bow from him; Shurpanakha's conversation with Rama and her disfigurement by Him; how Rama killed Khara, Trishira and Dushana; Ravana's infuriation with Rama; the killing of the magician Marica, and the abduction of Sita by Ravana; Rama's lamentation and the death of the king of vultures, Jatayu; Rama's encounter with the demon Kabandha and His arrival at Lake Pampa; His meeting with Shabari and His eating of fruits and roots offered by her; Rama's wailing due to the loss of His consort and His meeting with the monkey Hanuman on the shore of Lake Pampa; Rama's arrival at Rishyamuka Mountain and His meeting with Sugriva; Rama's instilling confidence in Sugriva and striking up a friendship with him; the battle between Vali and Sugriva, the crushing defeat of Vali and the installation of Sugriva on the throne of Kishkindha; the lamentation of Vali's widow, Tara; the pact between Rama and Sugriva; Rama's residing at Kishkindha for the period of the monsoon; the anger of Rama, the lion of the Raghu dynasty; the mustering of soldiers by Sugriva and their being dispatched in all directions of the earth; Rama's entrusting of His ring to Hanuman; the finding of the cave of the bear Jambavan; the monkeys' resolve to fast until death and their encounter with the vulture Sampati; Hanuman's ascending Mahendra Mountain and his leaping across the ocean; Mainaka Mountain's meeting with Hanuman by the instruction of the god of the ocean; Hanuman's being threatened by the demoness Surasa; his seeing the illusory form of the demoness Lankini, and his killing of the demoness Simhika; his seeing Trikuta Mountain upon which the city of Lanka stood; Hanuman's entry of Lanka at night and thinking what to do; his entry into Ravana's liquor hall and harem quarters; his seeing Ravana asleep, and also Ravana's airship Pushpaka; his seeing the Ashoka grove and Sita within it; his delivery of Rama's ring to Sita to identify himself as Rama's servant and his subsequent conversation with Sita; Sita's relating to Hanuman about Her harassment by the rakshasis and how Trijata, the daughter of Vibhishana, had a dream in which Rama was victorious; Sita's bestowal to Hanuman of Her diadem; Hanuman's destruction of the trees in the Ashoka Grove; the fleeing of the Rakshasis and the slaughter by Hanuman of Ravana's servants; the capture of Hanuman, the son of the wind god; the incineration of Lanka by Hanuman as he roared; Hanuman's return jump across the ocean and his forcible confiscation of Sugriva's honey; Hanuman's comforting of Rama and delivery to Him of Sita's diadem; how Lord Rama with an army of monkeys converged on the sea and met the god of the sea, and how Lord Rama had the monkey Nala build a bridge across the sea; the passage of the army across the sea at night and the siege of Lanka; the encounter of Rama with Ravana's brother Vibhishana, Vibhishana's instruction on how to kill Ravana and others; the slaughter of Kumbhakarna and Meghanada; the destruction of Ravana and the retrieval of Sita from the enemy city; the coronation of Vibhishana as king of Lanka by Rama and discovery of the airship Pushpaka; the departure of Rama and His followers for Ayodhya; their visit to the sage Bharadvaja in Prayaga; Rama's dispatching of Hanuman to inform Bharata of their impending arrival; the coronation of Rama and the dispatchment of the monkey troops to their homeland; and, Rama's endearment to His subjects and the banishment of Sita. Furthermore, whatever else that Lord Rama was yet to perform while on the earth was also described by the powerful sage Valmiki in the excellent poem, the Ramayana.
Rama Hears the Ramayana Recited by His Own Sons
The powerful sage Valmiki compiled the complete narration of the deeds
of Rama, which is full of wonderful expressions and potent with meaning,
after Lord Rama regained His kingdom. The sage composed the poem in twenty-four
thousand verses with five hundred chapters and six cantos, plus an epilogue.
Having finished the main body of the Ramayana, as well as the epilogue
dealing with future events in the life of Rama, the highly intelligent
sage began wondering who would be capable of reciting it. While the sage
was thinking in this way, the two sons of Rama, Lava and Kusha, dressed
as ascetics, approached their teacher, prostrated themselves and caught
hold of his feet. Valmiki's eyes rested on the two princes, who were dutiful,
famous, skilled in singing sweetly and were living together in his hermitage.
