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The Sage Narada Summarizes the Ramayana to Valmiki
The ascetic Valmiki, who had been practicing austerities and studying the sacred scriptures inquired from the learned and best of sages, Narada. "O sage, at present who in this world is virtuous, who possesses prowess, who knows the principles of religion, who is grateful for service rendered, who is truthful, and who has firm resolve? Who possesses good character, who is the well-wisher of all living beings, who is truly learned, who is powerful, and who is the most beautiful person? Who has self-control, who has conquered anger, who is effulgent, who is non-envious, and whom do the demigods fear when angered in battle? This is what I wish to hear, for I am filled with extreme curiosity. O great sage, you are capable of knowing such a person."
Hearing this request from Valmiki, Narada, who possesses knowledge of the three worlds, replied: "Listen." Then with great delight, he began to speak. "O sage, listen as I describe the person who possesses the many rare qualities you have mentioned. There is such a person, born in the dynasty of Ikshvaku, whom people call by the name Rama. He is self-controlled and extremely powerful. He is effulgent, determined and has conquered His passions. He is intelligent, prudent, eloquent, glorious and the destroyer of enemies. He has broad shoulders, strong arms, the marks of a conch upon His neck, and a sturdy jaw. His chest is broad and His bow is large. His collar bone is covered by flesh and He is capable of subduing any enemy. His arms reach His knees. His head is quite attractive, and so too is His forehead. His gait is dignified. He is of average height and the limbs of His body are well-proportioned. His complexion is shiny and He is very strong. His chest is muscular and His eyes broad. His body possesses great splendor and all auspicious attributes. He knows the principles of religion, is true to His word and is engaged in the welfare of the people. He is illustrious, endowed with knowledge, pure, in control of His faculties and has a steadfast mind. Being the support of the world, He is equal in every respect to Brahma. He is endowed with great wealth and easily destroys His enemies. He is the protector of all living creatures, and the defender of religion. He is the defender of His own virtues and of His own people. He knows the four Vedas and their corollaries and is skilled in the science of war (Dhanur-veda ). He knows the meaning of all the sacred scriptures, and is endowed with a perfect memory and sharp mind. His popularity is universal. He is righteous, optimistic and skillful with words. He is always approached by the devout, as is the ocean by rivers. He is noble, equal to all, and His appearance is always very pleasant. He is endowed with all good qualities and He increases the bliss of His mother, Kausalya. He is as profound as the ocean and as steadfast as the Himalayas. He is as powerful as Lord Vishnu, and as pleasing to see as the moon. His anger is like the fire of destruction at the end of the world, and His forgiveness is like the earth. In liberality, He is equal to Kuvera, the treasurer of the gods; and in truthfulness He is like a second Dharmaraja, the god of justice.
In order to please his subjects, King Dasharatha affectionately wished to install his eldest son, Rama, who was endowed with all good qualities, as crown prince, especially since He possessed the best attributes and because His prowess was irresistible and He had the welfare of the people at heart. Then, seeing the preparations for Rama's coronation, Kaikeyi, the second wife of King Dasharatha, on the strength of the promise of a boon from the king, requested that Rama be banished from the kingdom and that her son, Bharata, be installed as king. Because of his truthfulness, Dasharatha was bound by the noose of duty. Thus he banished his beloved son Rama. In obedience to His father's order and to please His step-mother, Kaikeyi, Rama went to the forest, thus upholding His father's promise to Kaikeyi. As Rama departed, His dear brother, Lakshmana, who was endowed with great modesty and who was the source of increasing happiness for his mother, Sumitra, accompanied Him because of the great affection he had for Him. In this way, Lakshmana showed his fidelity to his elder brother Rama. Rama's consort, Sita, was as dear to Him as His own life. She was endowed with all auspicious attributes and was the very best of women. Sita followed Rama into the forest as the star Rohini follows her husband, the moon. Rama was accompanied some distance by the citizens, as well as by His own father, Dasharatha.
Rama met the pious soul, Guha, who was His dear friend and leader of the Nishadas, at the city of Shringerapura on the bank of the Ganges. Thereafter, He sent back His charioteer. In the company of Guha, Lakshmana, and Sita, Rama wandered from forest to forest, crossing many swollen rivers. By the order of the sage Bharadvaja, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita went to the mountain of Citrakuta. After building a pleasant cottage, the three of them enjoyed themselves in that forest. They resided there happily as if they were gods or gandharvas.1 After Rama had gone to Citrakuta, King Dasharatha was overcome with grief due to separation from his son. While weeping for his son, he went to heaven.
After the death of King Dasharatha, the best of brahmanas headed by Vasishtha urged Bharata to accept the post of king. Bharata, however, did not wish to, but instead went to the forest to placate Rama. Reaching the great soul Rama, whose prowess was unfailing, the noble Bharata entreated his brother. He spoke the following words, "O Rama, You alone are the king, for You are the knower of the principles of righteousness." The countenance of Rama, who was most magnanimous and whose glory was very great, was very pleasing to behold. Powerful Rama did not wish to take over the kingdom because of the order of His father. He therefore presented Bharata with His own sandals as His representatives in the kingdom. Only after repeated requests was Rama able to convince Bharata to return to Ayodhya. Being unable to accomplish what he desired, Bharata touched the two lotus feet of Rama. Taking up the rule of the kingdom, Bharata resided in the town of Nandigrama outside of Ayodhya, and waited anxiously for the return of Rama.
After Bharata left, Rama, whose promise was true and who had conquered His own senses, foresaw the arrival of the citizens of Ayodhya seeking audience with Him there. With His mind set on only one thing, His father's order, He left that place and entered the Dandakaranya Forest. Upon entering that great forest, Rama, whose eyes were like red lotuses, killed the rakshasa2 Viradha. Thereafter, He saw the sages Sharabhanga, Sutikshna, Agastya and Agastya's brother, Idhmavahana. On Agastya's request, Rama happily accepted a bow, a sword and a pair of quivers with an inexhaustible number of arrows. All these had originally been given to the sage by Indra. While dwelling in the forest with the aborigines, Rama was approached by all the forest sages who requested Him to kill the demons and rakshasas. He vowed to kill all the rakshasas in the forest. To the sages dwelling in the Dandakaranya Forest, who were themselves as potent as fire, Rama promised to kill all the rakshasas in combat. In that very forest, in a region called Janasthana, dwelt a rakshasi named Shurpanakha. She could assume any form at will, but was disfigured by Rama. Then, after hearing from Shurpanakha, all the rakshasas were roused to fight. Rama killed in battle Shurpanakha's brothers Khara, Trishira and Dushana, as well as all of their foot soldiers. While dwelling in that forest, Rama killed fourteen thousand rakshasas that were staying in the Janastana region of the Dandaka Forest.
After hearing about the slaughter of his kinsmen, Ravana was overcome with anger. He then sought the help of one rakshasa named Marica. Marica repeatedly entreated Ravana, "O Ravana, it is not wise to make enmity with the powerful Rama! You should be tolerant of Him." Ravana, however, did not heed Marica's words, being impelled by destiny. Accompanied by Marica, he went to Rama's hermitage. The sorcerer Marica lured the two princes, Rama and Lakshmana, far away. Ravana carried off Rama's wife, Sita, after wounding the vulture Jatayu. Seeing the wounded vulture and hearing from him about Sita's abduction, Rama, the descendant of the Raghu dynasty, was overwhelmed with grief. With all His senses disturbed, He began lamenting. Then, with great sadness, Rama cremated the vulture Jatayu.
While searching the forest for Sita, Rama came upon a rakshasa named Kabandha. His body was deformed and frightening to behold. Rama killed the rakshasa and cremated him, after which the rakshasa achieved heaven. As Kabandha ascended, he told Rama to seek out Shabari, an aborigine woman, who was very religious, "O descendant of the Raghu dynasty, approach that female hermit, for she is knowledgeable in all aspects of righteousness." Then Rama, who was very powerful and the destroyer of enemies, approached Shabari. Rama, the son of King Dasharatha was appropriately worshiped by Shabari.
On the shore of Lake Pampa, Rama met the monkey Hanuman. On the request of Hanuman, Rama then met the monkey chieftain Sugriva. Then the strong Rama related to Sugriva the story of His life from His very birth, as well as that of His consort, Sita. After the monkey Sugriva heard the whole story of Rama, he developed great affection for Him and established friendship with Him with a sacred fire as witness. Then the monkey chieftain, Sugriva, out of affection for Rama and with sadness, informed Him about his enmity with his brother Vali. At that time, Rama promised to kill Vali, after which Sugriva described Vali's strength, for Sugriva always doubted Rama's personal strength. In order to convince Rama of Vali's strength, Sugriva showed Him the carcass as large as a mountain of the demon Dundubhi, who had been killed by Vali. Slightly smiling, the strong-armed and greatly powerful Rama took one look at the skeleton and then, with His big toe, kicked it a distance of eighty miles. To instill confidence in Sugriva, Rama, with one mighty arrow, pierced the trunks of seven Palmyra trees standing in a row, the mountain behind them and the seven lower worlds.
After seeing this, the monkey chieftain was pleased at heart and had faith in the ability of Rama. He went with Rama to Kishkindha, the stronghold of Vali, which was a cave in the mountains. Then the best of monkeys, Sugriva, who was the color of gold, roared ferociously. Hearing that mighty roar, the king of monkeys, Vali, sallied forth from his cave. Reassuring his wife, Tara, Vali confronted Sugriva. Rama thereupon slew Vali with a single arrow. After slaying Vali as per the advice of Sugriva, Rama bestowed the kingdom to Sugriva.
Assembling all the monkeys, Sugriva dispatched them in all directions to look for Sita. On the advice of the vulture Sampati, the strong Hanuman leapt eight hundred miles across the salt ocean to the island of Lanka. Arriving at the city of Lanka, which was protected by Ravana, he saw Sita in the Ashoka garden, where she was absorbed in thoughts of Rama. After presenting Rama's ring to Sita, Hanuman related to Her a message from Rama, thus assuaging Her grief. Then he demolished the gateway of the garden. After killing five generals and seven sons of ministers and crushing Aksha, the son of Ravana, he was captured. Knowing that on the strength of a boon from Brahma he would be released from the brahma-pasha3 weapon, Hanuman deliberately tolerated the rakshasas as they carried him, bound as he was. Then the great monkey set fire to the city of Lanka, except where Sita was, and departed from there to convey the good news to his dear master Rama. Having reached the great-souled Rama, Hanuman, who was of immeasurable prowess, circumambulated Him and informed Him, "I have actually seen Sita." Then, in the company of Sugriva, Rama went to the shore of the great ocean and agitated it by firing arrows as bright as the sun. Then the deity of the ocean, who is the lord of all waters, appeared before them. On the advice of the ocean, Rama had Nala build a bridge over the ocean. Crossing it to the city of Lanka, Rama killed the demon Ravana.
Upon finding Sita, Rama felt terribly ashamed that She had been in the home of another man. In the assembly of monkeys, Rama revealed His mind to Sita. Being unable to bear such criticism, Sita entered into a blazing fire. Thereafter, by the declaration of the deity of fire, Agni, it was made known that Sita was faultless. All moving and nonmoving beings within the three worlds, including the demigods and sages, were pleased by the great feat executed by Lord Rama. After being worshiped by all the demigods, Rama was very satisfied. Installing the rakshasa Vibhishana as king of Lanka, Rama had accomplished His purpose, was free from anxiety and thus rejoiced. He thereupon received a boon from the demigods that all those monkeys who had been killed in battle would regain their lives. Surrounded by His friends, Rama departed for Ayodhya in a flower aircraft called Pushpaka.
On arriving at the hermitage of the sage Bharadvaja, Rama, whose prowess was insurmountable, sent Hanuman ahead to inform Bharata of their return. After narrating once more the story of His life, He boarded the flower aircraft Pushpaka with Sugriva and other companions and departed for Nandigrama. Having shaved off His matted locks of hair in Nandigrama with His brothers, and having regained Sita, the sinless Rama again received His kingdom.
In the kingdom of Rama the people will be joyful, happy, contented, well-fed, religious, free from disease, and free from the fear of famine. They will never see the death of their sons, nor will there be widows; and the women will always be devoted to their husbands. There will never be any fear of fire, nor will any living creatures drown in water; neither will there be any fear from the wind or from fever. There will never be fear of hunger or theft. The cities and states will have ample wealth and food-grains. Everyone will always be as jubilant as in the Golden Age of Krita-yuga. He will perform one hundred horse sacrifices and other sacrifices with abundant quantities of gold, giving 100,000 cows in charity to the learned, as ordained in the sacred scriptures, and immeasurable wealth to the brahmanas. He will establish royal dynasties one hundred times more glorious than others. The four castes in this world will remain fixed in the execution of their particular duties. Having served His kingdom for eleven hundred years, He will return to His own transcendental abode in the spiritual world. This narration about Lord Rama is as pure, holy, and destructive to sin as are the Vedas.4 One who studies it will become freed from all sins.
A person who reads this narration called Ramayana will achieve long life and after death, will enjoy with his children, grandchildren and other relations in heaven. The brahmana5 who reads this will achieve mastery of speech, the kshatriya6 will become ruler of the world, the vaishya7 will achieve success in business ventures, and the shudra8 will achieve greatness.
How the Ramayana Was Compiled
Having heard those words of Narada, the eloquent Valmiki, who was a pious soul, assisted by his disciples, worshiped Narada. After being duly worshiped by Valmiki and receiving his permission to leave, the sage Narada ascended into the sky. After remaining in Valmiki's hermitage for a period of forty-eight minutes, Narada had ascended to the realm of the gods. Then Valmiki went to the shore of the Tamasa River, which was not far from the Ganges. Arriving on the bank of the Tamasa River, he saw that the bank was not muddy and spoke to the disciple standing at his side: "O Bharadvaja, this bathing place is free of mud. The water of this pleasant place is as peaceful as the mind of a saintly person. Child, put your water pot down and hand me my bark cloth to wrap myself with. I am going to bathe here in this most excellent ford of the Tamasa River." Having spoken thus, Bharadvaja, who was an obedient disciple, handed to his guru, the great soul Valmiki, the bark cloth for bathing. Taking the bark cloth from the hand of his disciple, Valmiki, whose senses were fully under his control, began to wander about, seeing everything that was there in that extensive forest.
Near that spot, the sage saw a pair of herons moving about the forest as they flirted in love, making a charming sound. Shortly thereafter, he saw a very sinful hunter, who was full of enmity to other creatures, shoot with an arrow the male heron of the pair. Seeing her mate flopping about on the ground, with blood smeared all over his body due to a fatal wound, she began to wail piteously. Knowing that they would soon be separated by death, the male heron, whose crest was reddish like copper, desired to enjoy with his mate one last time, thus he extended his wings as he united with her.
The sight of the bird's being struck down in that way by the hunter aroused the sage's compassion. On seeing the wailing heron and considering the hunter's action sinful, the sage spoke the following words.
O hunter, so wicked are you!
Now be you without peace for years;
For as the herons made love true,
You killed the one, left one in tears.
Having spoken in this way, he began to reflect, "What is it that I have uttered, being stricken with grief for the plight of the bird?" Thinking about this for a while, the highly learned sage Valmiki came to a conclusion and spoke the following words to his disciple: "Let these words uttered by me due to the pangs of grief, which were arranged in four feet of an equal number of syllables and which are therefore easily sung to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument, be accepted as only a poetic verse, and nothing more." Valmiki's disciple, being pleased by the excellence of the verse, memorized it as the sage spoke it. Seeing this, Valmiki was very pleased.
After that, the sage took his bath in the ford of the river according to scriptural rules. Thinking about what had occurred, he departed for his hermitage. Then the humble and learned disciple Bharadvaja picked up the full water pot and followed after his spiritual master. Having entered the hermitage, Valmiki sat down and discussed various topics with his disciple, all the while thinking about the verse he had uttered. Just then, the creator of the world, the four-headed Lord Brahma,9 arrived to see the great sage. Seeing him, Valmiki immediately stood up. He stood there with folded hands and was unable to speak, being struck with wonder. After worshiping Lord Brahma with water for washing the feet and hands, a seat to sit on and words of praise, Valmiki bowed down to him according to scriptural rules and inquired about his well-being. After sitting on the most glorious seat, Lord Brahma requested Valmiki to also sit down. Accepting Brahma's request, Valmiki took his seat. While sitting next to Brahma, who is known as the grandfather of the universe, Valmiki's mind began dwelling on the incident of the herons. He thought to himself: "The wicked hunter committed a great blunder with malicious intent. He killed for no reason the heron who was cooing so pleasingly in the rapture of love." Contemplating the plight of the female heron, in the presence of Brahma, he recited the verse again. Once more he returned to mental contemplation, being overcome with grief.
Lord Brahma then laughingly addressed the sage. "O brahmana, fret no longer over this metrical verse. It was intended for you alone. It was I who caused you to utter it. O best of sages, using the metrical format of this verse, describe in full the transcendental activities of Lord Rama. The Supreme Personality of Godhead appeared in this world as Lord Rama, the most righteous and sober person. Describe those activities as you heard them from the sage Narada. Whatever activity, whether known or confidential, about the all-knowing Rama, as well as about Lakshmana, or even about all the rakshasas, as well as whatever there is that is known or confidential about Sita, all that will be revealed to you. Not one word of yours in this poem will be proven false. Compose the auspicious and mind-pleasing story of Lord Rama, using the pattern of this metrical verse. As long as there are mountains and rivers on the earth, the story of Lord Rama will endure among people. As long as this story of Lord Rama composed by you endures, you will dwell in this world and in the upper worlds."
Having spoken thus, Lord Brahma vanished from sight. Thereafter, the great sage, along with his disciples, was astonished. Then all Valmiki's disciples repeated that verse. Experiencing continual ecstasy, they then spoke with wonder. "What the great sage recited with four feet and an equal number of syllables was nothing but his grief transformed into a metrical verse by dint of his having uttered it." Thus it occurred to the thoughtful sage to compose the entire Ramayana in such verses. Then the illustrious and broad-minded sage composed hundreds and thousands of captivating metrical verses extolling the glorious deeds of Lord Rama. That poem has made the sage famous. Listen to the story composed by the sage Valmiki which tells of Rama, the best of the Raghu dynasty, and of the death of the ten-headed demon Ravana. This story is adorned with the proper use of compound words and elision2 of letters, and its words are full of meaning and uniform sweetness.
Valmiki Summarizes the Ramayana
Having heard the entire theme of the Ramayana, which is conducive to religious merit and economic development, Valmiki tried to uncover the details of the highly learned Rama. Sitting on a mat of kusha grass with its tips pointing east, Valmiki sipped water according to scriptural regulation for his purification.10 Then he joined his hands and began considering how to achieve his goal of composing the Ramayana. The sage was actually able to perceive everything regarding Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, Dasharatha and his queens and kingdom. How they laughed, talked, walked and acted - all that he saw by mystic power. Moreover, whatever Lord Rama, who was true to His promise, did in the company of Sita and Lakshmana as they wandered in the forest, he was also able to see. While situated in yogic trance, the pious soul Valmiki saw everything that happened in the past as clearly as one sees a fruit in one's hand. The great sage saw all that by dint of his yogic ability, then he prepared to compose the story of the all-glorious Rama. That story contains elaborations on the four principles of dharma, artha, kama and moksha (religiosity, economic development, sense enjoyment and liberation). As the ocean is full of gems, so is the Ramayana full of literary adornments. It attracts the ears and minds of everyone. The sage then began composing the story of the Raghu dynasty exactly as he heard it recited by the great soul Narada.
He described Lord Rama's birth, His superlative prowess, His benevolence to all, His popularity with the people, as well as His forgiveness, gentleness, and truthfulness. He also described many wonderful stories, such as: when Rama was with the sage Vishvamitra; how He married Sita; how He broke the great bow of Shiva; the dispute between Him and Parashurama; His exceptional qualities; the preparation for His coronation; the ill will of Queen Kaikeyi towards Him; the interruption of Rama's coronation and His banishment; King Dasharatha's grief and lamentation and how he attained the heavenly world; the grief of the citizens, and how He sent back those who followed Him into the forest; His conversation with the chief of the Nishadas and how He sent His charioteer back to Ayodhya; His crossing of the Ganges and encounter with the sage Bharadvaja; how, on the advice of Bharadvaja, He went to Citrakuta; how He constructed a hut; the arrival of His brother, Bharata, who tried to convince Rama to return to Ayodhya; how Rama offered water in the obsequial rite of His father; how Bharata installed Rama's sandals and took up residence in the village of Nandigrama; Rama's arrival at the Dandakaranya Forest; His killing of the rakshasa Viradha; His visit with the sage Sharabhanga, and encounter with the sage Sutikshna; Sita's sojourn with Anasuya, the wife of sage Atri, and how she offered sandalwood paste on the body of Sita; Rama's visiting the sage Agastya and receiving a bow from him; Shurpanakha's conversation with Rama and her disfigurement by Him; how Rama killed Khara, Trishira and Dushana; Ravana's infuriation with Rama; the killing of the magician Marica, and the abduction of Sita by Ravana; Rama's lamentation and the death of the king of vultures, Jatayu; Rama's encounter with the demon Kabandha and His arrival at Lake Pampa; His meeting with Shabari and His eating of fruits and roots offered by her; Rama's wailing due to the loss of His consort and His meeting with the monkey Hanuman on the shore of Lake Pampa; Rama's arrival at Rishyamuka Mountain and His meeting with Sugriva; Rama's instilling confidence in Sugriva and striking up a friendship with him; the battle between Vali and Sugriva, the crushing defeat of Vali and the installation of Sugriva on the throne of Kishkindha; the lamentation of Vali's widow, Tara; the pact between Rama and Sugriva; Rama's residing at Kishkindha for the period of the monsoon; the anger of Rama, the lion of the Raghu dynasty; the mustering of soldiers by Sugriva and their being dispatched in all directions of the earth; Rama's entrusting of His ring to Hanuman; the finding of the cave of the bear Jambavan; the monkeys' resolve to fast until death and their encounter with the vulture Sampati; Hanuman's ascending Mahendra Mountain and his leaping across the ocean; Mainaka Mountain's meeting with Hanuman by the instruction of the god of the ocean; Hanuman's being threatened by the demoness Surasa; his seeing the illusory form of the demoness Lankini, and his killing of the demoness Simhika; his seeing Trikuta Mountain upon which the city of Lanka stood; Hanuman's entry of Lanka at night and thinking what to do; his entry into Ravana's liquor hall and harem quarters; his seeing Ravana asleep, and also Ravana's airship Pushpaka; his seeing the Ashoka grove and Sita within it; his delivery of Rama's ring to Sita to identify himself as Rama's servant and his subsequent conversation with Sita; Sita's relating to Hanuman about Her harassment by the rakshasis and how Trijata, the daughter of Vibhishana, had a dream in which Rama was victorious; Sita's bestowal to Hanuman of Her diadem; Hanuman's destruction of the trees in the Ashoka Grove; the fleeing of the Rakshasis and the slaughter by Hanuman of Ravana's servants; the capture of Hanuman, the son of the wind god; the incineration of Lanka by Hanuman as he roared; Hanuman's return jump across the ocean and his forcible confiscation of Sugriva's honey; Hanuman's comforting of Rama and delivery to Him of Sita's diadem; how Lord Rama with an army of monkeys converged on the sea and met the god of the sea, and how Lord Rama had the monkey Nala build a bridge across the sea; the passage of the army across the sea at night and the siege of Lanka; the encounter of Rama with Ravana's brother Vibhishana, Vibhishana's instruction on how to kill Ravana and others; the slaughter of Kumbhakarna and Meghanada; the destruction of Ravana and the retrieval of Sita from the enemy city; the coronation of Vibhishana as king of Lanka by Rama and discovery of the airship Pushpaka; the departure of Rama and His followers for Ayodhya; their visit to the sage Bharadvaja in Prayaga; Rama's dispatching of Hanuman to inform Bharata of their impending arrival; the coronation of Rama and the dispatchment of the monkey troops to their homeland; and, Rama's endearment to His subjects and the banishment of Sita. Furthermore, whatever else that Lord Rama was yet to perform while on the earth was also described by the powerful sage Valmiki in the excellent poem, the Ramayana.
Rama Hears the Ramayana Recited by His Own Sons
The powerful sage Valmiki compiled the complete narration of the deeds of Rama, which is full of wonderful expressions and potent with meaning, after Lord Rama regained His kingdom. The sage composed the poem in twenty-four thousand verses with five hundred chapters and six cantos, plus an epilogue. Having finished the main body of the Ramayana, as well as the epilogue dealing with future events in the life of Rama, the highly intelligent sage began wondering who would be capable of reciting it. While the sage was thinking in this way, the two sons of Rama, Lava and Kusha, dressed as ascetics, approached their teacher, prostrated themselves and caught hold of his feet. Valmiki's eyes rested on the two princes, who were dutiful, famous, skilled in singing sweetly and were living together in his hermitage.
Seeing that the two youths had good memories and were well-versed in the revealed scriptures, for the purpose of teaching them the meaning of the scriptures, the sage, who had taken it upon himself to compose the Ramayana, taught them the entire poem which deals with the story of Sita and the death of Ravana, the son of Pulastya. The two brothers recited this poem, which is very sweet to read or sing, and which can be recited in three speeds - slow, medium or fast - with the seven notes of the musical scale and with accompaniment by a stringed instrument. The poem was also adorned with the sentiments of love, mercy, mirth, chivalry, horror, anger, etc. The two brothers were indeed skilled in the art of singing, and understood how sound could be generated in the lungs, throat and head. Their voices were as sweet as angels'. Their bodies were beautified with auspicious marks and they spoke with sweet voices. Like two images arisen from an original, they looked like two more Ramas arisen from the body of Lord Rama. The irreproachable princes memorized the entire poem, which was conducive to virtue and unexcelled.
