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Balmiki

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Balmiki (Sanskrit: वाल्मीकि, vālmīki Panjabi: ਬਾਲਮੀਕਿ ) is a sect practiced by some Dalit or Harijan communities of the state of Punjab in India. Balmikis revere Valmiki as the Avatar of Bhagwan.

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Background

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Please improve this articleif you can. (March 2008)

Valmiki Himself was a Kirata Bhil.

Chura is an occupation and is therefore used as a derogatory term to describe the Valmiki community.

Valmikis is the name given to those devotees that follow the teachings of Bhagwan Valmiki as portrayed in the Yoga-Vasistha and the Ramayana, both works written by Valmiki. But there are also Sikh, Buddhist,Muslim and Christian Valmikis;links are reinforced with the aforesaid denominations through kinship and marriage.

'Balmiki' and not 'Valmiki' is often the preferred way of spelling by people from the state of Punjab.

Due to the influence of Sikhism and the preference of the British for Sikh soldiers, many Valmiki Sikhs (Mazhabi), were able to serve in the military and thus improve their social and economic status. One of the most decorated regiments of the Indian Army is the Sikh Light Infantry, which is composed mostly of Mazhabi and Chamar Sikhs. The Sikh Light Infantry finds its origins in the Sikh Pioneers raised in 1857. Sikh Pioneers were used in various military campaigns in India and abroad, and highly regarded for their determined resolve to complete the assigned tasks against all opposition. The Sikh Pioneers were later merged into the Sappers and Miners. World War II and its need for additional troops saw the rise of Mazhabi and Ramdasia Sikhs as a regiment in 1941. The designation was changed to the Sikh Light Infantry in 1944. See the following link: http://www.info-sikh.com/SSPage2.html The first Indian Mutiny of 1857 was suppressed by a regiment of Mazhabi Sikhs.

The great warriors who belong to the Majhabi Sikh community are BABA DEEP SINGH JI, BABA BIR SINGH, BABA JIWAN SINGH, BABA SANGAT SINGH, HARI SINGH NALUA,BABA BOTA SINGH, GARJA SINGH AND AKALI FOOLA SINGH. In the Malwa region Of Punjab 50% population of Sikhs are called MAJHABI SIKHS.


Some famous Mazhabi/Valmikis include: SINGER : LAHMBER HUSSAINPURI Lehmber Hussainpuri (Punjabi: ਲਹਿੰਬਰ ਹੁਸੈਨਪੁਰੀ, lahimbar husainpurī pronounced [lǽmbər husɛːnpuri]) (born 17 July 1977 in Kapurthala, Punjab, India) is a popular bhangra singer in India. Hussainpuri first appeared onto the mainstream bhangra scene through Mukhtar Sahota on a track titled 'Sohni Lagdi' who then moved onto a collaboration with Dr. Zeus on the album entitled Unda The Influence.


KUL MALIK BHAGWAN VALMIKI SINGER : JASPINDER NARULA. Jaspinder shot to fame in 1998 after a duet with Remo Fernandes in the Kajol- Ajay Devgan starrer 'Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha'.

Hans Raj Hans, father of Navraj Hans and Yugraj Hans, is a Punjabi singer born in a village called Shafipur near Jalandhar. He was born into a peasant family. He sings Punjabi Folk and Sufi music but has also sung in movies and released his own Indipop albums. He has worked alongside other renowned artists such as the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, as seen in the movie Kachhe Dhaage.

Sukhwinder Singh is an Indian singer, most famous as a Bollywood playback singer. His greatest success is arguably the song Chaiyya Chaiyya (Eng: Walk in the Shadow) for Mani Ratnam's 1998 film Dil Se, composed by A. R. Rahman, for which he won the 'Best Male Playback' award at the 1999 Filmfare Awards in India.

Sabar Koti a popular bhangra singer in the Punjab but now breaking into main stream music.

Sardar Buta Singh (born 1934) is a former Union Home Minister under Rajiv Gandhi's Government & more recently governor of Bihar state, India. He took office on November 5, 2004. He was the home minister of India during the early 1990s.

Omprakash Valmiki-Joothan: A Dalit's Life. He is a well known author and intellectual.

MR. JAI JAI VESHNO MANGE RAM ADVOCATE Who is a prominent minority figure & has remained ADVISOR FOR MINORITIES AFFAIRS GOVT: OF PAKISTAN & ADDITIONAL ADVOCATE GENERAL SINDH AT HIGH COURT OF SINDH,WAS THE DELEGATE OF THE GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN AT THE UNITED NATIONS 54TH SESSION HELD IN GENEVA,SWITZERLAND.

