Who was Maharishi Valmiki?
Maharishi Valmiki is popularly known as Adi Kavi Valmiki. He is described in the Uttara khanda of Ramayana as an unnamed highway robber who used to rob people of their belongings. Once he happened to meet Narada muni, the great devotee of Lord Narayana. When asked why he robs, the robber replied it was for his family maintenance. Narada muni asked the robber to go and ask whether his family members will share the sin that he was incurring by robbing, The robber said yes they will. But Narada muni asked him to practically go and confirm. The robber’s eyes were opened when his family members clearly denied to bear the burden of sin.
Then the robber surrendered to Narada muni and became his disciple. Narada muni wanted to give him Rama mantra and asked to repeat ‘Rama, Rama’… But Valmiki being very sinful could not do this. Narada muni understood his position and asked him to repeat ‘Mara Mara’ continuously, which became ‘Rama Rama’ later. Valmiki began to meditate on this name beneath a tree. He did it for so long so that ant-hills grew around his body. He got the name Balmiki from the ant-hills which are called ‘Balmiks’ in Hindi. Finally his heart got purified with presence of Lord Rama. With this he composed Ramayana in six (some say seven) cantos.
Valmiki Jayanti Celebrations
There are many theories regarding Valmiki’s birth and composition of Ramayana. The Valmiki Ramayana is dated somewhere around 500 BC to 100 BC but there is debate on his exact year of birth. On the day of Valmiki Jayanti, shobha yatras are performed by his followers. Meetings are held and food distribution is done. This day is observed as Pargat Diwas by community of Maharishi Valmiki. Valmiki Ramayana is read and distributed on this day.