On a certain day, the two dedicated brothers who knew the meaning of the Vedas recited the Ramayana, as it had been instructed to them, in an assembly of sages, brahmanas and holy men. Standing together in the midst of the assembly of sages of purified mind, the two great souls, who were most fortunate and endowed with all auspicious marks, recited the poem. Hearing it, all the sages were totally astonished. With their eyes full of tears, they shouted "Well done! Well done!" Being pleased in mind, the sages, who were all lovers of virtue, praised the two worthy singers, Kusha and Lava, "O how wonderful is this music, and even more so the verses themselves! Although these things occurred long ago, they made them appear before our eyes. After entering into the spirit of the poem, the two sang in one sweet voice with the richness of music." Being praised by the sages who were themselves worthy of praise for their asceticism, the two sang even more sweetly and with more emotion.
Pleased with them, a certain sage stood up and presented them a water pot. Another sage, himself being very famous, gave them bark cloth to wear. Another gave them the skin of a black deer and another gave them sacred threads to wear as brahmanas. Another gave them a water pitcher, and one great sage gave them a belt made of munja grass. Another gave them mats of kusha grass, while another gave them loincloths. Another sage joyfully gave them a hatchet for cutting firewood, another gave them saffron-colored cloth, another gave them a shawl. Another gave them string for tying their matted locks in a topknot, another joyfully gave them rope for tying bundles of firewood. One sage gave them a sacrificial vessel and another gave them a bundle of firewood. Another gave them a low seat made of udumbara wood, as a number of great sages jubilantly gave them blessings for a long life.
In this way, the sages who were speakers of truth granted boons to the two youths and exclaimed, "How wonderful is this narration elaborated by the sage Valmiki. It will be the model for all future poetry and has ended with the proper sequence of events. You two who are skilled in all kinds of music have sung this song admirably. It is conducive to long life and prosperity, and is fascinating for the ears and mind."
Once Rama, the elder brother of Bharata, saw the two singers roaming about the streets and avenues of Ayodhya, receiving praise from everyone. After bringing the two brothers, Kusha and Lava, into His own palace and properly honoring them, Rama, the slayer of foes, sat on His brilliant lion throne made of gold. Seated around Him were His ministers and brothers. Seeing the two brothers who were not only handsome, but humble too, Lord Rama said to His brothers, Lakshmana, Shatrughna and Bharata, "Hear from these two boys, who possess the luster of gods, this narration which deals with many different topics." Then he urged the two singers to begin. The two recited the poem, whose subject matter was well known, in a sweet and charming manner. Their voices sounded like a vina when they reached high sweet notes. That song thrilled every limb of the bodies of those present in the assembly. It was pleasing to the mind, heart and ears.
Then Lord Rama said, "The two sages, Kusha and Lava, possess characteristics of world leaders, though they are ascetics. Listen to this narration which is highly emotional and which has been declared to be beneficial even for Me." Then, being urged by the words of Lord Rama, the two boys began singing in the courtly style. Rama too, in the company of His associates, gradually absorbed His mind in the recitation.
Description of the City of Ayodhya
Since ancient times, the entire earth has been the property of the victorious kings beginning from Vaivasvata Manu. Among them was King Sagara, who excavated the oceans and who, when he went out in battle, was followed by his sixty thousand sons. It is said that this narration known as the Ramayana has its origin in the dynasty of great kings descended from Ikshvaku. We will narrate all of this from the very beginning, as it is conducive to piety, economic gain, sense enjoyment and final beatitude. It should be heard with a heart free from envy.
There is a kingdom of the name Kosala situated on the bank of the Sarayu River. It is happy and prosperous and endowed with abundant wealth and food. Its capital is the world-famous city of Ayodhya, which was built by Vaivasvata Manu himself, the sovereign lord of humankind. The great city is ninety-six miles long and twenty-four miles wide and has well-laid out streets. It is beautified by a wonderful extensive highway system that is regularly sprinkled with scented water and strewn with flowers.
As Indra, the lord of the gods, inhabits the city of Amaravati in the heavens, so does King Dasharatha dwell in the city of Ayodhya, bringing about its good fortune. The city of Ayodhya is beautified with gateways and arches, and within it there are well-designed marketplaces. It is equipped with all types of war machines and has a copious supply of weapons. In the city dwell all types of sculptors, masons and artisans. Possessing numerous bards and panegyrists, the city is blessed with matchless opulence. Its lofty buildings have penthouses and are decorated with flags. There are hundreds of cannons dispersed throughout the city. There are troupes of women dancers in every section of the city. There are gardens and groves of mangoes and the whole city is surrounded by a great defensive wall. Around the city there is a moat which is both deep and difficult to cross. As such, the city is impenetrable by enemies. The city is full of horses, elephants, cows, camels and donkeys. Feudatory lords throng the city to pay tribute. The city is beautified by merchants from many different foreign lands. It is replete with bejeweled palaces that are as tall as mountains. With its splendid penthouses it resembles Amaravati, the capital of Lord Indra.
The city is wonderfully laid-out in eight sections, like a dice board. It is inhabited by the most exquisite women. All of its buildings are adorned with precious gems and it looks glorious with its palatial structures. The city is crowded with houses with no vacant lots and is built upon level ground. It is filled with rice and other food grains, and its water is as sweet as sugarcane juice. Resonating with the rhythmic sound of drums, such as dundubhis, mridangas and panavas, and with the sweet sound of stringed instruments like the vina, it is unexcelled on this earth.
Inhabited by the most gentle people, its well-arranged houses resemble the airships in which the perfected ones, by dint of penance, attain the heavenly world. Its dextrous and skillful warriors never shoot an unarmed warrior, nor one without parents or children, nor one who cannot be seen but can be pinpointed by the sound of his voice. The warriors are capable of slaying with the help of sharp weapons, or with their bare hands, ferocious lions, tigers and boars that roar in the jungle. King Dasharatha has populated the city with thousands of such maharathas, or warriors who can single-handedly defeat scores of opponents. The city is also inhabited by brahmanas who are expert at performing fire sacrifices, endowed with all good qualities, learned in the six branches of Vedic studies, magnanimous, truthful and who are mahatmas, as well as by seers who are practically great sages.
The Prosperity of Ayodhya During King Dasharatha's Reign
In the city of Ayodhya, King Dasharatha, who was well-versed in the Vedas, collected all sorts of useful things for the kingdom. He was farsighted and immensely powerful, and very dear to both the residents of the city as well as to those of the countryside. He was one of the outstanding charioteers of the Ikshvaku dynasty and a patron of sacrifices. He was devoted to righteousness and had his senses fully under control. He was a royal sage almost equal to a great sage and was famous throughout the three worlds. He was strong, devoid of enemies, surrounded by allies and was the conqueror of the senses. In the matter of accumulating wealth and other things, he was equal to Indra and Kuvera. Just as the powerful Manu protected the world, so also did King Dasharatha. The city was protected by the king, who was true to his word, as Amaravati was protected by Indra.
In that best of cities the citizens were content, virtuous, highly learned, satisfied with their own wealth, free from greed and truthful. There was no family man in that city who had not accumulated the necessities, nor was there one who had not achieved the goals of human pursuit in the shape of cows, horses, wealth and food. There could not be seen in Ayodhya a person who was lusty, miserly, cruel, uneducated or agnostic. All the men and women were virtuous, well-regulated, cheerful and in character as faultless as great sages. There was no one without gold earrings, crowns or flower garlands, nor was anyone short in enjoyment. Everyone was properly bathed, with their bodies smeared with sandalwood paste and anointed with sweet fragrances. No one ate impure food, nor did they neglect giving in charity. No one was without gold bracelets and armlets, nor was anyone unable to control his mind. There was no one in Ayodhya who did not maintain the sacred fire and who did not perform sacrifices. Neither was there anyone who was petty-minded or a thief, immoral or of disreputable origin.
The brahmanas, whose senses were fully conquered, were always engaged in their prescribed duties. They were charitable, studious and shy in accepting gifts. None of them was an agnostic, unrighteous, unstudied, envious, attached to material things or unlearned. There was none who was not conversant in the six branches of learning, who did not observe vows, or who was not profusely generous. No one was miserable, mentally disturbed or distressed. There could not be found a man or woman in Ayodhya who was not prosperous and good-looking, or who was not loyal to the king. The four castes headed by the brahmanas worshiped the gods and house guests. They were grateful, magnanimous, heroic and powerful. Everyone in that great city was long-lived, dedicated to truth, as such, they were always able to enjoy the company of their wives, children and grandchildren. The kshatriya (warrior) caste followed the advice of the brahmanas; the vaishyas followed the orders of the kshatriyas, and the shudras engaged in their own duties while assisting the other three castes.
King Dasharatha, the lord of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, completely protected the city of Ayodhya as did the wise Manu, the lord of humankind, in former times. Like a den full of lions, the city was full of warriors who were as dangerous as fire, learned in the art of war, expert in combat and intolerant of insult. The city was full of horses from Kamboja, Bahlika, Vanayu and the Indus Valley. They were equal to Indra's horse, Ucchaishrava. The city was also always full of strong elephants in rut that were as big as mountains. They were of the following varieties: Airavata, Mahapadma, Anjana and Vamana. There were also elephants of the Bhadra, Mandra and Mriga species, and interbreeds of these. The main part of Ayodhya encompassed sixteen miles. Residing there, King Dasharatha protected the world. As the moon dominates the starry sky, the great and powerful King Dasharatha, who had subdued all his enemies, ruled over that city. Thus the king ruled that fortunate city whose good name was Ayodhya (the unconquerable), which was fortified with strong gates and bars, and which had a large variety of buildings and thousands of inhabitants.
The Qualities and Upright Character of the King's Ministers
The exceptionally high-souled king of the Ikshvaku Dynasty had ministers who were endowed with good qualities. They were also versed in the recitation of incantations and in physiognomy. They were always engaged in the welfare of their dear master. The valiant king had eight ministers. They were glorious, pure and ever-devoted to the affairs of the state. Their names were: Dhrishti, Jayanta, Vijaya, Surashtra, Rashtravardhana, Akopa, Dharmapala, and as the eighth, Sumantra, who could discern the motive of any action. Vasishtha and Vamadeva were the two beloved family priests. There were also other ministers, such as Suyajna, Jabali, Kashyapa, Gautama, Markandeya, Dirghayus and the brahmana Katyayana. Along with the great brahmarshis, his two family priests always acted as his advisors.
The ministers were humble because of their wisdom. They were bashful, clever, in control of their senses, wealthy, great-souled, learned in the use of weapons, perpetually powerful, glorious, vigilant, and always did what they promised. They were strong, forgiving and famous, and smiled sweetly when they spoke. They never spoke a lie, even out of anger or for sense enjoyment. There was nothing of their own people or of others that was not known to them. Whatever was done or intended to be done was known to them through spies. They were tactful in their dealings and had been tested in their loyalty: they had punished their own sons according to law when the occasion demanded it. They were always busy increasing the kingdom's treasury and the strength of the army, and they never harmed an enemy if he was guiltless. They were heroes with perpetual enthusiasm for combat and carefully followed the principles of political science. They always protected those citizens of the kingdom who were good. They filled the treasurehouse without harassing the brahmanas and kshatriyas. They meted out heavy punishment only after taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the person. Because of the purity and single-mindedness of these ministers, there was not one person who would speak a lie in the city or the country. There was never anyone there who was wicked or who would have an affair with another man's wife. Indeed, the excellent city and the entire kingdom were perfectly tranquil.
All of the ministers were fashionably dressed and adorned and were observing holy vows. They were dedicated to the well-being of the king and vigilant, seeing with eyes of prudence. They had acquired all the good qualities of their preceptors and were famous for their prowess. They enjoyed universal recognition, even in foreign lands, for their intelligent decisions. They were completely qualified and were never devoid of virtue. They were conversant in the matter of peace and war and were naturally endowed with good fortune. They were capable of keeping secrets and of making subtle deliberations. They were especially conversant with political science and always spoke pleasantly.
Assisted by such qualified ministers, the sinless King Dasharatha ruled over the earth. Seeing everything through the eyes of spies, he protected the citizens through righteousness, maintained them and thus abstained from unrighteousness. The tiger among men, who was famous throughout the three worlds for his magnanimity and for being an ocean of truthfulness, ruled over the earth from his capital. He never encountered an enemy who could surpass him or match him. He possessed numerous friends, he was honored by neighboring states, and his glory diminished his enemies. Thus the king ruled the world as Indra, the lord of the gods, rules the heavens. Surrounded by counselors who were intent upon deliberation, who were concerned with the welfare of the state and who were clever and capable, the king shone like the rising sun enveloped in its shining rays of light.
The King's Proposal to Perform a Horse Sacrifice to Obtain a Son
The great-souled and religious-minded King Dasharatha, whose glory has been described previously, had no son to perpetuate his dynasty, although he had been anxious for one. While thinking about this, it occurred to the highly intelligent king that he should perform a horse sacrifice11 to achieve a son. Having made up his mind to perform the sacrifice, the wise king consulted with all his capable ministers. Thereupon, the mighty monarch said to Sumantra, "O best of ministers, quickly bring all my family preceptors." Thereafter the swift Sumantra hurriedly went and assembled all those souls who had completely mastered the Vedas. Having honored Suyajna, Vamadeva, Jabali, Kashyapa, his family priest Vasishtha and anyone else who was an outstanding brahmana, the righteous King Dasharatha spoke the following sweet words conducive to virtue:
"There is indeed no happiness for me, because I have been desiring a son for some time. For that purpose I shall perform a horse sacrifice. That is my idea. I therefore wish to perform the sacrifice according to rites prescribed in the scriptures. How can I accomplish my desire? Please deliberate on this."
Then all the brahmanas headed by Vasishtha praised the words spoken from the mouth of the king, saying, "Very good!" Highly pleased, they all told Dasharatha, "Let the ingredients for the sacrifice be gathered and the horse released! Let the sacrificial ground be prepared on the northern bank of the Sarayu River. By all means, you will have the son you desire, O king, for this plan of yours to get a son is virtuous."
The king was pleased to hear the remarks of the brahmanas. With his eyes rolling with delight, the king said to his ministers, "By the order of my preceptors, immediately prepare the ingredients for the sacrifice. Let the sacrificial horse be released under the supervision of capable men accompanied by the priest. And let the sacrificial ground be prepared on the northern bank of the Sarayu River. Also let the propitiatory rites be elaborately performed in the order ordained in the scriptures. This most excellent sacrifice can be performed by all monarchs, provided there is no serious transgression in its execution, for the astute brahma-rakshasas12 (brahmanas born as rakshasas) are always looking for some fault in sacrificial performances in order to seize the share of the gods. One who performs sacrifices without proper procedure soon perishes. Therefore, this sacrifice undertaken by me should be executed according to procedure. Let it be thus performed, for you are all capable in these affairs."
"So be it," said all the counselors, who had been properly honored by the king. Having heard the words previously spoken by the king, the brahmanas who were conversant with religion also encouraged the king. Then, with his permission, they all departed as they had come. Having sent away the brahmanas, he spoke the following to his ministers: "Let the sacrifice be executed as the priests have recommended." Having spoken, the lion among kings sent away the assembled ministers. Then the highly intelligent king entered the quarters of his harem. There the king sought out his favorite consorts and told them of his intention to perform a sacrifice for the purpose of having a son. By that pleasant utterance of the king, the lotus faces of those beautiful women shone like lotus flowers at the end of winter.
A Conversation Between Dasharatha and Sumantra
Hearing this, the king's charioteer, Sumantra (who was also one of his ministers) spoke to him privately. "Hear from me what I heard during the recitation of a Puranic legend. This sacrifice recommended by the priests was heard by me in an old legend. In an assembly of sages, the wise Sanatkumara narrated this story regarding the birth of your sons:
There is a son of Kashyapa known as Vibhandaka will have a son known as Rishyashringa, who will be reared in the forest, Rishyashringa will always frequent the forest. This chief of the brahmanas will know nothing except service to his father. The great soul will practice both kinds of celibacy13 extolled in the worlds and spoken of by learned brahmanas. In this way, he will pass his time in worship of the sacred fire and of his father. At that time, there will be a strong and powerful king named Romapada in the country of Anga. Because of the king's transgressions, there will be a drought so terrible and frightful that it will inflict the whole world with fear.
Saddened by the news of the drought, the king will summon the brahmanas who are Vedic scholars and say: "You are all engaged in the duties prescribed by the scriptures and are conversant with the customs and practices of the common people. Please, therefore, teach me the means of atonement for my sins." Those outstanding brahmanas will be entreated in this way by the king. Then they will reply to the king: "O king, please bring here the son of Vibhandaka by whatever means. After bringing Rishyashringa, the son of Vibhandaka, O protector of the earth, give your daughter Shanta to him in marriage, for he is a brahmana and an accomplished scholar of the Vedas."
Hearing their words, the king will begin thinking of the means by which he will be able to bring that powerful sage to his city. Having arrived at a decision with his counselors, the king will send his family priest accompanied by his respectable ministers. Hearing the king's words, they will be pained. With downcast faces, they will entreat the king, "We will not go, for we are afraid of his father, the sage Vibhandaka." After duly considering the feasible means of bringing Rishyashringa, they will say to the king, "We shall bring the brahmana. There will be no fault in it." Thus the king of the Angas will cause the son of the sage to be brought by courtesans, Lord Indra will cause the rains to fall and Shanta will be given in marriage to the sage Rishyashringa.
Sumantra continued: "Being your son-in-law, Rishyashringa will arrange for you to have sons. This prophecy of Sanatkumara has been told by me." Being greatly pleased, Dasharatha said to Sumantra, "Inform me about the means by which Rishyashringa was brought to the capital of Romapada."
How Rishyashringa Was Brought to Anga and Married to Shanta
Being ordered by the king, Sumantra spoke the following words. "Accompanied by your ministers, listen to me narrate everything regarding how King Romapada brought Rishyashringa and what means he used to do so."
The family priest along with the counselors said to King Romapada: "We have devised a sure plan. Rishyashringa has always lived in the forest where he practices austerities and studies scripture. As such, he is unfamiliar with the happiness of women or the happiness sense enjoyment. By agreeable objects which agitate the senses, we shall bring him here to the city. Now quickly do the needful. Let the beautiful and well-groomed courtesans go there. After he receives them, they will entice him by various means and bring him here."
Hearing this, the king replied to his family priest: "Very well, let it be so." Then the priest and the ministers did just that. After receiving this order from the king, the best of the courtesans entered that great forest. Staying not far from Vibhandaka's hermitage, they tried to meet Rishyashringa in some way. The son of the sage was very grave and had always lived in the hermitage. He was always happy to be with his father, and so he had never left the hermitage. Since his birth, the ascetic had never seen a woman or man or any other creature from the cities or towns of the country. One day, by chance, the son of Vibhandaka wandered from the hermitage to the place where the courtesans were staying and saw them there. The women's garments were of different colors and they were singing with sweet voices. Gathering around the sage's son, they all spoke the following words. "O brahmana, who are you? What are you doing? We wish to know. You frequent this distant and uninhabited forest by your self. Please tell us." He had never before seen in the forest women who were of beautiful form and desirable. In his heart arose the desire to tell them about his father. He said: "My father is Vibhandaka. I am his son, his own flesh and blood. I am known as Rishyashringa and in this world I am engaged in the practice of austerities. Nearby is my hermitage which is delightful to see. There I shall honor all of you according to the rule of scripture."
Hearing the words of the sage's son, they all agreed. Thereafter all the beautiful women went to see the hermitage. Saying "here is water for washing the hands, here is water for washing the feet, and here are roots and fruits for us to eat," the sage's son received his female guests. After accepting this reception ceremony, they all became anxious to leave soon out of fear of Vibhandaka's anger. They said, "O brahmana, we have fruits that are even better than these. Bless you, O brahmana. Please accept them and eat them. Do not delay." Then they all embraced him joyfully and gave him round sweetmeats and other tasty things to eat. After tasting the sweets and fruits, the powerful ascetic began thinking, "Such things have never been tasted by any forest dweller before." Taking leave of the brahmana on the pretext of a religious observance, the women left for their own place out of fear of his father. After they had all left, the brahmana Rishyashringa became ill at heart and restless due to sadness.
The next day, after thinking it over in his mind, the powerful and handsome son of Vibhandaka went to the place where he had met the beautifully adorned and mind-captivating courtesans. Seeing the brahmana coming, the women's minds were overcome with delight. They all approached him and spoke to him the following words. "Please come to our hermitage, O gentle one. Although there are many varieties of roots and fruits here, these things can be done in a special way there." Hearing their heart-moving words, he decided to go with them. Thus the women carried him off to the land of Anga.
As they brought the great soul there, the demigod Indra began pouring down showers of rain and the whole world became joyful. By the arrival of the rains, the king could understand that the ascetic brahmana was on his way. Going out to meet the sage, the king humbly bowed his head and prostrated himself on the ground. With his mind composed, he offered him the customary water for washing the hands. Then he requested a boon that the brahmana would never become angry. After they entered the city, the king, with a peaceful mind, gave his daughter Shanta to him in marriage in accordance with scriptural rule. Thereafter the king was greatly pleased. In this way, being honored by the king, the powerful Rishyashringa lived there with his wife Shanta and enjoyed all kinds of pleasures.
King Dasharatha Goes to Anga to Bring Back Rishyashringa and Shanta
Then Sumantra again spoke, "O king, please hear from me these beneficial words as they were spoken by the wise and best of gods Sanatkumara:
In the dynasty of Ikshvaku will be born a righteous and fortunate king named Dasharatha who will be true to his promise. He will strike up a friendship with the king of Anga. The king of Anga will have a highly fortunate daughter named Shanta. The name of the king of Anga will be Romapada. The famous King Dasharatha will go to him: "O righteous one, I am most unfortunate. By your order, let Shanta's husband, Rishyashringa, attend the sacrifice which is being performed for the continuation of my dynasty." Thinking about what King Dasharatha had said, King Romapada will hand over his son, the husband of Shanta. On getting the brahmana, King Dasharatha will become rid of his anxiety. His mind will be joyful as he takes the brahmana to the sacrifice. Being desirous of fame, the virtuous King Dasharatha will join his hands and request three boons from the best of brahmanas, Rishyashringa: the successful execution of the sacrifice, a son, and ascension to heaven. The protector of the people will achieve his desired goals by the words sprung from the mouth of the brahmana. The king will have four sons of immeasurable prowess. They will firmly establish the dynasty and will be famous throughout the world. Thus was this topic narrated in the previous Satya-yuga by the foremost and blessed sage Sanatkumara. O Maharaja, O tiger among men, going yourself with your army and retinue, properly honor the sage Rishyashringa and bring him here.
Upon hearing Sumantra's words, Dasharatha was very pleased. Informing Vasishtha of Sumantra's words, he requested permission to carry them out. Accompanied by his wives and counselors, he proceeded to where the brahmana was residing. Gradually crossing many forests and rivers, they arrived at the land where that outstanding sage lived. They saw Rishyashringa, who was shining like fire, seated beside King Romapada. Then, due to feelings of friendship with King Dasharatha, King Romapada, with great elation, performed as best he could the ceremonial reception. King Romapada informed the intelligent Rishyashringa about his friendship with King Dasharatha, then Rishyashringa also offered his respects to King Dasharatha.
Being thus honored, King Dasharatha remained there for seven or eight days, after which he said to King Romapada: "O king and protector of the people, please allow your daughter Shanta and her husband to visit my capital where a great sacrifice is being arranged." Conceding to the wise man's departure, King Romapada replied, "So be it!" Then King Romapada told the brahmana, "Go with your wife to King Dasharatha's capital." Hearing this, the son of the sage replied, "All right." With the consent of King Romapada, he departed with his wife. The two kings shook hands, then embraced each other affectionately and rejoiced. Then, taking leave from his friend, King Dasharatha, the descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, departed.
Swift messengers were sent to inform the people of the king's arrival: "Immediately decorate the entire city. Fill the air with incense and sprinkle the streets with sweet-smelling perfumes. Decorate the city with flags." The citizens were glad to hear of the return of the king, thus they did everything that the king had requested through the messengers. The king then entered the beautifully decorated city to the accompaniment of drums and conchshells, with the foremost brahmana proceeding in front. All the townspeople were overjoyed to see the brahmana. The king, who was equal to Lord Indra in prowess, honored the brahmana upon his entrance into the city, just as Indra, the lord of the gods, received Vamana, the son of Kashyapa, in his heavenly realm. Entering into the inner chambers of the palace, the king thereupon received the brahmana in accordance with scriptural rule. Due to the presence of the brahmana, the king now considered himself successful. Seeing the broad-eyed Shanta in the company of her husband, all the ladies of the palace were overcome with affection. After being honorably received by the ladies, and especially by the king, she lived there happily for some time with her husband Rishyashringa.
The King Orders Preparation for the Sacrifice
After a very long time, when an exceptionally pleasant spring had arrived, it occurred to the king to begin the sacrifice. Bowing his head before the brahmana who was as effulgent as a god, the king requested him to perform the sacrifice for the continuation of the royal dynasty. Rishyashringa said to the king who was the protector of the earth: "So be it. Let the ingredients for the sacrifice be prepared, the sacrificial horse be set free and the sacrificial arena be set up on the northern shore of the Sarayu River."