Seeing that the two youths had good memories and were well-versed in the revealed scriptures, for the purpose of teaching them the meaning of the scriptures, the sage, who had taken it upon himself to compose the Ramayana, taught them the entire poem which deals with the story of Sita and the death of Ravana, the son of Pulastya. The two brothers recited this poem, which is very sweet to read or sing, and which can be recited in three speedsÑslow, medium or fastÑwith the seven notes of the musical scale and with accompaniment by a stringed instrument. The poem was also adorned with the sentiments of love, mercy, mirth, chivalry, horror, anger, etc. The two brothers were indeed skilled in the art of singing, and understood how sound could be generated in the lungs, throat and head. Their voices were as sweet as angels'. Their bodies were beautified with auspicious marks and they spoke with sweet voices. Like two images arisen from an original, they looked like two more Ramas arisen from the body of Lord Rama. The irreproachable princes memorized the entire poem, which was conducive to virtue and unexcelled.
On a certain day, the two dedicated brothers who knew the meaning of the Vedas recited the Ramayana, as it had been instructed to them, in an assembly of sages, brahmanas and holy men. Standing together in the midst of the assembly of sages of purified mind, the two great souls, who were most fortunate and endowed with all auspicious marks, recited the poem. Hearing it, all the sages were totally astonished. With their eyes full of tears, they shouted “Well done! Well done!” Being pleased in mind, the sages, who were all lovers of virtue, praised the two worthy singers, Kusha and Lava, “O how wonderful is this music, and even more so the verses themselves! Although these things occurred long ago, they made them appear before our eyes. After entering into the spirit of the poem, the two sang in one sweet voice with the richness of music.” Being praised by the sages who were themselves worthy of praise for their asceticism, the two sang even more sweetly and with more emotion.
Pleased with them, a certain sage stood up and presented them a water pot. Another sage, himself being very famous, gave them bark cloth to wear. Another gave them the skin of a black deer and another gave them sacred threads to wear as brahmanas. Another gave them a water pitcher, and one great sage gave them a belt made of munja grass. Another gave them mats of kusha grass, while another gave them loincloths. Another sage joyfully gave them a hatchet for cutting firewood, another gave them saffron-colored cloth, another gave them a shawl. Another gave them string for tying their matted locks in a topknot, another joyfully gave them rope for tying bundles of firewood. One sage gave them a sacrificial vessel and another gave them a bundle of firewood. Another gave them a low seat made of udumbara wood, as a number of great sages jubilantly gave them blessings for a long life.
In this way, the sages who were speakers of truth granted boons to the two youths and exclaimed, “How wonderful is this narration elaborated by the sage Valmiki. It will be the model for all future poetry and has ended with the proper sequence of events. You two who are skilled in all kinds of music have sung this song admirably. It is conducive to long life and prosperity, and is fascinating for the ears and mind.”
Once Rama, the elder brother of Bharata, saw the two singers roaming about the streets and avenues of Ayodhya, receiving praise from everyone. After bringing the two brothers, Kusha and Lava, into His own palace and properly honoring them, Rama, the slayer of foes, sat on His brilliant lion throne made of gold. Seated around Him were His ministers and brothers. Seeing the two brothers who were not only handsome, but humble too, Lord Rama said to His brothers, Lakshmana, Shatrughna and Bharata, “Hear from these two boys, who possess the luster of gods, this narration which deals with many different topics.” Then he urged the two singers to begin. The two recited the poem, whose subject matter was well known, in a sweet and charming manner. Their voices sounded like a vina when they reached high sweet notes. That song thrilled every limb of the bodies of those present in the assembly. It was pleasing to the mind, heart and ears.
Then Lord Rama said, “The two sages, Kusha and Lava, possess characteristics of world leaders, though they are ascetics. Listen to this narration which is highly emotional and which has been declared to be beneficial even for Me.” Then, being urged by the words of Lord Rama, the two boys began singing in the courtly style. Rama too, in the company of His associates, gradually absorbed His mind in the recitation.