Shin lead singer from DCS a British Asian bhangra band. Shin is seen as one of the greatest Bhangra vocalists alongside Gurdas Mann, Kuldeep Manak, Malkit Singh and Alaap's Channi Singh.



Today this sect exists mostly in the countries of England, Scotland, Canada, America, France, India and Pakistan.

Followers of Sage Valmiki

Sage Valmiki

The Balmikis/Valmikis believe that Valmiki was the avatar of Bhagwan or God, and they uphold his work, the Ramayana and the YogaVasistha as their holy scripture.

Valmiki composes the Ramayana

Sage Valmiki is also known as "Adi-Kavi" meaning prime poet.

The Rāmāyaṇa, which Valmiki is famous for composing, consists of 24,001 verses[2] in seven cantos (kāṇḍas) and tells the story of a prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon (Rākshasa) king of Lanka, Rāvana. Valmiki Ramayana is dated variously from 500 BC to 100 BC, or about co-eval to early versions of the Mahabhārata.[3] As with most traditional epics, since it has gone through a long process of interpolations and redactions, it is impossible to date it accurately.

In the original Valmiki Ramayana, Valmiki wrote that Rama was nothing more than an ideal human being.

However, Brahminical reshaping and manipulation of the Ramayana eventually presented Rama as a supreme deity.

The first stage includes the composition of books 2 - 6 sometime in the fifth century BCE and their oral transmission up to and including the forth century BCE. The presentation of Rama as essentially human hero.

The second stage extends from the third century BCE to the first century CE, during which time those five books were reworked and expanded. This period brings greater status for the king, for most of this period, Rama is viewed as an ethical human.

The third stage extends from the first to the third century CE, bringing with it the addition of book 1 (‘The book of childhood’) and the some what later book 7 (epilogue).

This stage is marked by the presentation of Rama as an avatar of Vishnu. This stage also produced a pronounced emphasis on Varna- Dharma: Sambuka, the Sudra ascetic, is killed by Rama in order to bring a Brahmin boy back to life.

The abandonment of Sita, Bhagwan Valmiki introduces the injustice to Sita not so much with a view to hold up Sita's dignified suffering as an example for women, but to turn people against Ram-like behaviour. Bhagwan Valmiki could have easily made Ram into a perfect husband as he was a son. Instead, by saddling him with such a flaw, such crudity of behaviour in contrast to Sita's dignity, Bhagwan Valmiki wants to show how difficult it is for even supposedly perfect men to behave justly towards their wives. This underscores the point that Ram is emotionally unreliable and can be unjust in his dealings with Sita, that he behaved like a petty minded, stupidly mistrustful, jealous husband and showed himself to be a slave to social opinion. Rama to prove himself the mightiest of Kings released a horse, the capture of which would result in battle with King Ram and his forces. Bhagwan Valmiki challenged the monarchical class/caste system by stopping Ram’s Ashavmedh Yajna horse. Hence the Balmiki/Valmiki community does not view Rama as the embodiment of virtue, valour, character, and in short, all human values; but more essentially as an ideal human being as depicted in the original Valmiki Ramayana.

Balmikis or Valmikis are known with different names in southern parts of India (South India). Usually the Valmiki/Balmiki community are identified as Talwar/Talvar, Nayaka,Bedar & Valmiki.

Talwar/Talvar: means those persons who handle the sword. (community people were frontier in war or in military force)

Nayaka:means once again leader of gang or troop in war.

Bedar: basically that the people from this community were tribes and so are called Bedar.

Valmiki: As this community follows the teachings of Bhagwan Valimiki Ji, they are just simply called Valmiki.

Balmiki Beliefs

  • There is only one God, called Maharishi Valmiki.
  • Rejection of the caste system.
  • All human beings are equal, regardless of creed, colour or religion.
  • The centrality of the Ramayana, which is not just a story but illustrates several ideals of human behaviour.
  • The Ramayana is a scripture in it’s own right.
  • Rama was the ideal King putting his duty to the people of his kingdom before his responsibility to his family.
  • Sita was the ideal wife, remaining faithful to her husband.
  • Lakshmana was the ideal brother, supporting his brother without question, even at great loss to himself.
  • Hanuman was the ideal devotee.
  • Evil, as illustrated in the form of Ravana, can have no power over those who are dutiful, faithful and obedient.
  • Dharma - the path of duty or right action and is the fulfillment of one’s domestic responsibilities attached to one’s role in life; only if this is carried out mindfully and with dedication can it be effective.
  • Karma - the theory that there are equal and opposite reactions for every action or that as you sow, so shall you reap.
  • Respect for the animal kingdom is as important as respect for one’s fellow human-being. The Ramayana taught the importance of man’s kinship with the animal Kingdom as characterized by Hanuman a warrior from the monkey tribe. Valmiki is seen as Lord of the Animals.

