Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sri Ramayana Part 5: Vishwamitra's arrival and battle with Tataka





         जय श्री राम !        
   ( Jai Sri Ram )

       शुक्ल अम्बरा धरां विष्णुं,      
             शशि वर्णं चतुर भुजं ।            
           प्रसन्ना वदनं ध्यायेत्,           
       सर्व विघ्न  उपाशन्तयेत्  ॥      
( Shuklambharadaram vishnum,
Shashivarnam chaturbhujam |
prasannavadanam dhyayet,
sarva vigna upshantayet || )

नमस्ते अस्तु भगवन्  विश्वेश्वराय महादेवाय त्रियम्बकाय त्रिपुरान्तकाय त्रिकग्निकालाय ,
कालाग्निरुद्राय निलकन्ताय मृत्युञ्जयाय सर्वेश्वराय सदाशिवाय श्रीमन् महादेवाय नमः ।
( Namaste astu bhagawan Vishveshvaraya, Mahadevaya Triyamabakaya Tripurantakaya Trikaganikalaya,
Kalagnirudraya Nilakantaya Mrityunjayaya Sarveshvaraya Sadashivaya Sriman Mahadevaya namah | )



वनमाली  गदी शन्गी शङ्की चक्री च नन्दकी ,
श्रीमन् नारायणो विष्णु वसुदेवोभि रक्षतु ।

( Vanamali gadhisangi shanki chakri cha nandaki,
Sriman Narayano Vishnu Vasudevobhi rakshatu | )

सर्व चैतन्य रूपां ताम् आध्यं विद्यां च धीमहि
बुदिं यो नः प्रचोदयात्
( Sarva chaitanya rupaam tamadhyam vidyam cha dhimahi
budhim yo nah prachodayat )

सदाशिव समारम्भां व्यास शंकर मध्यमाम् ।
भारती थीर्थ पर्यन्तां वन्दे गुरु परम्परां ॥
 ( Sadhashiva samarambham vyasa shankara madyamam 
bharathi theertha paryantam vande guru paramparam )
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 Sri Ramayana(Bala Kaanda) Part 5:

Vishwamitra's arrival and battle with Tataka





Emperor Dasharatha was delighted with his children and their righteous conduct. Now, he was anxious to find suitable brides for his young princes. He wished to find the brides who could complement the righteous conduct of his children, otherwise he feared a wicked bride would spoil the character of his children as well. Thus, for the purpose of finding the suitable brides for the four young princes, Dasharatha assembled the court of all his ministers, intellectuals and kulaguru.

Dasharatha ordered his ministers," I want you to find a suitable bride for my dear Rama. Also seek a suitable bride for my sons Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna..." While he was still issuing these instructions, suddenly entered into the palace of Dasharatha the great muni Vishwamitra who had extraordinary splendour and great energy.

The great muni approached the entrance and then spoke to the doorkeepers ,"I am the son of Gadhi and Kushika, I am called as Kaushik. My name is Vishwamitra. I wish to meet your King, go and inform him about my arrival."

Vishwamitra inspired great fear as he had a reputation of being quick with his curses. Before he became a Brahmarshi, Vishwamitra had cursed many a people for simple reasons. This acquired him an ill reputation of being a cursing muni. The reputation of Vishwamitra preceded him wherever he went. The two doorkeepers were also aware of this reputation and were anxious not to displease the cursing muni. As soon as, the two doorkeepers heard the words of Vishwamitra, they scurried into the palace and landed in the royal court of Emperor Dasharatha.

They stepped into the large court room, bowed courteously and said,"Victory to you...oh Lord, the mighty muni Vishwamitra has arrived and is waiting at the entrance to meet you."

This was no ordinary guest who could be kept waiting. Emperor Dasharatha immediately rose from his throne and hurried towards the entrance to welcome the great muni. All the dignitories in the court also followed Dasharatha. Dasharatha was well aware that Vishwamitra could create another universe with a mere thought. He knew that displeasing such powerful muni would endanger his own welfare and the welfare of his kingdom. He was also conscious that Vishwamitra was known to curse for frivolous misgivings. And most importantly, Vishwamitra was vengeful of Vashishta maharshi. Infact, numerous sons of Vashishta maharshi were killed by the curse of Vishwamitra. Vashishta maharshi was Dasharatha's kulaguru. So, Dasharatha was apprehensive that the dislike that Vishwamitra had for his teacher may spill over onto Dasharatha and bring some kind of trouble for him, especially his beloved princes.

As these thoughts crossed the mind, Dasharatha reached the doorway and found Vishwamitra standing there. Valmiki Maharshi describes Vishwamitra as perceived by Dasharatha. Maharshi says that Vishwamitra standing majestically waiting at the entrance resembled a blazing flame of holy fire to Dasharatha. Vishwamitra's dazzling splendour and radiance was imposing. Dasharatha was gladdened at the holy sight of Vishwamitra and at the same time, frightened to imagine the consequencies if this splendid rishi was angered.

Dasharatha thought,"What a great rishi?!! What a marvellous splendour?!! I am truly blessed that this holy man has visited my palace..." The pleasant Dasharatha humbly offered argyam and padyam(marks of respect to a guest) to Vishwamitra maharshi.

Then, Dasharatha said to Vishwamitra," Oh esteemed muni, how are you? How is your health? You are a rajarshi, oh muni, you have performed rigorous tapasya and have attained the illustrous Brahamarshi-hood. Your splendour is unrivaled, great sir. My life is blessed with your arrival to my kingdom. Welcome. Welcome. Please step into my palace..."

Vishwamitra also serenely enquired the well-being of the Vashista maharshi. After that, Vishwamitra with a benign smile enquired the well-being of the Emperor Dasharatha. He asked the sovereign," Are you fine? Is your vast Kingdom secure? Are your vassals loyal? Are they doing well? Is your treasury secure and abundant? Is the populace in your kingdom prosperous and peaceful? Does your kingdom enjoy timely rains?..." In this manner, Vishwamitra patiently enquired extensively about the well-being of Dasharatha and his kingdom. Then, Vishwamitra entered the palace and others followed him. They strolled into the magnificent royal court. Dasharatha politely offered a suitable seat to his distinguished guest. And Vishwamitra adorned that seat.

The imposing sight of Vishwamitra, inspired great dread and equal admiration in Dasharatha's heart. He was reverentially fearful of the resplendent Vishwamitra, due to his past record as a cursing muni. Dasharatha was chiefly concerned that Vishwamitra's angry gaze should not fall upon his dear children. So, he resolved to be extra cautious by displaying his great devotion and high regard for Vishwamitra. He reflected in his mind thus," A great muni like Vishwamitra, who spends all his time in severe tapasya, does not go to any place without adequate reason. He must have come to my palace to seek my favour in some matter. Why wait till this powerful muni asks for something, why not promise him, beforehand, to do whatever his bidding. Then, the muni will be impressed with me and recognise my respect for him."

