Sanskrit – Valmiki Ramayana (Part 2)

The Ramayana: Samskrtam and Samskriti – Issue II


Lalith Gannavaram


जानकीहृदयाब्जस्य राक्षसेन्द्रोत्पलस्य च​।

भक्तकष्टान्धकाराणां भास्वन्तं नौमि राघवम्॥


Last week, we saw that Valmiki Maharshi had asked Narada Muni a question. We shall now see exactly what that question is.



कोऽन्वस्मिन् साम्प्रतं लोके गुणवान् कश्च वीर्यवान्।

धर्मज्ञश्च कृतज्ञश्च सत्यवाक्यो दृढव्रत​:॥१-१-२

ko’nvasmin sāmprataṃ loke guṇavān kaśca vīryavān।

dharmajñaśca kṛtajñaśca satyavākyo dṛḍhavrata​:॥1-1-2


Meaning: Who, in this current world, is virtuous, valorous, knowing dharma, grateful to his beneficiaries, truthful, and resolute in his doings?


साम्प्रतं – currently, अस्मिन् – in this, लोके – world, क: – who (is) गुणवान् (virtuous)? क​: – who (is) वीर्यवान् (valorous)? (who is) धर्मज्ञ: -the knower of dharma, च – and, कृतज्ञ: – grateful, च – and, सत्यवाक्य​: – truthful, (and) दृढव्रत​: – resolute?



चारित्रेण च को युक्त​: सर्वभूतेषु को हित​:।

विद्वान् क​: कस्समर्थश्च कैश्चैकप्रियदर्शन​:॥१-१-३

cāritreṇa ca ko yukta​: sarvabhūteṣu ko hita​:।

vidvān ka​: kassamarthaśca kaiścaikapriyadarśana​:॥1-1-3


Meaning: Who is endowed with good character, is benign/favorable to all beings, learned, able, and is very pleasing to gaze upon?


च – and क​: – who चारित्रेण – with good character युक्त​: – is enjoined सर्वभूतेषु – to all beings क​: – who हित​: – (is) benign क​:- who विद्वान् – (is) learned च -and क​: – who समर्थ​: – (is) competent/able क​: – who च – and एकप्रियदर्शन​: – (is) singularly pleasing to look at



आत्मवान् को जितक्रोधो द्युतिमान् कोऽनसूयक​:।

कस्य बिभ्यति देवाश्च जातरोषस्य संयुगे॥१-१-४

ātmavān ko jitakrodho dyutimān ko’nasūyaka​:।

kasya bibhyati devāśca jātaroṣasya saṃyuge॥1-1-4


Meaning: Who is brave, has conquered anger, is lustrous, and is not envious of others? Whom, when wrathful in battle, do even the gods fear?

क​: – Who आत्मवान् -(is) brave – जितक्रोध​: – has conquered anger क​: – who द्युतिमान् -(is) lustrous अनसूयक​: –  is not envious कस्य – Due to whom जातरोषस्य – (who is)angry संयुगे – in battle देवा: – the gods बिभ्यति- fear/become afraid



एतदिच्छाम्यहं श्रोतुं परं कौतूहलं हि मे।

महर्षे त्वं समर्थोऽसि ज्ञातुमेवं विधं नरम्॥१-१-५

etadicchāmyahaṃ śrotuṃ paraṃ kautūhalaṃ hi me।

maharṣe tvaṃ samartho’si jñātumevaṃ vidhaṃ naram॥1-1-5


अहं – I इच्छामि – want श्रोतुंम् – to hear एतत् – this. मे – my कौतूहलं – enthusiasm (is) परं -great. महर्षे – O Maharshi! त्वं – You असि – are समर्थ: – capable ज्ञातुं – know (of knowing) एवं विधं- such-mannered, नरं -man.


Meaning: Such is the matter I want to hear, and I am very eager to do so. O Maharshi, you alone are capable of knowing such a person.


In Sanskrit, nouns generally have 3 qualities – लिङ्ग(gender), वचन(number), and विभक्ति(case). In the last issue, we discussed the idea of vibhaktis – noun cases, that indicate the role a noun plays in the sentence (subject, object, instrument, etc).

Sanskrit has 3 genders – male, female, and neuter, as well as 3 numbers – singular, dual, and plural.

The rule in Sanskrit is that adjectives follow the noun in all these three qualities – the number, gender, and case of the adjective must be the same as those of the noun it is describing. In slokas 2-4, the main noun is क​: – who. This is masculine (पुं लिङ्ग​), singular (एकवचन​), and in the nominative case (प्रथमाविभक्ति). The other qualities – गुणवान्, वीर्यवान्, धर्मज्ञ:, etc are all also masculine, singular, and nominative.

There is an interesting set of words that falls under the umbrella of nouns – yet lack all the usual 3 features of a noun. These are known as indeclinables (अव्यय​). Avyayas are independent of the subjects and do not follow the number and gender of nouns. For example, the word साम्प्रतं in sloka 2, meaning currently, is an avyaya. In the same way, ज्ञातुं in sloka 5, meaning to know, is also an avyaya. ज्ञातुं is known as a तुमुन् प्रत्यय​ – the sense of wish or purpose. They are very easy to recognize, as they always end in तुं – दातुं (to give) भोक्तुं (to eat) द्रष्टुं (to see) etc.