Festivals

Procession of Balmiki's image on Pargat Diwas
  • Divali is celebrated in November. The word Divali means group of lights. It signifies the return of King Rama to his kingdom of Ayodha after his banishment. Divali is celebrated by displaying lights in and around the house and fireworks are let off. Celebrations may also be dramatized by enacting the Ramayana.
  • Raksha Bandhan or Sister's Day is celebrated in August. Sisters tie a thread around their brothers' wrists and wish them a long and successful life, in return the brothers give their sisters presents and promise to protect them. The thread is meant to represent the special bond between brothers and sisters.
  • The Flag Ceremony takes place once a year. During this ceremony devotees take down the old flag and replace it with a new one, while other devotees sing hymns and chant prayers. Basically this ceremony denotes the renewal of one’s faith in Valmiki.
  • Pargat Diwas. Perhaps the most important event of the year for Balmikis is the birthday celebrations of Valmiki. This tends to take place during October, the actual date of the birthday celebration varies from year to year and is determined by astrological configurations.

The Ashram

A Balmiki Ashram

A Balmiki temple is called an Ashram, which means a hermitage or monastery. It is the communal house for Balmikis. The function of the Ashram is to serve as a center for building up the commitment of devotee’s and for transmitting the Ramayana's message, and the focal point for the whole community to preserve their culture and traditions.

The Ashram is open to all who wish to enter, anyone who goes to the Ashram is welcome to stay as long as they wish and are welcome regardless of race, gender, caste or creed.

In Britain, Ashrams come in various sizes. Some tend to be specially constructed, whilst others tend to be renovated buildings designed to enable the purpose of worship.

All Balmiki Ashram's have a special flag outside to show that it is a place of worship. The bow and arrow represents Valmiki’s disciples Lav and Kush.

For Balmikis communal prayer is not restricted to the confines of the Ashram, but can in fact take place anywhere as long as The Ramayana is present. However, when an Ashram is not within traveling distance many Balmiki families will have a copy of the Ramayana in a special room at their house which can be used for worship.

When an Ashram is not available Balmikis will hire a public building or use an individual’s house as an Ashram.

All Balmiki Ashram's have common features. For instance, the place of worship is always in a special room and there are a number of other rooms set-aside for special purposes. There is a Langar hall where all the devotees congregate for a meal, the community kitchen where devotees help to prepare food for the Langer. A classroom and library where the Ramayana is stocked for study and is used for teaching young children.

A music room where musical instruments such as the Tabla are taught and hymns are practiced for worship. Finally, there is a special area for shoes and washing. All Balmikis follow certain rules of conduct and before entering the worship room everyone is expected to remove their shoes as a sign of respect but also for general cleanliness.

Furthermore, devotees may not enter the Ashram if they are carrying alcohol, drugs, or meat. As devotee enter the worship room they approach the Ramayana which is covered with an embroidered cloth and is kept on a platform covered with a special canopy.

Each devotee kneels before the Ramayana and makes their offering of prayer and money. It is not essential that devotees offer money and some may wish to donate food towards the Langar. The devotees then retreat to find a place to sit down. Usually a picture of Valmik is placed in front of the Ramayana to help focus concentration and incense sticks are lit to purify the air.

Everyone sits on the floor to show that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, regardless of whether they come from a rich or poor background. However, it is usually found that men and women sit separately. The women tend to sit on the left side of the room whilst the men sit on the right. There is no Balmiki religious significance for this except for Sikh traditional influence on the community.

There is no special day for worship during the week, but since work restricts one’s availability for worship, most Balmiki’s attend the Ashram on Sundays. Devotees are at liberty to come and go at any time during the Puja service, which usually lasts about three hours.

The Puja begins by everyone standing up to say a prayer which is called the Ardas,' then the Pujari (Priest) begins to read sections of the Ramayana.

At short intervals reading from the Ramayana will stop and devotees will be called to the platform to preach and sing hymns. At the end of the Puja the whole congregation will stand and say a prayer called the Arthi.

The Arthi is followed by the distribution of Karah Prashad, which is made from flour, sugar, butter and water. Karah Parshad is given to each devotee who has come to hear the Ramayana. The food is taken from one bowl only and is a symbol of unity.