Dasharatha's conduct with regard to Vishwamitra maharshi has so far been blemishless. But now, in his anxiety to please Vishwamitra, so as to avoid his wrath, Dasharatha decided to promise to gift away anything that Vishwamitra asks for, without any knowledge of what Vishwamitra might ask. This hastiness was stimulated by the fatherly adoration of Dasharatha towards his children. Dasharatha was naive, he should have waited for the muni to explain the purpose of his arrival. Then, Dasharatha should have arrived at a conclusion depending on his own ability to perform the task that Vishwamitra wanted to be performed. That was the course even Dasharatha would have adopted normally. But the awe inspired by Vishwamitra, made Dasharatha blunder and he promised in advance, consequently was tied down by his own words. Thats why, in indian culture, one is advised to speak every word after carefully measuring it. Tol mol ke bol(speak after measuring carefully) is the message of sant kabirdas also.

Emperor Dasharatha who had already resolved to impress Vishwamitra by promising in advance to away any gift, elegantly spoke to Vishwamitra," Oh esteemed muni, I am indeed very fortunate that a person of your stature has arrived to my abode. You deserve(patrata) to be given any gift you that ask for. Please tell me, the reason for visiting me and I will promptly perform that task." These words spoken by Dasharatha were indeed brilliant but he was tied down by these very words, later.

There is another aspect in this: It is said that, whenever God wishes to gift great prosperity or well-being to you, then he creates a situation such that, some loyal devotee of the lord, would be forced by circumstances to seek your favour. A devotee, who usually does not stretch his arms for asking help from anyone, is forced to take your help due to a peculiar situation. If at this moment, you help this devotee, then you will be granted great prosperities and well-beings. On the other hand, if at this time, for some reason, you decline to help the needy devotee, then even your current wealth and security will be endangered. How does this fit into the karma theory? It is said that when a devotee of the god is helped by you, this Karma(deed) is used by the God to wash away the past accumalted sins which were obstructing your better fortune. Similarly, if this devotee inspired by the lord himself, is declined, then it will be counted as another sin adding to the already pile of sins. This results in greater problems. It can also be viewed as a final test that God puts you through before conferring great boons upon you. If you use your current wealth, might, knowledge, influence, popularity or power...etc in Lord's service or to help the needy devotees of God, then that qualifies you for further boons. And God showers many more boons upon you for you are using your talents in the right direction. If you act conversely, then the same God removes your present abilities as well, because you are not using them in the right way. If a son studies hard and becomes the class topper, then his father pleased with him will buy him a new video game. Conversely, if the son neglects the studies and spends all his time in playing video games, then his father will chastise him by taking away the current video games as well. God also acts in a similar manner. A virtuous conduct pleases the God. Helping his devotees pleases the lord. And when pleased, he showers abundance of wealth and well-being on you. But if you indulge in sinful behaviour, or if you refuse to help the devotees of the God, then the same God will chastise you by taking away even your present prosperity.

Bhagavatpada Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya's life illustrates this intricate truth. Bhagavatpada Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya(picture to the left) was born at Kalady in Kerala. Usually, a person is given a new name at the time of accepting Sanyasa Ashrama. In case of Adi Shankaracharya, his name before Sanyasa Ashrama was Shankara and even after adopting the Sanyasa Ashrama, he was peculiarly given the same name by his Guru. At the age of five, Shankara had a sacred thread ceremony and was solemnly sworn to Brahmacharya(bachelor life). A brahmachari(bachelor) is ordained to beg for alms and Shankara followed the religious ordinance. At the tender age of twelve, Shankara formally joined Sanyasa Ashrama with due permission of his mother Aryamba and became a Sanyasi for rest of his life. In Sanyasa Ashrama, he was again given the name of Sankara by his guru Gaudapadacharya. At the age of sixteen, Adi Shankaracharya finished writing commentaries on the Prasthana Trayam(the three literary works dealing with Moksha(salvation) namely Brahma Sutra, Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. The commentaries that Adi Shankaracharya authored at the age of sixteen are held as the classsics and many experts refer to them for a better understanding of the three scriptures. At the age of thirty-two, Adi Shankaracharya had already been acknowledged as Jagadguru. He already established four matts at four corners of India to preserve Hinduism. At the time of Adi Shankaracharya, the different sects of Hinduism had deteriorated into cults. And each sect was engaged in verbal battling with the other sect to prove themselves as superior. Hindus were gradually moving away from the Vedic message. Hinduism itself was on the brink of extinction due to the rise of religions like Buddhism. At such crucial juncture, Adi Shankaracharya, revered as the incarnation of the Dakshinamurthi(a form of Shiva that grants Gyanam or Wisdom, see the picture to the right), reconciled the different sects of Hinduism, and reoriented them towards the message of Vedas. He defeated numerous eminents scholars in verbal duels and refuted their varied theories. He re-established the Advaita Siddhantha, the supreme truth, espoused by Vedas. He rejuvinated the Hinduism from the brink of extinction. Today, Hinduism is alive mainly due to the legacy of Shankaracharya. Thus, he is accepted as Jagadguru. In Sanatana Dharma(hinduism), there are three important gurus namely Bhagavan Valmiki, Bhagavan Vyasa and Bhagavatpada Adi Shankaracharya. These three compassionate guru figures have bestowed all the essential literature in Hinduism. Bhagavan Valmiki has gifted Srimad Ramayana to the mankind which contains the essence of all the Shastras(Scriptures). Bhagavan Vyasa has donated Mahabharata to the world. He had also sorted the Vedas and categorised them into four Vedas. He has also authored 18 puranas. Bhagavatpada Adi Shankaracharya, wrote commentories on the three scriptures dealing with Moksha. He rekindled Hinduism. He re-installed Advaita Siddhantam. He composed many devotional songs and hymns so as to take the religion to the most common man who cannot understand the complicated concepts of religion. His devotional songs are widely popular. These three gurus have together formed the vast Hindu literature. All the Hindus, infact all the mankind, is forever in their debt.

Adi Shankaracharya further established 4 peethams at four corners of India. The Southern Peetham was established at Sringeri(Karnataka) by the name of 'Sharada Peetham'. The Western Peetham at Dwarka(Gujarat) by the name of 'Kalika Peetham'. The Eastern Peetham at the Jagannath Puri(Orissa) by the name of 'Govardhan Peetham. The Northern Peetham was setup at Badrika Ashram(Uttranchal) by the name of 'Jyothi Peetham. These 4 Peeths play a pivotal role in the survival of Hinduism, particularly in the last thousand year period when India and hindus have gone through a horrid time under Adharmic rulers. Hinduism has been able to withstand the onslaught of barbaric invaders thanks to Adi Shankaracharya. Thus, Bhagavatpada Adi Shankaracharya must be thanked by all Hindus everyday.

Bhagavatpada Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya's life illustrates the intricate truth of how lord showers good fortune on those who help the devotees of the God. At the age of five, Shankara had thread ceremony and entered Brahmacharya(bachelor life). A Brahmachari(bachelor) is religiously ordained to beg for alms and Shankara duly followed the ordinance. He visited only a limited number of houses(perhaps only one house, I am not sure) to beg and if he did not get any alms from those houses, then he would fast that day. One day, Shankara went to an old brahmani's(wife of a brahmin) house for begging alms. It was a small thatched hut, Shankara called out and asked for alms. The old brahmani peeped out of her hut and saw a bright young child. Seeing the young kid ask for alms moved her. Then, she was filled with immense sorrow at her own plight. She was very destitute, herself. Her hut had nothing that could be given as alms to the young boy. She herself, had nothing to eat and was starving. Her husband had gone out to beg and he wore the only proper cloth in their house. So, the old lady did not even have a suitable cloth to wear. She covered herself with ragged cloth full of holes.

