Episode 26 – Structure of the Valmiki Ramayana – A detailed description


Till the previous episode we saw how Lord Brahma had blessed Valmiki Maharishi to commence writing the great Ramayana text. In the process we also witnessed the three main divine events that led Valmiki Maharishi to author this text. Further, let’s go into the details of the Ramayana text little by little from today. In today’s episode we shall mainly see how does the structure of the entire text looks like, and let’s try to understand the intricate details of it.

We shall continue to look into the next “Sargam” (Chapter). Let’s look at the important slokas and understand the in-depth meaning of each of them.

“Praaptha raajyasya raamasya vaalmeekir bhagawan rishihi!

Chakaara charitham krisnam vichithra pathamarthavath!!”

This above sloka begins by saying “Praaptha raajyasya raamasya” – which means, by the time when Valmiki Maharishi begins to author the Ramayana text, Lord Rama had already returned to his kingdom after his fourteen-year period of exile. Hence we can infer clearly that, the Valmiki Ramayana was composed only after Lord Rama had returned to Ayodhya after killing Ravana and releasing Goddess Sita Devi from Lanka.

“Chathur vimsad sahasraani slokaanaam utthavaan rishihi!

Tathaa sarga shataan pancha shat kaandaani tathottharam!!”

This sloka is very important to analyze and understand in depth. Let’s look at each phrase and understand what it says. Here, Valmiki Maharishi talks about the numbers – Number of slokas, number of sargams (chapters) and number of “Kaandaas” (Parts). “Chathur vimsad” means twenty-four and subsequently “Chathur vimsad sahasraani” means twenty-four thousand, “Shata” means one hundred and subsequently “Shataan pancha” means five hundred. Hence we can infer here that the Valmiki Ramayana consists of twenty-four thousand slokas (verses), fit into five hundred “Sargams” (Chapters). It is to be noted here that, if we say twenty-four thousand slokas and five hundred sargams, it would not be exactly the same numbers when one counts it manually. It just means that, the text comprises around twenty-four thousand slokas and around five hundred sargams. Just as the case in “Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham”, if one counts the number of slokas, it would not be exactly four thousand, and it might be even much more. Hence, it is to be noted that these numbers are just approximate counts and shouldn’t be taken as actual figures.

Moreover, Valmiki Maharishi now talks about the different “Kaandas” – There are six different “Kaandas”, viz. “Baala Kaanda”, “Ayodhya Kaanda”, “Aaranya Kaanda”, “Kishkinta Kaanda”, “Sundara Kaanda” and “Yuddha Kaanda” – He doesn’t complete here.. He says Shat kaandaani tathottharam”which means that, the first six “Kaandas” form one part of the text, and there is a seventh “Kaanda” called “Utthara Kaanda” that forms another part of the text.

You may ask at this point, why didn’t he write it as “Saptha kaandaani” and why has he written has “Shat kaandaani” and then separately “Tathottharam”. Here’s where we need to understand a deeper meaning – Till the first six kaandas ending with the “Yuddha Kaanda”, is the part of the story that had already taken place before Valmiki Maharishi begins to author the text. The seventh Kaanda namely “Utthara Kaanda” is still yet to happen. It is important that we shouldn’t get confused here. Let me explain this in a bit more detail: At the time when Valmiki Maharishi begins to author the Ramayana, Lord Rama had just returned to Ayodhya and His coronation as the King of Ayodhya had just taken place – He hadn’t still sent Sita Devi again to the forest, Sita hadn’t delivered their two children, Lava and Kusa yet and these two children hadn’t learnt the Ramayana yet from Valmiki Maharishi – All these incidents haven’t taken place still. Hence we should clearly understand that, the Valmiki Ramayana is born in between these two major points of Lord Rama’s life – He has been coronated as the king of Ayodhya, however the further incidents hadn’t taken place yet. That’s why it is “Shat kaandaani tathottharam” – Whatever has happened so far is the first six Kaandas and whatever is going to happen in the future is the seventh kaanda – the “Utthara Kaanda”.

There’s much more evidence to this point in the subsequent slokas and sargams. Let’s continue to discuss this point with much more detail in the next episode!


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