Pleased upon hearing the story of Rāma, the sage Vālmikī eulogised Nārada, bid him farewell, and proceeded to the banks of the river Tamasā. Pointing at the clear waters of the river, the sage told his student Bharadvāja – “Look at the divine river! The water is pure and delightful just like a noble man’s heart!” Before taking a dip in the river, the sage walked around the woods and spotted a krauñca couple that sweetly sang in a duet. Even as the Vālmikī watched the couple, a hunter with an evil mind, shot an arrow at the male, which fell to the ground drenched in blood. Looking at her dear companion, the female cried piteously. The dhārmic sage who witnessed this was overcome with immense compassion for the bird and cursed the hunter – “You shall be deprived of glory for innumerable years, for you killed one bird in this pair when they were under the spell of love!” As he uttered this, he wondered in his heart, “What did I utter in my distress over the grief of this bird!” He told his student, Bharadvāja, “My utterance appears to be structured in four metrical feet (pāda), can be sung to the accompaniment of a string instrument, and has an internal rhythm. These words which came out of pain (śoka) is indeed a śloka!”
After having bathed, the sage returned to his āśrama, but his mind was still running on the śloka. Caturmukha-brahmā, the creator of the worlds, appeared there to his surprise, who stood up with folded hands, speechless. Offering arghya, padya, and a seat to Brahmā, Vālmikī sat down upon his instruction, but his mind was preoccupied with the incident that he had just witnessed. As he grieved for the female bird and his mind dwelt on the śloka, Brahmā said with a laugh – “Have no doubts, O sage! You have certainly uttered a śloka and the divine words flowed from you by my will. Compose the story of Rāma as you have heard from Nārada. Everything that took place either in public or private in connection with Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, Sītā, and the rākṣasas will get revealed to you. There will be no false pronouncement in your poem. As long as the mountains and the streams abide on earth, so long shall the story of Rāma remain in currency. You shall, therefore, move around in the worlds above and below, without any hinderance.” With these words, Brahmā disappeared leaving Vālmikī and his students bewildered. The students who were thrilled repeated the śloka again and again. Thereafter, the sage Vālmikī composed the story of Rāma in the form of appealing ślokas, distinguished for their meaning and diction. With his exalted vision, the sage vividly contemplated upon the incidents connected with Rāma’s life.
After having composed the epic, Vālmikī wondered how he could propagate it widely. Even as he thought so, Kuśa and Lava, the royal princes well-versed in dharma and endowed with musical voices, bowed down to the sage, touching his feet. Looking at the twins who were intelligent and well-versed in the Vedas, Vālmikī taught them the entire Rāmāyaṇa, which was a creative elucidation of the Vedas. It was also the Sītā-carita and Paulastya-vadha. The epic poem was equally melodious, whether recited or sung. It was evocative of all rasas, could tuned to music and rendered to the accompaniment of a vīṇā. The handsome twins, who resembled Rāma committed the entire story to their memory and heart. They recited it exactly as they were taught in the assemblies of brāhmaṇas and sages.
On one such occasion, they sang the poem to a gathering of sages that sat in close proximity. The audience, overcome with immense joy and their eyes brimming with tears, applauded and dearly appreciated their sweet rendition. They also felt that the incidents seemed to take place right before their eyes because of the rich and detailed rendition. One of the sages who was pleased, gifted the boys a kalaśa and another gave them his bark-garments. They exclaimed, “Sage Vālmikī’s poem is the foundation for the compositions of all future poets and you have admirably rendered this!”
The fame of the twins spread far and wide. Once, Rāma spotted them and brought them to his residence. After extending hospitalities to the kuśīlavas, Rāma sat on a divine, golden seat along with his minsters and brothers. He told his brothers – “Listen to this beautifully knitted story, rendered by the divinely splendid boys.” Upon Rāma’s request, the twins started narrating the story –
[Here begins the story of Rāmāyaṇa]
On the banks of the river Sarayū lies the kingdom of Kosala, populous and prosperous. It abounds in grains and wealth. The world-renewed city, Ayodhyā, created by Manu lies in the kingdom. The spacious city had wide streets and royal ways that were sprinkled with water everyday and strewn with flowers. King Daśaratha ruled the kingdom from the city of Ayodhyā, just as Indra rules the deva-loka. The city was decked with arched gateways and was furnished with every kind of weapon. It was peopled by artists and artisans as well as bards and māgadhas. The city had dance and drama schools with female artists and was dotted with delightful gardens. The city was protected by mighty fortifications with deep and wide moat and was, therefore, unassailable. It possessed a wealth of horses, elephants, cows, camels, and mules; traders from many countries added to its attraction. Feudatory kings were often found waiting to offer their tributes to the emperor Daśaratha. The city was alluring with beautiful women, seven-storied sky-scrapers, and various kinds of gems. The water in the city was as sweet as sugarcane juice and the city was never devoid of its bounty of grains. The auspicious music of dundibhi, mṛdaṅga, vīṇā, and paṇava always resounded in the city. Valorous men, pious sages, and noble brāhmaṇas inhabited the city. Every citizen was dhārmic and there was never a paucity for any resource. There was no dishonest individual nor a nāstika. No one was troubled by physical or mental ailments. People belonging to all the four varṇas were devoted to the divine and their duties.
King Daśaratha was assisted by eight capable, friendly, and honest ministers. Vasiṣṭha and Vāmadeva, the esteemed ṛṣis were his purohitas. The ministers helped in the growth of the royal treasury and in invigorating the four-fold army. Aided by them, the faultless king knew through his spies, the happenings in the kingdom and cared for his people with his heart.
To be continued...
 mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhāṃ tvam-agamaśśāśvatīssamāḥ |
yat-krauñca-mithunādekam-avadhīḥ kāma-mohitam ||