Now, this young child's call for alms saddened her at her own plight. In great despair, she thought," What is the utility of my living? I have suffered poverty all my life. I have not experienced any luxury in my life. I have accepted my destiny. But, now even this brilliant child will go without food today for merely arriving at my abode. I am truly cursed." This thought multiplied her distress. She resolutely decided that she must give something to the child. She frantically searched her small hut and found a small dried amla fruit.

She went to her door and saw the young Shankara who was patiently standing at the entrance of the house without even a frown on his face. She adored the child mentally as her son. She did not step out of her hut as she was not clothed properly. She offered the dry amla in her palm to the young Shankara as alms. She lamented loudly that she had nothing better to give and she was giving everything she had. Shankara took great pity over the misery of this old brahmani and accepted the dry amla. Then, Shankara prayed to the Goddess Lakshmi. Goddess Lakshmi is the presiding deity of wealth and prosperity . She is also the eternal consort of Sri MahaVishnu. Shankara prayed to her to relieve the poverty of the old brahmani. The young Shankara who was the age of about eight years, sang a beautiful hymn as a prayer to the Goddess Lakshmi asking her to kindly allievate the destitution of the old brahmani. The Goddess moved by Shankara's hymn and his kindness towards the old lady manifested herself.

Goddess Lakshmi appeared in the skies in her amazing form. A delicate smile adorned her lotus-like face. She told Shankara that the old lady did not have any positive Karma(Punyam) in her account. Further, this old lady had not given any Danam(donations) to anyone in her previous birth and hence she deserves to suffer the poverty. Then the young Shankara prayfully argued through his hymn thus," Oh Godddess! Take pity on this innocent child(old brahmani) of yours. Even if she has immense Papam(negative karma), are you not capable of brushing it aside? Also, she has just donated this amalaka fruit to me with great affection. Is this not enough to give her great prosperity and to release her from the scourge of poverty?"

The goddess of wealth, Sri Maha Lakshmi, kindly agreed with the young boy and immediately showered golden amlakas in the old lady's house. Thus, the old lady was relieved from her misery of poverty. The celebrated hymn that Sri Adi Shankaracharya sang on that occasion is popular as 'Kanakadhara Stotram'. It is considered a powerful hymn that has the power to shower great wealth and well-being on any person who sings it with devotion at dawn or dusk time.

The old lady's sufferings ceased, only because she had donated one dried amalaka to Shankara, a great devotee of god. So, God always becomes pleased when one of his devotees gets a donation, however miniscule the donation may be. That act of donation leads to great prosperity and peace. It clears the sins accumulated in the past(even previous birth) and clears the way to happiness.

That is called Patrata(Qualified-ness). A single amalaka in the right hand was enough to shower roomful of golden amlakas. Similarly, Vishwamitra's hand is not an ordinary hand. Anything given to him, will only bring great well-being. But if the same person is denied then the contrary effect will also be severe. The mighty Emperor Dasharatha recognised the importance of pleasing the sage and promised solemnly. But he did not take in account, what would happen if he had to deny Vishwamitra.

The Emperor Dasharatha courteously said to Vishwamitra,"Oh bhagavan! Today, my life has become a success with your arrival. You have come here and you will ask for something. I will gift it to you and that is enough for me for this life. This place has been consecrated with the touch of your holy feet. Please tell me, oh great muni, what favour do you wish from me? Anything that you ask, I am ready to donate..."

Vishwamitra delibrately kept silent and let the Emperor commit himself. So far, Vishwamitra did not even mention that he had come to ask for a favour. The ingenious Vishwamitra knew that Dasharatha may reject what he was going to ask him. He waited for Dasharatha to talk himself into a promise. Vishwamitra had come with a mission. Once Dasharatha promised, Vishwamitra with a pleasant smile said ,"Oh mighty Emperor! You are born in the illustrious Ikshawaku dynasty. You have rigorously followed Satya(truth) and Dharma(justice/religion). You have earned a good name in the three worlds with your adherence to Dharma. You are the disciple of the glorious Vashishta and your intellect has been cultured by Vashishta's teachings. No wonder, therefore oh Dasharatha, that you have spoken so beautifully."

Vishwamitra, the great muni, has now cleverly entangled even Vashishta muni into the Dasharatha's promise. He has linked the honour of Ikshawaku Dynasty with the promise of Dasharatha. He is also conveying that the good name earned by Dasharatha so far will also be spoiled if he does not keep up his word. If Dasharatha refuses to follow up his words with action, then as a teacher Vashishta maharshi would also be blamed and Ikshawaku dynasty will also be blemished. Thus, Vishwamitra, very skillfully, created a situation where Vashista maharshi would have to intervene if Dasharatha for some reason hesitates to follow up the promise given to him. This is Vishwamitra's intelligence and the victim was naive Dasharatha who gave a promise without adequate thought. Vishwamitra's goal was loka kalyanam(welfare of the world). Dasharatha had thought that at the most Vishwamitra might ask for some monetary help for conducting some sacred rite. And in his anxiety not to invite the wrath of Vishwamitra, he gave his word.

Vishwamitra knew what was going through Dasharatha's mind. He calmly explained his objective for visiting Dasharatha thus,"Oh king Dasharatha, I am in need of a small favour. I am performing a certain yagam for a certain siddhi(fruit/outcome/success). Two rakshasas(demons) are creating hurdles in the completion of yagam. These two rakshasas are kamarupi(capable of transforming themselves into any form or appearance). I have futily attempted to complete the yagam many times, but they are spoiling it again and again. You may ask why I have not punished those two rakshasa(demons), myself, with my taposhakti(power gained through meditation). Listen, after I have become a Brahmarshi, I have ceased cursing any being in the universe. I hold no grudge over anyone for any reason. I view the god in all his creation(universe). Also, when that yagam is being performed, I am ordained to keep my anger in check and not curse anyone. This has emboldened the rakshasas and they are interrupting the yagam. So, to protect the yagam from those two rakshasas and to punish them if they try to create hurdles, I need you to send your son Rama with me to forest. Your elder son Rama, who has truth as his strenght(satya parakrama), who has divine splendour, who has long curly hair and a handsome face; I need that Rama to kill those two rakshasas(demons)."

As Vishwamitra was explaining, he realised that Dasharatha, with his fatherly affection, was not going to comply. He recognised that his words had unleashed a storm in Dasharatha's mind. The compassionate Vishwamitra knew that, out of great affection for his son, Dasharatha was anticipating great dangers for his son, if he sent him against the rakshasas.

Sri Ramayana is also a psychological science. The epic teaches us, how people tend to think. Wherever there is great affection, it anticipates the worst dangers. For instance, if a child has not come back from school or tuition at the regular time and some delay has happened. Then the child's mother starts imagining the worst dangers for her dear child.