Eventually, all the devotees will congregate in the Langar hall, for a meal, for which no one has to pay. All are welcome to share the Langar, which is always vegetarian. Sharing of food together is designed to unite people from all sections of the society and to promote equality between all human beings.

In some Ashrams, a Guru Granth Sahib is kept alongside the Ramayana and Mazhabi Sikhs worship together with Balmikis.

Ardas

Hans Raj Hans worshipping Valmiki and Ravidas

The Balmiki Ardas is read standing facing the Ramayana. Translation as follows:

Oh Lord we stand before you and prey, we beg for your protection. Bless us to call upon you with every breath we take and beg you to protect us from all sins, guide us so that we always prey to you. Bless us so that we always do good deeds Oh Lord and Creator of all things. Bless us with peace of mind and infinite wisdom, show us the way of righteousness so our soul be cleansed. Bless us so that we never forget you teaching Oh Lord and that we shall sing you praises, light candles and incense, Oh Lord those who prey to you with all their heart shall go and meet you in heaven. Oh Lord those who read and listen to your holy scriptures, you are so merciful upon them. Oh Lord we beg you to show us the way so that we can be spared from evil.

Arthi

The Balmiki Aarti is read at the end of the reading of the Ramayana. Translation as follows:[citation needed]

Praise Valmiki, praise Lord Valmiki, praise Valmiki Lord of truth, Creator and Provider of the universe (Chorus) Praise Valmiki------- (Chorus) Lord of infinite wisdom, Creator of all worlds, architect of all things. Praise Valmiki------- (Chorus) Lord Valmiki, you are the beginning, you are eternity, Oh Lord my provider you are perfection. Praise Valmiki------- (Chorus) Oh merciful Lord, you are the lealer of all ills. Rama preys to you always. Praise Valmiki------- (Chorus) Oh Lord you wrote yoga Vasistha and the Ram Charitar (Ramayana) by your holy hands for the world to listen and rid of all its troubles. Praise Valmiki------- (Chorus) Lord those who sings your praise and hymns daily, you will give them all their hearts desire. Praise Valmiki------- (Chorus)


Marriage

Marriage is regarded as being very important for Balmikis as the essence of the Ramayana revolves around Rama and Sita and their trials and tribulations before and after wedlock. Balmiki marriages are a mixture of culture, tradition, and religion and are known as Vedic marriages (fire in the center of 4 pots). They are traditionally arranged but there is no religious significances for this.


The wedding ceremony usually takes place in the Ashram under a special canopy and the marriage vows are performed by a Pujari (Priest) who reads the four special verses from the Ramayana and at the end of each verse the bride and the groom are expected to take steps around a sacred fire or Agni Havan to bless their marriage. It is important to realize that Balmiki weddings need not take place in the Ashram, but can take place wherever the Ramayana is present.

Often prior to the wedding ceremony, there is an engagement ceremony, during this ceremony both families gather and exchange gifts. However, just before friends and relatives visit the bride and groom and often they will bring presents which usually take the form of cloths, gold, jewelry, money, coconuts, or sugar.

For both the bride and groom often the events before the wedding day are very similar, for instance three days before the wedding day the mum will draw a circle on the ground. This circle usually consists of flour, water and a piece of wood is then placed in the middle of the circle. It is believed that by doing this it will enable the couple to have the children they desire.

Now the bride will sit on the wood while friends and relatives hold a red headscarf over her head. This is then followed by the chanting of traditional marriage songs and in turn friends and relatives will brush some oil and turmeric on to her hair.

At the end of this ceremony the mother will make five hand prints on the wall, in the belief that this will bring good luck to the marriage. Traditionally the bride to be decorated with patterns drawn in Henna on her hands and feet. There is no religious significance for this and it is merely part of the pomp and pageantry of wedding.

The bride wears red which can take one of two forms, a red saree (this consists of a single pice of cloth) or a shalwar kameez (trousers and tunic) and a red headscarf as well as gold jewelery. There are no such dress restrictions on the groom who has the option of western or traditional Indian dress.

On the morning of the marriage day the bride and groom will take a bath to wash out the oil and herbs which were brushed into their hair. Eventually the families of the bride and groom will meet at the Ashram, where the Pujari will say a prayer to bless both families. This will then lead to the introduction of the family members, beginning with the introduction of the fathers and the exchange of garland. The wedding ceremony finally draws to a conclusion when the couple visit bride’s home before they leave for the groom’s family.

See also


External links

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