Valmiki Ramayana contains about 24,000 Sanskrit Language verses. Another gigantic great Sanskrit Treatise yOga vAsishTa contains 32,000 Sanskrit verses. By and large, Valmiki Ramayana is a Running Narrative. For this reason only it is called 'itihAsA' (Meaning: itihi=Thus, AsIt=happened). On the other hand, yOga vASishTa is a philosophical discourse, taught by vaSishTha to Prince Shri Rama. Sage VasishTha was Rama's spiritual Guru, and the Clan Priest of Ikshvaku Dynasty (also called raghu Dynasty), whereas ViswAmitra was the bestower and preceptor to Shri Rama and Lakshmana, of Magical Chants called astras used while sending arrows from bow. (The difference between an ordinary arrow and an astra is an astra in addition to being a bamboo/metallic sharp-edged shaft, is supported by a magic chant addressed to the God/Goddess on whose name the astra is worshipped and use).
Sage VasishTha's spiritual-preaching to Shri Rama happened before Dasaratha's death. There is, as far as my limited knowledge goes, no mention in vAlmIki rAmAyana, about Sage VasishTha's lengthy spiritual discourse to Shri Rama. If we have to integrate this, with vAlmiki RAmAyaNa, probably we have to treat yOga vAsishTha as a part of bAla kAnDA (Vol. 1, Book of Childhood).
Yoga VasishTa's length (32000 verses) which surpasses Valmiki Ramayana's length (24000 verses), is mostly devoted to spiritual teaching, and somehow it did not receive as much popularity as Valmiki Ramayana or Bhagavad Gita. Of course, this is also true of Vyasa Mahabharata which contains around 115,000 verses. Entire 18 Volumes of Vyasa Mahabharata do not contain only narrative. By and large narrative ends with Vol. 11 with the death of nearly almost all the Warriors of the Mahabharata on both the sides of PanDavAs and kauravAs. Volumes 12 to 18 i.e. mainly Shanti Parva Vol. 12, and the remaining Parvas have thousands of discourses, and less of narratives.
Both for the unpopularity of yOga vAsishTha and the Vol. 12 of Mahabharata's Shanti Parva and its remainining six Volumes, we can probably attribute a reason "their complexity". The Epics vAlmiki Ramayana and the Vyasa Mahabharata used to be narrated , mostly in vernacular languages, in Temples during evenings, especially during summer evenings, when Agriculture Operations take a back seat awaiting the arrival of monsoons. Very rarely, Sanskrit Verses were read/recited by Temple Priests / Preachers , and wherever even Sanskrit Verses are read out,they had again to be translated into the local Regional Languages and explained to lay persons who are nearly illiterate. Who will listen to complex Volumes and Chapters which are difficult to comprehend. Probably, this is the reason for advent of 'bhakti' (Devotion) movement involving prayers, silent or sung. Relegation of discussion of philosophical precepts were confined only to Students in Hermitages.
About Mahabharata's Vol. 12 ShAnti Parva (Book of Peace) and other Volumes, I shall separately deal with in my mahabharatayb.blogspot.com blog Click here to go mahAbharata.
We shall, now, take up one sample set of Verses from Book I of yOga vAsishTa , called 'vairAgya kAnDa'. =The Chapter of Fatigue with Worldly Affairs (A sort of Ennui).
We shall go to Chapter 2 , also called Sarga 2. Verses are 33 to 36.
Shri Rama wanted to visit Sacred Places. He approached his Father King daSaratha for permission.
rAghavaS cintayitvaivam upEtya caraNau pituH ,
hamsaH padmAv iva navau jagrAha nakhakEsarau. [yOga vASishTha Book 1 vairAgya-,2.21]
Dasaratha permitted Shri Rama to visit places. According to the subsequent verses, Prince Shri Rama covered nearly entire India. These places, I shall cover later on. Our following sample verses pertain to Rivers seen by Lord Shri Rama, during his pilgrimages.
mandAkinIm indunibhAm kAlindIm cotpalAmalAm ,
sarasvatIm Satadrum ca candrabhAgAm irAvatIm. [yOga vASishTha Book 1 vairAgya-,2.33]
vENAm ca krishNavENAm ca nirvindhyAm sarayUm tathA ,
carmaNvatIm vitastAm ca vipASAm bAhudAm api. [yOga vASishTha Book 1 vairAgya-,2.34]
prayAgam naimisham caiva dharmAraNyam gayAm tathA ,
vArANasIm SrIgirim ca kEdAram pushkaram tathA. [yOga vASishTha Book 1 vairAgya-,2.35]
mAnasam ca kramasaras tathaivottaramAnasam ,
vaḍavAm maḍavAm caiva tIrthavrindam sasodaram. [yOga vASishTha Book 1 vairAgya-,2.36]
In the above list where is the Godavari River?
Approx. English Gist of above verses
1-2-33: Mand|Akini, Indunibha, kAlindI, utpalAmala, Saraswati, Satadru, candra prabha, Iravati are names of Rivers. Their ancient locations and the 21st Century locations are to be compared.
1-2-34: vENi, krishNavENi, nirvindhya, sarayu, carmaNvati, vitasta, vipASa, bAhudA are also names of Rivers. Their ancient locations and the 21st Century locations are to be compared.
1-2-35: prayAga, naimisha, dharmAraNya, gayA, vAraNAsi, Srigiri, kEdar, pushkar are names of places. Some of these are already, 21st Century India's Tourist Centres.
1-2-36: mAnasa, krama saras, uttara mAnasa, vadava, madava, tIrtha brinda-- are names of sacred Lakes. The word 'sasOdaram' indicates that Shri Rama visited these places together with his Brothers. Prince Bharata has not apparently accompanied Shri Rama in the pilgrimages. We need not normally need to read much into this non-accompaniment. Probably he may be at his maternal-grand-father Aswapati's place (kEkaya kingdom). Ordinarily Satrughna and Bharata operate as a pair. It is not clear why Shatrughna accompanied Shri Rama's pilgrimage entourage, instead of giving company to Bharata. Anyway, this aspect, we can look into later on with more corroboratory information.
For the time being , we shall concentrate on Rivers only.
Incomplete. Shall add / delete / modify shortly.