Similarly Dasharatha also anticipated the worst for his son and was anguished by what Vishwamitra had asked. Vishwamitra mercifully understood the state of mind of Dasharatha. Vishwamitra then said the following words to inspire confidence in Dasharatha," Oh mighty king, you do not realise the real power of Rama. You assume him to be a mere child of yours. But I know the real strength of Rama. Not just me, even your teacher, Vashishta, knows the reality of Rama. Ask him, if you do not believe me. All the tapasis(hermits) know that Rama is not an ordinary child. He is satya-parakrama(truth is his strength). There is no limit to his might. You have promised to gift me whatever I ask for. Now I am asking you, do not hesitate. Send Rama with me and I promise you that only the rakshasas will die."

Vishwamitra is clearly alluding that Rama is not a mere child but the incarnation of, none other than, Sri Maha Vishnu, himself. Even when the Brahmarshi Vishwamitra himself promised that only the rakshasas will be killed, Dasharatha was not convinced.
Vishwamitra, with an aim to persuade Dasharatha, spoke encouragingly," Dharma will be restored if you send your son with me. And I assure you that Rama will be gained immensely if you send him with me. If you are not convinced then consult your teacher, Vashishta. Take his advice. Also take the opinion of your ministers, if you so wish. If you are hesitant to consult them in my presence, then take them aside. Send Rama with me, only when you are completely convinced."

With every word that Vishwamitra spoke, Dasharatha looked as if life was being drawn out of him. Dasharatha, who had just nowpromised to give away anything Vishwamitra asks for, was agonised. The tension on Dasharatha's face was evident. Dasharatha's eyes reflected the despair in his heart and when he spoke his voice was very distressed," My dear Rama is still a child. He has not even attained sixteen years of age. His beautiful lotus petal-like eyes will fall asleep as soon as the night sets in. While the strength of the nocturnal rakshasas' multiplies as the night grows darker. Rama has not yet mastered all the weapons. While the deadly rakshasas not only combat with all kinds of fatal weapons, but they also employ various dark magics, witchcrafts, and illusions. The rakshasas are masters of the deceptive combat in the dark of the night. They are adept at changing their appearances through magical disguises to befuddle their opponents. How can a young child face such wily rivals in battle? My child cannot stand against those vile creatures in the battle even for a moment. His life will be in mortal danger. I am sixty-thousand years of age. I have begotten the children after a prolonged wait. I had lost all the hope of ever having a successor, then my Rama, my handsome Rama, was born. I am highly fond of my dear child, I cannot remain alive without him...not even for a second."

In different yugas, the life expectancy is supposed to be different. In Tretha yuga, the life expectancy was in thousands. In Kali yuga(the present yuga), the life expectancy is one hundred years. Thus, Dasharatha's age was sixty-thousand years for he lived in Tretha yuga.

Then, Dasharatha spoke in a melancholic voice," Oh esteemed muni, if protecting the yagam is your wish, I will come myself to perform that task along with all my mighty army. I will eliminate those rakshasas that are interrupting your yagam. Tell me, oh great sir, whose agents are these rakshasas? Who is their lord?"

Vishwamitra heard Dasharatha patiently, then Vishwamitra quietly answered," Born in Paulatsya dynasty, a ten-headed rakshasa(monster) with the name of Ravana, who is also the lord of all the rakshasas(demons), has obtained the boons from the Lord Brahma that he shall not die in the hands of Gandharvas, Kinneras, kimpurushas, Suras, Yakshas, Nagas...etc. Emboldened by his virtual immortality, he is now causing pain to all the worlds. All the virtuous people are under being troubled by him. He is the brother of Vaishravana(Kubera) himself, and son of the great Vishravasu muni. Even though Ravana, who has an extrordinary splendour and superior might, is not directly involved; two rakshasas under his tutelage are creating hurdles in the completion of my yagam. I need Rama to slay those two rakshasas."

As soon as Dasharatha heard that the two rakshasas were servants of the great rakshasa(demon) lord, Ravana, Dasharatha almost fainted. It took a few moments for Dasharatha to recover and speak again. Dasharatha was visibly shaken. The enervated Dasharatha said,"Oh esteemed muni, please pardon me. Till now, I had said that I will come to protect the yagam, along with my army. But, even I, cannot help you in this matter. Even I, along with my massive and mighty army, cannot face the rakshasas who are working for Ravana. How can the young and innocent Rama help you in this matter? I am sorry but I cannot send my child with you, pardon me..."

Having heard the rejection of Dasharatha, the benign smile on Vishwamitra's face did not fade. He calmly said," Oh Dasharatha, you had promised me to give whatever I ask for even before I asked you anything. Now, after I have asked you, you are refusing to grant my request. Having been born in the renowned and honourable Ikshawaku Dynasty, you are now breaching the vow you had given me. Having lied thus, oh King Dasharatha, may you live happily with your family, friends and relatives." It was not a curse but a blessing...a reproachful, almost sarcastic, blessing.

Then Vishwamitra rose from his majestic seat and set out from that court. As he passed by, he glanced at Vashishta maharshi. A glance that contained a subtle censure of Vashishta maharshi for the dishonourable conduct of his pupil, Dasharatha. Vishwamitra's glance implied that the blame of Dasharatha not holding on to his promise would now, also fall on Vashishta maharshi for being the teacher of Dasharatha.

So, Vashishta maharshi had to intervene. Vashishta maharshi spoke gravely to Dasharatha,"Oh Dasharatha, you are not able to understand the greatness of Vishwamitra due to your fawning affection for your son. Vishwamitra is not some ordinary person. If you mould Dharma and Tapasya into a human form, it will become Vishwamitra. This great muni has followed many rigid vows and practised rigorous rites and has gained immense powers.
Oh king, you have gained a fair fame of being a dharmatma(one who follows dharma) in all the three worlds. Now, do not stain your good name and do not be deprived of your dharma by breaching the vow you have conceded to Vishwamitra. If you breach your solemn promise to a sacred person like Vishwamitra, then all your punyam(postive karma) will be ruined. If your punyam is ruined, then your kingdom, your prosperity, the well being of your relatives and friends, everything that you possess will be endangered. Therefore, send Rama with Vishwamitra.
Rama may or may not have mastered any weapon, but if you send him with Vishwamitra, then nothing can harm Rama. Vishwamitra will protect Rama as Agni protects Amrita. Do not underestimate the stature of Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra is tapasya. He is dharma. He is strength. And he is power. He is unrivalled in intellect. A king named Brishasva had given away many many astras(weapons controlled by mantra) and shastras(physical weapons) to Vishwamitra. There is no one in the world who has mastered as many astras and shastras as Vishwamitra.
Infact, do you know why Vishwamitra has come to you? He is completely capable of protecting his own yagam from two rakshasas. His real intention is to impart to your son, Rama, the use of all the astras and shastras that he knows. Protection of yagam is simply an excuse. Send Rama with him and he will teach Rama and mould him in such a manner that there would be no other warrior in all the three worlds to match Rama. Your fortune has smiled upon you, so that Vishwamitra, himself, has come and asked you. Now, do not hesitate and immediately send Rama with him."

