“Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti” is mainly celebrated by the people belonging to “Valmiki” (Also called Balmiki) to commemorate the birth of Maharishi Valmiki. The Valmikis claim to be the descendents of Maharishi Valmiki, who is credited for being the harbinger of Sanskrit Literature and also for being the first ever Sanskrit poet. “Maharishi Valmiki” composed the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana, sometime during 5th to 1st Century B.C.
Maharishi Valmiki was recognized as a literary genius and the fact that he composed one of the Hindu religion’s most read and revered epic – Ramayana; his jayanti (anniversary) is celebrated by the whole Hindu community irrespective of caste or creed. Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti is celebrated as “Pargat Divas” in the western state of Punjab.
Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti 2019
Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti 2019 is on Sunday, 13th October 2019.
When is Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti Celebrated
Maharishi Valmiki lived around the same time as Lord Rama, around 500 B.C. though his exact date of birth is not known as is the case with Lord Rama, and still remains a matter of debate for historians and religious masters. However, his birth anniversary is celebrated on Ashwin Purnima (full moon in Ashwin month) as per the Hindu Lunar calendar, usually falling in the Gregorian calendar months of September-October.
Legends of Maharishi Valmiki
There are a few interesting stories based on the life incidents of Maharishi Valmiki – his birth, his abduction by a Bhil (indigenous people of central and western India) woman, his becoming a dacoit and subsequent change of heart by an incident, to later become an ascetic, provide an interesting read.
1) Birth and Later Ascetism
Maharishi Valmiki was the descendent of sage Bhrigu – one of the most revered seven sages (saptrishis) created by Lord Brahma. He was born in a Brahmin family, to a Brahmin named Pracheta and his wife charshadi. Initially Maharishi Valmiki was coined with the name “Agni Sharma”.
Legend has it that once Agni Sharma had an encounter with Narad Muni and had a debate with him over religious, spiritual issues and the duties to be performed in a life time. Agni Sharma was so influenced by the conversation, that he reportedly gave up all his materialistic possessions and started performing penance, by reciting the word “mara”.
His continuous recitation of “mara” had him, unknowingly pronouncing the word “rama”, which is another name of Lord Vishnu. (Lord Rama is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Maharishi was so engrossed in his meditation that huge ant hills were formed surrounding him. Valmiki means an anthill; therefore, the sage Agni Sharma was referred as Valmiki by the people.
2) A Dacoit Who Transformed To a Sage
Another legend has it that when Valmiki was an adolescent child, he was abducted by a childless Bhil woman who gave him the name “Ratnakar”. Bhil is an indigenous tribe belonging to central and western India. Bhil community survived on hunting and killing animals and birds. Later in life Ratnakar turned into a road side robber; confronting and robbing or even sometimes killing the unsuspecting travelers.
Incidentally one day Ratnakar caught hold of Narad Muni, who was passing through the road. When Narad asked him as to why he is doing such a wrongful act; Ratnakar replied that he is doing it to sustain his family. Upon which Narad reportedly told him that he will give all his money if Ratnakar’s family members agree to bear the fruits of his misdeeds.
Confused yet confident that his family and friends would readily agree to carry the burden of his wrongdoings, Ratnakar asked them if they would. To his surprise, they refused. Heartbroken and in disgust, he returned to Narad, seeking his advice. Narad muni told him to give up his wrong profession and lead a spiritual life reciting the name “Rama”.
However, Ratnakar was not able to pronounce “Rama”, upon which Narad told him to pronounce “mara” instead. Pronouncing “mara” in a series had automatically led to the pronunciation of “Rama”. Thus, the dacoit Ratnakar became Maharishi Valmiki, through reciting Rama and observing penance.
3) Valmiki and the Cruel Hunter
Another legend has it that once Valmiki was going to the river Ganga for his daily cleansing, accompanied by a disciple named Bharadwaja carrying his clothes. The duo came to pass river Tamasa, which is a tributary of Ganges, flowing through the modern day Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Looking at the clean water of Tamasa, Valmiki expressed his desire to bathe in the river. Just as he was looking for a suitable place to enter the river, he spotted a crane couple in courtship. Before he could admire the beauty of the birds and be pleased by their love; suddenly an arrow came out of nowhere killing the male bird instantly, while its mate died of shock. Shocked and deeply saddened by the turn of events, Valmiki looked around for the perpetrator.
