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Valmiki Ramayana Reading Program At Shri Dwarkamai Vidypaeeth

Kaladhar Rao
05/22/2013

Vamikigirisambhoothaa raamasaagaragaaminii |

Punaathu bhuvanam punyaa raamaayanamahaanadee ||

The very names of Rama and Ramayana bring immense joy to all Indian Hindus everywhere.  Ramayana as a literary accomplishment is a sense of pride for any person of Indian descent.  It is a complete text in expressing the acknowledged human emotions and it is the first composition in Sanskrit that was publicly sung.  The storyline, the lyric, the characterizations, and the narration have made an unsurpassed impact on Indian life and the culture of India and most of southeast Asia.

 Valmiki wrote Ramayana and characterized Rama as an ideal son, brother, friend, husband and above all a great king.  The divinity in him was completely hidden and known only to a few sages. Rama always considered himself as the son of Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya.  It is said that Rama was always pleased when addressed as Dasarathi.   Valmiki Ramayana is considered as a kavya, beautiful in poetry, soothing and musical to listen.  Very few epics in the whole world in any language come closer to it as far as the detailed narrative description of mountains, gardens, natural sceneries or celestial objects.  As a contemporary of Rama, who lived around the same time and also played a significant role in his life, Valmiki’s description of him as an ideal human being to be emulated by other mortals is perhaps more appropriate.  

Subsequent translations of Ramayana by other poets in different regions including the famous Ramacharitamanasa of Sant Tulsidas, put Rama in a different category altogether. They consider Rama as a Divine incarnation of Lord Vishnu.  His time spent in the forest, abduction of Sita by Ravana, his grief and subsequent victory over Ravana are all considered as His divine leelas (pastime). These translations are treatises on Bhakti (devotion).  Satya  (Truth) and Dharma (Duty) are two principles on which Rama traversed the world while living; an understanding of his life would help us to do the necessary adjustments and course corrections in our lives.  Rama and Ramayana have absorbed the imagination of Indians masses.  Its recitation and/or staging as a drama bring devotional ecstasy in all.    

In the very first sarga of Valmiki’s Ramayana, Narada describes to the poet the character of Rama and Rama’s life story.  He ends with the scenes of Ramarajya (Kingdom of Rama) in the Divine Age.  The subjects were extremely happy, free from diseases and famine, with no harm from any fire or wild animals, floods or other dangers.  The cities were full of food grains and no one suffered due to hunger or robbery.  Everyone was faithfully following his/her assigned duty in the society and no house suffered because of calamities like the untimely death of a son or husband.  Having heard the story of Rama, Valmiki gets in a very pleasant mood.  As he walks on the banks of Tamasa River after bath, he sees two krouncha birds playing with each other. Suddenly, a hunter shoots down the male bird with an arrow and the female bird is rolling around weeping for her dead companion.  Valmiki cannot restrain himself and out of that immense grief, a curse in the form of a verse comes out in his voice:

Maa nishada pratisthaam tvamagamah saasvateeh samaah |
Yat krounchamithunaadekam avadheeh kaamamohitam ||

The literal meaning of this is: “O Hunter! You have killed one of the krouncha birds engaged in love and separated the pair permanently.  Let you not have peace of mind forever!” This is acclaimed as the first verse in Sanskrit uttered by a man. The verse was beautiful in many respects.  It had exactly eight letters in each pada (or quarter) and it could be sung with the help of a musical instrument.  He repeated the verse to his disciples and they in turn repeated.  This became the first shloka leading to the development of a complete shloka meter. Thus a verse or a curse that came out of shoka (grief) became a shloka in literature.   After he went back to his ashram, Lord Brahma happened to appear in front of him.  While Valmiki reported that he had created something new, Lord Brahma told him that it was due to Brahma’s and Sarasvati’s blessings only that he could create the shloka meter. Lord Brahma instructed Valmiki to proceed to compose the story of the life of Rama based on the line of information given to him by Narada.  Lord Brahma blessed him with the boon that Valmiki would be able to visualize the detailed events in Rama’s life while writing.

                The Sanskrit scholar Sri Bijoy Misra has initiated a Valmiki Ramayana reading program in Shri Dwarkamai Vidyapeeth (Sai Temple).  The process of chanting and interpretation of the entire Valmiki Ramayana (consisting of 24000 verses) at Shri Dwarkamai Vidyapeeth in Billerica began Sunday, May 5 at 3 PM. About a dozen people participated.  Our revered priest Sri Krishna Bhatta from Sri Lakshmi Temple brought the blessings of Sri Lakshmi and performed Abhiseka ritual reciting Purusha Suktam,  Narayana Suktam and Sri Suktam at the Sai Temple.  He conducted puja to the deities, to Ramayana and then honored Poet Valmiki with ovation.  The reading began about 4:15 PM.  All read together if they could, sometimes people repeated after Sri Misra read.  Sri Misra paused and explained the scene and the words after each segment of about ten verses.  The reading ended at 5:30 PM covering the first two sargas comprising of one hundred and fifty verses. 

                The reading will continue on Sunday, May 26 at 3 PM.  A schedule of meeting twice a month is being created.  The next dates would be June 9, June 23, July 7 and July 21. After July, a schedule of first and third Sunday is expected to be followed.  The readings will begin at 3:00 PM and end at 5:30 PM. The dates will be posted in http://www.dwarkamai.org.   All readings will be in Shri Dwarkamai Vidyapeeth, 267 Boston Post Road, Suites 9 and 10.  Sri Misra can be reached at misra@bijoy.gmail.com and Sri Kaladhar Rao can be reached at krtenneti1@verizon.net 

                The reading is expected to be completed in about two years.  Ramayana books in Devanagari and Telugu script are available in the Sai Temple.  Books in other language scripts would be arranged if there is interest.  All are invited to participate in the yajna.



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