In the previous episode we witnessed that the Valmiki Ramayana is comprised of over 24,000 slokas (verses), fit into over 500 sargams (chapters) and 6 Kaandas. However, the seventh Kaanda, namely the Utthara Kaanda happens much later after Valmiki Maharishi had composed the Ramayana text, however, we also saw that the text that he composed, also has the Utthara Kaanda in it. This is where he says “Shad kaandaani tathootharam”.
Here is where lot of different opinions exists today. However, I shall try to give a much more lucid explanation from a few other sources and try to illustrate what exactly happens. Of course, this is purely my way of describing the events; however there might still be differences in opinions amongst the modern day scholars and historians.
The explanation goes like this: In the later part of the Valmiki Ramayana itself, Valmiki Maharishi explains that Lord Rama, after sending Goddess Sita Devi to the forest once again, plans to do an “Ashwamedha Yaaga” (A kind of a divine offering) and for that, He had his “Yaaga shaala” (Venue to perform the offering) at a place called “Naimishaaranya” (This place can be worshipped even today, in the present day Indian State of Uttar Pradesh). It is at this place where Sita’s two sons Lava and Kusha sing the entire Ramayana text in front of Lord Rama during the offering. It can be understood from the following verse in Tamil (also called prabhandham), which is a quote from the famous “Naalaayira Divya prabhandhams” authored by the twelve “Aalwars”. This verse is of Kulasekhara Aalwar. He says,
“Mithilaicchelvi ulaguyya thiruvairu vaaytha makkal shembavalatthiralvaai than charithaikkettaan!”
Here we can see the context much more clearly: “Mithilaicchelvi” – Sita Devi; “Ulaguyya thiruvairu vaaytha makkal” – The two sons who were born in this world from Goddess Sita Devi; “Shembavalatthiralvaai than charithaikkettaan” – Means that Lord Rama, through these two children – Lava and Kusha, listened to his own life story!
Have we ever witnessed a “Kshathriya prince” narrating stories? But interestingly here, it was Lava and Kusha, although being “Kshathriya princes” who sang the Ramayana story. While these two children were walking in the streets singing the Ramayana, it was Lord Rama’s brother, Bharata who saw them first. Upon seeing these children he was amazed and became engrossed in the way they were singing the Ramayana, and he brings them to Naimishaaranya. Bharata was so mesmerized that he wanted Lord Rama to listen to these children. Further, it is said in the Valmiki Ramayana that this text was sung in front of Rama himself, for the next 32 days! Hence, by this time Valmiki Maharishi had composed the entire Ramayana and its only after composing it, he had taught it to Lava and Kusha.
Every day Lord Rama comes to his throne by around 9 AM and he listens to the two children till 12-12:30 PM and after that he goes on to look after the duties of the kingdom. It is only during these days that Lord Rama becomes immensely attracted to these two children and he conveys his wish to Bharata that he wants to see the mother of these two kids along with their “Aachaarya” (Teacher). Bharata is extremely happy within himself that the day had finally come for Lord Rama to pose this question, and he immediately brings Valmiki Maharishi and Sita Devi to the venue.
It is to be noted here that, even when Sita comes to the venue, Lava and Kusha are still present in front of Rama and are still singing the Ramayana story. Whatever Sita and Rama spoke at this moment, whatever Sita asked Rama, Sita disappearing into the earth – All of these events are present in the Valmiki Ramayana and these kids are still in the process of singing it! It doesn’t end here. In the last “Sargam” of Valmiki Ramayana, it is also described how Lord Rama will descend back to “Vaikunta” and even this sarga was being recited by Lava and Kusha within these 32 days. This is why I said previously that we shouldn’t get confused! Sometimes, when we go through the Ramayana text, we would not be able to figure out if the Utthara Kaanda happened before or after Valmiki Maharishi composed the text. In fact, in due course of singing the Ramayana text in front of Rama, Lava and Kusha proclaim “Our ‘Aacharya’ is an extremely pious person and he will be able to know the past, present and the future at the same time and it’s only with the divine grace of Lord Brahma that he has authored this great story! It’s this reason why we also know how you would be descending towards the Vaikunta too!”
So from the above accord, it becomes quite evident that Lord Rama, after listening to the Utthara Kaanda, is still ruling the kingdom of Ayodhya and only after many years he descends back to Vaikunta. This is why Valmiki Maharishi says “Shad kaandaani tathottharam” – The first six Kaandas comprise of the events that had already happened before, and the seventh Utthara Kaanda comprises of the events that are going to take place in the future!
Moving on from here, we’ve to see how was the Ramayana story propagated to the world and how sweet and pleasing are the slokas of the Ramayana, to any listener. Let’s witness the beauty of it in the next episode!