Having heard the words of Vashishta, the king realised the generosity of Vishwamitra and became grateful to both Vashishta and Vishwamitra. He rushed into the indoors of palace of Kaushalya and informed Kaushalya that Rama would be accompanying Vishwamitra to protect the yagam. Kaushalya, who had resolute faith in dharma, approved of the decision. Dasharatha and Kaushalya, both the parents, blessed their dear son Rama. Dasharatha lead Rama into the court room and kissed his dear child on the top of his head. Lakshamana, who never left the side of Rama, also followed Rama.

Vishwamitra took both the kids, Rama and Lakshmana, and departed. Vishwamitra walked first, he was followed by Rama and Rama was followed by Lakshmana. Gods(devas) witnessed this scene and were delighted, apsaras(divine maidens) danced joyfully, celestial flowers were showered from heaven and antahpuram(palace of queens) resounded with sounds of trumpets, drums and conchs.

Both the princes had, two quivers each, tied on their shoulders. Vishwamitra was leading and both the princes followed. Valmiki maharshi says that the scene looked as if the two princes were three-headed serpents following Vishwamitra. It looked as if Brahma with his four heads was being followed by two handsome and young ashwini devas(ashwini devas are famous for their beauty). It looked as if Shiva was walking on the snowy white mountains of himalayas and he was being followed by his son KumaraSwamy in two forms. Kumaraswamy is also considered to be very handsome.

The trio kept walking. The two kids followed the great muni without any questions or complaints in the most obedient manner. Vishwamitra turned and looked at them and both the princes smiled. Vishwamitra was delighted with their wonderful conduct. He thought," What wonderful devotion towards the guru? These two young innocent princes, who have never stepped out of their royal palaces, who have never seen the dense forests, who have lived all their life in great luxuries, who always travel in chariots, elephants or horses, these princes are today walking on foot just to follow me. They have not even complained." Thinking this way, Vishwamitra's heart was filled with kindness and happiness. He decided to gift his two disciples.

Vishwamitra turned and saw the two princes. The two kids were obediently following the elder hermit. Vishwamitra charmed by their conduct, smiled gently at the two princes. He called Rama and said," Rama, go and bring your kamandalam(kettle like vessel to carry water) and sit down. I wish to teach you two mantras named Bala and Atibala. These two mantras will ensure that you will never be tired regardless of the amount of physical hard work you do. Even if you do not sleep for many days and nights, you will not be exhausted. These mantras will ensure that you will be from all kinds of sickness. Even a fever cannot touch you. These mantras will ensure that your beauty will not be harmed by the changes in the body or weather. Your enemies cannot hurt you, even when you are asleep or distracted. You will be unrivalled in the might of arms. These mantras will ensure that you will be unrivalled in intellect. Such extra-ordinary mantras, I wish to teach you. Get ready..."

Rama received those mantras, along with Lakshmana. Then they continued their journey. Slowly the sun descended and dusk approached. Vishwamitra accompanied by Rama and Lakshmana purified themselves by bathing in the river and performed the sandhya vandana duly. Then Vishwamitra prepared a bed with grass blades for the trio and told the two princes to lie down and sleep. Once they lay on the bed of grass blades, Vishwamitra told them great many wonderful stories just like a grandfather would tell his grandchildren. The two princes who usually sleep on the grand and comfortable beds, listened to the wonderful stories told affectionately by Vishwamitra. Slowly, the two princes slipped into sleep. Once they slept, Vishwamitra maharshi also went to sleep. This shows the love of guru for his disciples.

The night passed away, and the dawn set in. It was Brahmi time(about 4:00 A.M.), Vishwamitra woke up. He immediately went and bathed in the river, and performed his sandhya vandana duly. All his rituals were completed, the two princes were still asleep. The small red sun was breaking in, the sky was reddish. Vishwamitra observed the two princes who were fast asleep. Vishwamitra was the first one to see the beauty of sleeping Rama outside the royal palace. Till now, this beauty was enjoyed only by Kaushaly, Sumitra, and Kaikeyi. But now, an outsider, Vishwamitra was seeing this mesmerising beauty.

Then, Vishwamitra woke up the two princes thus,
"Kaushalya supraja rama,
purva sandhya pravartate|
Utishta nara shardula,
kartavyam daiva manvikam||"

This is a celebrated verse of Ramayana and it is used in all the Vaishanavaite temples(including Tirupati) as a morning prayer.
Elders have said that this verse can be interpretted in many different ways. Each interpretation is as beautiful as the other. Firstly, why did Vishwamitra refer to Rama as Kaushalya supraja(oh good child of Kaushalya) and not as Dasharatha supraja?

Kaushalya is the first wife of Dasharatha. But, Dasharatha being a king married many times again. He married Sumitra. And finally, he married Kaikeyi. Dasharatha started favoring Kaikeyi over other wives and spent most of his free time with her neglecting Kaushalya and other wives. Even then, Kaushalya did not waver from her pativrata-ness(a vow to respect and follow the husband). Kaushalya prayed to the god with great devotion, but still she could not become a mother. Yet, her faith in the god did not waver, nor did she complaint. Such a committed lady. Thus, Vishwamitra referred to Rama as the good son of Kaushalya...

Another interpretation: When Vishwamitra asked Dasharatha to send Rama with him, Dasharatha did not oblige immediately. He kept hesistating until his teacher Vashishta explained to him. But Kaushalya, never had any doubts over sending Rama with Vishwamitra. She being a mother should have been more alarmed at the request, but instead she sent the Rama with her blessings immediately because she had great faith in the maharshi. Thus, Vishwamitra referred to Rama as the good son of Kaushalya...

Another interpretation: Rama was born after Ashwamedha Yagam was performed. In the ritual of Ashwamedha Yagam, the queen, Kaushalya, was required to sacrifice the yaga horse with three knives. Then, she had to spend the night beside the dead horse. All the while, her heart had to be pleasant without any malice. After the Yagam was completed, Dasharatha's papam(negative karma) was cleared and Rama was born. Kaushalya went through all these tough rituals to obtain Rama as son. Thus, Vishwamitra referred to Rama as the good son of Kaushalya...

Another interpretation: Sri Maha Vishnu decided to be born as a human being. Birthless Vishnu, now needed a mother to take birth. He decided on Kaushalya. The great Vishnu spent twelve long months in the womb of Kaushalya to be born as a human being. Kaushalya carried the Vishnu himself in her womb. She went through pregnancy pains to give birth to the beautiful Rama. Thus, Vishwamitra referred to Rama as the good son of Kaushalya...

Another interpretation: There is another Rama in the world, ParashuRama. So, Vishwamitra specifically is referring to Rama who is son of Kaushalya. Parashurama had killed many sinful kshatriyas previously. Taking Dasharatha's name may inspire anger in Parashurama as Dasharatha is also a kshatriya. So, Vishwamitra referred to Rama as the good son of Kaushalya...

There are so many beautiful interpretations to this verse. That is the reason this celebrated verse is used as a morning prayer in all the temples. Usually, a ritual of waking up the lord, is performed in the temples. It is an imagination, but Vishwamitra had the good fortune of actually waking up the lord.

