History of Ram Katha
Ram Katha was first delivered by Sri Narada to Sage Valmiki in Treta Yuga when Sri Rama was installed on the throne of Ayodhya. Sri Rama slayed the demon king Ravana and returned to Ayodhya with his sibling Sri Laksmana and wife Sita Devi. On returning from the fourteen years of exile, he ascended the throne and ruled for over eleven-thousand years.
It is in this period where Sri Narada, for the first time recited Ram Katha to Sage Valmiki. After he completed the recitation, Valmiki was instructed by Sri Brahma to elaborate the pastimes of Sri Rama. Following Brahma’s orders, Sage Valmiki composed the Ramayana which is originally written in Sanskrit. He wrote 24,000 texts to glorify and elucidate the pastimes of Sri Rama. The central theme of this scripture, is based on the teachings of the Vedas and exalts Sri Rama as Maryada Purushottam (मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम) or the Upholder of Dharma. Today, we find many books by the name ‘Ramayana’, but the original edition was written by Sage Valmiki, which came also came to be the first known poem. Due to the poetic composition, Valmiki is also known as Adi Kavi. After reading this scripture, deep realizations dawned upon Sage Veda Vyasa. In that state, he started penning His experiences and realizations. Later these written works formed the Puranas and the greatest epic (इतिहास or Itihasa ), Mahabharata came into existence.
Glories of Ramayana
Sage Valmiki describes Ramayana as the source of all poetry. It is the seed by which all poetic expressions come into being. If poetry exists then it must be nothing other than the pastimes of Sri Rama. Poems that do not glorify Sri Rama cannot be considered authentic. All works of literature should have firm alliance with Dharma. Without Dharma there can never be any work worth sharing. Works deterring from this basic principle is to be considered as an output of Maya. Therefore, Sri Hanumanji says that the source of Dharma is Sri Rama. The solid foundation of the enormous tree of Sanatana Dharma lies in the name of Sri Rama.
Now the question arises as to why all poets like sage Valmiki, Kavi Kalidas, Goswami Tulsi dasa and others chose Sri rama as their central character? Why do all poems in Sanatana Dharma focus on the life of Sri Rama? A learned scholar answered this question by sharing the glories of Sri Rama. He says that the poets are not at fault for choosing Sri Rama as their protagonist. If someone is at fault it is Sri Rama alone. His divinity, personality and charisma enamors all living beings and compels them to dedicate their piece of work in His glorification. When writing poems on ordinary people, we are encountered by severe limitations. We simply cannot exaggerate the qualities of the protagonist as the reality invites room for friction. But, when we write about the Lord, we enter a timeless realm where there is no room for fakery and exaggeration. There is so much abundance in His character that great poets fall short of words to merely describe Him. They keep composing poems, expecting that atleast this time they should be able to describe the Lord effectively. Sri Rama’s qualities are such that no mortal is capable of possessing even a speck of it. This is the only reason why all poets of Sanatana Dharma chose Sri Rama as their protagonist.
Glories of Ramacharitmanas
It is Sage Valmiki of Treta yuga who appeared as Goswami Tulsi das in Kali Yuga. In Treta, Ramayana was written while in Kali Yug, Tulsidas Goswami composed Sri Ramacharitmanasa. The title of this composition is a subject worth introspecting.
A scholar decoded the meaning of Sri Ram-charit-Manas by diving it into three segments. The first word is Sri Rama who is the Supreme Being while the last word is Manas which refers to the living entities (or jiva). In the current times, our daily routine is choked with worldly activities that we rarely find time to think about the Lord. We are far-away from God-realization in that manner. But, through Ramacharitmanasa, we find the simplest way to connect with Sri Rama. The word charit in the title of Goswami Tulsidas’s work paves our way to God-realization. The scholar adds that living entities should bridge the gap between themselves and Sri Rama by contemplating on His pastimes, character and form as described in the Ramacharitmanas.
Interpretations of the Title-Ramacharitmanas
The word Manas has another interpretation as explained by Sage Valmiki. He says that Manas refers to Manas Sarovar which originated from the heart of Lord Brahma. Manas Sarovar translates as River of the Heart. Manas means heart of Lord Brahma while Sarovar refers to the emotions that arose in the heart of Lord Brahma while contemplating on Sri Rama. Further, Valmiki says, from this very Manas Sarovar, the river Sarayu came into existence. This river has great significance as it emerged from the eyes of Sri Rama.
Story of Sarayu River
When Sri Rama appeared in front of Brahma, tears of love started flowing through His eyes. He was deeply touched by the sincerity of purpose and dedication as he saw Sri Brahma meditate on His form. The Lord manifested enormous compassion which came rolled down as tears from His lotus eyes. Sri Brahma extended his Kamadalu (sacred water pot) and assembled Sri Rama’s tears in the lake of His heart (or Manas Sarovar).
So, Manasarovar is the pure, undiluted love for God which a devotee like Lord Brahma possess while the gift in return that Sri Rama grants to his devotees is Sarayu. These rivers symbolise communion between the Lord and his dear devotees. Sri Rama says,: “If devotees bathe in Manas Sarovar, Sarayu even once, they’ll attain My companionship”.
Hearing this, Lord Shiva is deeply concerned for the beings of Kali Yuga as He realizes that circumstances may not always favor devotees. Today, in the age of kali, travelling to Manas Sarovar, Sarayu is not possible for many people for many reasons. But, Lord Shiva encapsulates all the benefits of bathing in the sacred rivers in His Manas, which was later revealed by Goswami Tulsidas.
Revelation of Manas
A siddha (enlightened being) says that Ramacharitmanas was not composed by Goswami Tulsidasa. Instead it was originally narrated by Lord Shiva to Devi Parvati. The divine Katha was later, in Kali Yuga revealed by Tulsidasa. Lord Shiva hails Ramacharitmanas as the heart of Lord Rama. The pastimes of the Lord are non-different from Him. The undiluted love of Sri Rama for his dear devotees is present in Manas.
“If you want to experience the love of God, you need not travel to Sarayu but instead you must read the Ramacharitmanas.”, says Lord Shiva. This is the glorious position of The Ramacharitmanas.
Goswami Tulsi Dasa writes: नौमी भौम बार मधुमासा। अवधपुरीं यह चरित प्रकासा॥
Goswami Tulsi Das writes: On the 9th of march/April (Navami Tithi, Chaitra Maas), on Tuesday (Mangalvaar), the Ramacharitmanas was revealed in Ayodhya. The significance of this esoteric statement tells us that Goswami Tulsidas was granted the vision of the Manas, which was originally delivered by Lord Shankara to Devi Parvati. Goswamiji disowns himself as the author of the Ramacharitmanasa. He addresses himself as a mere tool to reveal this divine knowledge and does not entitle himself as the writer of the Manas.
We must take note that the revelation of Ramacharitmanas took place on the same date, day, place and time, as the appearance of Sri Rama. This is not a coincidence but a divine arrangement made by the Lord. It Sri Rama Himself who descended on earth, in the age of Kali, in the form of the Ramacharitmanas. This is His exclusive grace alone that has made Him so easily available to us, owing to our material contamination. The Lord’s name, form, pastimes and abode are non-different. So, reading the pastimes and description of the Lord as written in the Ramacharitmanas is the best means to connect with Him. It is Lord Shiva’s concern for the living entities of Kali Yuga that has made such an austerious pursuit so simple and applicable.