We all know that Valmiki is the saint who narrated the epic Ramayan and was also the teacher of Luv-Kush, the twin kids of Lord Ram and Sita. He was actually a well known bandit named Ratnakar. Although by birth he was a brahmin, yet bad company had turned him into a bandit. He looted the people passing through the lonely paths in the forests. One day sage Narada was passing by that way. As usual dasyu Ratnakar stopped Narada muni and threatened him to surrender all his belongings. But sage Narada was unafraid of him and calmly said, “ look brother, I do not posses anything that you would like to take.” And then asked him, “ Why are you doing all this? There is no other sin as bad as killing an innocent unarmed human being. And fir whom are you committing such a heinous crime?
Ratnakar was accustomed of frightened faces who used to cry and beg for his mercy. He was astonished to see that Narada was not at all afraid of him rather had the courage to question him. Impressed by this, he answered to sage Narada, “ I do this to meet the needs of my large family.” To this sage Narada replied; “ Brother, please go and ask all your family members if they are willing to share the sins you have committed.” Dasyu Ratnakar was agitated by this conversation but his newly awakened conscience stirred him up intensely enough to question his family members about this. So he tied Sage NArada tightly to a tree with a rope and went home. He asked the same question to each of his family members, “ Are you willing to share the sins I have been committing to meet all your needs?”. The same reply came for each one of them, “ It is your duty to look after us and feed us, it is not my concern about the way you earn the wealth to look after us or meet our needs. So why should I share your sin?”.
Ratnakar was dismayed as he was toiling so hard day and night by risking his life in the forest for them and incurring sins for himself yet none of them is willing to share his load of sins. He realised the futility of his actions. With the newly found realisation and guilt he returned to the forest, untied sage Narada, and fell at his feets. He cried and asked, “ O learned man, how can a sinner like me attain salvation?”
After thinking for a while, sage Narada asked the guilt-striken dacoit to chant the name of lord Rama if he wanted to get rid of his sins. But dasyu Ratnakar was so sinful that he couldn't even pronounce the simple two syllabled word Rama. Sage Narada tried a lot to help him pronounce the word but in vain. Tired and dejected, so witty as he is, Sage Narada advised Dasyu Ratnakar to pronounce the two syllables in reverse i.e. “Mara”. This was easy for dasyu Ratnakar as he uttered this word frequently while he killed innocent people. But now he started chanting “mara – mara” with repentance and with the intention of penance for his sinful deeds. He continued with the chanting for days, weeks, months, years, and even yugas. He didn't cease chanting for even a single moment neither did he even get up from that place nor did he open his eyes. His body is so still that termites grew their hill over him. Lord Brahma was impressed with his determined penance and blessed him with knowledge as well as renamed him as Valmiki because termites in sanskrit are called valmik.
Even by chanting the names backwards a cruel bandit could transform into a knowledgeable sage.