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In this chapter of the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata, different sages tell Yudhishthira about the benefits they received by praying to Shiva. In particular, the sage Valmiki, author of the Ramayana, says this:

Once upon a time, in course of a dialectical disputation, certain ascetics that were possessors of the homa fire denounced me as one guilty of Brahmanicide. As soon as they had denounced me as such, the sin of Brahmanicide, O Bharata, possessed me. I then, for cleansing myself, sought the protection of the sinless Isana who is irresistible in energy. I become cleansed of all my sins. That dispeller of all sorrows, viz., the destroyer of the triple city of the Asuras, said unto me,--Thy fame shall be great in the world

My question is, what is this story of Valmiki being accused of killing a Brahmin? And did he actually commit the crime? Valmiki was originally the son of Varuna the ocean god, but he was raised by robbers and became a robber himself, so is it possible that he killed some Brahmana along the way?

And if he was innocent, did some "ascetics that were possessors of the homa fire" falsely accuse him just to win a debate against him? What was this debate about? Are there any other scriptures which describe this story?

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  • Varuna means 'Rain god' OR 'Ocean god'?
    – iammilind
    Apr 26, 2015 at 5:55
  • 1
    @iammilind Varuna is the god of water in general, whether ocean water or rain water. Apr 26, 2015 at 5:58
  • 1
    @iammilind By the way, there is a Vedic god specific to rain, named Parjanya, but he is seldom worshipped nowadays. I discuss a Vedic hymn to him in my question here, though: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/6578/36 Apr 26, 2015 at 15:57
  • @KeshavSrinivasan Indra is generally called as Rain God. Then who is this Parjanya?
    – The Destroyer
    Dec 18, 2015 at 10:41
  • @AnilKumar Indra is the god of thunder, whereas Parjanya is the god of rain, but people often don't pay attention to such distinctions. Dec 18, 2015 at 13:35

1 Answer 1

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These are the relevant ślokas -

vālmīkiścāha bhagavān yudhiṣṭhiramidaṁ vacaḥ /
vivāde sāgnimunibhirbrahmaghno vai bhavāniti //
uktaḥ kṣaṇena cāviṣṭastenādharmeṇa bhārata /
so'hamīśānamanaghamamoghaṁ śaraṇaṁ gataḥ //
muktaścāsmi tataḥ pāpaistato duḥkhavināśanaḥ /
āha māṁ tripuraghno vai yaśaste'grayaṁ bhaviṣyati //
~ Anuśāsana Parva (18.8-10)

According to me, Vālmīki doesn't actually commit brahmahatyā, in this case. If Vālmīki had committed brahmahatyā earlier, he would have known it himself, he wouldn't come to know about it suddenly, while having a vivāda with the munis. Vālmīki tells Yudhiṣṭhira (ślokas # 9b-10), that after this incident, he went into the śaraṇa of Śiva, to destroy his pāpa of brahmahatyā, which seems to imply that he didn't bear the doṣa of brahmahatya before the vivāda with the munis. I disagree with the view that the wordings of the munis (brahmaghno..) were a false accusation or slander on their part, because then Vālmīki would have no need to destroy the pāpa of brahmahatyā. So, there are three interpretations here-

(i) The wordings (brahmaghno..) indicate that a kinda śāpa was bestowed by the agnihotrin munis on Vālmīki. Although Vālmīki hadn't himself committed the pāpakarman of brahmahatyā in this case, yet due to the munis' śāpa, he was bestowed with the patitva corresponding to brahmahatyā. This aligns with the interpretative standpoint taken by the translators of Gītā Press, as shown in attached img. (here's link) enter image description here

Why did the munis bestow śāpa on Vālmīki ? Gītā Press seems to hold that they had done it upon being angered/dissatisfied by Vālmīki, during vāda. Were they angered because of them perceiving Vālmīki saying something wrong or his disrespecting them? Or were they angered because of being defeated by Vālmīki in the vāda? The exact reason of them taking such an action, isn't known and can only be speculated upon.

(ii) Although Vālmīki hadn't committed brahmahatyā per se in the vivāda, he had committed a pāpakarman while having the vivāda with the agnihotrin munis, which they deemed equivalent to brahmahatyā. In his commentary Bhāratabhāvadīpa, Nīlakaṇṭha states -

vivāde vedaviparītavāde agnisahitermunibhirukta iti sambandha // (8)
tena vedavirodhajena // (9)

Here, Nīlakaṇṭha seems to imply that Vālmīki had put forth Vedaviruddha arguments, while having vāda with the munis. The vāda itself was going Vedaviparīta via his arguments. So, him (Vālmīki) being called upon (by the munis) as having committed brahmahatyā, is in that context.

Yājñavalkya smṛti (3.228) states that vedanindā is a pāpakarman equivalent to brahmahatyā -

guruṇāmadhyadhikṣepo vedanindā suhṛdvadhaḥ /
brahmahatyāsamaṁ jñeyamadhītasya ca nāśanam //

Mitākṣarā adds- "nāstikābhiniveśena vedakutsanam ...brahmahatyāsamanī"
Aparārka adds - "vedānāṁ nindanamprāmāṇyābhidhānam ... brahmahatyāsamaṁ veditavyaṁ"

Even arguing against the prāmāṇya of a Vedavākya, can be taken as Vedanindā, and thus equivalent pāpakarman to Brahmahatyā. So, Vālmīki might have done such a karman, either intentionally or by mistake, in vivāda.

(iii) This interpretation combines before two interpretations basically. Due to the Vedaviruddha arguments put forth by Vālmīki, during his vivāda with the munis, out of dissatisfaction, anger, etc., the munis bestowed a śāpa upon him, that made him patita with the pāpa of brahmahatyā.

Therefore, I have provided three interpretations, in order to resolve the issue, mentioned by OP.

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