During Treta Yug, a time thousands of years ago, a man named Ratnakar lived in the forests along the banks of the holy river Ganga. Ratnakar was a cruel hunter and a fearless thief. Everyone was afraid of Ratnakar! When he walked in the forest, even the birds would fly to their nests, and the animals would look for a place to hide.
One day, Ratnakar was hiding by the side of a forest pathway, waiting for a victim. Along came the great sage Naradji, who was walking peacefully, admiring the beauty of the forest and singing kirtans in praise of God.
Ratnakar jumped out in front of him and demanded, "Hand over all you have or else!"
With love flowing from his eyes, Naradji said smilingly, "My dear man, all that I have are these rags I wear. If you want them, you may take them!" Naradji's fearlessness surprised Ratnakar. As Ratnakar gazed in Naradji's eyes, his cruel mind melted.
Naradji saw this transformation and lovingly explained to Ratnakar how stealing and killing animals was very sinful. He reminded Ratnakar that although his family was eager to share the fruits of his bad actions, they would not share his sins.
Upon this realisation, Ratnakar fell to Naradji's feet and asked for forgiveness. Naradji taught him to recite the sacred name of Ram. Ratnakar sat down in the forest and continued chanting with closed eyes. His concentration was so deep that he remained in meditation for years. In fact, he sat there so long in meditation that an anthill grew all around and above him!
One day Naradji came that way and carefully cleared away the anthill. With a kind smile, Naradji declared Ratnakar a sage, "As you are now reborn from a 'Val-mika' (ant-hill), from now you'll be known as Valmiki."
With tears of joy in his eyes, the sage Valmiki began his new life. He built an ashram near the river Ganga that provided refuge to Sitaji, wife of Shri Bhagwan Ram. It was at this ashram that Valmiki rishi composed the Ramayan!