He spotted a hunter with bow and arrow and instantly composed a Sanskrit verse cursing the hunter with eternal unrest, for killing a bird in love, that too unsuspectingly. Thus, the first ever shloka (verse) in Sanskrit Literature was composed by Valmiki in a fit of rage and grief.
4) Valmiki and Ramayana
Valmiki had met Lord Rama during the latter’s exile and came to know about his life’s incidents. Later when Sita was banished by Lord Rama upon questions of her piousness, she reportedly was given shelter by Maharishi Valmiki in his hermitage.
Sita also gave birth to Rama’s twin sons Luv and Kush there. Rama’s sons were taught Ramayana by Maharishi Valmiki, who had composed it after knowing the complete story of Rama’s life incidents. Luv and Kush later sang the story during Ashwamedha Yagna congregation in Ayodhya. Upon recognizing the story Rama knew that they were his own sons.
Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti History
Valmiki Jayanti is an ancient Hindu festival which is being celebrated, since thousands of years. Maharishi Valmiki was a contemporary of Lord Rama who lived around 500 B.C, during which he composed the first Hindu religious epic Ramayana in Sanskrit. As more and more people recognized his work, his fame as a literary genius grew.
However, the date when the custom of celebrating Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti actually began, is not known. It probably began at different times in several places, but was invariantly observed on the same day i.e. full moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin (Ashwin Purnima).
The oldest temple dedicated to Valmiki at Tiruvanmiyur in Chennai is 1300 years old, which reaffirms the fact that Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti had achieved divinity thousands of years ago and his anniversary is being celebrated since then. Some considered Valmiki to be belonging to lower caste and hence started venerating him as someone who disbanded casteism and achieved impossible.
There is no clear mention of the differences between ancient and modern celebrations of Valmiki Jayanti. However, historians believe that during the ancient days the celebration was more spiritual and lacked modern day’s festive display. More importance was given to the recitation of verses composed by Maharishi Valmiki and understanding his philosophy, a custom which is today followed at only temples and ashrams of Maharishi Valmiki.
How is Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti Celebrated
Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti is reverently celebrated throughout India, by the devotees of Valmiki and also by various sections of society like – students, teachers, philosophers, politicians etc. The anniversary is observed with festive fervor at Maharishi Valmiki temples. One of the most significant temples of Maharishi Valmiki is located at Tiruvanmiyur in Chennai.
It is believed that after penning Ramayana, Valmiki rested at the place where now the temple stands which was built around 1300 years ago. Tiruvanmiyur temple and all the other temples of Valmiki throughout India, especially in north India are decorated with lights and flowers, prayers and Ramayana are recited in order to commemorate his birth. Devotees offer Prasad and food to people.
People take out processions called Sobha Yatra, holding portraits of Maharishi Valmiki and chanting his verses. Usually, in the portraits Maharishi Valmiki is depicted wearing a saffron colored robes and holding a quill and paper.
Politicians and public figures congratulate people on Valmiki Jayanti, through social media and other modes of communication. They ask people to follow Valmiki’s principles of social justice and equality, idealism and righteousness as he narrated in his work Ramayana.
Some universities celebrate Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti with much pomp and show. Students give lectures and presentations about the life and teachings of Valmiki. His work Ramayana and his philosophy are also discussed.
Significance of Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti
Maharishi Valmiki was an Adi kavi, meaning first ever ancient poet. He was the one who gave birth to Sanskrit literature and composed the most significant religious epic of Hindus – Ramayana, which constituted of 24000 shlokas and 7 kandas. The celebration of Valmiki Jayanti commemorates his literary genius and religious contribution.
Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti is of special significance to the students, teachers and learners. Valmiki is seen as a literary genius and a Hindu ascetic, whose worship brings wisdom and knowledge. His life incidents are an inspiration for the people and teach them to dismiss unrighteousness and devote their life to meditation and learning.
On the day of Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti we revere an Aadikavi, and his creation – Ramayana; paying tribute to him, his philosophical teachings and his work.