Editor’s Note: After a couple of stories from the Ved, we take a turn towards Kavya. The collection of Samskrut Kavya (poetry) and Vangmaya (Literature) is massive. Why should we be surprised given that Sanskrut was the dominant language for at least 1,000 years? Yet, very few students are taught the names and history of these poets, dramatists and writers. We hope to bring these great literary masters to our readers via these stories.
How many cultures & languages can point to one verse as the beginning of poetry? Samskrut, the oldest Indo-European language, can. So no set of stories about Samskrut Kavya can begin without the story of the first ever poetic creation.
The great Rushi or Sage Valmiki is considered to be the Adi-Kavi or the original (or first) poet and his great epic Ramayan is considered to be Adi-Kavya or the first poetic creation. This is not just what we say today, but this was the accepted wisdom even at the beginning of the Common Era.
Ashva-Gosha, the Buddhist poet from second century CE, wrote “Valmiki created the first verse-poem“. The conviction that Valmiki’s masterpiece Ramayan marked the invention of Kavya or poetry has been acknowledged by great writers since the beginning of literature.
The story of how the first ever poetic verse was created is interesting. According to legend, Sage Valmiki was walking to the river when he saw a pair of Kraunch birds engaged in love-making. Suddenly one of the birds fell down from the tree, mortally wounded. Nearby Valmiki saw the tribal hunter who had killed the bird with a bow and arrow.
Valmiki was enraged and he uttered the following words:
मा निषाद प्रतीष्ठाम त्वं अगमः शाश्वतिः समः
Ma Nishadha Pratishtham Tvam Agamaha Shashvati Samah
Stop Nishadha, you will never attain respect for eternity
यत क्रौंच मिथुनात एकम अवधीही काम मोहितं
Yat Krauncha Mithunat Ekam Avadhihi Kam Mohitam
Because you killed one of two Kraunch birds enraptured in love making
Valmiki was himself surprised by his instinctive creation. The meter in which he sang his verse became known as अनुष्टुभ शंध or Anushtubh Chhanda. Valmiki then went on to create Ramayan, the first poetic epic in history, in Anushtubh Chhanda.
So there you have it. The story behind the first ever verse and poetry recorded in human history.
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