Vishwamitra saw the two beautiful kids in their sleep. He marveled at their beauty, then he addressed them gently," Oh good son of Kaushalya, Rama! Sun is rising in the east. Hence, wake up, oh lion among men! Your father has performed your upanayana, and you are a kshatriya. You are duty bound to perform Sandhya Vandana at the right time. Perform your duty believing it to be ordained by Gods. You will be the role-model for all the men of all the worlds from hence forth, so wake up and perform your duty."
Without explaining the reason, no one should be woken up. Thus, Vishwamitra explains the reason for which Rama needed to wake up. Then, both the princes woke up. The two young kids bathed in the cold effusive waters of the river and performed the Sandhya Vandana duly in the early dawn.

Then, they continued their journey. Vishwamitra in the lead and both the princes following obediently. After walking for a while, they came across an Ashram. The Ashram was filled with some thousands of tapasavis who were busy in their rituals and prayers. Seeing them, Rama asked Vishwamitra thus," Oh bhagwan(god), whose ashram is this? What are these tapasvis doing here? I am curious to know, please explain all the details to me." Seeing the shraddha of young Rama, his innocence and curiousity, Vishwamitra was pleased.
Vishwamitra then explained," Once upon a time, Shiva was in deep meditation. While he was in the meditation, Manmadha(indian cupid) aimed his flowery arrows of desire, passion and lust on Shiva himself. Angered by Manmadha's impertinence, Shiva opened his third eye. As soon as the third-eye of Shiva opened, all the body parts of Manmadha were consumed by a fire and he was reduced to ashes. Manmadha became bodyless and thus came to be known as Ananga(one without body). The place(country) where this incident happened became famous as Anga(body part).
This ashram was used by Shiva during his meditation. Many rishis and munis had worshipped Lord Shiva at that time in this ashram. Later, the disciples of those rishis and munis, then the disciples of those disciples, then their disciples and so on; spent their lives in great meditative penances in this ashram.
Look at all these tapasvis, these are the disciples in the heriditary line of those great rishis and munis who had served the Lord Shiva. Since, the Lord Shiva had himself meditated in this ashram, this place is sacred and holy. All these tapasvis living in this holy ashram are untouched by any kind of sin(papam)."

Rama was pleased to learn the anecdote of Shiva and his meditation. Then, the trio resumed their journey ahead. The tapasvis of the ashram also escorted the trio to give them a proper farewell. After a while, they came across the holy river Ganga and they had to cross the Ganga to reach the Ashram of Vishwamitra where the yagam had to be performed. A boat was arranged and Vishwamitra along with his two young disciples boarded it. The tapasvis bid them adieu and went back to their ashram.

After the boat traversed some distance in the river Ganga, they heard a sudden and increasingly loud banging noise. Young Rama hearing the the noise asked his guru curiously about it.

Vishwamitra, whose knowledge was comprehensive, explained," Once upon a time in the past, Lord Brahma created a lake merely by a thought. Since the lake was created mentally(by a thought in mind) by Lord Brahma, it came to be known as Manasa Sarovar(Manasa means mentally and Sarovar means lake). It is a very very holy and sacred lake. That place and its waters, have the power to cleanse a person of his accumulated sins(committed in the past) . Once upon a time, even Indra, had to take refuge in that place for a long time, such is the greatness of that place.
A river is born from that holy lake. That river flows gracefully along all the sides of the city of Ayodhya. Since the river orginates from the Sarovar(Lake), it has been called Sarayu. Thus, Sarayu is also a very holy river. That river after navigating along the circumference of the Ayodhya, traverses towards Ganga and meets it here. The coming together of the gushing waters of the two holy rivers has created this loud noise.
Ganga and Sarayu rivers meet here(Sangam). Since two very holy rivers meet here, it is a very powerful, energetic and sacred place. So, we should not go past this place casually. We should pay our homage duly. Thus, offer your namaskar(obeisance) to this place."

Then, as instructed by their teacher, both Rama and Lakshmana offered their namaskar to that holy sangam(meeting of two rivers).

Sri Ramayanam is a great Dharma Shastra(treatise of Dharma). Many Dharma Sukshmams are clarified in Ramayana authoritatively. Dharma Sukshmam is a condition when two dharmas are conflicting each other. Then, in that situation, which dharma will take ascendancy, which dharma is to be followed? Ramayana solves this uncertainity expertly. Once we have digest these dharma sukshmams thoroughly, then our point of view towards life changes. Our perception towards all the things alters. Ramayana explains the minutest details without neglect, so as to teach us the proper conduct. So, when Vishwamitra came across a holy sangam, he directed Rama and Lakshmana to offer a namaskar to it. And both the princes obediently offered their namaskar to the holy sangam of Sarayu river and Ganga river.

The boat moved onward, and finally they crossed the Ganga river. The trio got off the boat and recommenced their journey on foot. They entered a thick forest. It had no trace of a human inhabitance. The sunlight could not pierce through the thick roof formed by closely knit tree branches. As a result, darkness permeated the forest imparting the place a grotesque look.

Rama is an astute and keen observer and also inquisitive in seeking knowledge. So, we notice that Rama frequently enquires his teacher Vishwamitra about any unusual situation. But, his polite and intelligent way of asking a question coupled with his discerning observation, endears him to his teacher. Rama's frequent questioning on various subjects, does not annoy Vishwamitra but only drives him to explain the subject more elaborately. This is the skill of speech of Rama.

Now, Rama after entering the dense forest, asked Vishwamitra," Oh bhagawan, why is this forest like this? Some insects are making loud noises. The chirping sounds of Bhasa birds can be heard. Oh, impenetratable is this forest fraught with swarms of crickets, brutish predators, and vultures. Various vultures are screeching with fierce sonority, and tigers, wild boars, and elephants render this forest atypical. One can see only the marks of inhabitation of carnivores. The forest is full of huge trees like Dhava, Ashvakarna, Arjuna, Bilva, Tinduka, Patala, and Badari. No human trace is visible and it looks like no human has tread here for a long long time. Why is this forest in this condition? What is the reason, oh brahman?"

Sri Ramayana is also a shakuna(shagun) shastra(treatise of omens). The epic mentions various trees and birds. The presence of certain birds indicates that, that place is habitation for creatures that eat humans. Similarly, many other shakunas(shaguns) are revealed in Sri Ramayana. All the conditions that Rama has mentioned above; like the presence of various birds or the presence of certain huge trees or the constant noise of certain insects; indicates that the place is not visited by humans. Rama has, as a result, sensed a great peril.

Vishwamitra was impressed by the insight and foresight of Rama. Then, he answered Rama," Son, I'll explain why this place has become like this, listen carefully. Once upon a time, Indra, the lord of Suras(gods), had to kill an evildoer named Vrutrasura. But since, that wicked Vrutrasura was also a brahmin, Indra was contracted by Brahma-Hatya-Patakam(Sin of killing a Brahmin). As a result, he was infected by Maladam(extreme formation of dirt in the body) and Karusham(extreme obsessive hunger). He could not be cured of these infections, despite trying many remedies. Then, he came to this place. Here, many maharshis used to reside. Those maharshis used their powers to enchant the mixture of holy waters of many rivers, so that those waters could cure Indra of his infection. When Indra bathed with those holy concocted waters, his infection was cured and he was rid of his papam(sin). Those waters containing the infection of Indra, seeped into the earth at this place. Since this place received the waters containing the infection of Indra, the two cities that dwelt at this place came to be known as Maladam and Karusham. Indra, contented to get his health back, blessed these two cities thus," Since the earth at this place has received the infected waters and helped me in getting rid of my troubles, I bless you so this place. May these two cities be blessed with good fortune. May these two cities grow rich prolifically. May the dwellers of these two cities enjoy copious luxuries."

