Biography of Valmiki

The Ramayana is traditionally attributed to the poet Valmiki, a sage and wise man who lived in ancient India. According to legend - and the Ramayana itself - Valmiki heard the Ramayana from a celestial source and wrote down what he heard. Valmiki also appears as a character in the text of the Ramayana. At the beginning of the poem, he learns the text from a divine figure and teaches it to two youths who turn out to be the sons of Rama; later, he is the one to champion the cause of the exiled Sita.

Similar to Homer among the ancient Greeks, Valmiki is credited with creating Sanskrit poetry. One day while we was bathing, he watched two love birds singing to each other. Suddenly, an arrow came out of nowhere and killed the male bird instantly; the female died of shock and grief shortly after. Moved by this heartbreaking scene, Valmiki uttered a malediction upon the killer of the bird. This couplet was the first sloka (or verse) in Sanskrit literature, and Valmiki later wrote the Ramayana in this literary form.

Valmiki's version of the Ramayana is the oldest and most famous, but other poets have written their own versions of this great epic.

Some scholars question whether the traditional attribution to Valmiki is in fact accurate; some argue that multiple unknown parties composed the Ramayana over a number of centuries. Though it is clear that the Ramayana has received additions and edits, most devout Hindus still believe that this text comes from the poet Valmiki.

Study Guides on Works by Valmiki

Comparable to the Odyssey or the Bible, the Ramayana is a classic of world literature. The poem details the adventures of Prince Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu, along with his devoted wife Sita and his dear brother Lakshmana. Written in...