Then the king said: "Sumantra, immediately bring those brahmanas who have completely mastered the Vedas, as well as the priests who are knowers of the Absolute. Bring Suyajna, Vamadeva, Jabali, Kashyapa, Purohita, Vasishtha and any others who are outstanding brahmanas." Then the swift Sumantra quickly went and summoned all those Vedic scholars. King Dasharatha duly received them with honor and spoke to them with sweet and proper words that were conducive to virtue: "I have been burning with the desire for a son. Without one there is no happiness for me. Now it is my intention to perform a horse sacrifice in order to get a son. It is for this purpose that I wish to execute the ritualistic ceremony of the horse sacrifice. By the influence of the sage's son, I shall surely achieve my desires."
The brahmanas headed by Vasishtha commended the words uttered from the mouth of the king by saying, "Very good!" Then Rishyashringa and the other brahmanas again said to the king: "Let the ingredients for the sacrifice be prepared, the sacrificial horse be set free and the sacrificial arena be set up on the northern shore of the Sarayu River." Then they further added: "You will by all means get four sons whose prowess will be immeasurable, because your intelligence is absorbed in the virtuous purpose of obtaining a son. Hearing what the brahmanas said, the king was quite happy. With great pleasure he spoke to his ministers the following auspicious syllables: "According to the order of my preceptors, immediately arrange for me the ingredients for the sacrifice. Let the sacrificial horse be released and let capable warriors and the officiating priest accompany it. Let the sacrificial arena be prepared on the northern bank of the Sarayu River. Let the initial propitiatory rites, such as the peace prayers, etc., be performed as is customary according to scriptural regulation. This sacrificial ceremony can be performed by all monarchs who are able to avoid committing any transgressions in its execution. The clever brahma-rakshasas are ever vigilant to find any omission. Therefore, one who performs a sacrifice without regard for the rules at once perishes. Therefore, this sacrifice of mine should be performed according to the rules. You are all quite capable of executing such activities."
Thereafter all the ministers praised the king's order by saying "Let it be so." Then they did as they were commanded. The brahmanas praised the glorious monarch who understood the principles of righteousness. Then, with his permission, they all departed as they had come. When the brahmanas had gone, the king sent away the ministers and entered his own palace.
Vasishtha Prepares for the Sacrifice
After one whole year had passed, it was spring again. For the purpose of obtaining progeny, the powerful king approached Vasishtha to initiate the horse sacrifice. Offering greetings to Vasishtha, he received him according to rule, then told that best of the brahmanas about his intention to procure offspring: "O brahmana, please perform my sacrifice as described in the scriptures. Perform all the different rituals in such a way that there is no obstruction in the completion of the sacrifice. You are very affectionate to me; you are my friend, guru and highly exalted. You are able to bear the burden of setting up the sacrifice. Vasishtha replied to the king, "So be it. I shall do everything as well as I can."
Then Vasishtha addressed senior practitioners of sacrificial rites and their assistants, skilled architects, senior brahmanas fixed in the practice of the topmost religious duties, stone masons, carpenters, excavators, astrologers, artisans, as well as dancers, actors, scholars of the holy scriptures and highly learned persons: "By the order of the king, arrange for the sacrificial ceremony. Quickly bring thousands of bricks. Build palaces fit for royalty, along with all the subsequent requisite paraphernalia. Build hundreds of good, sturdy houses supplied with all kinds of palatable food and drink for the brahmanas. You must also construct comfortable houses for the townspeople and palatial residences for the royal guests who will come from many distant places. Construct stables for horses and elephants, hospices for the common people and spacious barracks for the foreign soldiers. Supply the residences with abundant amounts of food and other desirables. In the same way, let the townspeople and common folk be supplied good quality food in accordance with scriptural rule, not whimsically. Thus let all the castes be respectfully honored. Never do anything disrespectful out of lust or anger. Similarly, special respect should be offered to those who are busily engaged in the actual activities of the sacrifice. Let all of them be properly honored with wealth and food, that everything be properly done and nothing be overlooked."
Then they all approached Vasishtha and said: "What you wish will be accomplished without any omission. We shall do as you have said without overlooking anything."
Then Vasishtha said to Sumantra: "Please look after the righteous kings of the world, as well as the thousands of brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras who will attend this sacrifice. Summon the gentlemen from all countries here, treating them respectfully. Janaka, the ruler of Mithila, is valiant and truthful. Personally bring him here with all due honor. Knowing his prior relation with King Dasharatha, I am telling you this first. In this way, personally bring the friendly and godlike lord of Kashi, who speaks sweetly and upholds truth, they say. Then bring here the aged king of Kekaya along with his son. He is most virtuous and a lion among kings and is the father-in-law of King Dasharatha. Also bring with great honor the lord of Anga, the great archer King Romapada, who is a dear friend of King Dasharatha, along with his son. Then bring the honorable Bhanuman, the king of Kosala. Bring the valiant lord of Magadha, King Praptijna, who is expert in all scriptures, most magnanimous and the best of men. Accepting the order of the king, invite the rulers of the eastern lands and the monarchs of Sindhusauvira and Saurashtra. Bring all the kings from the South and any other kings on the face of the earth who are friendly. Bring them quickly along with their followers and relations. Also, by the order of the king, bring their distinguished ambassadors."
Hearing these words of Vasishtha, Sumantra quickly instructed suitable persons to summon the different kings. The very intelligent and virtuous Sumantra hastily departed to personally summon those kings whom Vasishtha had mentioned in his instructions.
All the workers involved in the sacrifice informed the great sage Vasishtha about the preparations' being done. Pleased to hear this, Vasishtha said to those best of the brahmanas: "Do not give anything to anyone with disrespect or whimsy, because that which is done with disrespect destroys the giver, without any doubt."
Some days later, the different kings of the world arrived bearing many valuable gifts for King Dasharatha, it is said. Vasishtha was very pleased by this and said to King Dasharatha, "O tiger among men, by your order the kings have arrived. O best of kings, they have all been received by me as well as I was able. Everything connected with the sacrifice has been prepared with care by different persons. Please go to the sacrificial arena which is nearby to begin the sacrifice. O lord of kings, you should see the arena which is furnished on every side with all desirable things that were assembled there by the workers. It looks as if it were constructed by the power of your mental resolve."
As recommended by both Vasishtha and Rishyashringa, on an a day with an auspicious constellation, the king went to the sacrificial arena. After that, the elevated brahmanas headed by Vasishtha, went to the sacrificial arena, placing Rishyashringa before them. Then they began the sacrificial rites with due regard for the scriptural rules. The glorious king along with his wives underwent the initiation ceremony in order to be fit for participating in the sacrifice.
King Dasharatha Begins the Sacrifice
When the sacrificial horse had returned after one year, the king began the sacrifice on the northern shore of the Sarayu River. King Dasharatha undertook the great horse sacrifice placing Rishyashringa in front of the prominent brahmanas. Having thoroughly studied the Vedas, the brahmanas executed the rituals of the sacrifice according to scriptural injunction. The procedure and exact time sequence of the rituals were all carried out exactly according to scripture. The brahmanas performed the pravargya14 rite according to scripture, then the upasad15 ceremony. In this way, all the activities were performed exactly as they should have been. After the brahmanas worshiped the appropriate demigods, they were very pleased and pressed the morning's soma juice16. They offered to Lord Indra his share of the sinless, freshly squeezed royal soma juice. At noon they again pressed soma juice according to regulation. At dusk the expert brahmanas, after consulting scripture, executed the king's third pressing of soma juice.
The very intelligent brahmanas headed by Rishyashringa invoked the presence of Indra and other gods by the recitation of incantations whose syllables they had previously learned. With sweet songs of praise and pleasant incantations, the hota17 priests invoked the appropriate demigods who reside in the heavenly realm and offered them their due share of the oblations of clarified butter. There was not one wrongly performed oblation in that sacrifice, nor was there any omission, for every action was performed with the proper chant and with great care. For as many days as the sacrifice lasted no one appeared tired or hungry. Among the brahmanas who participated not a one was unlearned or had less than one hundred followers.
Every day the brahmanas and kshatriyas were fed. Every day the ascetics and monks were fed. Similarly, the elderly, infirm, women and children were fed. The food was so tasty that those who ate it could never be satisfied. Being encouraged with the instructions, "let food be given, let clothes of different varieties be given," people did as instructed. Every day, could be seen cooked food grains piled up in the traditional way in mounds that resembled mountains. In King Dasharatha's sacrifice all the men and women who had come from different countries were all fully satisfied with the food and drink. The good brahmanas praised the food, saying, "This delicious food has been properly prepared." They all said to King Dasharatha, "We are so satisfied. All good fortune be upon you!" Well-dressed men served the brahmanas, then others, who were wearing beautiful jeweled earrings, served them. At the conclusion of each ceremony, the learned brahmanas who were skilled in rhetoric, urged by the desire to defeat the others, engaged in debate with each other.
Day after day, the brahmanas who were all expert in Vedic rituals, executed all the ceremonies according to scriptural injunction. Among the brahmana participants in the king's sacrifice, there was no one who had not studied the six branches of Vedic learning (pronunciation, prosody, grammar, etymology, astronomy and ritual), who was not vastly learned or who was not skilled in speaking.
When the time arrived for erecting the sacrificial posts, they erected six posts of bilva wood and six of khadira wood. Six posts of palasha wood were erected next to the bilva. One post is also supposed to be of shleshmata wood and two more of cedar. The two cedar posts are supposed to be placed the distance of two arms stretched out. All the posts were prepared under the supervision of brahmanas who were skilled in sacrificial performances and knowledgeable of the scriptures. They were decorated with gold for the auspiciousness of the sacrifice. The twenty-one posts were each twenty one cubits high. Each of them had also been decorated with cloth. The strong posts, well-fashioned by the craftsmen, were fixed in place according to rule. They were all octagonal in shape and had planed surfaces. They were covered with pieces of cloth and worshiped with flowers and sandalwood paste, they shone brightly like the stellar constellation known as the "Great Bear."
The bricks had been made to size according to regulation and were assembled into an altar for the sacrificial fire by those who were skilled in ceremonial structures. The sacred fire had been established by expert brahmanas. The sacrificial altar was shaped like an eagle with wings out-stretched. Its wings were golden-colored. Being thrice the size of ordinary altars, it had eighteen fire pits, instead of the usual six. As indicated in scripture, animals, serpents and birds were tied to the posts corresponding to particular demigods. The horse, aquatics and other creatures were all brought there to be sacrificed and were then bound by the sages in accordance with scripture. Three hundred animals were bound to the sacrificial posts, including the super-excellent horse belonging to King Dasharatha, it is said. Queen Kausalya then consecrated the horse by sprinkling it and its vicinity, then she touched it with great joy with three swords. Out of the desire to acquire virtue for bearing a son, Queen Kausalya, with a calm mind, passed one night beside the horse.
After that, the hota, adhvaryu18 and udgata19 priests took Kausalya and the other two wives of the king and made them touch the horse. Then the priest took the fleshy tuber of the ashvagandha plant (which smells like a horse) and boiled it according to scriptural directions.20 The king then smelled, at the proper time, the odor of the steam rising from that tuber, thus driving away his sins.
The sixteen priests offered into the fire everything that was intended for that purpose as parts of the horse sacrifice. In other sacrifices the offerings are to be placed on boughs of the plaksha tree, but in the horse sacrifice they are placed on stalks of sugar cane. According to the Kalpa-sutra and the Brahmana section of the Vedas, a horse sacrifice has three days dedicated to the pressing of soma juice. On the first day the pressing ceremony is called catushtoma, on the second day it is called ukthya and on the third it is called atiratra. Many other sacrifices were also performed according to scriptural recommendation. Eight sacrifices were performed on that occasion: jyotishtoma, ayushtoma, two atiratras, abhijit, vishvajit and two aptoryamas.
King Dasharatha, expander of his dynasty, gave in pay to the hota priest the eastern region, to the adhvaryu priest he gave the western region, to the brahma priest he gave the southern region and to the udgata priest he gave the northern region. Thus did King Dasharatha pay the sacrificial fee just as Lord Brahma had done previously when he performed the great horse sacrifice. Having concluded the sacrifice in accordance with scriptural rules, the king, who was the best of men, gave the entire earth to the priests. Having given away the earth, King Dasharatha, the glorious descendant of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, felt delighted. The priests all said to the sinless king: "You alone are capable of protecting the entire earth. It is not our duty to take care of the earth, nor are we able to. O king, as we are always engaged in studying, give us some other payment. O king, give us valuable gems, gold, cows or any other suitable things. We have no need of the earth."
Being thus instructed by the brahmanas, the king presented them with 1,000,000 cows, 100,000,000 gold coins and four times that of silver coins. Thereafter the priests gave all the wealth to the sage Rishyashringa and to the wise Vasishtha. When the wealth had been equally divided, the topmost brahmanas were pleased in mind and declared, "We are very satisfied!" Then the king, with a composed mind, also gave to those brahmanas who had attended the sacrifice as observers 10,000,000 gold coins. King Dasharatha also gave his own exquisite gold bracelet to a poor brahmana who asked for a gift. Then the king, who was very fond of the brahmanas, offered the customary prostrations to the dear brahmanas, at which their senses were overcome with joy. As the king laid prostrate on the ground, the brahmanas conferred upon him many different blessings.
The king was thoroughly delighted to have completed the wonderful sacrifice, which destroys all sins, leads to heaven and is very difficult to be performed by even great kings. Then King Dasharatha said to Rishyashringa, "O powerful ascetic, you should now insure the prolongation of my dynasty." "So be it," said the best of brahmanas to the king. "In the future, O king, you will have four sons who will continue your dynasty." Hearing the sage's sweet words, the poised king offered respects to him. The king became happy doing this and then reminded Rishyashringa to do whatever was necessary to secure him a son.
Rishyashringa Performs a Sacrifice for King Dasharatha
After that, the intelligent sage contemplated the king's request for some time, then he returned to external consciousness and said to the king: "I shall do as you desire. In order to obtain a son we must perform the putreshti sacrifice with prayers from the Atharva Veda." Then the powerful sage performed the sacrifice for attaining offspring by offering oblations into the sacred fire in accordance with the directions of the scriptures. At the end, the gods, gandharvas, siddhas21 and topmost sages assembled to receive their portions of the sacrifice.
Later, all the gods approached Lord Brahma, the creator, in one group according to rank, they spoke to him the following words: "O lord, a rakshasa named Ravana, with the strength granted to him by you, is causing us all trouble. We are unable to subdue him. A boon was conferred upon him by you, being pleased as you were, O lord. With that in mind, we have always overlooked his transgressions. The inimical and evil-minded Ravana is harassing the three worlds and hates the exalted. He wants to overpower Indra, the king of heaven. Infatuated by his boon and unassailable because of it, he is attempting to subdue the seers, yakshas2 , gandharvas, brahmanas and asuras3 . The sun does not scorch him, nor does the wind blow at his side. The ocean, which is by nature agitated with waves, does not move when it sees him. We are therefore very afraid of that fiercesome-looking rakshasa. O lord, please make some arrangement to kill him."
Having been addressed by all the gods, Lord Brahma thought for a while and then spoke: "What luck! The means by which that evil one can be killed is known by me. OLet me be unkillable by any gandharva, yaksha, god or rakshasa,' was the boon he asked of me, and my reply to him was: OSo be it.' The rakshasa did not consider human beings in his request due to his contempt for them. Therefore he can only be killed by a human. No one else can be the cause of his death.
Hearing the pleasant words uttered by Lord Brahma, all the demigods and great sages became very joyful. At that time arrived the Lord of the universe, Vishnu, who was highly effulgent, bearing in His four hands a conchshell, discus, mace and bow and wearing bright silken garments. He was mounted on His eagle carrier Garuda, like the sun on a cloud. He wore armlets of refined gold and was being praised by the foremost of the gods. Seeing Lord Brahma, He stood there tranquilly.
Having praised Him and bowing down, all the gods addressed Him: "O Lord Vishnu, with the intent of doing good to the world we are going to charge you with a task. In Ayodhya there is a powerful king of the name Dasharatha. He is a knower of righteousness, is magnanimous and equal in splendor to a great sage. From the womb of his three wives, who are equal to Your own consorts Hri, Shri and Kirti, O Lord, manifest Yourself as four sons. Assuming a human-like form, O Vishnu, kill in battle Ravana, who has become powerful, is the scourge of the world, and cannot be killed by the demigods. The foolish rakshasa Ravana, with his increased strength, is harassing the gods, gandharvas, siddhas and topmost seers. By dint of his anger he has caused sages, as well as the gandharvas and apsaras4 who frolic in the Nandana Gardens, to fall down to earth. To obtain his death we have come, in the company of sages, siddhas, gandharvas and yakshas, and have taken shelter of You. You are the supreme destination for all of us, O destroyer of foes! Please decide to descend to the world of men to kill the enemy of the gods."
The residents of heaven praised the Lord of the demigods, Vishnu. Then Lord Vishnu, who was respected by all the worlds, spoke to all those gods headed by Lord Brahma who had gathered there and who were dedicated to righteousness. "Abandon fear. Good fortune be unto you. For your benefit I shall fight Ravana. After killing his sons, grandsons, counselors, ministers, kinsmen and relatives, I shall slay the cruel, unassailable and fearsome demon. For eleven thousand years I shall remain in the mortal world to protect the earth."
Having thus granted that boon to the gods, the Supreme Lord Vishnu began to contemplate His future birthplace. Then the lotus-eyed Lord divided Himself into four and chose King Dasharatha as His would-be father. Thereafter, the gods, seers, rudras and bevies of apsaras praised Lord Vishnu, the killer of the Madhu demon, for His transcendental form: "Please eradicate the haughty Ravana, whose power is frightful. He has waxed in pride and is the enemy of Lord Indra. His appearance causes people to scream and he is tormenting the holy men and ascetics. After You kill the terribly powerful and frightening Ravana along with his army and kinsmen and being free from anxiety about Your devotees, please return back to Your eternal heavenly world which is well-protected by You and which is unmarred by imperfection."
While Performing Sacrifice, Dasharatha is Approached by Vishnu's Messenger
After being addressed in this way by the foremost demigods, Lord Vishnu, who is also known as Narayana, although knowing everything, spoke to them the following sweet words: "By resorting to what means, O gods, can I slay the king of rakshasas, who is harassing the sages?" Being thus questioned, all the gods replied to the eternal Lord Vishnu: "Assuming a human-like form, slay Ravana in combat. He practiced severe austerities for a long time, O chastiser of enemies. Lord Brahma, the first-born and creator of this universe, became very pleased by that. Being pleased, Lord Brahma conferred a benediction upon the rakshasa that he would have no cause of fear from any of the different species of life with the exception of humans. At the time when he requested the boon, he thought humans insignificant. Having thus received the boon from Brahma, he has grown extremely conceited. He is afflicting the three worlds and abducting women. Therefore, O subduer of foes, he must be killed by a human."
Hearing these words of the gods, the Supreme Lord Vishnu desired King Dasharatha to be His father. At that time, the issueless king who was very effulgent, being desirous of a son, was performing a sacrifice for that purpose. Having made up His mind, Lord Vishnu, taking leave of Brahma, disappeared as He was being worshiped by the gods and sages.
Right after that, from the sacrificial fire of King Dasharatha appeared a huge being of unequaled splendor possessing great prowess and strength. His complexion was swarthy, he wore reddish garments, his countenance was ruddy and his voice resounded like a drum. The hair on his body, beard and head was soft like a lion's. He was endowed with auspicious marks and decorated with celestial gems. He was as tall as a mountain peak and strode like a proud tiger. His form was as brilliant as the sun. He shone like a flame of fire. In his arms he held, as one would hold one's own dear wife, a large gold jar full of celestial, milky rice pudding covered with a silver lid, as if it were some magical thing.
Looking at King Dasharatha, he spoke the following words: "Know me, O king, to be a messenger of the Lord of creatures, Vishnu, who has come here." Thereupon the king replied to him with folded hands: "I welcome you. What may I do for you?" The messenger of Lord Vishnu then spoke these words: "O king, by worship of the gods has this reward been achieved by you today. O tiger among kings, accept this rice pudding made by the gods which can not only procure a son, but can also increase wealth and good health. Give it to your appropriate wives and tell them to eat it. From them will you obtain sons for which purpose you have been performing sacrifice, O king."
The king joyfully accepted it with his head lowered and said, "So be it." He accepted that gold pot filled with spiritual foodstuff given by the Lord. He saluted that wonderful being of pleasing appearance and with great delight circumambulated him. Obtaining the rice pudding prepared by the gods from Vishnu's messenger, King Dasharatha became as joyful as a pauper on obtaining wealth. Then that most brilliant being of wonderful appearance, having accomplished his task, vanished from there. Shining with beams of delight, he went to the queens' quarters, which shone like the sky illuminated by the full moon in autumn. Entering the inner chambers, he said to Kausalya: "Take this rice pudding which can bestow upon you a son." Then the king gave to Kausalya one half of the rice pudding, and to Sumitra he gave one half of what was left. For obtaining a son, he gave one half of what was left to Kaikeyi. After thinking for a while, the highly intelligent king gave to Sumitra the remaining portion of rice pudding, which was equal to immortal nectar. In this way, the king distributed the rice pudding to his different queens.
When the king's noble wives received the rice pudding, they considered it an honor and their minds became overwhelmed with joy. After the king's consorts separately ate the rice pudding, they could feel before long the presence within their wombs of embryos whose splendor equaled fire or the sun. Seeing that his wives were pregnant and that his desire was to be fulfilled, he felt as happy as does Lord Vishnu in the spiritual world. At that time, he was worshiped by Indra, siddhas and sages.
The Demigods Engender Monkey Warriors
When Lord Vishnu manifested Himself as the sons of Dasharatha, the self-born Lord Brahma said to the gods: "Vishnu is true to His promise, valiant and our well-wisher. Procreate soldiers and assistants for Him with forms which they can change at will. They should be conversant with magical spells, brave, swift as the wind in speed, conversant in politics, endowed with intelligence, equal to Lord Vishnu in prowess, indestructible, conversant with devices, endowed with supernatural bodies, knowledgeable about all types of weapons and like the demigods who partake of the nectar of immortality. In the wombs of the principle apsaras and gandharvas, in the daughters of yakshas and nagas,22 in the wombs of bears and vidyadharis,23 kinnaris24 and monkeys beget offspring equal to yourselves in prowess. I have already begotten Jambavan, the chief of the bears, from my mouth. He was born suddenly when I once yawned."
Having been thus instructed by Brahma, they accepted his command and begot sons in the form of monkeys. The great souls, seers, siddhas, vidyadharas, nagas and caranas begot heroic sons as forest creatures. Lord Indra begot Vali, the lord of the monkeys, who was like Indra himself. The sun, which is the best of heat generators, begot Sugriva. Brihaspati begot the great monkey named Tara, the most intelligent of all the monkeys chiefs. The glorious monkey Gandhamadana was born as the son of Kuvera, the giver of wealth. Vishvakarma begot a great monkey named Nala. Agni's son was the glorious Nila, whose splendor was like fire and who surpassed everyone in splendor, fame and prowess. The two Ashvins, endowed with the wealth of physical beauty, personally begot Mainda and Dvivida. Varuna begot the monkey named Sushena. The mighty Parjanya begot Sharabha. From the wind god, Vayu, was born the glorious monkey named Hanuman, whose body was as strong as a thunderbolt and equal to Garuda in speed. He is the most intelligent and strong of all the various monkeys.
In this way, they gave birth to many thousands of monkeys prepared to kill the ten-headed demon Ravana. They had immeasurable strength, were heroic, outstanding, and able to assume any form at will. Their powerful bodies resembled elephants or mountains. The bears, monkeys and langurs (a long tailed monkey) took birth quickly. Each displayed a form, appearance and prowess like that of the demigod who begot him, but the langurs were endowed with slightly more prowess than the others. Thus, from the wombs of bears were warrior bears born, and monkeys from the Kinnaris. The famous gods, maharshis, gandharvas, Garuda, nagas, kimpurushas, siddhas, vidyadharas and serpents happily gave birth to many thousands of monkeys. The caranas begot from the wombs of the principle apsaras, vidyadharis, daughters of nagas and gandharvis, heroic sons who were all forest-dwelling monkeys with gigantic bodies.
They could assume any form at will and were endowed with strength. They could wander wherever they wished. They were like lions and tigers in pride and strength. They could all use boulders as projectiles and mountains as weapons. They all had claws and teeth as weapons and were skilled in the use of various arms. They could shake great mountains and split standing trees. By their swift movement they could agitate the ocean, who is the lord of rivers. They could rend the earth with their feet and jump across great oceans. They could enter into the sky and even catch a cloud. They could even capture mad elephants wandering in the jungle. By their yells they could cause screeching birds to fall. One million such great-souled monkeys who could assume any form and lead the monkey troops were born. They were the leaders among the main troops of monkeys. They gave birth to valiant sons who were the best of generals. Others resorted to the peaks of Rikshavan Mountain by the thousands. Others went to many different mountains and forests.
All the monkey generals rallied around the two brothers, Sugriva, the son of the sun god, and Vali, the son of Indra. Others followed Nala, Nila and Hanuman. They were all endowed with the strength of Garuda and were skillful in combat. They could kill any lions, tigers or snakes roaming in the jungle. The strong-armed Vali was endowed with great power and exceptional prowess. By the strength of his arms, he protected the bears, monkeys and langurs. Those heroes possessing many different bodily types and distinguishing characteristics covered this earth with its mountains, forests and oceans. The earth was covered by these mighty leaders of the monkey chiefs who resembled masses of clouds or mountain peaks. They had fearsome bodily appearances and had taken birth to help Lord Rama.