With the blessing of Indra, these cities grew grandly with people and possessions. The people of these two cities were glad and content with their lives. But then a rakshasi(demoness) named Tataka arrived here. She prevailed over this place and soon, she started eating the humans here. Frightened by the evil activity of Tataka, people fled this place. From then on, this place became devoid of human presence, gradually the grand cities were ruined and a dense forest has grown here."

Rama would not let the matter rest so easily, he questioned further. Then Vishwamitra patiently explained," A yakshini(a type of race) named Tataka, may you be safe Rama, with a might of thousand elephants roams in this area. She was turned into a rakshasi(demoness) due to a curse. She is married to one named Sundhu and has a son named Maricha. The three of them have together ruined this place like this."

Note Vishwamitra's affection for Rama, as soon as he takes the name of cruel Tataka, he immediately wishes for the safety of his disciple, Rama. Sri Ramayana urges the teachers to treat their disciples with the same affection that a father has for his son.

The curious young Rama was not content with the explanation of his teacher. He politely enquired further,"Oh esteemed muni, why was that Tataka cursed? Also, usually the yaksha race are not a very martial race. Generally, they are deficient in physical might. Then, how come this yakshini, a lady, has acquired the strength of thousand elephants? Also, even if she possesses such strength, why did she destroy this place? What is the reason for her hatred for this particular place? Please explain, oh brahman(god)..."

Vishwamitra watched the young Rama, the beautiful and refined manner of his questioning, his sharp intellect and keen interest in learning, and above all his shraddha pleased Vishwamitra. Rama's mode of questioning was so elegant and well-constructed that it generated an interest in the other person to answer it.

So, Vishwamitra gladdened with his disciple's question, explained further,"In the past, there existed a Yaksha named Sukethu. He had a very righteous conduct. Once, he performed a tapasya (meditative penance) to please Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma pleased with the tapasya of Sukethu, appeared. Lord Brahma asked what Sukethu wished for. Sukethu courteously replied to Brahma that he wished for a mighty son. For some reason, Brahma said that son was not possible but instead of that he blessed Sukethu with a daughter possessing the might of thousand elephants. As a result of Brahma's boon, a daughter was born to Sukethu. She possessed a strength of thousand elephants from her birth itself. After due course of time, she was married to a yaksha named Sundhu. A child named Maricha was born out of this wedlock. That Maricha, later, became a rakshasa due to a curse."

Rama again questioned," Oh bhagawan, why was that yaksha cursed?"

Then, Vishwamitra, the teacher of Rama, patiently cleared the doubts of his pupil," Once upon a time Agatsya maharshi was travelling through this place. At that time, emboldened by the short height of Agatsya, the yaksha named Sundhu tried to derisively assualt Agatsaya muni. Agastya muni punished the profanity of Sundhu by killing that yaksha on the spot with the marvellous power of his speech. Agastya mahamuni simply uttered," Die..." and instantly Sundhu, the yaksha, dropped dead on the ground.

Sundhu's wife Tataka, a yakshini, and Sundhu's son Maricha; both vengefully attacked Agatsya mahamuni. Even after witnessing the enormous power of Agatsya muni who destroyed Sundhu with merely his words, they did not learn the lesson.
Rama, when the mother and son duo attacked Agatsya muni, he cursed them both and turned them into grotesque looking rakshasas(demons). From that time onwards, Tataka became a horrible rakshasi roaming this place. She has developed a taste for human flesh and has become a man-eater. She catches her prey through their odour.
That rakshasi must have smelt our presence and will soon attack us. Rama, do not excuse her on the basis of her gender. To save the world, one must wipe out the unrighteous even if she is a woman. Listen to me...it may seem a kind deed or a cruel deed, that deed may confer punyam or papam, even if that deed is improper, you must still do it because it is your duty as a kshatriya(warrior ruling class). You are, as a kshatriya, designated with the duty of protecting the good and innocent by punishing the wicked. This is the Sanatana Dharma(eternal righteous path). Therefore, immediately kill that Tataka."

After instructing Rama to kill Tataka, Vishwamitra carefully studied Rama's face to see what would be Rama's reaction.

Usually, harming a lady is considered ungentlemanly, but now Rama's teacher was ordering him to kill a woman. Rama has never killed anyone before. Now, he has to kill for the first time, that too a woman, based on Vishwamitra's instructions. Rama's reputation may permanently be stained for killing a woman. Also, Rama is not acquainted with Vishwamitra for a long time, he had met his teacher only one day before. Rama was faced with a complicated choice of either following the general wisdom of not harming a woman or simply following the teacher's orders. To an adolscent Rama, this could have been a very tricky situation.

But Rama had great clarity in this matter. He not only knew what to do, he also knew, clearly, why he was doing it. Its a quality that can be learnt by all of us. So many times, we see that many adolscents going to colleges do not have much clarity on what they should do or why they should do it. They simply follow someone else who incidentally is following someone else. Sri Ramayana teaches us to be clear-cut with our aims, objectives, and duties. Ramayana also teaches us to have clarity about the reasons and motives for those aims and duties.

Instructed by Vishwamitra to slay Tataka, Rama revealed his opinion," In Ayodhya, my father led me into the courtroom from the inner chambers of the palace. There, my father kissed the crown of my head. Then, my father pointed towards you and said," Rama, he is a very eminent rishi, you should never defy any command of his."
I am a human being, thus my first duty is to follow the orders of my father. Therefore, as prescribed by my father, I will comply with your command. I will slay that Tataka to protect the cows and brahmins who were assualted by her. I will slay that Tataka so that the people of the country can live in peace and prosperity. Oh son of Kushika, you are my teacher, you have taught me great many astras and shastras. You are a brahmarshi and your knowledge about dharma and adharma is comprehensive. Since you have explained to me that slaying that rakshasi is dharma, it does not matter how it may seem to my mind, I will undoubtedly do as you instructed."


Meanwhile, Tataka perceived the human presence through ordour. She immediately rushed to the spot where the smell orginated and found three humans. Earth trembled with the movements of her huge body. She vigorously attacked the three humans. She conjured a shower of stones. She created great many illusions. She became ivisible for sometime. Then, she represented herself and transformed into many different horrible forms. In this manner, she tried various tricks to unnerve the two princes. But both the princes were unmoved. They withstood the illusions created by the rakshasi. They kept her at bay with their sharp and speedy arrows. The rakshasi kept fighting in various ways to defeat Rama and Lakshamana.

After witnessing the duel for a while, Vishwamitra addressed Rama," Oh son, sun is setting down and night is approaching. The darkness is growing thicker. In such a time, you should not tolerate this rakshasi any more. Her strength will increase in the night. Do not delay any further, and slay her immediately."