You may have noticed that there is no verb in slokas 2-4, and that we had to put the word is in parentheses while writing the meaning in English. This is a convention of Sanskrit. If a verb is not explicitly stated, it is assumed that the verb is ‘is’. This is known as an अध्याहार, where a word not explicitly in the sentence is understood to be present in its meaning.

In the coming issues, we shall continue to further explore the nature of nouns in more detail.


Specifics: Slokas 2-4 are a list of 16 total qualities. Valmiki asks, very specifically, of a man from this world who has these characteristics. Yet we see that someone with such qualities – someone feared by even the gods – cannot be an ordinary man. Some commentators say that these 16 qualities represent the षोडश​-कलापूर्ण​ nature of Paramatma, and have given interesting insights that go beyond the surface meaning of these words. For example, Govindaraja has given some special definitions for certain qualities:


गुणवान् – as explained earlier simply means ‘one with good qualities’. However, another meaning of guna that commentators have given is: यद्वा गुण्यते आवर्तते आश्रितै: – that which those seeking refuge in him rely upon – in essence benevolence and goodness – ‘सुशीलम्’ in short.


वीर्यवान् – सत्सु अपि विकारहेतुषु अविकृत​: – He that is not perturbed even when there is cause to.


धर्मज्ञ-  धर्मं अलौकिकश्रेयस्साधनं तं सामान्यरूपं विशेषरूपं च जानाति इति धर्मज्ञ:. He that knows Dharma, which is the way to reach welfare beyond this world, in both ordinary and special cases.


कृतज्ञ – कृतं उपकारं स्वल्पं प्रासङ्गिकमपि बहुतया जानाति, अपकारास्मरणं च​ He that remembers even a small, casual help as great, and does not remember wrongs committed against him.


सत्यवाक्य – कृच्छ्रेषु अपि अनृतशून्यं वचनं He who does not speak a lie even in unfavorable circumstances.


दृढव्रत – धर्माचरणे निश्चलसङ्कल्प​: He whose resolve to follow dharma is imperturbable.


चारित्रेण युक्त- चरित्रमाचार​: ; सर्वदा अपि अनुल्लङ्घितकुलाचार​ He who does not transgress his families aachaara.


एकप्रियदर्शन – सदा प्रियदर्शन​:, एक​: एव प्रियदर्शन​: He who is always pleasing to look at, or he who is the only one who is always pleasing to look at.


जितक्रोध – दण्डार्हेषु एव आहितकोप​: He whose anger is only directed towards those deserving of punishment.


अनसूयक – गुणेषु दोषाविष्करणम् असूया. He who lacks asuya (seeing another’s good qualities as bad qualities)


कस्य देवा: बिभ्यति – अनुकूला: बिभ्यति किं पुन​: प्रतिकूला: This is meant to show that even those whom Bhagavan is protecting, fear him, then what to say of those that are his enemies?


Then, in sloka 5, Valmiki Maharshi concludes his question by reaffirming that Narada is the only person who can know such a person. In the Narada-Valmiki guru-shishya relationship, this represents the Shishya’s faith in the teacher – श्रद्धा. The word that Valmiki uses to refer to Narada is ‘Maharshi’.

Another interesting thing to note is Valmiki’s very question itself. If Valmiki had to ask this question, and got the answer back from Narada as ‘Rama’, did Valmiki not know of Rama earlier? This cannot be the case, as in Ayodhya Kanda, it is clearly stated that Rama and Seeta went to Valmiki’s hermitage (अभिगम्या​ऽऽश्रमं सर्वे वाल्मीकिमभिवादयन्). Furthermore, as he describes Rama Rajya, Valmiki says that every single person was singing Rama’s glories and constantly speaking of His story (रामो रामो राम इति प्रजानामभवत् कथा:). Hence we can safely assume that Valmiki did not ask Narada Maharshi because he did not know who Rama was.


This is yet another example of our tradition’s guru-shishya parampara. आचार्यादेव विदिता विद्या – Only that which is learnt from a guru is true knowledge, says the Veda. For Valmiki to write such a divine epic of such significance, the upadesha and instruction must come from a guru – Narada – even if the content is already known by the student. Almost all our Puranas and other works commence this way – Narada instructing Vyasa, Suta explaining to other sages, etc.


By the qualities, Valmiki has seemingly hinted towards asking about the parabrahma, yet in his question he clearly asks for a man: these two seemingly contradictory ideas can be rationalized by seeing that he was asking for Sagunabrahma who came to earth as a human. Ramayana is not only the story of an ideal man, but is the story of Paramatma himself.


Thus, we have seen the reason for Valmiki’s question and the qualities that he has asked for; in the next issue, we shall look at Narada’s response.



Talks/Classes by Sri Srinivas Mallapragada

Govindaraja’s Bhushana Vyaakhya to Ramayana

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