Birth of Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna
When the horse sacrifice and the sacrifice for procuring a son were concluded, the immortal demigods took their share of the offerings and departed as they had come. Having completed the period of consecration, accompanied by his wives, King Dasharatha entered the city with his servants and soldiers. Having been appropriately honored by the king, the monarchs of the world were satisfied and, offering respects to the great sage Rishyashringa, returned to their own lands. Upon leaving the city of Ayodhya to return to their own homes, the soldiers of the glorious kings, being overwhelmed with joy, shone brightly. When the kings had departed, King Dasharatha again entered his capital with the topmost brahmanas walking before him. Being properly honored and followed by the wise king and his entourage, Rishyashringa departed with his wife Shanta. Sending them all away in this manner and completely achieving his desired goal, the king happily resided in Ayodhya while thinking about the birth of his sons.
After the sacrifice had been completed, one year elapsed. Then in the twelfth month called Caitra (April), on the ninth day, when the asterism Punarvasu was in the ascendant, the five planets - Sun, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus - were exalted, and Jupiter and the Moon were in the sign of Cancer, the Lord of the universe who is worshiped in all the worlds appeared from the womb of Kausalya as Rama, possessing divine marks. Her son was manifested from the half portion of the rice pudding given by Lord Vishnu. He was the most fortunate son of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. His eyes were reddish, His arms strong, His lips red and His voice like the sound of a drum. Kausalya shone with the immeasurable splendor of her son, like Aditi with her son Indra, the lord of the gods who carries a thunderbolt in his hand. To Kaikeyi was born a son of true prowess named Bharata. Being produced from the quarter portion of the rice pudding, he was endowed with all the transcendental qualities of Lord Vishnu Himself. Then, Sumitra gave birth to two sons - Lakshmana and Shatrughna. They were valorous, expert in all weaponry and endowed with one eighth of the qualities of Lord Vishnu. Bharata was born when the constellation Pushya was in the ascendant and the Sun was in Pisces. The two sons of Sumitra were born when the constellation Ashlesha was in the ascendant and the sun was in Cancer. The four great-souled-sons of the king were born separately. They were endowed with all good qualities, and resembled one another. In splendor they were equal to the four stars of the constellation Bhadrapada.
The gandharvas sang sweetly and the groups of apsaras danced. Celestial drums resounded and showers of flowers fell from the sky. There was a great celebration in the city of Ayodhya by the people. In the streets crowded with people were troupes of actors and dancers. The broad streets echoed with the sounds of singers, musicians and other people and were strewn with all kinds of precious gems. The king presented worthy gifts to the panegyrists, bards and ballad singers, and gave riches and thousands of cows to the brahmanas. He then performed the name-giving ceremonies for his sons on the eleventh day after Their births. The sage Vasishtha was pleased to name the eldest Rama, Kaikeyi's son he named Bharata, and Sumitra's two sons he named Lakshmana and Shatrughna.
The sage fed the brahmanas, the townspeople and also the residents of the nation and gave many mounds of brilliant jewels to the brahmanas. He had all his children's sacraments performed, beginning with the birth ceremony. The eldest of them was outstanding like a flag and was most dear to His father. Everyone considered Him to be just like Svayambhuva Manu. All four sons were conversant with the scriptures, heroic and engaged in the welfare of the world. They were all endowed with knowledge and adorned with all good qualities. Among them, however, Rama was the greatest and of unfailing prowess. He was loved by everyone, even like the spotless moon. He greatly enjoyed riding on the backs of elephants and horses and was skilled at driving chariots. He delighted in the study of archery and was devoted to serving His father.
From his childhood, Lakshmana, the increaser of wealth, was always very affectionate to His elder brother Rama, the joy of the world and served Him bodily. Lakshmana, who was endowed with good fortune, was like another life force of Rama outside of Himself. Without him that excellent Rama would not sleep, without him He would not eat even tasty dishes when brought. Whenever Rama, the descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, went out on horseback to hunt, Lakshmana would follow behind Him with bow and arrows to protect Him. Lakshmana's younger brother, Shatrughna, was to Bharata always dearer than life itself, and Bharata was equally dear to Shatrughna.
King Dasharatha was extremely pleased with his four highly fortunate sons, as Brahma is with the demigods who guard the four directions: Indra, Varuna, Yama and Kuvera. When all four sons had acquired knowledge, they were adorned with all good qualities. They were shy, glorious, omniscient and far-sighted. King Dasharatha, the father of all of Them, who were potent and as bright as lamps, was as happy as Brahma, the ruler of the universe. Those tigers among men were also devoted to Vedic studies. They were devoted to the service of their father and expert in the science of archery.
Now the righteous King Dasharatha, concerned about Their marriages, consulted with his family priests and relatives. While the great soul was thinking about this in the midst of his ministers, the powerful sage Vishvamitra arrived. Desiring an audience with the king, he said to the doorkeepers: "Quickly tell the king that I, the son of Gadhi of the Kushika Dynasty, have arrived." On hearing his message, they ran to the king's quarters with bewildered minds, impelled by the order of the sage. When they reached the king's quarters, they informed him of the arrival of the sage Vishvamitra. Hearing this news from the guards, the king, being overjoyed, went with his family priest to greet him, just as Indra welcomes Lord Brahma.
The king saw that the ascetic given to observing vows was shining with light. The king's face reflected delight as he offered the sage water for washing the hands. Accepting that handwash from the king as recommended in scripture, Vishvamitra inquired about the health and well-being of the king. Then the virtuous sage inquired about the well-being of the city, the treasury, the state, the royal family and friends: "Are all your conquered surrounding enemies being submissive to you? Are duties of sacrifice to the gods and responsibilities to human beings being properly carried out?" The excellent and fortunate sage greeted Vasishtha and the other sages, as was proper, and inquired about their welfare. With joyful minds, they all entered the king's court. After being honored by the king, they all took their seats accordingly.
Then the magnanimous king joyfully spoke to the great sage Vishvamitra, honoring him: "Like the attainment of the nectar of immortality, rains in a drought-stricken land, the birth of a son from one's own wife in an issueless family, the retrieval of lost valuables, or the joy of a great celebration, so do I consider your arrival. Please be welcomed, O great sage. What desire of yours may I gladly fulfill and how? O brahmana, you are the most worthy person for me to serve. By luck you have arrived, O respectful one. Today my birth is successful and my life fortunate. My night has ended in a fortuitous sunrise now that I have seen you, the lord of the brahmanas. Previously, you were honored with the title Orajarshi' (a royal sage), but you increased your effulgence through austerities and have now become a brahmarshi (a brahmana sage). You are so deserving of my worship. Your visit has proven wonderful because it is so highly purifying for me. O master, my palace has now become a holy place because of your presence. Please tell me what it is you want. For what purpose have you come? Favored by you, I wish to promote your cause. You need not worry about its success, O sage of noble vows. I shall accomplish whatever you desire. You are like a god for me. O brahmana, I have this day attained such good fortune. By dint of your visit, I have fully achieved the results of the highest religious merit."
After the king had spoken in that way with humble words that were pleasing to the heart and ears, the most excellent sage, who was famous for his noteworthy qualities, became exceedingly happy.
Vishvamitra Asks King Dasharatha for Rama
Hearing the wonderful and detailed words of King Dasharatha, the splendorous Vishvamitra's hair stood on end and he said: "O tiger among kings, in this world you alone are worthy of the praise you have spoken, no one else, because you are descended from such a great dynasty and are instructed by the sage Vasishtha. Make a firm resolve to accomplish the purpose which I carry in my heart. I, O best of persons, stand consecrated for the execution of a sacrifice to attain my goal. But it is being obstructed by two rakshasas who can assume any form at will. Each time, when the sacrifice has neared conclusion, the two rakshasas, Marica and Subahu, who are very powerful and learned in the skills of the demons, have caused huge amounts of flesh and blood to rain down upon the sacrificial altar. Because my undertaking is thus being interrupted, I left that place disappointed after having done so much hard work. O monarch, I do not have the mentality to give vent to anger. The nature of this sacrifice is that once started, no curse can be pronounced. Therefore, O lion among kings, your eldest and valiant son Rama, whose prowess is unfailing and whose hair is blackish like the wings of a crow, should be given by you to me. Being protected by me, He is certainly capable by His own transcendental power to destroy the hostile rakshasas. I will without a doubt reward Him manifoldly, whereby His fame will extend throughout the three worlds. Besides, upon meeting Rama, the two rakshasas do not stand a chance in any event. Other than Rama, there is no one bold enough to kill them. Proud of their powers, the two sinful wretches are under the influence of the curse of time. O tiger among kings, they are no match for the great soul Rama. Do not be too affectionate to your son, O king. I promise you, know that the two rakshasas are already killed. I know that the great soul Rama's prowess is undeterrable, and so do the glorious Vasishtha and these other ascetics standing here. If you want to achieve lasting virtue and great fame in this world, O king of kings, you should give me Rama. If, O descendant of Kakutstha, all your counselors headed by Vasishtha give you their consent, then let Rama go. You should give your dear son, the lotus-eyed Rama, who is Himself unattached, for the ten nights of the sacrifice. Act so that this sacrifice of mine does not exceed the allotted time. Bless you! Do not let your mind grieve."
After having spoken such virtuous words, the righteous and effulgent sage Vishvamitra was silent. Hearing the good words spoken by Vishvamitra, the king was overcome with grief, began to tremble and fainted. Regaining consciousness, he got up and became depressed, being overcome with fear. Thus hearing the sage's words, which were painful for the heart and mind, the great-souled king became mentally deranged and fell off of his throne.
King Dasharatha Refuses Vishvamitra's Request
After hearing what Vishvamitra had spoken, King Dasharatha remained unconscious for almost an hour. When he regained consciousness, he spoke the following: "My lotus-eyed Rama is less than sixteen years old. I do not see how He is capable of fighting with rakshasas. With this army of one akshauhini25 I, lord and protector, shall fight with those creatures of the night. My heroic soldiers are skilled in fighting with weapons and can perform extraordinarily in battle. They are able to fight with rakshasas. You need not take Rama. Positioned at the head of the army, I shall personally, with bow in hand, protect your sacrifice. As long as I have life I shall fight the rakshasas. Your religious observance will be protected and free from interference. I shall go myself. You need not take Rama. He is but a boy who has not yet finished His studies. Neither does He know how to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of His enemies. He does not possess the strength of weapons, nor is He experienced in battle. Neither is He a match for the rakshasas, for they fight treacherously.
"Separated from Rama, I cannot bear living more than an hour. O tiger among sages, you need not take Rama. If you still wish to take Rama, O brahmana of noble vows, take Him with me and my army of four divisions. O Vishvamitra, descendant of Kushika, I was born sixty-thousand years ago and it was only with great difficulty that I was able to obtain Rama as my son. You need not take Rama. Among my four sons, Rama is the oldest and most virtuous, and I am therefore extremely affectionate to Him. You need not take Rama.
"What strength do the rakshasas have, who are their sons and who are they? O best of sages, how tall are they and who protects them? How can the rakshasas be counteracted by Rama, or by my troops, or by me, considering that the rakshasas are such treacherous fighters? Tell me everything about how I can defeat the rakshasas in battle, for they are arrogant in their strength."
Hearing the king's words, the sage Vishvamitra replied: "There is a rakshasa named Ravana born from the dynasty of Pulastya26. By dint of a boon he received from Brahma, he is greatly disturbing the three worlds. He is very strong, of extraordinary prowess and surrounded by many rakshasas. It is said, O maharaja, that Ravana, the ruler of the rakshasas, is the son of the sage Vishrava and therefore the actual half-brother of Kuvera27. When the mighty rakshasa does not care to disrupt sacrifices, he sends those two formidable rakshasas, Marica and Subahu to do so."
Thus addressed by the sage, the king then said to him: "I cannot stand in battle with that evil demon. Bestow your mercy, O knower of virtue, upon my son. For me who have little good fortune, you are a god and a preceptor. The gods, demons, gandharvas, yakshas, birds, and serpents are unable to defeat Ravana in battle, what to speak of human beings! That Ravana actually takes away the power of the strong in battle. I am unable to combat with him or with his army, whether I am accompanied by my army or my sons, O best of sages. By no means, O brahmana, shall I relinquish my youthful son who resembles one of the immortal gods and who is unfamiliar with warfare. Now, if the sons of Sunda and Upasunda, Marica and Subahu, who are equal in battle to Yamaraja, the lord of death, are the ones who are disrupting your sacrifice, I shall not give you my son. They are very powerful and well-trained. I, accompanied by my supporters, shall go into battle with either one of the two, otherwise I, along with my relatives, shall beg your forgiveness."
Vishvamitra, the descendant of Kushika, was seized with a fit of rage because of the prattle spoken by the king. Like a sacrificial fire into which oblations of ghee28 have been poured, the sage burned with anger.
Vishvamitra's Anger At Dasharatha's Refusal
Having heard the king's words, which were full of mispronunciations due to affection for his son, Vishvamitra angrily replied to the king: "O lord of the earth, after conceding to fulfill my purpose, you now wish to break your promise. This is improper for the descendants of Raghu and will lead to the destruction of the dynasty. If this is fine with you, O king, I shall leave as I came. As a breaker of promises, be happy in the company of your friends."
On account of Vishvamitra's anger, the whole earth shook and the gods became extremely fearful. Realizing that the whole world was about to be devastated, the great sage Vasishtha, who was sober and an executor of noble vows, said to the king: "Your Majesty, you are like a second Dharmaraja29 born in the dynasty of Ikshvaku. As determined, dedicated to noble vows and glorious as you are, you should not obliterate righteousness. In all the three worlds it is known that you, King Dasharatha, are a righteous soul. Do your duty. Do not harbor unrighteousness. Not carrying out what you have promised to do will destroy the merit you have accrued from acts of piety. Therefore, let Rama go. Whether they have mastered the use of weapons or not, the rakshasas will not be able to defeat Rama, for He will be protected by Vishvamitra, as immortal nectar is protected by a circle of fire.
"Behold here Vishvamitra, the personification of righteousness and endowed with superexcellent prowess. He is the wisest person in this world and engaged in the practice of austerities. He knows how to use different kinds of weapons. No one within the three worlds of moving and nonmoving things knows him, nor will anyone ever know him, neither gods, rishis, immortals, rakshasas, gandharvas, yakshas, kinnaras or great nagas. All weapons were born as the sons of the supremely righteous Prajapati Krishashva. These were given in the past to Vishvamitra at a time when he ruled over a kingdom. Those sons of Krishashva, being born from the daughters of Daksha, were different looking, mighty, effulgent and victorious. Jaya and Suprabha, the two daughters of Daksha, were well-proportioned. They gave birth to one hundred extremely effulgent missiles and weapons. By dint of a boon she had received, Jaya gave birth to fifty formless sons of immeasurable power for destroying the armies of demons. Suprabha also gave birth to fifty sons, who were known as Samharas (destroyers), and were insurmountable, unassailable and most powerful.
"This Vishvamitra, the descendant of Kushika, is thoroughly familiar with those weapons. He is also capable of creating new ones. There is nothing not known in the past or future by this great soul and chief of sages, being the knower of righteousness, O king. Vishvamitra has such prowess and splendor and is highly renowned. You should not, therefore, entertain any doubt about Rama's going with Vishvamitra. Of course, Vishvamitra is personally able to destroy those rakshasas. The purpose of his request to you is so that the glory will go to your son." The king's mind was pacified by the words of the sage and thus the best of the Raghu Dynasty rejoiced. He then wisely acquiesced to allow Rama to accompany Vishvamitra.
Rama and Lakshmana's Departure with Vishvamitra
After the sage Vasishtha had spoken in that way, King Dasharatha, his face shining with delight, personally summoned Rama along with Lakshmana. He was then blessed by His mother and father, Queen Kausalya and King Dasharatha, and consecrated with auspicious prayers by the family priest Vasishtha. Smelling the head of his son, King Dasharatha then gave Him to Vishvamitra with a joyful mind. Seeing the lotus-eyed Rama following Vishvamitra, a dustless breeze pleasing to the touch began to blow. There was a shower of flowers from the sky and the air reverberated with the sound of celestial drums and conchshells as Rama departed.
Vishvamitra walked in front, followed by Rama of wide fame. Rama's face was decorated with sidelocks of hair and He held a bow in His hands. Behind Him followed Lakshmana, the son of Sumitra. Carrying a quiver on Their backs and a bow in Their hands, Rama and Lakshmana shone brightly in all directions. They looked like a pair of three-headed serpents.30 Unhurriedly following the sage, as the Ashvini-kumaras31 followed Brahma, the two youths shone with glory, illuminating Vishvamitra with Their effulgence, and were irreproachable. Following the sage Vishvamitra, with bow in hand, They were well-dressed. Their hands were protected by alligator gloves, They carried swords and were splendorous. The bodies of the two youthful brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, were attractive. They shone with glory, illuminating Vishvamitra with Their effulgence, and were irreproachable. They resembled the two sons of the fire god Agni who follow the inconceivable Lord Shiva.
Having gone a distance of five miles along the southern bank of the Sarayu River, Vishvamitra spoke the following sweet words to Rama: "Dear Rama, sip some water from the river. Do not let any time be lost. Receive from me instruction in the use of the two mantras,32 bala and atibala, by which you will never become tired or feverish, nor will You ever lose Your beauty. Neither will You, while asleep or offguard, be overcome by the rakshasas who frequent the night. No one will have arms as strong as Yours on this earth. In all the three worlds, O Rama, there will be no one equal to You by the recitation of the two mantras, bala and atibala. There will be no one equal to You in this world in good fortune, in cleverness, in knowledge, in resolute intelligence, or in answers and replies. When You have received instruction in these two mantras, there will be no one who can equal You, for bala and atibala are the mothers of all knowledge. By reciting the two mantras You will never feel hunger or thirst, O Rama. Accept these mantras, O descendent of the Raghu Dynasty, for the protection of the whole world. By studying these spells, You will become famous in the world. These two powerful spells are sons of Brahma, the grandsire of the world. I wish to bestow these mantras upon You, O descendent of Kakutstha, for You are qualified to receive them, O prince. There is certainly no one else who possesses the manifold qualities You do. When nourished with the practice of austerities, these two mantras will increase manifoldly in potency."
Then Rama, who is already pure, sipped water three times, His face illuminated with joy. He accepted the instructions on the use of the two mantras from the great self-realized sage. Possessed of that knowledge, Rama of formidable prowess shone brightly like the resplendent autumn sun surrounded by thousands of brilliant rays. After Vishvamitra taught Rama all the duties in relation to him as Their preceptor, the three of them passed the night there comfortably on the bank of the Sarayu River. The two excellent sons of King Dasharatha lay down upon beds of grass, which were unfit for Them. Because of being fondled by the words of Vishvamitra, they passed the night happily.
Passing the Night at the Confluence of the Ganges and Sarayu
When night was over at the crack of dawn, the great sage Vishvamitra spoke to the two princes, descendants of Kakutstha, lying on Their beds of leaves: "O good son of Kausalya, Rama, it is day break. Please arise, O tiger among men. You must perform your daily spiritual duties." Hearing these noble words of the sage, the two supermen bathed, offered libations to the gods and ancestors, then recited the most excellent prayer.33 After finishing Their daily duties, the two valiant youths, being extremely satisfied, offered prayers of respect to Vishvamitra, who was rich in austerity, and stood before him ready to go.
Proceeding along, They reached the auspicious confluence of the Sarayu and Ganges, from where They could see the divine Ganges which flows through the three worlds.34 Near there was a holy hermitage of self-realized sages who had practiced extreme austerities for many thousands of years. Rama and Lakshmana were very pleased to see that holy hermitage. Then They spoke the following words to the great soul Vishvamitra: "Whose holy hermitage is this? What person resides in it? O master, We two desire to know. We are both extremely curious."
Hearing Their words, the elevated sage laughed and said: "Listen, Rama, whose hermitage this was previously. Cupid is the personification of love, so say the wise. Once Lord Shiva was engaged in the practice of strict penances here. After finishing his meditation, the lord of gods, Shiva, in the company of his consort Parvati and the maruts,35 went for a stroll. As he was going along, the foolish Cupid tried to overcome him, upon which Shiva let out a resounding roar. O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, Shiva threw a look of anger towards Cupid, causing all the limbs to fall off that fool's body. All Cupid's limbs were thus destroyed. So it was that he was rendered bodiless by Lord Shiva. Thus Cupid became known as Ananga (bodiless), O Rama. The place where he lost his body became known as the glorious land of Anga. This is that holy hermitage of the great Lord Shiva and these hermits engaged in the practice of virtue were previously the disciples of Shiva. They are completely sinless. Let us pass the night here, O handsome Rama, at the confluence of these two holy rivers. Tomorrow we shall cross. Let us all go to the hermitage after cleaning ourselves in the river. Our stay here will be comfortable. We shall happily pass the night here after bathing, reciting prayers and offering oblations of ghee into the sacred fire, O best of men."
As they were talking there, the sages of the hermitage were able to see them by their mystic vision and began to rejoice. The sages then offered to Vishvamitra water for washing his feet and hands, and everything else that was to be offered to a guest. Then they performed the ritual for receiving a guest for Rama and Lakshmana. After being thanked by Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshmana, the sages delighted them with stories. Then, at sunset, they all together recited their evening prayers according to regulation. Being taken by the sages of noble vows who resided there, they passed the night very happily in the hermitage associated with Cupid. The pious soul and best of sages Vishvamitra entertained the two princes by telling Them enjoyable stories.
History of the Rakshasi Tataka
Thereafter, at sunrise, when the two chastisers of enemies had finished Their morning duties, They, with Vishvamitra leading, went to the bank of the Ganges. All the great souled sages who were observing severe vows presented Them with an excellent boat and then said to Vishvamitra: "Your holiness, please get in the boat, followed by the princes. Have a safe journey. Do not delay." Vishvamitra replied: "So be it." Then he offered respects to the sages and, along with Rama and Lakshmana, crossed the river. When they were in the middle of the river, they heard a sound that was agitating the water. The mighty Rama, along with His younger brother Lakshmana, wanted to know what was causing that noise. There in the middle of the river, Rama asked the sage: "What is this tumultuous sound at the junction of the two waters?" Hearing Rama's words of curiosity, the great soul Vishvamitra related the cause of the sound: "On Mount Kailasa36, O Rama, there is an excellent lake created by the mind of Lord Brahma. For that reason, O tiger among men, it is called Manasa-sarovara (Mental Lake). From that lake flows a river which encircles Ayodhya. Because that river sprang from the lake (saras) created by Lord Brahma, it is known by the good name "Sarayu." That unusual sound is caused by the entrance of the Sarayu into the Ganges. O Rama, offer proper respects."
The two most virtuous youths then offered respects to the two rivers. Reaching the southern shore of the Ganges, they left the boat and began walking. Seeing a frightening forest devoid of any sign of human habitation, the prince said to the great sage: "O how dense this forest is! It is swarming with chirping crickets. It resounds with the terrifying sounds of ferocious beasts of prey and vultures and with the frightful shrieks of many other kinds of birds. It is infested with lions, tigers, boars, monkeys, and overgrown with dhava, ashvakarna, kakubha, bilva, tinduka, patala and badari trees. What is the name of this scary forest?"
The greatly powerful sage Vishvamitra said to Him: "Hear, my dear descendant of Kakutstha, about to whom this frightening forest belongs. Previously there were two kingdoms here, called Malada and Karusha, which were created by the efforts of the gods. At the time when Indra killed the demon Vritrasura,37 Indra became contaminated. Thereupon the thousand-eyed Indra, became afflicted with hunger and with the sin of killing a brahmana. The gods and sages who were wealthy in austerity freed Indra of his contamination by bathing him with pots of water from the Ganges. Depositing in this land the contamination arisen from the body of Lord Indra, the gods rejoiced. Indra thereby became pure and free from sin, as he had been before. Being pleased with this place, Indra conferred an excellent boon upon it: OThese two tracts of land will grow prosperous and will be known in the world as Malada (Dirtying) and Karusha (Filthy) because they carry the impurity arisen from my body.' OWell done! Well done!' said the gods to Indra, after seeing how the wise Indra honored the land. The two kingdoms did prosper for a long time, O subduer of enemies. Malada and Karusha were joyful due to an abundance of food and wealth.
"Now when some time had passed, there appeared a Yakshini38 who could assume any form at will. She had the strength of one thousand elephants. Her name is Tataka, bless You child, and she is the wife of the rakshasa Sunda. Her son, Marica, is as strong as Indra, has big round arms, a huge head, a wide mouth and gigantic body. The rakshasa of frightening form is always terrifying the people. The two kingdoms of Malada and Karusha are always being devastated by the wicked demoness Tataka. She lives about four miles ahead, blocking our path. Therefore, we should proceed to where Tataka's forest is. Relying on the strength of Your arms, slay that wicked demoness. By my order, make this land once again free from disturbance. As such, no one is able to visit this land. It has thus fallen into decay, O Rama, due to the unbearable and horrible Yakshini. Thus have I related to You everything regarding why this forest appears so frightening, how the Yakshini devastated the entire land, and how she does not desist from such activity to this very day."
