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Maharishi (the great sage) claims the distinction of being the author of the holy epic ‘Ramayana’, consisting of 24,000 verses. He is also believed to be the author of Yoga Vasistha, a text that elaborates on a range of philosophical issues. There are different versions regarding the time period and life of Valmiki. The Valmiki Ramayana is believed to be dated variously from the period 500 BC to 100BC. But at the same time Valmiki is also said to be the contemporary of Lord Rama. Sita took refuge in her Ashram where Lava and Kusa were born. Against this backdrop, the period of Valmiki is likely to date back to thousand of years.

There is much controversy regarding the life of Maharishi Valmiki. There is a age old belief th;at before turning into a sage Valmiki was a highway robber called Ratnakara. This widely accepted story has been explained in detail below. But a judgement given by Justice Rajive Bhalla of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the year 2010 could change an age-old belief about Maharsihi Valmiki. Justice Bhalla quoted the research done by the head of the Maharishi Valmiki Chair of the Punjabi University, Patiala, Manjula Sehdev, and said that,”actual facts appear to be lost in the mists of antiquity.” The judge stated the salient features of the research, saying that “from Vedic literature up to 9th century AD, there is no reference as such that Maharishi Valmiki led a life of a dacoit or highwayman.” It was also stated that in his own work ‘Ramayana’, Valmiki is called Bhagwan, Muni, Rishi and Maharishi and no reference of his highwaymanship is available there.

Maharishi Valmiki was born as Ratnakara to sage Prachetasa. At a very young age, Ratnakara went into the forest and got lost. A hunter, who was passing by, saw Ratnakara and took him under his own care. Under the love and care of his foster parents, Ratnakara forgot his original parents. Under his father’s guidance, Ratnakara turned out to be an excellent hunter. As he approached marriageable age, Ratnakara was married to a beautiful girl from hunter’s family.

As his family grew larger, Ratnakara found it next to impossible to feed them. As a result, he took to robbery and began looting people passing from one village to another.

Narada visited Maharishi Valmiki in his ashram once and there, he narrated the story of Lord Rama. Thereafter he received a vision from Brahma in which the Lord instructed him to write Ramayana in slokas, which the sage readily followed.