Tataka, in the meantime, was fed up of exhausting all her arsenal on the two young princes without any success. She decided to use her brute physical force. The strength of thousand elephants, she believed, was enough to kill these two annoyingly persistent human princes. Having decided, she ran towards the two princes screaming horribly. The entire forest was resounding with her screams.
Rama listened to the instruction of his mentor Vishwamitra and also saw the giant rakshasi running towards him. The rakshasi was making shrill heart-wrenching noises and her face was distorted with anger. Rama, still not willing to take the life of a woman, decided to handicap the rakshasi hoping that once handicapped, the rakshasi may reform. He shot two sharp arrows from his bow, which dismantled both the arms of the gaint rakshasi from her huge trunk. Rakshasi made a dangerous high-pitched lamenting sound. Her large arms fell on the ground making a loud noise and uprooted many huge trees in the process. The dark forest was resonating with these loud noises.

Losing her two limbs, only enraged the rakshasi further. She did not slow down, instead the rakshasi kept running towards them more furiously. Observing that the rakshasi was still coming towards them violently, Lakshmana chopped off her nose and ears with his arrows. The demoness became more frenzied. Her high-pitched horrible wailing got louder. But instead of stopping her, the arrows of Rama and Lakshamana made the rakshasi more violent. She kept covering the distance between the two princes and herself furiously. Rama, seeing that there was no other resort, took out a destructive shaft from his quiver and released it from his bow. The shaft travelled rapidly towards its aim. The arrow lit up the dark forest with lightening like dazzle and implanted itself in the chest of the rakshasi. As soon as, the shaft pierced the chest of the rakshasi, Tataka's vast body fell down on the forest ground taking down huge trees along with it. Tataka's body made violent convulsive movements and Tataka shrieked in pain. Within seconds, Tataka was dead.

The joyous news of the death of evil Tataka brought smiles even to the faces of devas(gods). Indra, the lord of Suras(gods), rose from his throne and joined all the other celestial beings in their joyous applause of the marvellous feat achieved by Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra, the great muni, has succeeded in guiding Rama and Lakshamana towards the elimination of rakshasas to protect the world. All the divine beings praised the generous Vishwamitra. All the devas(gods) rejoiced and hailed the incident as," Great feat!! Magnificent feat!! Wonderous feat!!!" The devas cheerfully sang the praises of Sri Ramachandra. There was much jubiliation all around.

Vishwamitra too, was delighted by his disciple, Rama's obedience, valour and dharma. Since, a guru should not praise his disciple, Vishwamitra did not convert the happiness in his heart into words.

Vishwamitra is a Brahmarshi. He has realised the Para Brahman(Ultimate God). He is the epitome of all scriptural knowledge. He understands the purpose of all scriptures. So, his instruction to his disciple Rama contains the essence of all the scriptures. Vishwamitra has instructed that a person must always do his scripturally ordained duty and leave the fruit of these actions to God. This is precisely what the Lord Krishna had preached to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita. In Mahabharata, Arjuna had to battle against his kinsmen. But Arjuna, on witnessing, his own kinsmen arrayed against him in battle, lost courage. He was confused about his duty. Killing kinsmen is considered Adharma, but chickening out from a battle is also not Dharmic. Arjuna was caught in this predicament. Then, Lord Krishna clearly explained to him that a Kshatriya(Warrior) must do his duty of protecting the Dharma. If in that process, he is pitted against his own kinsmen, even then he must not waver from his duty. The preaching of Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita tallies with the teaching of Vishwamitra in Ramayana. The preaching of Lord Krishna in Mahabharata conforms with the practises of Lord Rama in Srimad Ramayana.

Vishwamitra told his disciple that a warrior's primary duty is to protect the virtuous and week from the Adharmics. It is a warrior's duty to punish the wicked. Thus, it is Rama's duty to punish Tataka. Tataka deserves the death punishment for her deeds. Vishwamitra has also stated unambigously that even if killing Tataka entails Papam to Rama, he must still do the deed. Why? Because as a warrior, it is Rama's duty. If in performing his duty, Rama acquires Papam(sin), so be it. This is a sacrifice that is expected from every warrior or ruler. No warrior should shy away from his duty on the pretext of acquiring Papam. This lession is remembered by Rama throughout his life. A very similar Dharmic predicament arises, later, in Rama's life. Ravana who stole Rama's wife happens to be a Brahmana by birth. Killing Brahmana's is strictly prohibited by the scriptures. So what should Rama do? Should he slay Ravana and rescue his Dharmic wife or leave her to her fate because her abductor happens to be a Brahmana? Rama chose to rescue the Dharma and punish Ravana. If Papam(sin) is gained by that action, then one can perform the action of repentance. Lord Rama installed a Shiva Lingam in Rameshwaram to bail out of Brahma-Hatya-Patakam(Sin of killing a Brahmana). The same lesson could be seen from the actions of Lord Indra. Lord Indra slew Vrutasura, even though, he was a Brahmana. Later, he carried out other actions to get out of that sin. But he did not waver from his duty.

Thus, the lesson taught by Vishwamitra to Rama was not just for this occasion but a guiding principle through out Rama's life. That lesson is eternal and Dharmic. This lession guided the life of Rama. Rama, on his part, gave some reasons for deciding to kill Tataka:

1)The primary duty of a human being is to follow the dictates of his father. Rama's father ordered him to follow Vishwamitra's instructions. So, Rama followed his father's orders.
2)A disciple must follow the instructions of his Guru. Rama, therefore, followed his Guru's orders.
3)An extremely wicked person has to be punished regardless of Gender, Class or Race. The general guidelines fail after a certain threshold is passed. This is also supported by the Shaastras.
4)As a warrior, it is Rama's duty to protect the virtuous and punish the wicked. Rama performed his duty.

The death of Tataka led to great jubiliations in heavens. The occassion was particularly momentous because Lord Rama had begun the elimination of Rakshas, which is the actual purpose of Rama Avatar.

The night was still young. Vishwamitra decided to take rest that night in that forest itself for Tataka was no more. Vishwamitra again narrated great many wonderous stories and morals to the two young princes as affectionately as a grandfather narrates to his grandchildren. Many other tapasvis had also arrived at that place on learning the joyous news of Tataka's death. They also spent their night along with Vishwamitra and Rama. All of them happily spent their night in a peaceful sleep.

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जय श्री राम !    ( Jai Sri Ram )

गंगा भवानि गायत्री काली लक्ष्मी सरस्वती ।

राजराजेश्वरी बाला श्यामला ललिता दशा ॥
( Ganga Bhavani Gayatri Kali Lakshmi Saraswati |
Rajarajeshwari Bala Shyamala Lalita Dasha || )



कर चरण कृतंवा कर्मा वाक् कायजंवा,
श्रवणा नयनाजं वा मानसंवा आपराधं,
विहितम अविहितं वा सर्वं एतत् शमत्स्व,
शिव शिव करुणाब्धे श्री महादेव शंबो ।

 ( Kara charana kritamva karma vak kayamjam va,
shravana nayanajam va manasamva aparadham,
vihitama avihitam va sarvam etat shamatsva,
shiva shiva karunabdhe sri mahadeva shambo | )

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