How Tataka Married Sunda and Gave Birth to Marica
Hearing the superb narration from the sage of immeasurable glory, the tiger among men inquired with sweet words: "Since it is said that yakshinis are not very strong, O best of sages, how is it that a weak female could have the strength of a thousand elephants?" Hearing the pleasantly sweet words spoken by Rama, whose strength was immeasurable, Vishvamitra replied to Rama and Lakshmana: "Hear how she became so powerful. Though only a frail woman, she possesses great strength due to a boon which she received. Formerly there was a very powerful yaksha named Suketu. Being issueless, the pious yaksha performed tremendous austerities. Lord Brahma became very pleased by the austerities of that lord of yakshas. Therefore Brahma gave to him a jewel-like young girl named Tataka. Brahma also gave to Tataka the strength of one thousand elephants. He did not, however, give a son to the yaksha. Just as her youthful beauty was beginning to increase, the yaksha gave her as a wife to the demon Sunda, the son of Jambha. After some time, the yakshini gave birth to a son named Marica, who was insurmountable and who became a rakshasa due to a curse.
"When the sage Agastya killed the demon Sunda by the strength of a mantra, Tataka and her son wished to rush upon the sage. Enraged, Tataka ran towards the sage, roaring fiercely, to devour him. Seeing her rushing towards him, the sage Agastya said to Marica: "Become a rakshasa!" Full of anger, Agastya cursed Tataka also: OBecome an ugly man-eating rakshasi with a hideous face! Give up your present comely form and assume a frightening appearance!' Being cursed in this way, Tataka became incensed with anger. Thus she ravages this land blessed by the activities of the sage Agastya. For the welfare of the cows and brahmanas, O descendant of Raghu, kill this most cruel yakshini of evil conduct. No one dares to kill this cursed demoness, O descendant of Raghu, besides Yourself in all the three worlds. O best of men, You should not feel contempt for the deed of killing this woman. For the sake of the four castes, a prince must perform such deeds. Whether with cruelty or without cruelty, with sin or fault, for the purpose of protecting the citizens, you must always execute Your duty. This is the eternal duty of one who carries the burden of royalty. O descendant of Kakutstha, kill the sinful wretch, for there is not the least piety in her. It is heard that previously Indra killed Manthara, the daughter of Virocana (the son of Prahlada), when she wanted to destroy the earth. O Rama, previously the mother of Shukracarya and the devoted wife of Brighu wanted to rid the world of Indra. Knowing this, Vishnu killed them. These and many other women were killed by great-souled princes. Such sinful and ignoble women were killed by great persons. Therefore abandon any sympathy and slay her by my order, O prince."
Rama Slays Tataka
Hearing the impassioned words of the sage, Prince Rama, the descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, being of firm resolution, joined His palms and replied: "My father King Dasharatha instructed Me in the midst of his preceptors, OBy my order and by the gravity of that order, You must carry out without any doubt the instructions of the descendant of Kushika, Vishvamitra.' I cannot disobey his instructions. Having heard these instructions of My father, by the order of you, a knower of the Absolute Truth, I shall doubtlessly slay the demoness Tataka. For the benefit of the cows, brahmanas and this land, I am prepared to carry out your instructions."
Speaking thus, Rama, the subduer of enemies, grasped the middle of His bow with His fist and plucked the bowstring, producing a loud sound that penetrated all directions. All the creatures inhabiting the forest of Tataka were terrified by the sound. Tataka too was infuriated and bewildered by the sound. Thinking about that sound, the rakshasi became overwhelmed with anger. Enraged, she ran in the direction from which the sound had proceeded. Seeing the furious, ugly demoness with a hideous face who was really huge in size, Rama said to Lakshmana: "Look, Lakshmana, at the terrible, frightening form of this yakshini. Seeing her can strike terror into the hearts of the timid. See how difficult she is to overcome, possessing magical powers. I shall repel her by severing off her ears and nose. I do not feel inclined to kill her because she is a woman. I shall therefore destroy her power and her ability to move. That is my idea."
Even as Rama spoke, Tataka, overwhelmed with anger, waving her arms wildly and roaring, ran towards Rama. Threatening her with the sound "hum," the sage Vishvamitra exclaimed: "Good luck to the two descendants of the Raghu Dynasty! Victory to Them!" Tataka threw up a terrible cloud of dust around the two princes. Thus she bewildered Them for almost an hour with the dense dust cloud. Then, by means of her magical powers, she caused a tremendous shower of stones to fall down upon the princes, at which Rama became very angry. By letting loose a shower of arrows, Rama repelled her great deluge of stones. Then He cut off the approaching demoness' arms with arrows. Having her arms severed, the exhausted demoness stood nearby moaning. Out of anger, Lakshmana cut off her ears and nose. At that, the yakshini assumed many different forms and vanished from sight, bewildering Them with her magical power. Releasing another formidable shower of stones, she moved about unseen.
Seeing the two princes being covered all around by the shower of stones, the son of Gadhi, the glorious Vishvamitra, spoke the following words: "Enough of Your pity, Rama! This wicked creature is most sinful. Before this defiler of sacrifices increases in magical strength, kill her, for sunset is approaching. Rakshasas become unassailable after sundown." Although the yakshini was invisible, Rama found her out by sound and struck her with arrows, obstructing her on all sides. Although she had been counteracted by the network of arrows, because of her magical powers, she, bellowing loudly, was able to rush towards Rama and Lakshmana. As she rushed toward Them with the force of a thunderbolt, Rama shot her in the breast with an arrow, and she fell dead. When Indra and the other gods saw that the fearsome demoness was dead, they offered respects to Rama and praised Him saying, "Well done! Well done!"
Highly pleased, the thousand-eyed Indra and all the gods then said to Vishvamitra: "O sage Vishvamitra, descendant of Kushika, bless you. Indra and all the gods are pleased by this deed. Please show affection to Rama, the descendant of Raghu. O brahmana, please give to Rama the weapons born as the sons of the lord of creatures, Krishashva, who are of unfailing prowess and might due to their practice of austerities. Rama is a worthy recipient, O brahmana, for He is engaged in your service. A very great task must be executed by the prince for the gods." Speaking in this way, the jubilant gods offered their respects to Vishvamitra and returned to the heavens. By then it was sundown.
After that, the best of sages, being pleased by the slaying of Tataka, smelled the head of Rama and said: "Let us spend the night here, O handsome Rama. Tomorrow morning we shall go to the site of my hermitage." Hearing Vishvamitra's words, the son of Dasharatha was pleased and happily passed the night there in Tataka's forest. Being released from its curse, that very day the forest shone wonderfully, like the forest of Caitraratha.39 Having killed Tataka, the daughter of the yaksha, and having been praised by the hosts of gods and siddhas, He rested there with the sage until He was awoken in the morning.
Vishvamitra Bestows Divine Weapons to Rama
Having rested that night, the highly famous Vishvamitra laughed and spoke sweet words to Rama: "I am completely satisfied. Bless You, most famous prince. It is with great pleasure that I give You all the weapons. You shall be victorious, subduing Your enemies in this world, whether they be gods, demons, gandharvas or nagas. I give You all the divine weapons. Bless You. First, the highly shining discus of chastisement I give to You, O descendant of Raghu, then the discus of righteousness, the discus of time, as well as the discus of Lord Vishnu. Then I give You the thunderbolt weapon, O best of men, and the trident of Lord Shiva also, the weapon called brahma-shiras40 and one called aishika41. I also give You the most powerful of weapons, the unexcelled brahmastra42. I also present You with two fine and very shiny maces, modaki and shikhari, O tiger among men. Dharma-pasha (noose of righteousness) and kala-pasha (noose of time). I also give to You as well the most excellent noose of Varuna, the god of retribution. I give to You a pair of missiles, one dry and the other wet, O descendant of Raghu. I also give You a weapon called painaka that belongs to Lord Shiva and one which belongs to Lord Nariayana. I give You a weapon called shikhara of the fire god Agni and one called vayavya, which belongs to the wind god Vayu, O sinless one. I give You the pair of shakti43 weapons called hayashiras44 (horse's head) and kraunca45. Kankala46, the dreadful musala47, a kapalaka48 and a kinkini49, which are all fit for slaying rakshasas. I give You, O noble prince, the vidyadharas' weapon called nandana, which is a jewel among swords. I give the gandharvas' weapon called mohana, which bewilders the enemy, and also the two weapons of Soma, called prasvapana50 and prashamana51, O descendant of Raghu. I give You the weapons varshana52, shoshana53, santapana54 and vilapana55, as well as Cupid's favorite and difficult to counteract weapon called madana56. I give You the dear weapon of the gandharvas called manava and the favorite weapon of the witches called mohana57, O royal prince. I give You the weapons called tamasa, O tiger among men, and the very powerful saumana, the samvarta and the indefeatable mausala58, the satya59 weapon, the powerful mayamaya60 weapon, and the sun god's weapon called tejahprabha, which absorbs the enemy's strength. I give You the moon god's weapon called shishira61, Tvashta's called sudaruna62, Bhaga's weapon daruna63 and Manu's weapon shiteshu64. Immediately accept these very powerful and useful weapons, which can be manipulated as You wish, O prince Rama."
Having cleansed himself and sitting facing east, the sage gladly revealed to Rama those unexcelled mantras. He bestowed to Rama those weapons whose full deployment was even difficult for the gods. Even as the wise sage Vishvamitra was reciting the mantras, all the weapons dutifully came and stood before Rama. With folded hands, they all joyfully addressed Rama: "Here we are, O most merciful descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. We are Your servants. Whatever You wish, we shall do. Bless You." After Rama, had been addressed by the highly powerful weapons, He took each one and stroked it with His hand. Then He commanded them: "Appear in My mind when I need you." Thereafter Rama with a gladdened mind offered respects to the great sage Vishvamitra and began the journey.
Vishvamitra Teaches Rama How to Retract the Weapons
Having accepted the weapons, the sweet-faced and pure Rama, just as He was about to start walking, said to Vishvamitra: "O master, I have received weapons which make Me formidable even for the gods. Now, O best of sages, I wish you to teach me the method of retracting them." Speaking thus, Vishvamitra, whose splendor was great and whose resolution was unbreakable, imparted to Rama the knowledge of retracting the weapons:
"Satyavan, satyakirti, dhrishta, rabhasa, pratiharatara, pranmukha, avanmukha, lakshya, alakshya, dridhanabha, sunabha, dashaksha, shatavaktra, dashashirsha, shatodara, padmanabha, mahanabha, dundunabha, svanabha, jyotisha, shakuna, nairasya, vimala, daityanashaka, yaugandhara, vinidra, shucibahu, mahabahu, nishkali, viruca, sarcimali, dhritimali, vrittiman, rucira, pitrya, saumanasa, vidhuta, makara, paravira, rati, dhana, dhanya, kamarupa, kamaruci, moha, avarana, jrimbhaka, sarpanatha, panthana and varuna - all of these effulgent sons of Krishashva, who are capable of changing their forms at will, I bestow upon You, for You are worthy, O Rama. Bless You."
"Very well," said Rama, the descendant of Kakutstha, cheerfully. The bodies of those personified weapons were extremely effulgent and pleasing. Some of them were like burning coals; some were as dark as smoke; some were like the sun and moon. They stood there bent slightly forward with their hands joined. Standing respectfully, they addressed Rama with sweet words: "Here we are, O lion among men, we shall do whatever we can." Rama said to them: "You may go as you so wish. When I need you, be present in My mind to help Me." They replied: "So be it." Then they circumambulated Rama and bid Him goodbye, leaving as they had come.
As they continued walking, Rama spoke the following sweet words to the great sage Vishvamitra: "What is that stand of trees resembling a mass of clouds not very far from yonder mountain? I am extremely curious about it. It is very scenic looking, populated with wild beasts and mind-captivating. It is adorned with many kinds of melodious song birds. I can understand by the looks of this place that we have left the dreary forest of the frightful demoness Tataka, who caused people's hair to stand erect. O master, please tell me all about this forest. Whose hermitage is it? Where do the sinful and wicked brahmana-killing rakshasas pass on their way to disrupt your sacrifice, O great sage? Your holiness, where is the place where your sacrifice must be protected and where I must slay the rakshasas? I wish to hear all this, O best of sages, my master."
The History of Siddhashrama and Their Arrival There
Hearing the unfathomable words of Rama, the glorious Vishvamitra began relating the history of Siddhashrama: "O strong-armed Rama, previously Lord Vishnu, who is worshiped by the gods, spent hundreds of yugas and many more years here engaged in the execution of penance. This, O Rama, is the previous hermitage of the Supreme Lord Vamana65. It is known as Siddhashrama66, for it was here that He attained the perfection of His purpose. At that time, King Bali, the son of Virocana, had conquered the hosts of gods, including Indra and the Maruts, thus establishing his sovereignty over all the three worlds, it is heard.
The great asura Bali Maharaja began a sacrifice. While Bali was engaged in that sacrifice, the gods headed by Agni personally came here to this hermitage and spoke to Lord Vishnu: "O Lord Vishnu, Bali, the son of Virocana, is performing a very wonderful sacrifice. Before the completion of his vow, let our goal be accomplished. To those who are coming from here and there with a request, he is fulfilling it exactly as they ask. By means of Your internal potency yoga-maya, assume the form of a dwarf for the welfare of the gods and secure our good fortune."
"At that time, O Rama, arrived Kashyapa, who was as brilliant as fire, along with Aditi, who seemed to be glowing with his brilliance. Having concluded his vow of austerities with the help of his wife after a period of a thousand celestial years,67 he satisfied Lord Vishnu, the giver of boons: OO Lord, You are the essence of austerity, the accumulation of austerity, the personification of austerity, and austerity itself. By the power of my austerity I now see You, the Supreme Person. O Lord, I see the whole world situated within Your body. You are beginningless and indescribable. I take shelter of You.' Hearing this, the Lord was pleased and said to the sinless Kashyapa: OBless you. Choose a boon, for I consider you worthy of receiving one.' Hearing that, Kashyapa, the son of Marici said: OO bestower of boons, being so pleased with us, You should grant the request made by Aditi, the gods and myself, for Your vows are always good. Become the son of Aditi and myself, O Lord. Become the younger brother of Indra, O slayer of demons. You must help the demigods who are afflicted with grief. This hermitage will by Your mercy become known as Siddhashrama, O Lord of the gods, because it was here that You achieved perfection in the practice of austerity. O Lord, You may now leave this place.'
"Then the almighty Vishnu took birth from the womb of Aditi. Assuming the form of a dwarf, He approached Bali, the son of Virocana. For the welfare of all the worlds, the Lord asked Bali for as much land as he could cover with three steps and then gladly accepted it by encompassing all the worlds. He returned everything to Indra after subduing Bali Maharaja with His might. Thus the all-powerful Lord once again put the three worlds under the sovereignty of Indra. It was by Him that this hermitage was frequented in ancient times. Therefore it has the power to destroy the toils of worldly life. By devotion to the Lord as Vamana I am able to remain here. To this hermitage come the rakshasas to disrupt it. Here is where You must kill the wicked creatures. Today I shall enter, O Rama, the unparalleled Siddhashrama. That hermitage, O son, is as much Yours as it is mine."
Speaking in this way, the sage with great affection took Rama and Lakshmana by the hands and entered the hermitage. As he did so, he shone like the moon without fog accompanied by the two stars of the constellation Punarvasu. When all the ascetics residing at Siddhashrama saw Vishvamitra, they all rose in a hurry, one after the other, and respectfully welcomed him. They received Vishvamitra the best they could. They also extended to the two princes the hospitality due guests.
After resting a while, the two princes with joined palms addressed the tiger among sages: Please initiate your sacrifice this very day. Good fortune be unto you, O foremost of sages! Let the name Siddhashrama be fulfilled and your words become true." Being addressed in this way, the great sage Vishvamitra, who had conquered his senses and was under sacred vows, consecrated himself for the sacrifice. After resting that night, at dawn the two youths rose, bathed and performed Their morning worship. Being thus clean, when They had finished reciting the sacred verse of the Gayatri according to scriptural regulation, They offered respects to Vishvamitra, who was seated, having just finished offering oblations into the sacred fire.
Rama Protects Vishvamitra's Sacrifice
After that, the two princes, who knew how to act according to time and place, also knowing what to say according to time and place, said to Vishvamitra: "O master, We both wish to know the time when the two rakshasas will come in order for Us to protect the sacrifice from them. Tell Us so that the moment does not escape Us." Having spoken thus, the two descendants of Kakutstha, Rama and Lakshmana, were impatient to fight with the rakshasas. Being pleased with this, all the sages offered praise to the princes: "From today up to the sixth night be vigilant, O descendants of the Raghu Dynasty. The sage Vishvamitra has already consecrated himself for the sacrifice and will therefore observe a vow of silence meanwhile." Hearing those words, the famous princes passed six days and nights without sleep while they guarded the hermitage. The two heroes, excellent archers that They were, remained near Vishvamitra, protecting him.
When time had passed and it was the sixth night, Rama said to Lakshmana: "Be prepared and alert." Even as Rama spoke, impatient with the desire to fight, the fire on the sacrificial altar flared before the presiding priest Vishvamitra and his assistants. The fire illuminated everything around it: the kusha grass,68 the camasa,69 the shruk,70 the firewood, the excellent flowers, the priests and Vishvamitra. They began the sacrifice by chanting mantras according to rule; when, in the sky was heard a great, frightening sound. As clouds cover the sky during the monsoon rains, so did the two rakshasas as they rushed forward wielding their magical powers. Marica, Subahu and their followers - all of frightful appearance - came, hurling down showers of blood. Seeing the sacrificial altar drenched by a shower of blood, Rama quickly ran and saw the rakshasas in the sky. Seeing those two rakshasas rushing towards Them, the lotus-eyed Rama turned to Lakshmana and said: "Look, Lakshmana. As the wind disperses clouds, so shall I, with Manu's weapon, disperse without a doubt these wicked rakshasas that feed on raw flesh. I am uninclined to kill them as they are."
Having spoken thus, the forceful Rama fixed upon His bow the highly powerful and brilliant weapon of Manu named shiteshu. Being extremely angry, Rama fired it into Marica's chest. Being hit with the tremendous strength of the manava weapon, he was thrown to a distance of eight hundred miles into the ocean. Seeing Marica senseless and reeling from the striking power of the shiteshu weapon, Rama said to Lakshmana: "Lakshmana, see how the shiteshu weapon owned and used by Manu bewildered the rakshasa and carried him off without depriving him of life. Now I shall slay all these merciless wicked rakshasas who are prone to sinful deeds, interrupt sacrifices and feast on human blood." Having spoken to Lakshmana, Rama, showing His agility, quickly grabbed the intensely powerful agneya weapon of the fire god. Rama fired it into the chest of Subahu. Being pierced by it, Subahu fell to the ground. The widely renowned and magnanimous Rama then killed the remaining rakshasas, engladdening the sages. Having killed all the rakshasas that were interfering with the sacrifice, Rama was honored by the sages, as Indra upon conquering a demon fortress.
When the sacrifice was completed and the great sage Vishvamitra saw that all directions around were cleared of any threat, he said the following to Rama: "I have accomplished my purpose, O strong armed one, and You have carried out the orders of your preceptor. You have fulfilled the name of this hermitage, Siddhashrama." Praising Rama in that way, they all went on to perform their evening prayers.
Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshmana Depart for Mithila
After finishing Their evening duties, Rama and Lakshmana spent the night there. Both heroes were very jubilant and joyful in Their hearts. When night ended at the crack of dawn, They rose to perform Their early morning duties. Then they approached Vishvamitra and the other sages. Praising the best of sages who was shining like fire, the two sweet speakers said the following kind words: "Here We are, O tiger of sages. Your servants have arrived. Inform Us, O best of sages, what order We should carry out."
On such a request by the two princes, all the sages offered respects to Vishvamitra and then said to Rama: "Janaka, the king of Mithila, is going to perform a most virtuous sacrifice, O best of men. We shall go there. You too must accompany us, O tiger among men. There You will see a wonderful jewel of a bow. It was given in ancient times to the king by the gods at a sacrificial assembly. Its power is immeasurable and it is intimidating and extremely resplendent. There is no god, gandharva, asura or rakshasa who can string that bow, what to speak of a human. Desiring to know the bow's strength, many strong kings and princes came, but were unable to string it. That bow, O tiger among men, belongs to the great-souled king of Mithila. There You will also see a most wonderful sacrifice. That superb bow was requested by the king of Mithila as the fruit of his sacrifice. The well-formed bow was thus given by the gods. It is being worshiped in the king's palace with different kinds of unguents, incense and other fragrances. "
Then the best of sages Vishvamitra in the company of the other sages and the princes, departed after taking permission from the forest gods. As he went, he said: "Good luck to you all! Having accomplished my purpose, I shall leave Siddhashrama and proceed to the snow-packed Himalaya Mountains on the northern shore of the Ganges." Then the tiger among sages who was rich in asceticism started walking toward the north. Behind the departing sage went his followers, the knowers of truth, who were driving one hundred ox carts. The herds of deer and flocks of birds that resided in Siddhashrama also followed behind the great ascetic Vishvamitra. Then Vishvamitra, in the host of sages, sent the deer and birds back.
When they had gone a long distance and the sun was going down, the band of sages carefully set up camp on the bank of the Shona River. At sunset they bathed and offered oblations into the sacred fire. Placing Vishvamitra in front, the sages, whose splendor was immeasurable, sat down. After offering respects to the sages, Rama and Lakshmana also sat down in front of the wise Vishvamitra. Then the powerful Rama inquired enthusiastically from the ascetic Vishvamitra: "O lord, whose is this place graced with a thriving forest? I wish to hear. Bless you! You must tell us truthfully." Impelled by Rama's words, the noble ascetic began relating all about that place in the midst of the sages.
The Story of the Four Sons of Kusha
Vishvamitra said: "There was a king known by the name of Kusha, who was born from Lord Brahma. His vows were always fulfilled without any hindrance. He knew righteousness and was honored by godly people. That great soul fathered four tremendously strong sons with his worthy wife who was from Vidarbha. Their names were Kushamba, Kushanabha, Asurtarajasa and Vasu. With the desire to encourage them to uphold their duty as kshatriyas, Kusha said to his virtuous and truthful sons: "Give protection, my sons. Then you will achieve abundant merit." Hearing Kusha's words, the four princes, who were exceptional gentlemen, established four cities of old. The powerful Kushamba built a city named Kaushambi; the pious soul Kushanabha built a city named Mahodaya; the highly intelligent Asurtarajasa built a city named Dharmaranya; and Vasu built a city named Girivraja. This city built by the great soul Vasu later became known by the name of Vasumati. It is surrounded by these five superb mountain peaks. This pleasant River Shona flows from the land of Magadha. As such this river is also known as the holy Magadhi. Flowing between those five main mountains, it looks like a necklace. This Magadhi River, which is related to the great-souled King Vasu, O Rama, flows eastwardly and is lined with fields full of crops.
"The royal sage Kushanabha begot one hundred excellent daughters in the womb of the apsara Ghritaci. They were all youthful, comely and well-dressed. Coming to the garden grounds, they resembled lightning during the monsoons. Singing, dancing and playing instruments, the girls, adorned with jewels, experienced immense delight. All the limbs of their bodies were charming. There was none equal to them in the world. Arriving at the garden grounds, they looked like stars within a mass of clouds. They were all endowed with good qualities and graced with beauty and youth. Seeing them, the all-pervading wind god Vayu said to them: "I wish to possess you all and that you should be my wives. Give up the notion of being humans and accept the longevity of the gods! Perpetual youth is especially fleeting among humans. Accepting undecaying youth, you will become immortal."
Hearing these words spoken by Vayu, whose activities are always unhindered, the one hundred virgins ridiculed him, saying: "O best of the gods, you move about within all beings as the life air. We all are aware of your might. For what reason do you insult us? We all are the daughters of King Kushanabha, O best of the gods. We could cause you to fall from your position as a god by cursing you, but we prefer to retain the merit accrued from our austerities. May the time never come, O fool, when we disregard our truthful father and of our own accord choose a match. Our father is indeed our master. He is our most worshipable god. Whomever he chooses will be our husband."
Hearing their words, the wind god Vayu was infuriated. Entering them, he disfigured every limb of their bodies. Having become hunchbacks with twisted limbs, they were afflicted with fear. The virgins who had been deformed by Vayu entered the king's palace. Upon entering the palace, they were dismayed and embarrassed, their eyes brimming with tears. Perplexed to see those dear young girls who had been so beautiful now deformed as hunchbacks, the king said: "My daughters, what is this? Who has slighted righteousness? Who made you all hunchbacks? Why, though gesturing, do you not speak?" Inquiring in that way, the king sighed and became pensive.
The Marriage of Kushanabha's Daughters to Brahmadatta
Hearing the words of the wise Kushanabha, they touched their heads to his feet and said: "The all-pervading wind wanted to violate us, Your Majesty. Resorting to the path of evil, he had no regard for righteousness. We said to him: OBless you. We are obedient to our father's will. We are not independent. Ask for our hands from our father. If he will give us to you, we are yours.' As we spoke thus, we were all hit hard by the wicked Vayu, who did not heed our words." Hearing their story, the supremely righteous king replied to his excellent daughters: "The forbearance of which only great persons are capable has been demonstrated by you, my daughters. Being all of one mind, you guarded the honor of my family. Forbearance is an adornment for women, as well as for men. Such forbearance which you have all equally exhibited is very difficult to practice, even for the gods. Forbearance is charity; forbearance is truth and sacrifice, O daughters. Forbearance is glory; forbearance is righteousness; the world stands upon forbearance."
Having sent away his daughters, O Rama, the king, who possessed the prowess of the gods, consulted with his ministers concerning the marriage of his daughters. They had to determine the place, time and suitor for the girls. At that time, there was a very effulgent celibate youth named Culi who was engaged in practicing penance and auspicious activities. While he was performing penance, a certain gandharvi named Somada served him. She was the daughter of rrmila. When the lucky time came, he said to her: "I am thoroughly pleased. Good fortune be unto you! What favor may I do for you?"
Knowing that the sage was pleased, the eloquent gandharvi spoke sweetly to the sage who was skilled in speaking: "O great ascetic, you have acquired the characteristics of God and are therefore godlike. I wish to have a religious son who is dedicated to spiritual austerity. I am unmarried, nor shall I be the wife of anyone. Bless you! Since I have approached you, you should give me a son by dint of your spiritual power." Pleased by her service, the brahmarshi gave her a spiritually inclined son sprung from his mind and known by the name Brahmadatta. King Brahmadatta then lived in the city of Kampilya with the great splendor of royalty, as Indra lives in heaven. The virtuous King Kushanabha decided to give his one hundred daughters to King Brahmadatta. Summoning the splendorous King Brahmadatta, King Kushanabha with a joyful mind presented him with his one hundred daughters. King Brahmadatta, who was as brilliant as Indra, then accepted their hands according to the status of each one, O Rama. At the touch of his hand, the one hundred girls were transformed and freed from being hunchbacks, their illness was alleviated, and they became endowed with the supermost characteristics. Seeing them freed from Vayu's curse, King Kushanabha became very happy and rejoiced again and again. When the marriage was consummated, King Kushanabha sent King Brahmadatta off with his wives and priests. When the gandharvi Somada saw that her son had gotten married, she greeted her daughters-in-law according to the status of each one. Embracing them again and again, she commended Kushanabha.
The Birth of Gadhi to Kushanabha
After he was married, O descendant of Raghu, the childless Kushanabha decided to perform a sacrifice for procuring a son. As the sacrifice was about to be performed, the magnanimous King Kusha, who was a son of Lord Brahma, said to Kushanabha: "Son, you will have a righteous son like yourself. Having a son named Gadhi, you will achieve lasting fame in the world." Having spoken in that way to King Kushanabha, Kusha ascended into the sky and entered the blessed world of Lord Brahma. After some time, the supremely righteous Gadhi was born to the intelligent King Kushanabha. That most virtuous Gadhi is my father, O descendant of Kakutstha. I am a descendant of the Kusha Dynasty and am therefore a Kaushika, O descendant of Raghu. I also have an elder sister of the name Satyavati, who is devoted to good vows and who was given in marriage to the sage Ricika. Following her husband all her life, she went to heaven in her very body. Thus she became the highly magnanimous and great Kaushiki River. She is divine and her waters, holy and pleasing. She flows from the Himalaya Mountains. For the welfare of the world, my sister flows in the form of a river. That is why I always reside happily on the slopes of the Himalayas, for I am very affectionate to my elder sister Kaushiki, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. That pious woman Satyavati was fixed in truthfulness and righteousness. She was devoted to her husband and was very fortunate. She is now in the form of the Kaushiki, which is the best of rivers.
"Because of a religious vow, O Rama, I left that river and came to Siddhashrama. Now, by Your power, I have achieved my goal. This, O Rama, is the story of my origin, of my dynasty and of this land, O strong-armed one, just as You have asked me. Half the night has passed, O descendant of Kakutstha, with the telling of my story. Now go to sleep. Good fortune be unto You. Let there be no obstacles on our path. The trees are all motionless, the birds and beasts are all sunken into sleep, and the directions are all covered with the darkness of night, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. The twilight has gradually receded and the sky is shining with the light of stars and planets, as if covered with so many eyes. The moon, which dispels the darkness of the world, is rising with its cooling rays. By its light it gladdens the minds of all the living beings in the world. All the nocturnal beings - yakshas, rakshasas - which are fierce and feed upon human flesh, are wandering here and there."
Speaking in this way, the highly effulgent great sage remained silent. All the other sages applauded him saying, "Well done! Well done! The great dynasty of the descendants of Kusha is always dedicated to righteousness. Those great souls born in the Kusha Dynasty are equal to Brahma. You are particularly so, O widely renowned Vishvamitra. The best of rivers, Kaushiki, has illuminated your family. Being overwhelmed with joy and praised by the sages, Vishvamitra, the descendant of Kusha, went to bed like the setting of the shining sun. Rama and Lakshmana were also somewhat amazed by what They had heard. Praising the tiger among sages, They also went to sleep.
Vishvamitra Narrates the Origin of the Ganges
Having slept the rest of the night on the bank of the Shona River in the company of the sages, when the night ended at dawn, Vishvamitra said: "Night has ended and it is now dawn. The morning twilight is showing. Please get up. Good fortune be unto You! Prepare to continue the journey." Hearing these words, Rama performed His morning duties. When Rama was ready to leave, He spoke the following words, so it is said: "O brahmana, this Shona River is full of auspicious water, is unfathomable and adorned with sandy banks. By which of the two fords should we cross?" Having been addressed by Rama, Vishvamitra spoke the following: "As indicated by me, this is the way by which those great seers are crossing."
The sages, along with the wise Vishvamitra continued their journey, seeing many different forests. After going a good distance, it was noon time. Then they saw the best of rivers, the Ganges, which is worshiped by holy men. Seeing her holy waters frequented by swans and geese, all the sages along with Rama, became jubilant. There on her bank they set up camp. Then, after bathing according to scriptural rules, they offered libations of Ganges water to the forefathers and gods. Having offered oblations into the sacred fire, they partook of the cooked sweet rice which had been offered in the sacrificial fire and which was like nectar. Sitting on the bank of the Ganges, they shone with delight, having gathered around the great soul Vishvamitra. When they were all seated properly including Rama and Lakshmana, with a joyful mind, Rama said to Vishvamitra: "O lord, I wish to hear about the River Ganges and how, after traversing the three worlds, it flows into the ocean."
Being prompted by Rama's words, the great sage Vishvamitra began to relate the history of the past birth of the Ganges: "O Rama, the king of all mountains is named Himavan. He is a storehouse of all types of precious metals and stones. He had two daughters whose beauty was without equal in the world. The lovely daughter of Mount Meru was their mother. This dear wife of Himavan was named Mena. The first daughter born to her was this Ganges. The second daughter born to her was known as Uma. All the gods, with the desire of fulfilling some affair, requested the king of mountains to let his eldest daughter become a river traversing the three worlds. With the intention of benefiting the three worlds, Himavan religiously gave to the gods his daughter Ganges, who could purify the world and carve her own path at will. Accepting her in the interest of the three worlds, the gods took Ganges and left.
Himavan's other daughter, who, though a virgin, was inclined to practicing terrible vows, performed austerities and was rich in asceticism. Being engaged in terrible austerities, Himavan gave Uma, who is honored by the world, in marriage to Lord Rudra,71 who has no equal. These two daughters of the king of mountains, Ganges, the best of rivers, and the goddess, Uma, are honored by the world. I have now explained to You everything about how the Ganges came about. Now hear how she came to flow through the three worlds. First of all, she flowed through the sky, my child, which grants a path for all moving things. Then this lovely and divine daughter of the king of mountains ascended to the world of the gods, carrying waters capable of removing all sins.
How Uma Cursed the Demigods and Earth
After hearing the sage speak, both Rama and Lakshmana lauded the narration. Then the two heroes said to Vishvamitra: "The story related by you is supremely virtuous, O brahmana. Now you should tell Us more about the elder daughter of the king of mountains. You know all the details thoroughly about the passage of the Ganges through the heavenly and earthly regions. Why has she pursued three courses, purifying the worlds? How did she become known by the name Tripathaga (following three courses)? O knower of virtue, what does she do in the three worlds?" After Rama had spoken in this way to Vishvamitra, Vishvamitra related in the midst of the sages the story in its entirety.
"A long time ago, O Rama, after the great ascetic Lord Shiva had married Uma, He looked at the goddess and began to have sex with her. Lord Shiva was engaged in loveplay for one hundred celestial years. Even after all that time, no child was born to Uma, O Rama, chastiser of enemies. All the gods headed by Lord Brahma were prepared to stop them. They thought: "If a child is produced from this union, what will be its power?" Arriving there and falling prostrate, all the gods said: OO god of gods, O great god Shiva, you are concerned with the welfare of the world. You should be merciful because of the submissiveness of the gods. The worlds are unable to bear your effulgence, O best of the gods. Being possessed of spiritual potency, you are practicing austerities with the goddess Uma. With the intent of benefiting the three worlds, keep your potency within yourself. Please protect all these worlds. You should not destroy them."
Hearing the words of the gods, Shiva, the great lord of all the worlds, replied: "All right." He then said the following to them all: "Along with Uma, I shall hold back my potency with the very same potency. Let the gods and the earth be at ease. Now tell me this, you gods, who will hold the semen which has already become dislodged from its resting place?" Having been addressed thus, the gods replied to Shiva, whose emblem is a bull: "Whatever semen is already loosened the earth will accept." Thereafter Lord Shiva released His great potency. By that semen the earth with its mountains and forests was covered. The gods then said to Agni, the fire god: "You and Vayu, the wind god, go get Shiva's potency." When it had been gathered together by Agni, it congealed into a white mountain. On it grew a thicket of celestial reeds which was as effulgent as the sun and fire. At that place was born the mighty Karttikeya, said to be born from fire. Then the gods, along with the hosts of sages, offered profuse respects to Uma and Shiva.
Thereupon, the daughter of the Himalayas spoke to the gods. With eyes red with anger, she cursed them all: "Because I have been prevented from uniting with my husband when I was desirous of having a child, you should be unable to beget offspring from your own wives. From today onward let your wives be childless." Having spoken in this way to the gods, she also cursed the earth: "O earth, your surface will become rough and uneven and you will have many masters over you. O wise earth, because you did not wish me to have a son, tainted by my anger, you will not be able to experience the happiness of having a son."
Seeing all the gods afflicted in that way, Lord Shiva then went in a westerly direction, which is presided over by Varuna. Having gone there, he practiced austerities on the northern slope of the Himavatprabhava Mountain accompanied by the goddess Uma. You have just heard in detail the story of Uma, the younger daughter of Himavan Mountain. Now You and Lakshmana listen to me as I explain the appearance of the Ganges.
The Birth of Karttikeya from the Ganges
While Shiva was absorbed in practicing austerities, all the gods headed by Agni approached Lord Brahma to request him to give them a commander-in-chief for their troops. O Rama, the pleasure of the gods, after prostrating themselves before Lord Brahma, all the gods headed by Agni spoke the following: "O lord, previously Shiva granted us a commander-in-chief in seed form. In the company of his consort Uma, he is now engaged in practicing severe austerities. O knower of expedients, for the good of the world, please see that this task is fulfilled. You are our topmost shelter." Hearing what the gods had said, the grandfather of all worlds assuaged the gods with sweet words: "Because of the curse uttered by the daughter of the Himalayas, you can have no issue from your wives. Her clear words are factual, without any doubt. Here is the heavenly Ganges. The fire god Agni will cause her to bear a son who will be the commander-in-chief of the gods and the conqueror of enemies. Ganges, the eldest daughter of the king of mountains, will consider that child her son. Being her younger sister, Uma will make much of this affection, no doubt." O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, when all the gods heard what Brahma had said, they considered their purpose accomplished, falling at his feet and offering him all respect.
O Rama, going to the super-excellent Kailasa Mountain, which is endowed with all types of precious metals, the gods entrusted Agni with the task of procuring the child: "O Agni, this task is for the gods. Please do it. Place within the Ganges, the daughter of the Himalayas, Lord Shiva's great potency which you are carrying." On the request of the demigods, Agni approached the Ganges and said: "O goddess, please bear this embryo. This will please the gods very much." Hearing these words of Agni, she accepted a divine form. Seeing her greatness, Agni completely surrounded her with Lord Shiva's potency. When Agni sprinkled Shiva's potency around the Ganges, all of her veins72 became filled with it. Then the Ganges said to Agni: "O leader of the gods, I am unable to bear this potency intensified by your own. Being burned by the fire, her mind was bewildered. Thereafter, Agni spoke the following to the Ganges: "Just place the fetus here on the side of the Himalayan Mountains." Hearing Agni's words, the lustrous Ganges emitted the most resplendent baby from her veins, O sinless one. Because it sprang from the Ganges, who is the granddaughter of the golden Mount Sumeru, it shone with the brilliance of jambu fruits73. On account of its intensity, the ground upon which the baby fell became gold with an unparalleled brilliance, and the area around where it laid became copper and iron. The baby's impurities became tin and lead. In this way, the earth acquired its different metals in abundance.
When the baby was born, its effulgence illuminated the thicket on the side of the mountain and turned it into gold. That is why, since then, gold has been called "jata-rupa," since it was then that gold was first produced. O tiger among men, all the grass, trees, vines and bushes became gold that was as brilliant as fire. Afterwards, Indra along with the Maruts brought the six Krittikas74 there to supply the newborn baby with milk. At that auspicious moment, milk flowed from their breasts and they suckled the baby. Thus they thought of the child as if it were their own. Thereafter all the gods declared: "This child will be called Karttikeya. He will be known throughout the three worlds as your son. There is no doubt." Hearing what the gods had said, they bathed the baby who shone with a most exceptional brilliance and who had first trickled from Lord Shiva as a seed and who had then flowed from the Ganges. Because the baby trickled out of Shiva, the gods also called him Skanda (one who trickled out), O descendant of Kakutstha. When the most excellent milk began flowing from the breasts of the Krittikas, the child manifested six heads and sucked the breast milk of each mother simultaneously. After drinking that milk for only one day, though having only the body of a boy, he defeated with his own strength an army of demons. Then all the immortal gods headed by Agni assembled and installed the most glorious child as the commander-in-chief of the army of the gods. In this way, O Rama, have I explained in detail the story of the Ganges. One who hears about the appearance of the child Karttikeya achieves fortune and piety. O Rama, those people in this world who are devotees of Karttikeya will, along with their children and grandchildren, attain the same planet as Karttikeya.
The Birth of King Sagara's Children
After relating to Rama the sweet story about the Ganges, Vishvamitra began relating another story: "O heroic Rama, once there was a king of Ayodhya named Sagara. Though righteous, he was issueless, and so desired a son. The eldest wife of King Sagara was from Vidarbha and was known by the name of Keshini. She was most righteous and truthful. King Sagara's second wife was known as Sumati. She was the daughter of Arishtanemi (Kashyapa) and was therefore the sister of Garuda. King Sagara went with his two wives to Bhrigu-prasravana Peak in the Himalaya Mountains and practiced severe austerities there.
When one hundred years had passed, Bhrigu Muni, the best of the truthful, being pleased by King Sagara's austerities, offered him a boon: "O sinless king, you shall have many sons. O best of kings, you shall achieve unequalled fame in this world. O son, one of your wives will give birth to a son who will extend your dynasty. Your other wife will give birth to sixty thousand sons." After the great soul Bhrigu had spoken in this way, the two queens became very pleased with him. Elated with joy, they joined their palms and then spoke: "O brahmana, which of us will give birth to one son and which of us will give birth to many? We wish to hear from you whose words are truthful."
Hearing this entreaty from the two queens, the supremely righteous Bhrigu replied to them perfectly: "Let you herein choose according to your own will. To bear a son who will expand the dynasty or to bear many strong sons who will be famous and daring, who will choose which boon?" Hearing the sage's reply, Queen Keshini chose a son who would extend the dynasty of King Sagara. Garuda's sister, Sumati, then chose to bear sixty thousand sons who would be famous and daring. After circumambulating the sage and bowing their heads to him, the king and his wives returned to their city, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty.
After some time had passed, Keshini, the senior wife, gave birth to a son known as Asamanja, sprung from King Sagara. O tiger among men, Sumati, on the other hand, produced a fetus in the shape of a gourd. When it was split open, sixty thousand sons issued forth. The nurses nurtured those babies in pots filled with clarified butter. After a long time they all attained puberty. Finally, after a very long time, King Sagara had another sixty thousand handsome and youthful sons. The eldest of these sons would grab the other sons and throw them into the water of the Sarayu River. He used to watch them drown, laughing heartily. When he was thus behaving so wickedly - disturbing the saintly persons and afflicting the citizens - his own father exiled him from the city. King Sagara's first son, Asamanja, had a son named Amshuman who was valiant, a sweet speaker and very dear to everyone.
After a great deal of time, King Sagara decided to perform a sacrifice. Having made up his mind, the king along with his scholars who were learned in the execution of sacrifice, began making the necessary preparations.
How King Sagara's Sons Divided the Earth
When Vishvamitra had finished relating the story, Rama, who was very pleased and shining like fire, said to the sage: "Bless you, O brahmana. I wish to hear in detail the story of how My ancestor King Sagara performed the sacrifice." Hearing these words of Rama, Vishvamitra was very enlivened. With a big smile he said to Rama, the descendant of Kakutstha: "Listen in detail to the story of the great soul King Sagara. The mountain range known by the name Himavan which is the father-in-law of Lord Shiva, and the Vindhya Mountains overlook each other. The sacrifice was performed between these two mountain ranges, O best of men. That land, of tiger among men, is recommended for the performance of sacrifice. Amshuman was fixed on King Sagara's thoughts, thus the great warrior, with bow in hand, protected the king's sacrificial horse in its wanderings.
On the day of sacrifice, as the king was about to begin the ceremony, Indra in the guise of a rakshasa stole the sacrificial horse. When the king's sacrificial horse had been stolen, all the learned priests addressed the king: "O descendant of Kakutstha, on this festival day the sacrificial horse has been forcibly taken away. Kill the thief and bring back the horse. If there is any fault in the sacrifice it will be very inauspicious for all of us. Please do this so that the sacrifice can be completed without any omission."
Hearing the words of the priests, the king, in the midst of the assembly, spoke to his sixty thousand sons as follows: "My sons, I do not see how the rakshasa could have entered the sacrifice being performed by such great persons consecrated with the recitation of sacred hymns. Therefore, go and investigate what has happened. May you have good luck. Go all over the earth surrounded by oceans. Each one of you go and search a tract of sixty-four square miles, O sons. By my order, excavate the earth in search of the horse thief until the horse is retrieved. Being consecrated for the sacrifice, I shall remain here, along with my grandson Amshuman and the priests, until the horse is in sight. Good luck to you all."
Bound by the words of their father, all those greatly powerful princes traversed the earth with a happy mind, O Rama. After crossing the entire earth without finding the horse, those mighty princes whose arms could strike with the force of a thunderbolt each began excavating a tract of land sixty-four square miles. The earth moaned, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, as she was being rent by frightful plowshares and pikes as hard as thunderbolts. There was a loud roar of serpents, demons, rakshasas and other beings who were being killed by the excavation. They excavating four hundred and eighty thousand square miles of land, O Rama, as if to reach the most excellent region of Rasatala75. In that way, O tiger among kings, the princes went about excavated on all sides the earth surrounded by mountains.
Then all the gods, accompanied by the gandharvas, the asuras and the serpents, approached with a disturbed mind the grandfather of creation, Lord Brahma. With sullen faces, they propitiated the great soul Brahma and spoke the following words to him, greatly alarmed as they were: "O lord, the entire earth is being excavated by the sons of King Sagara. Many great souls and water creatures are being killed. Because their sacrifice has been interrupted by the theft of the sacrificial horse, they are killing all beings."
Kapila Destroys the Sons of King Sagara
After hearing what the gods said, Lord Brahma replied to them who were greatly alarmed and bewildered by the destructive ability of the sons of King Sagara: "This whole earth belongs to the all-knowing Lord Vasudeva (Vishnu). She is a consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Madhava (Vishnu). Having assumed the form of the sage Kapila, He is constantly upholding the earth. By the fire of His anger, He will burn to ashes King Sagara's sons. The excavation of the earth is eternally occurring and the destruction of the sons of King Sagara is known to those who are far-sighted." Hearing Lord Brahma's reply, the thirty-three principal gods jubilantly departed in the same way they had come.
While the earth was being excavated by the sons of King Sagara, there arose a terrifying sound. After excavating the entire earth and having circled it too, all the sons of King Sagara said to their father: "The entire earth has been circumambulated and many gods, demons, rakshasas, ghosts, serpents and other beings have been destroyed. Still we have not seen the horse nor the thief. What shall we do? Bless you. Please think of some plan." After hearing what his sons had said, King Sagara angrily replied: "Begin digging again. May you have good luck. Split open the surface of the earth and find the horse thief. When you accomplish your purpose, you may return." Accepting the order of their father, the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara dug down to Rasatala.
As they dug down further, they saw in the eastern quarter the elephant Virupaksha, as large as a mountain, holding up the earth. O descendant of Raghu, the great elephant Virupaksha holds up with his head the entire earth covered with mountains and forests. Whenever, due to exhaustion, the elephant shakes his head for relief, there is an earthquake. Circumambulating him, they honored the great elephant who guards the eastern quarter. Then, O Rama, they began tunneling to Rasatala again. Having penetrated the eastern quarter, they tunneled to the southern quarter. There they saw the great elephant Mahapadma as large as a mountain holding up the earth with his head. Seeing him, they were extremely amazed. Circumambulating him, the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara tunnelled into the western quarter. There they also saw the great elephant Saumanasa, as large as a mountain, guarding the western direction. Circumambulating him, they inquired about his welfare. Then they began tunneling in the northern direction which is presided over by the moon. In the norther quarter, O best of the descendants of Raghu, they saw the great elephant Bhadra, as white as snow, who was supporting the earth with his beautiful body. Touching the elephant respectfully and circumambulating him, the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara began digging into the earth.
Proceeding in a north-easterly direction, all King Sagara's sons dug angrily. There they saw the eternal Lord Vasudeva (Vishnu) in His form as the sage Kapila. They also saw the missing horse grazing not far from the sage. Thereupon they all experienced unequaled happiness, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. Thinking that Kapila was the one who had interrupted their sacrifice, their eyes became red with anger. Holding shovels, plowshares, trees and rocks in their hands, they rushed towards Him angrily shouting: "Stop! Stop! You are the one who has stolen our sacrificial horse. You fool, know that we, the sons of King Sagara, have arrived." When Kapila heard what they said, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, He became extremely angry and vibrated the sound "hum." Thereafter all the sons of King Sagara were reduced to a heap of ashes by the great soul Kapila, whose power is immeasurable.
Amshuman Retrieves the Stolen Horse
Realizing that his sons had been gone a long time, King Sagara said to his grandson Amshuman, who was shining with his own glory: "You are valiant, learned and equal to your predecessors. Search out the trail followed by your uncles along which the sacrificial horse was taken. Within the earth are powerful and monstrous creatures. Take a bow and arrows to counterattack them. To those who are respectable, offer respect, and to those who block your way, kill. Return successfully so that my sacrifice may be completed."
Having been instructed in this way by the great soul King Sagara, Amshuman grabbed a bow and a sword and departed hastily. Impelled by the order of the king, he reached the passageway excavated by his intelligent uncles. At the end of the passageway he saw one of the great elephants that guard the directions being worshiped by demigods, danavas, rakshasas, ghosts, birds and serpents. After circumambulating that elephant and inquiring about his welfare, he asked him about his uncles and the horse thief. Hearing this, the guardian elephant replied: "O Amshuman, your search is almost over. You will soon return with the horse." Hearing this, he then proceeded to ask this same question of the elephants guarding the directions, one after the other. He was received with honor by all of those wise guardian elephants, who told him that he would return with the horse. Hearing their words, he proceeded hastily until he arrived at the place where his uncles had been reduced to a pile of ashes. Amshuman, the son of Asamanja, became overwhelmed with grief and wept bitterly due to the pain caused by his uncles' death. While overcome with such tremendous grief, he also saw the sacrificial horse, which was grazing not far from there, O tiger among men. He wanted to perform the royal princes' funeral rites with an offering of water, but he saw no reservoir of water thereabout.
After looking all about with his penetrating vision, he saw the king of birds, Garuda, who was the maternal uncle of his uncles, and who is as swift as the wind. The greatly powerful Garuda said to him: "Do not worry, O tiger among men. Their slaughter was for the welfare of the world. They were burned to ashes by the immeasurably powerful sage Kapila. You should not offer them ordinary mundane water. O best of men, you should perform your uncles' funeral rites with water from the Ganges, who is the eldest daughter of the Himalayas. The holy Ganges, who can purify all the worlds, must flow over their ashes. When their ashes are moistened with the Ganges' water, those sixty thousands princes will attain the heavenly world. O most fortunate prince, take the sacrificial horse, return and finish your grandfather's sacrifice."
Hearing Garuda's words, the valiant Amshuman took the horse and speedily returned. Then, approaching the king who stood consecrated for the sacrifice, he related everything as it had happened, including the instructions of Garuda. Hearing the terrible news from Amshuman, the king concluded the sacrifice the best he could according to scriptural rules. Having finished the sacrifice, King Sagara, the sovereign of the world, returned to his capital. Once there, he was unable to devise any plan by which the Ganges could be brought down. Being unable to devise a plan for an extremely long period of time, and having ruled for thirty thousand years, he ascended to heaven.
Amshuman and His Grandson Practice Austerities
After the death of King Sagara, the citizens were pleased to install the highly righteous Amshuman as king, O Rama. Amshuman was a very great king. His son, known as Dilipa, was also very great. Turning over the kingdom to Dilipa, Amshuman practiced severe austerities on the beautiful peaks of the Himalaya Mountains. The famous Amshuman, who was rich in asceticism, practiced austerities for three million two hundred thousand years and then achieved heaven. When Dilipa heard about the death of his granduncles, he was unable to devise a plan for bringing down the Ganges with his intelligence because it was disturbed with grief. He was always thinking: "How can the Ganges be brought down? How can I perform the funeral rites of my granduncles? How can I deliver my granduncles?" While Dilipa, who was known for his righteousness, was absorbed in thinking in this way, a highly righteous son named Bhagiratha was born to him.
The glorious Dilipa performed many sacrifices and ruled for thirty thousand years. O tiger among men, not being able to devise a plan for delivering his ancestors, Dilipa became ill and died. Having installed his son Bhagiratha as king, Dilipa ascended to the abode of Indra by his own good deeds. Bhagiratha was righteous and a sage among kings, O descendant of Raghu. The great king was issueless. With the desire to attain a son, he entrusted the kingdom to his ministers and engaged himself in severe austerities at Gokarna in order to bring the Ganges down. With raised arms and five fires burning around him, he controlled his senses, eating only once a month. Thus he practiced terrible austerities for more than one thousand years.
Brahma, the lord of creatures, was very pleased by this. Thereafter, accompanied by groups of demigods, Lord Brahma went and spoke to the great soul Bhagiratha, who was engaged in practicing austerities: "O Bhagiratha Maharaja, I am pleased by the austerities you have performed. Choose whatever boon you wish, you whose vows are worthy." Then the powerful and glorious Bhagiratha stood with folded hands before Lord Brahma, the grandfather of all the worlds, and said: "If Your Lordship is pleased with me, and if my austerities have fructified, let the dead sons of King Sagara receive Ganges' water from me. When the ashes of those great souls are moistened with water from the Ganges, they will all attain the endless heaven, O grandsire. O lord, I also request from you an offspring so that our dynasty does not end. For the sake of the dynasty of the descendants of Ikshvaku, I ask this second boon, O lord."
Hearing the words of the king, Lord Brahma replied with beautiful sweet and eloquent words: "Your desire is very great, O mighty warrior Bhagiratha. Let it be so. Good fortune be unto you, O increaser of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. Behold the Ganges, the elder daughter of the Himalayas. Let Lord Shiva be engaged in supporting her as she descends to earth, O king. The earth will not be able to bear the impact of the falling Ganges, and I do not see anyone other than Lord Shiva who is cable of supporting her." Speaking in this way to the king, and having likewise instructed the Ganges, Lord Brahma ascended to heaven with all the gods and maruts.
Shiva Catches the Ganges on His Head
When Brahma, the god of gods, had left, O Rama, Bhagiratha stood for one year on the tip of his big toe, pressing it on the earth, in order to worship Lord Shiva. When one year was completed, the world-honored Shiva, the husband of Uma and lord of beasts spoke the following to the king: "I am pleased with you, O best of men. I shall do you a favor. I shall bear on my head the Ganges born as the daughter of the king of mountains."
The eldest daughter of the Himalayas assumed a really huge form and began rushing downwards with great force. She fell from the sky, O Rama, striking the head of Lord Shiva, it is said. The goddess Ganges, who is a transcendental river, thought to herself: "Having reached Lord Shiva's head, I shall now enter Patala-loka (the nether world)." Realizing her arrogance, Lord Shiva became very angry. Then the three-eyed Lord Shiva decided to conceal her. After falling on the meritorious head of Shiva, the pious Ganges remained immovable like the Himalaya Mountains, being trapped inside the bun of matted locks on his head. No matter how much she tried, she was unable to descend to earth. From inside Shiva's bun of matted locks, she was unable to find any exit. In that way, she remained detained for quite a number of years.
Seeing the Ganges in that condition, King Bhagiratha again began practicing severe austerities. By that, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, he pleased Lord Shiva very much. Then Shiva let the Ganges flow into the Bindusarovara lake76. Being set free, she flowed in seven streams. The auspicious water of the Ganges flowed toward the East as three steams: Hladini, Pavani and Nalini. The three auspicious streams - Sucakshu, Sita and the great river Sindu - flowed toward the West. The seventh stream followed King Bhagiratha in his chariot. Mounted upon a splendorous chariot, the royal sage Bhagiratha sallied forth followed by the highly glorious Ganges. Thus it was that the Ganges fell from the heavens to the head of Lord Shiva, and from there to the earth. There she flowed, making a terrible noise. The earth was beautified by the fish, turtles and other aquatics that had fallen and were falling with the Ganges.
Seated in a multitude of vehicles, horses and elephants that resembled a city, the hosts of gods, sages, gandharvas, yakshas and siddhas watched the Ganges descend from the heavens to the earth. Desirous of seeing the amazing descent of the Ganges to the earth, the gods, who possessed immeasurable strength, had assembled en masse. The host of celestials who shone due to the brilliance of their ornaments as they rushed down, resembled one hundred suns shining in a cloudless sky. With porpoises, snakes and flapping fish scattered across the sky, it looked as if it were filled with lightning. Many thousands of bits of foam churned up by the Ganges were strewn across the sky, like the white clouds of the autumn season or like a flock of swans in flight.
In some places the Ganges flowed very swiftly, in other places it flowed very tortuously. Some times she flowed very low, other times very high, and other times very gently. Sometimes, dashed by her own waters, she splashed upwards. Rising upwards continuously, she would again fall to earth. First she fell upon the head of Lord Shiva, then she fell upon the earth, thus her pure waters, which free one from all sin, shone beautifully. At that time, the sages, gandharvas and inhabitants of the earth sipped some of the purifying water of the Ganges that had fallen from the head of Lord Shiva. Those who had fallen from the heavens to earth due to a curse were freed from all contamination by sprinkling themselves with the Ganges' water. Having their sins washed off by her water, they acquired sufficient merit. Then they again entered the heavens and returned to their respective abodes. The sight of her sparkling waters gladdened everyone. They thus rid themselves of all sin by bathing in her waters.
Seated on a splendid chariot, the royal sage Bhagiratha drove forward with the Ganges following behind him. All the gods, sages, daityas, danavas, rakshasas, principal gandharvas andyakshas, kinnaras, great serpents, and apsaras, as well as the aquatics, were pleased to follow the Ganges, O Rama, proceeding along the path of King Bhagiratha's chariot. Wherever King Bhagiratha drove, there followed the famous Ganges whose waters destroy all sin.
Then the Ganges flowed into the sacrificial arena of the great soul Jahnu, who could perform amazing feats and who was engaged in executing a sacrifice. Seeing the Ganges' pride, Jahnu became very angry, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. Therefore he performed the amazing task of drinking all the Ganges' water. After that, the gods, gandharvas and sages were greatly astonished. They offered respects to the great soul and best of men, Jahnu, and then forced the Ganges to become the daughter of the great sage. Being pleased by this, the highly powerful sage allowed the Ganges to flow out of his ears. Thus, the Ganges is called the daughter of the sage Jahnu and is known as Jahnavi. The Ganges again began following King Bhagiratha's chariot. Then that best of rivers reached the ocean. She thereafter entered Rasatala to fulfill the task of King Bhagiratha. King Bhagiratha also brought the Ganges there with great effort. Seeing his ancestors reduced to ashes, he fainted. Then the waters of the Ganges flowed over that pile of ashes. Being purified of all their sins, King Bhagiratha's ancestors attained heaven, O best of the Raghu Dynasty.
King Bhagiratha Offers Ganges' Water to His Ancestors
When King Bhagiratha reached the ocean, followed by the Ganges, he entered into the Rasatala region where his ancestors had been reduced to ashes. When the waters of the Ganges had flowed over those ashes, Lord Brahma, the lord of all worlds, appeared and spoke the following to King Bhagiratha: "O tiger among men, the sixty thousand sons of the great soul King Sagara have been delivered and have attained forms as gods in heaven. This girl Ganges will become your eldest daughter and she will be known throughout the world by your name. The Ganges will be known by the name Tripathaga (following three paths: heaven, earth and Patala), Divya (divine) and Bhagirathi (the daughter of Bhagiratha). O king, now you should offer water to all your great ancestors, thus fulfilling your duty towards them. Your highly renowned ancestor King Sagara was unable to fulfill his desire to bring the Ganges here. Even so, my child, King Amshuman, whose prowess was unparalleled, who was endowed with the good qualities of a royal sage, who shone with the splendor of a great sage, who was equal to me in the practice of austerities and who was fixed in the execution of the duties of a king, was unable to fulfill his vow, though he longed to bring the Ganges down. Your ancestor Dilipa, who was very fortunate and powerful, O sinless one, was also unable to bring the Ganges down, though he desired to do so. That goal has been accomplished by you, O best of men. As such you have attained the highest possible fame within this material world. O defeater of enemies, you have succeeded in making the Ganges descend to earth. By this you have achieved the right to enter my own highly virtuous world Brahmaloka. O best of men, bathe yourself in the Ganges whose waters are always pure. Purify yourself in that way in order to attain the fruit of piety. Offer libations of water to all your ancestors. Good luck to you. I shall now depart. You may return to your own home, O king."
Having spoken in that way, Brahma, the lord of the gods and grandfather of all the worlds, departed for the world of the gods, in the same way he had come. Then the royal sage Bhagiratha offered libations of water according to rule and according to seniority to all the descendants of King Sagara. After finishing the ritual, the king was also purified and so he entered his capital city. Having fulfilled his mission, he began ruling his kingdom, so it is said. The people rejoiced at the king's return, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. All of their grief was destroyed, their desires were fulfilled and they became free from all feverishness. This, O Rama, is the story of the Ganges which I have related to You. May You achieve good fortune. Bless You. The sun has already set. This auspicious narration of the descent of the Ganges confers fortune, fame, longevity, children and the attainment of heaven upon the brahmanas, kshatriyas and any one else who hears it. It is pleasing to the forefathers and to the demigods. O descendant of Kakutstha, one who hears this story achieves all desires, is freed from all sins and achieves an increase in life and fame.
Churning the Ocean of Milk
Wearing Vishvamitra's words, both Rama and Lakshmana were extremely astonished and said the following to Vishvamitra: "O brahmana, the story told by you about the auspicious descent of the Ganges and the filling of the ocean by the Ganges is very amazing. While the two of us were contemplating all the stories told by you, O subduer of enemies, the night passed as if it were just a moment. I, along with my brother Lakshmana, have passed this whole night pondering these auspicious topics, O Vishvamitra."
After that, the day broke with an unmarred sunrise and Vishvamitra began his daily religious duties. When he had finished Rama, the best of the Raghu Dynasty and chastiser of enemies, said to Vishvamitra: "Last night was spent hearing a most worthy story. Let us cross this best of rivers, the holy Ganges. Here is a boat with a comfortable seat sent by the sages who are engaged in pious activities. Knowing that you had arrived here, it has immediately come."
Hearing the great soul Rama's words, Vishvamitra, in the company of the sages, had all of them ferried across the river. Upon reaching the northern shore of the Ganges, they were welcomed by the sages who resided there. While on the bank of the river they could see the city of Vishala. Then the best of sages Vishvamitra, accompanied by Rama and Lakshmana, hurriedly proceeded towards the beautiful and splendid city of Vishala, which was equal to heaven. At that time, joining His palms, the highly intelligent Rama inquired from Vishvamitra about the best of cities, Vishala: "O great sage, bless you. I wish to hear about which dynasty of kings rules this city of Vishala, for I am very curious." Hearing Rama's words, the supermost sage began relating the ancient story of the city of Vishala:
"Listen, O Rama, to the story of Indra, which I shall narrate as I heard it. Listen to the actual events that happened in this land, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. In the previous Krita-yuga77, O Rama, the sons of Diti78 were very powerful. The sons of Aditi79 were also highly fortunate, valiant and most righteous. In the course of time, O tiger among men, it occurred to those great personages:
How can we become immortal, youthful and free from disease?
As they were contemplating this, the following thought occurred to them:
If we churn the ocean of milk, we shall certainly obtain the elixir of immortality.
After deciding to churn the ocean of milk, those beings whose splendor was immeasurable took Mount Mandara as the churning rod and the celestial serpent Vasuki as the rope and began churning. Now, when one thousand years had passed, the many-headed serpent who was being used as the churning rope began biting the stones of Mount Mandara with his fangs, after which he started vomiting profuse amounts of poison. At that time, there appeared a highly powerful poison called halahala, which burned like fire. The whole world, including the gods, demons and humans, was being burnt by it. At this, all the gods took shelter of the great Lord Shiva, the protector of beasts, and glorified him, saying: "Please protect us, please protect us." Being requested in this way by the gods, Lord Shiva appeared there. Thereafter Lord Vishnu, who bears a conchshell and discus, also appeared there. Smiling sweetly, Lord Vishnu said to Lord Shiva, who was holding a trident: "This first substance churned from the ocean of milk by the gods corresponds to you, O Shiva, for you are the foremost of these gods. Standing here, O lord, accept this poison as the first tribute."
Having spoken in this way, the best of gods Lord Vishnu vanished from there. Seeing the fear of the gods and hearing the advice of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva drank the terribly potent poison halahala as if it were nectar. Then the great Lord Shiva, left the gods and departed.
Then all the gods and demons again began churning the ocean of milk, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. At that time, the excellent Mount Mandara which they were using as a churning rod sank down to Patala-loka. Thereupon, the gods and gandharvas began praising Lord Vishnu, the slayer of the Madhu demon: "You are the ultimate goal of all living beings, especially of the residents of heaven. Protect us, O strong armed one, and lift up this mountain." Hearing this, Lord Vishnu, the master of the senses, assumed the form of a tortoise. Taking the mountain on His back, He lied down there in the ocean. Then the Soul of the world, Lord Vishnu placed His hand on the top of the mountain and, standing in the midst of the gods, began churning the ocean of milk. When one thousand years had passed, the most righteous personification of the Ayur Veda80 arose, bearing in His hands a stick and a kamandalu81. His name was Dhanvantari.
After that there appeared apsaras (celestial nymphs) of great splendor. O best of men, because the churning produced them from the rasa (essence) of the apsu (waters), the nymphs were called apsaras. There were six billion splendorous apsaras, O descendant of Kakutstha, and their lady attendants were innumerable. All the gods and demons refused to accept these women as their wives. Only because of this refusal, they became known as public women. O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, then there arose Varuni, the goddess of liquor and daughter of Varuna, the god of the sea. She was looking for a husband. The sons of Diti who were demons did not accept her, O valiant Rama. But the sons of Aditi who are the demigods did accept her, as she was faultless. Because the sons of Diti did not accept the goddess of sura (liquor), they became known as asuras (those who did not accept sura). The gods felt overjoyed and exhilarated due to accepting Varuni.
Then appeared the excellent horse named Ucchaishrava, the chief of jewels, Kaustubha, and, in the same way, O best of men, the excellent elixir of immortality. Now, for the sake of that nectar there was a massive destruction of the two races. The sons of Aditi fought furiously with the sons of Diti. The demons were joined by the rakshasas, thus a terrible battle ensued, O Rama, which bewildered the three worlds. When all of the combatants were nearly destroyed, the most powerful Lord Vishnu appeared in the illusive form of a female named Mohini, who quickly appropriated the nectar. Those who opposed the indestructible Lord Vishnu, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, were crushed in battle by the all-powerful Lord Vishnu. In this horrific battle, the sons of Aditi massacred the sons of Diti. When the sons of Diti were slain and Indra, the destroyer of the demons, had regained his heavenly kingdom, he happily ruled over all the worlds with the sages and celestial beings.
Diti Contrives to Kill Indra
Diti was extremely saddened by the slaughter of all her sons. She spoke the following words to her husband Kashyapa82, the son of Marici: "I have been deprived of my sons by your powerful sons, the demigods, O lord. I wish to bear a son who, by the power of my prolonged austerities, will be able to kill Indra, the leader of the gods. I shall perform austerities. Please give me a child who can kill Lord Indra. You must give me your permission."
Hearing what she said, the glorious Kashyapa, the son of Marici, then replied with great sadness to Diti: "So be it. Bless you. If you remain pure for the allotted time of one thousand years, you will, by my seed, give birth to a son capable of destroying the three worlds." Having spoken thus, the powerful sage patted her with his hand. After touching and blessing her, the sage returned to his practice of austerities.
After Kashyapa had departed, Diti went to Kushaplava and jubilantly performed severe austerities. O best of men, while Diti was engaged in practicing austerities, Indra personally served her with great humility. The thousand-eyed Indra brought her fire, kusha grass, firewood, water, fruit, roots and whatever else she wanted. Indra massaged her limbs, thus relieving her fatigue. Indra served Diti at all times, it is said, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. When ten years less than one thousand years had passed, Diti was extremely delighted and spoke the following to Indra: "I have only ten more years of austerity left, O best of the valiant. When the remainder has passed you will see your new brother. Good luck to you. My lad, I shall pacify the son for whom I have been endeavoring to have, for he will be born with the desire to conquer you. After that, you will enjoy the three worlds with him, as he will be free from the feverish desire to kill you. O best of the demigods, after being requested by me, your great-souled father granted me the boon of bearing a child at the end of one thousand years."
As Diti finished speaking, the sun reached high noon and Diti was overcome with slumber, placing her feet where her head ought to have been. Seeing her impure because her hair was touching her feet and her feet were at the place where her head should have been, Indra laughed and rejoiced. Indra entered through her uterus and then cut the fetus into seven pieces, O Rama. As Indra cut the fetus with his one hundred-spiked thunderbolt, the fetus began to cry with a shrill voice. Then Diti woke up. "Do not cry! Do not cry!" said Indra to the fetuses. Yet Indra continued cutting the dismembered fetus into smaller pieces. "Do not kill! Do not kill!" said Diti. By the gravity of his stepmother's entreaty, Indra came out from her womb. Holding his thunderbolt in his joined palms, Indra said to Diti: "You were impure as you slept with your hair touching your feet, my lady. Taking advantage of that opportunity, I cut into seven pieces he who was to be my assassin. Please forgive me for that."
How the City of Vishala Was Built
When Diti realized that her fetus had been cut into seven pieces, she became overwhelmed with grief and pleaded with Indra, who was unassailable: "Because of my offense, O slayer of the Bala demon, this fetus was cut into seven pieces. It is no fault of yours, O Indra, lord of the gods. I wish that the dismemberment of my fetus by you should end in a way that will be pleasing to both of us. Let them take the place of the seven wind gods. Let these seven wander the heavens as the seven divisions of the wind83, O Indra. My forty-nine children in their celestial forms will be known as Maruts84. The first seven will blow in Brahmaloka, the next seven, in Indraloka, the next seven will be the famous winds which blow in the sky. My other four groups of sons, will traverse the four quarters at that time when you so command them, O best of the gods. Because of what you did to them, they will be known as the Maruts."
Hearing her supplication, the thousand-eyed Indra, with folded hands, spoke the following words: "Everything will be exactly as you have said. There is no doubt about this. Bless you. Your sons will roam about with the forms of gods." Thus, O Rama, the mother and stepson both obtained their purposes in this sacred hermitage and then ascended to heaven, according to what I have heard. This is the land, O descendant of Kakutstha, where the great Lord Indra served Diti as she perfected herself through the practice of austerities.
Now, Ikshvaku, O tiger among men, had a son who was exceedingly pious born from the womb of Alambusha and known as Vishala. By him was the city of Vishala established at this place. Vishala's son was the most powerful Hemacandra. Hemacandra's son was widely known as Sucandra. Sucandra's son was known as Dhumrashva. Dhumrashva's son was known as Shrinjaya. Shrinjaya's son was the glorious and powerful Sahadeva. Sahadeva's son was the most pious soul Kushashva. Kushashva's son was the effulgent and formidable Somadatta. Somadatta's son was known as Kakutstha. His glorious son named Sumati, who is widely renowned, powerful and undefeatable presently lives in this city. By the grace of Ikshvaku all the kings of Vishala are long-lived, great souls, powerful and pious. We shall comfortably pass one night here. Tomorrow morning, O best of men, You will see King Janaka.
Hearing that Vishvamitra had arrived, the powerful, glorious and unexcelled King Sumati went to welcome him. In the company of his priests and family members, King Sumati bestowed great honors upon Vishvamitra. With folded hands, King Sumati inquired about Vishvamitra's welfare and then said to him: "I am most fortunate and obliged to you, O sage, for you have visited my kingdom and even come within my vision. There is no one more fortunate than I."
Why Ahalya Was Cursed
After meeting each other there, they inquired about each other's welfare and chatted with each other. Then Sumati said to Vishvamitra: "Bless you, O sage. These two youths are equal to the gods in prowess. Their gait is like that of a lion or of an elephant. In valor They are equal to a tiger or bull. Their eyes are as broad as lotus petals. They bear swords, sheathes of arrows and bows. By Their bodily beauty They resemble the two Ashvini-kumaras85. They are in full youth. They resemble two immortal gods who have descended of Their own will from heaven to earth. How have they set foot here, for what reason, and whose sons are They, O sage? They are beautifying this land and are effulgent like the sun and moon. They are similar to each other in height, idiosyncrasies and physical movements. I wish to hear in detail the reason these outstanding men, being wielders of exceptional weapons, have undertaken the difficult journey here."
Hearing what King Sumati said, Vishvamitra related to him the full story, including how They stayed at Siddhashrama and slew the rakshasas. On hearing Vishvamitra's story, the king was highly astonished. The king then received the two powerful and worthy sons of King Dasharatha as his most honored guests, offering them all respect according to scriptural injunction. After the two descendants of the Raghu Dynasty had received high honors from King Sumati, They passed the night there and then departed for Mithila. Upon seeing the beautiful city of King Janaka, all the sages accompanying Vishvamitra began praising the city of Mithila, exclaiming "Excellent! Excellent!" Seeing there on the outskirts of Mithila a lovely hermitage that was old and desolate in a grove of trees, Rama asked Vishvamitra: "What is this place that so resembles a hermitage, but is devoid of sages? I wish to hear, O master, whose hermitage this was previously."
Hearing what Lord Rama said, the great sage Vishvamitra, who was skilled at speaking, replied: "Alas! I shall tell you. Listen in detail, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, to which great soul this hermitage belongs and by whose anger it was cursed. Previously this hermitage, which looked like heaven and was honored by all the gods, belonged to the great soul Gautama. At that time, the famous sage practiced austerities here with his wife, Ahalya, for quite a number of years, O prince. Once, when Indra was aware that Gautama was absent from the hermitage, he came disguised as Gautama and said the following to Ahalya: "Those who are anxious for sexual enjoyment do not wait for the proper time for conception of a child. Therefore, O shapely woman, I wish to unite with you." Recognizing him to be Indra disguised as her husband, she unwisely agreed, out of eagerness, to enjoy with the king of the gods.
Later, when she was inwardly gratified by her accomplishment, she said to Indra: "I have achieved by goal, O best of the gods. Leave this place quickly, my lord. Guard yourself and myself in every way possible from my husband Gautama." Laughing, Indra spoke the following words to Ahalya: "Lovely lady, I am very satisfied. I shall depart just as I came." In that way, he began to leave the hut, hurrying due to fear, being apprehensive of Gautama's return. Just then he saw entering the hut, the great sage Gautama, who was difficult to overcome for gods and demons because of his strength acquired through the practice of austerities. He was drenched with water from the holy river and was shining like fire. In his hands he carried firewood and kusha grass. Seeing Gautama, Indra was mortified and hung his head down.
Seeing Indra disguised as him and guilty of misconduct, the sage Gautama, who was well-behaved, spoke out of anger: "You, O fool, have disguised yourself as me. For this misconduct you shall lose you testicles." When the great soul Gautama had spoken these angry words, Indra's testicles fell to the ground that very moment. As Indra had been cursed, even so did Gautama curse his wife: "You will remain here for many thousands of years without food, living on air alone, practicing austerities and sleeping on a pile of ashes. You will dwell in this hermitage unseen by all living beings86. When, however, Rama, the son of Dasharatha, comes to this terrible grove, you will be absolved. O immoral woman, by offering proper hospitality to Him, you will become free from lust and illusion. You will then regain your original body at my side, being overwhelmed with delight." Having spoken in this way to the immoral woman, the powerful Gautama left this hermitage and went to the pleasant Himalaya Mountains that are frequented by siddhas and caranas and began practicing austerities.
Lord Rama Relieves Ahalya of Her Curse
Being castrated, Indra, with fearful eyes, said to the siddhas, gandharvas, caranas and gods headed by Agni: "I have performed a service for the gods by interrupting the great soul Gautama's austerities by invoking his anger87. Now I have been castrated by his anger and Ahalya has been made formless. By this did I interrupt his practice of austerities. Since I was only engaged in the welfare of the gods, you, O best of gods, accompanied by the sages and caranas, should restore my testicles."
Hearing the supplication of Indra, the performer of one hundred horse sacrifices, the gods, headed by Agni and accompanied by the Maruts, approached the celestial forefathers and said: "Here is a ram with testicles and Indra has been deprived of his testicles. Taking the testicles from the ram, immediately attach them to Indra. The castrated ram will please you greatly. To those men who to propitiate you offer you a castrated ram, you will bestow an undecaying and abundant reward88."
Hearing Agni's request, the assembled celestial forefathers removed the testicles from the ram and attached them to Indra. From then on, O descendant of Kakutstha, the celestial forefathers have enjoyed offerings of castrated rams and have conferred upon the offerers suitable rewards. Since then, O Rama, by the strength of the great soul Gautama's austerity, Indra has had the testicles of a ram. Now step inside the hermitage of the pious sage and deliver the highly blessed Ahalya, who previously had a celestial form."
After hearing Vishvamitra's words, Rama, accompanied by Lakshmana, entered the hermitage, being lead by Vishvamitra, so it is said. There Rama saw the fortunate lady who was glowing due to the practice of austerities and who was unable to be seen by the gods and demons, much less by ordinary people, even when approached closely. Her heavenly form was originally created by Lord Brahma with great effort and resembled a creation of magical powers. She resembled a blazing tongue of fire enveloped in smoke, like the halo of the full moon covered by mist or a cloud, or like the undeterrable radiance of the sun shining through a cloud. By the curse of Gautama, she had been rendered invisible to the three worlds until she would be seen by Rama. The period of the curse had now come to an end as she was seen by them all.
Rama and Lakshmana then caught hold of her feet with delight. Remembering the words of Gautama, she welcomed the two princes. With a composed mind, she offered the two water for washing the feet and hands and other acts of hospitality according to scriptural rule. At that time, the gods showered down flowers and beat kettle drums, while the gandharvas and apsaras celebrated jubilantly. Exclaiming "Very good! Very good!" the gods honored the lady Ahalya, whose body was purified by the power of her austerity and who had remained obedient to Gautama. Gautama was also happy to be reunited with his glorious wife Ahalya. After offering proper respects to Lord Rama, the great ascetic engaged himself in the practice of austerities. After personally receiving the highest honors from the great sage Gautama, Rama proceeded to Mithila.
Rama and His Associates Enter Mithila
Placing Vishvamitra in the lead, Rama, along with Lakshmana, departed from the hermitage in a north-easterly direction and reached the containing wall of King Janaka's sacrificial arena. Then Rama, along with Lakshmana, addressed the tiger among sages, Vishvamitra: "Excellent indeed are the preparations made by the great soul Janaka for the sacrifice. Many thousands of brahmanas who are scholars of the scriptures have come from many different lands. You can see their enclosed camps and their carts by the hundreds. Find a place where we can set up camp, O brahmana."
Hearing Rama's words, the great sage Vishvamitra selected a campsite with water. On learning of Vishvamitra's arrival, King Janaka humbly followed his family priest, Shatananda, who was the son of Gautama. The assistant priests also brought with them the ingredients for reception as they hurried along. Reaching Vishvamitra's encampment suddenly, the king humbly and religiously received Vishvamitra. After accepting the welcome offered by King Janaka, Vishvamitra inquired about the king's health and about the unimpeded progress of the sacrifice. Vishvamitra then inquired about the welfare of the sages, scholars and family priest who accompanied the king. Receiving them all according to his ability, he was overjoyed. Then the king, with folded hands, addressed the best of sages Vishvamitra: "O lord, please be seated along with all these other honorable sages." Hearing Janaka's request, the great sage sat down. Then the family priest Shatananda, the sacrificial priests, the king and his ministers all sat down according to their status.
While gazing at Vishvamitra, the king said: "Today the gods have vouchsafed the prosperity of this sacrifice. By the sight of you at this moment I have obtained the fruit of the sacrifice. I am blessed and obliged that you have arrived at this sacrificial arena with your great ascetics. O brahmana sage, my scholars have informed me that the sacrifice is to last another twelve days. After that, O descendant of Kushika, you will see the gods who appear to receive their share of the sacrifice."
Speaking in this way to the tiger among sages, the king, with a joyful countenance, joined his palms and again humbly inquired from the sage: "Bless you, sage. These two youths are equal to gods in prowess. Their gait is like an elephant's, and in valor They are like tigers or bulls. Their eyes are as broad as lotus petals and They bear swords, sheaths of arrows and bows. By Their beauty they resemble the two Ashvini-kumaras, They are situated in full youth. By Their own desire They have come to the earth as do immortal gods descend from heaven. How, for what purpose or for whose sake have They come here on foot, O sage? They are wielding excellent weapons. Whose sons are these two valiant youths, O sage? I wish to hear in truth about these two warriors who are beautifying our land like the sun and moon in the sky. They resemble each other in height, characteristics and movement and have sidelocks of hair like the wings of a crow."
After hearing the great souled King Janaka's inquiry, Vishvamitra explained: "These are the two sons of King Dasharatha. They stayed for some time at Siddhashrama and slayed the rakshasas who were interfering with my sacrifice. They arrived leisurely at the outskirts of Vishala, from where They could see the city. There They saw Ahalya and met the sage Gautama. After that, They have come here in order to investigate the great bow which you have." Explaining all this to the great soul Janaka, Vishvamitra then remained silent.
Shatananda Begins to Relate to Rama the Story of Vishvamitra
Hearing the story related by the wise Vishvamitra, the hair of the glorious and austere Shatananda, the eldest son of Gautama, stood on end with delight. His bodily effulgence was heightened by the practice of austerities. The very sight of Rama left him astonished. Seeing that the two princes were comfortably seated, Shatananda then said to Vishvamitra: "O tiger among sages, did you happen to show my famous mother, who was engaged in austerities for a long time, to the prince Rama? Did my glorious mother offer worship to Rama, who is worthy of the worship of all embodied beings, with fruits and flowers from the forest? O great sage, did you relate to Rama the old history about how Indra deceived my mother? O descendant of Kushika, bless you. Was my mother reunited with her husband after being relieved from the curse by the sight of and service to Shri Rama? Did my father, the son of Kushika, offer respect to Rama? Did the great soul Rama come here after receiving such worship? Upon Rama's arrival and reception there, did He greet my father with a tranquil mind, O descendant of Kushika?"
Hearing these inquiries, Vishvamitra, who was skilled in speaking, wisely replied to Shatananda: "O best of sages, whatever should have been done, I did. Nothing was omitted. Your father Gautama was reunited with your mother, even as Jamadagni was with Renuka."
On hearing the wise Vishvamitra's words, the glorious Shatananda said to Rama: "Welcome, O best of men. It is by our good fortune that You have come here, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty, following the undefeatable great sage Vishvamitra. The glorious Vishvamitra's activities are inconceivable. By his austerities he attained the position of being a brahmarshi. His bodily effulgence is immeasurable. I know that he is the topmost shelter for the world. There is no one more fortunate than You in this world, for You are protected by the son of Kushika, Vishvamitra, being an ascetic who has performed tremendous austerities. Listen and I shall tell the actual history of the great soul Vishvamitra according to my ability. Listen to that narration:
For a long time, Vishvamitra was a righteous king who kept his enemies at bay. He was conversant with the principles of religion, had completed all his studies, and was engaged in the welfare of the citizens. The son of Prajapati was a king named Kusha. Kusha's son was the strong and most righteous Kushanabha. Kushanabha's son was the renowned Gadhi. Gadhi's son is the glorious and great sage Vishvamitra. The powerful King Vishvamitra protected the earth and ruled it for many thousands of years. Once, however, he assembled his army and, accompanied by one akshauhini89, went around the world. Passing many towns, countries, rivers, mountains and hermitages, the king at last arrived at the hermitage of Vasishtha, which was decorated with many different flowers and creepers. It abounded in many different forest animals and was frequented by siddhas and caranas. Its beauty was magnified by the gods, danavas, gandharvas and kinnaras that were visiting there. There were herds of gentle deer. Many brahmanas, brahmarshis and devarshis resided there. The place was beautified by the great souls who, by perfecting themselves through austerities, were like blazing fire. It was always crowded with great souls who were just like Lord Brahma. Some of them lived on water, some on air, some on dry leaves, while others had conquered their senses and eliminated all disease by eating fruits and roots. The valakhilya sages were engaged in reciting prayers and in offering oblations of clarified butter into sacrificial fires. It was also decorated on all sides with vaikhana sages. The superpowerful Vishvamitra, who was the greatest of conquerors, saw the site of Vasishtha's hermitage which was just like Brahmaloka.
Vasishtha Receives King Vishvamitra
Greatly delighted to see Vasishtha, the foremost among those who chant mantras, the valiant warrior Vishvamitra humbly bowed down. The king was welcomed by the great soul Vasishtha, who then offered him a seat to sit on. When the intelligent Vishvamitra had sat down, the best of sages accordingly offered him food prepared from forest fruits and roots. After accepting this honor from Vasishtha, that best of kings Vishvamitra inquired about the condition of Vasishtha's austerities, fire sacrifices and disciples, and then about the vegetation. Vasishtha told the king about the condition of everything. Then Vasishtha, the best of chanters and son of Lord Brahma asked the radiant King Vishvamitra who was seated comfortably:
"O king, I hope all is well with you and that you are satisfying the citizens by your righteousness and protecting them by the proper execution of your royal duties, O righteous king. Are you maintaining your servants properly, and are they obedient to you? Are all your enemies subdued, O conqueror of foes? Is all well with your military forces, finances and allies, O tiger among men, not to mention your sons and grandson, O sinless one?"
Then the splendorous Vishvamitra replied to the cultured Vasishtha that all was well with him. The two pious souls delightedly began talking with each other for quite some time, striking up a deep affection between themselves. After they finished conversing, Vasishtha said to Vishvamitra while laughing slightly: "O great king, I wish to entertain your immeasurable self and your army as well as I am able. Please agree to this. O king, you are the foremost of guests and therefore I am bound to offer you respect. Please accept the honorable reception presented by me."
After Vasishtha had spoken in that way, the wise King Vishvamitra said: "I have already been received by your hospitable world. O master, the things from your hermitage - the fruit, roots, footbath, mouthwash and the sight of you - are a sufficient reception for me. O greatest of the wise, you are always worshipable by me, but you have already offered me such honor. I offer my respects to you. I shall always see you as my friend."
The pious soul Vasishtha again requested the king, who repeatedly spoke as previously. Then Vishvamitra said to Vasishtha: "All right. Let it be as you so please, O foremost of sages." Pleased at being addressed in this way by Vishvamitra, Vasishtha, the best of chanters, called for his spotted cow, which was freshly washed: "Come on, come on. O Shabala, hurry along and listen to what I say. I am determined to entertain this royal sage and his army with a sumptuous feast. Give each one, according to his desire, dishes of the six varieties of tastes (namely, pungent, sweet, salty, bitter, sour and astringent). Supply all of that for my sake, O cow of plenty90. Produce quantities of flavorsome food, O Shabala, including those that are chewed, drunk, swallowed and sucked. Be quick."
Vishvamitra Asks Vasishtha for the Desire Cow
Having been commanded in this way by Vasishtha, Shabala, the desire cow, provided everyone with what they desired. She supplied pieces of sugar cane, honey, fried grains, rum, wine, and a wide variety of other costly drinks and foods. There were heaps of steaming rice resembling mountains; there was sweet rice, lentil soup. Similarly, there were rivers of yogurt. There were many varieties of tasty fruit juices and sweetmeats and thousands of silver plates piled high with food. The entire army of Vishvamitra was thoroughly satisfied, O Rama, consisting as it did of joyful, well-fed men. By then the royal sage Vishvamitra, along with his queens, brahmanas, priests, ministers, counselors and servants, was pleased and satiated by the entertainment offered by Vasishtha.
Vishvamitra then joyously spoke the following to Vasishtha: "I have been greatly honored and entertained by you, O brahmana, who are yourself most worshipable. Now I would like to say something. Listen, O eloquent speaker. You should give me Shabala in exchange for one hundred thousand cows. She is a jewel, my lord, and it is the prerogative of a monarch to take jewels. Therefore, give Shabala to me, O brahmana, as she rightly belongs to me."
After Vishvamitra said this, the foremost sage Vasishtha replied to him: "I shall not give you Shabala for one hundred thousand cows, not even for millions of cows, O king, nor for piles of silver. She cannot be taken from me, O subduer of enemies. Shabala is perpetually mine, as fame adheres to a self-realized soul. My offering of oblations to the gods and forefathers, as well as the support of my life itself, depends on her. She is the support for the sacrificial fire, the oblations of clarified butter, the sacrifices themselves, the chanting of the mantras svaha and vaushat and the manifold knowledge of these. She supplies the ingredients, as well as the food that gives me the strength to do these. She is the basis of all these without any doubt, O royal sage. She is everything to me and as such she is my source of pleasure. For these many reasons I shall not give you Shabala, O king."
Addressed in this way by Vasishtha, Vishvamitra, who was skilled at speaking, spoke with great exasperation: "I will give you fourteen thousand elephants with solid gold chains, adornments and goads. I will also give you eight hundred gold chariots, each driven by four white horses and decorated with small tinkling bells. I further offer you eleven thousand spirited horses from lands noted for their breeds. I can also give you one million young cows of many different colors. Let Shabala be given to me. I will give you as much gold and jewels as you desire, O brahmana. Just give me Shabala."
After the clever Vishvamitra had spoken, Vasishtha said: "O king, I shall under no circumstance give you Shabala. She is indeed my only jewel, my only wealth. She is everything to me. She is my very life. The new moon and full moon sacrifices, the sacrifices with remunerations and varieties of rituals - she is all of these for me, O king. Without a doubt, all my activities are based on her. No matter how much you prattle, I shall not give you my desire cow."
Vishvamitra Forcibly Takes the Desire Cow
When the sage Vasishtha did not give up the desire cow, Vishvamitra took her away by force, O Rama. As Shabala was being lead away by the king, she was afflicted with grief and began moaning. She thought: "Have I been abandoned by the great soul Vasishtha, that I am being taken away by the king's servants, wretched and forlorn as I am? What offense could I have possibly committed against the self-realized sage that, seeing me innocent and devoted to him, he is abandoning me?"
Thinking in this way, the cow sighed again and again. She then ran to the supremely powerful Vasishtha. Shaking off the king's hundreds of servants, she ran as swiftly as the wind to the feet of the great sage. Crying and bellowing like the rumbling of clouds, Shabala stood before Vasishtha and spoke as follows: "O son of Brahma, have I been abandoned by you, that the king's servants are taking me away from you?"
Having been addressed in this way, the brahmarshi Vasishtha said to the cow whose heart was burning with grief like a sorely afflicted sister: "I am not abandoning you, O Shabala. You have not offended me in any way. This powerful king is leading you away of his own accord. My strength is not equal to his. Today, having been honored by me, he is particularly strong. Besides, this powerful king is a warrior and the ruler of the earth. By this entire akshauhini, consisting of so many festooned elephants, horses and chariots, he is most powerful."
Being answered in this way by Vasishtha, she humbly replied to the brahmarshi whose effulgence was unparalleled: "The strength of a warrior is not greater than that of a brahmana. The power of a brahmana is far greater than that of a warrior. Your strength is immeasurable. The mighty Vishvamitra is not stronger than you. Your power is insurmountable. Command me. Fortified by your brahminical power, O glorious sage, I shall destroy the pride, strength and efforts of this wicked king."
When Shabala had spoken in this way, Vasishtha replied: "Produce an army capable of crushing his army." Hearing his command, the desire cow produced it. By her bellow were produced Pahlava91 warriors by the hundreds. They began to destroy Vishvamitra's army as he watched. The king became enraged with his eyes dilated due to anger. Using his various weapons of destruction, Vishvamitra then began slaying the Pahlava warriors by the hundreds. Seeing this, Shabala then produced hordes of formidable Shakas92, who were related to the Yavanas93. The earth was covered by these Shakas. They were splendorous and most powerful. Their complexion resembled the filaments of campaka94 flowers. They were carrying sharp swords and spears and were dressed in yellow garments. The entire army of Vishvamitra was consumed by them as if by blazing fires. Then the mighty Vishvamitra released a number of missiles. These threw the forces of the Yavanas, Kambojas95 and Barbaras96 into confusion.
Vishvamitra Performs Austerities to Defeat Vasishtha
When Vasishtha saw how the army was thrown into confusion by Vishvamitra's missiles, he commanded the desire cow to produce more soldiers by her mystic power. From her belly arose Kamboja warriors who were as brilliant as the sun. From her udder appeared Barbaras with weapons in their hands. From her womb sprang Yavanas, and from her anus, Shakas. From the pores of her skin came Mlecchas, Haritas and Kiratas. They immediately began destroying Vishvamitra's army of foot soldiers, elephants, horses and chariots. Seeing their father's army destroyed by the great soul Vasishtha, the sons of Vishvamitra rushed towards Vasishtha by the hundreds, bearing many different weapons in their hands. By chanting the word "hum" the great sage burned them all to ashes. The sons of Vishvamitra, along with their horses, chariots and foot soldiers, were reduced to ashes in a moment by Vasishtha.
Seeing both his army and his glorious sons destroyed, Vishvamitra was overcome with anxiety mixed with shame. Like a motionless ocean, a serpent with broken fangs or the eclipsed sun, he was deprived of his personal splendor. After the destruction of his sons and army, he was as miserable as a bird with clipped wings. With all his strength and enthusiasm crushed, he became terribly despondent. He entrusted his only surviving son with the rule of the kingdom, instructing him to govern the world with the principles of righteousness, and then departed for the forest. He went to the slopes of the Himalaya Mountains that are frequented by kinnaras and serpents. There he began practicing austerities in order to please Lord Shiva. Some time later, Lord Shiva, who bears a flag with the emblem of a bull, appeared to Vishvamitra to offer him a boon: "O king, why are you practicing austerities? Tell me what you want. I am the bestower of boons. The boon which you desire may be known by me."
Having been spoken to in this way, the highly austere Vishvamitra bowed down to Lord Shiva and said the following: "If you, O lord of the gods, are pleased, bestow upon me knowledge of the Dhanur Veda97, along with its corollaries and mystical explanations. Let the weapons of the gods, danavas, maharshis, gandharvas, yakshas and rakshasas be given to me, O sinless one. Fulfill my desire by your mercy, O god of gods." Lord Shiva said: "So be it." Then he departed.
Having acquired those weapons, the mighty Vishvamitra became very proud. Having waxed in strength like the ocean during the full moon, he considered Vasishtha already dead. The monarch, firing weapons as he came, returned to the hermitage of Vasishtha. The hermitage was scorched by the heat of those weapons. Seeing the skillful Vishvamitra discharging weapons against them, the frightened ascetics fled by the hundreds in all directions. Afraid of the danger, the disciples of Vasishtha and the forest creatures ran by the thousands from all sides. Within an hour or so, the site of the Vasishtha's hermitage was thoroughly abandoned and devoid of any sound. All during this, Vasishtha repeatedly exclaimed: "Do not fear. I shall destroy Vishvamitra, the descendant of Gadhi, even as the sun dispels fog." Having finished speaking, Vasishtha, the best of chanters, angrily said to Vishvamitra: "You have been wreaking havoc on this hermitage for quite some time. Because you are a wicked wretch and a fool, you shall cease to be." Speaking in this way, Vasishtha quickly raised his staff, which was like a second staff of Varuna, the god of justice, and stood there angrily, like the fire of devastation without its smoke.
Vasishtha Defeats Vishvamitra With His Staff
After being addressed in that way by Vasishtha, the greatly powerful Vishvamitra took a fire weapon and said: "Stay where you are!" Raising his brahminical staff, which was like Time's own rod of chastisement, Vasishtha said: "Here I am, O lowest of warriors. Show me what your strength is! Today I shall destroy your pride in weaponry. What is the strength of a warrior when compared to the great strength of a brahmana? See my divine brahminical power, O disgrace to the warrior caste!"
The terrible fire weapon released by Vishvamitra was counteracted by the brahminical staff of Vasishtha, as the strength of fire is reduced by water. Then Vishvamitra angrily fired the varuna, raudra, aindra, pashupata and aishika weapons. Vishvamitra then released all the following weapons: manava, mohana, gandharva, svapana, jrimbhana, madana, santapana, vilapana, shoshana, vidarana, sudurjaya, vajrastra, brahmapasha, kalapasha, varunapasha, paramapriya, pinakastra, sukhi-gili, two kinds of ashani, dandastra, paishaca, krauncastra, dharmacakra, kalacakra, vishnucakra, vayavya, mathanastra, hayashiras and two kinds of shaktis. He also released kankala, musala, vaidyadhara, mahastra, the terrible kalastra, the frightful trishula, kapala and kankana. As these weapons were being discharged against Vasishtha, Vasishtha performed a miracle: he neutralized all the weapons with his brahminical staff.
When those weapons had been counteracted, Vishvamitra hurled the brahmastra. Seeing that missile launched by Vishvamitra, the gods headed by Agni, the sages, the gandharvas and eminent serpents were bewildered. All the three worlds were fearful. Even that most frightful brahmastra weapon was completely counteracted by Vasishtha through the use of his staff and brahminical power. While the great soul Vasishtha was tackling the brahmastra, he assumed an angry form that was most frightening and disturbing for the three worlds. From all the pores of Vasishtha's skin shot forth flames of fire covered in smoke as if they were the rays of his effulgence. The brahminical staff raised in the hand of Vasishtha was glowing like the fire of devastation without smoke or like a second rod of chastisement for the lord of death.
Thereafter, Vasishtha, the best of chanters, was praised by the hosts of sages: "O brahmana, your strength is unassailable. Please withdraw your splendor by your own power. The mighty Vishvamitra has been defeated by you, O brahmana. Your power is unfailing. Let the worlds be free of anxiety." Having been addressed in this way, the highly powerful Vasishtha became calm. Being defeated, Vishvamitra heaved a sigh and exclaimed: "What is the use of a warrior's power? The power of a brahmana is real power. By a single brahmana's staff, all my weapons were destroyed. Seeing this, I shall engage myself in severe austerities to control the mind and senses for the purpose of becoming a brahmana."
Trishanku's Desire for Bodily Ascension to Heaven
Remembering how he had been defeated by Vasishtha, with whom he had struck up enmity, Vishvamitra's heart was burning, and he sighed again and again. He departed for the southern region accompanied by his principal queen, O Rama. There the great ascetic Vishvamitra practiced extremely difficult penances. Living only on fruits and roots and conquering his senses, he practiced very advanced austerities. At that time were born to him four sons who were dedicated to righteousness. Their names were Havishpanda, Madhushpanda, Dridhanetra and Maharatha. After the completion of one thousand years, Lord Brahma, the grandfather of all the worlds, appeared and spoke to Vishvamitra, who was rich in asceticism, the following sweet words: "O descendant of Kushika, by your austerities you have conquered the worlds attainable by rajarshis (royal sages). By this austerity I recognize you as a rajarshi too." After saying that, the splendorous Lord Brahma, the chief administrator of the different worlds, accompanied by many demigods, departed for the heaven of Indra en route to his own abode in Brahmaloka.
Hearing this, Vishvamitra slightly lowered his head in shame. Filled with sadness and indignant, he said: "After performing such tremendous austerities, all the gods and sages have only recognized me to be a rajarshi. I think this austerity was fruitless." Having concluded this in his mind, the great ascetic again began to practice austerities.
At the same time, there was a king of the Ikshvaku Dynasty who was truthful and self-controlled known by the name of Trishanku. The following idea occurred to him: "Let me perform a sacrifice and go to the supreme abode of the gods in my very body." Summoning Vasishtha, he told him what he was thinking. The great soul Vasishtha replied: "That is impossible."
Rejected by Vasishtha, Trishanku went to the southern region. For assistance in obtaining his goal, the king approached the sons of Vasishtha, who were engaged there in prolonged austerities. The glorious Trishanku saw the one hundred extremely radiant, high-minded sons of Vasishtha, who were engaged in penances. Approaching the great-souled sons of his guru Vasishtha, he greeted them all. Then, with folded hands, he spoke to them, his head bent down due to embarrassment: "I, in whom others take shelter, seek the shelter of you, the sons of my guru. Bless you. My desire to perform a great sacrifice was rejected by Vasishtha. Please agree to do it. Bowing down to all my guru's sons, I seek your favor. Touching my head to the ground, I implore you brahmanas engaged in austerities. Please perform with concentrated minds a sacrifice by which I may attain my goal of ascending to the world of the gods in this very body. Having been rejected by Vasishtha, I do not see any other recourse than you, the sons of my guru, who are rich in austerities. For all the descendants of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, our family priest Vasishtha has been the chief resort. Besides him, you are all like God for me."
Cursed by Vasishtha's Sons, Trishanku Approaches Vishvamitra
Angered on hearing Trishanku's request, the one hundred sons of Vasishtha, O Rama, said to the king: "When your truthful guru has denied your request, O fool, how could you disregard him by approaching others? Vasishtha is certainly the chief resort for the kings of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. As such, the truthful sage's words cannot be ignored. You are very childish, O best of men. You should go back to your city. Vasishtha is capable of performing sacrifices for all the three worlds, O monarch. How can we disregard him?" Hearing their retort filled with angry words, the king again addressed them: "I have been rejected by my guru and even so by his sons. I shall therefore look for another priest. Good luck to you ascetics." When the sage's sons heard the dreadful statement of the king, they angrily cursed him: "Become a candala (untouchable)!" After that, they all entered their respective huts.
After the night had passed, the king became a candala. His skin turned swarthy, his clothes darkened and his hair fell out. He was wearing a garland from a crematorium and his body was smeared with ashes from a crematorium. Instead of jewel-encrusted gold ornaments, he was adorned with iron. Seeing that he had become a candala, all his ministers and subjects who formerly followed him abandoned him and ran away. Burning day and night, the king then went by himself to Vishvamitra who was rich in asceticism. Seeing the frustrated king with the form of a candala, Vishvamitra felt compassionate. Out of compassion, the very powerful and supremely righteous Vishvamitra said: "Bless you, O king with frightful appearance. What is the purpose of your visit, O mighty prince? How were you, the valiant ruler of Ayodhya, cursed to become a candala?"
Hearing Vishvamitra's inquiry, the king who had become a candala spoke with joined palms words to the eloquent sage: "I was rejected by my guru, as well as by his sons. I was unable to realize my desire, but instead achieved an opposite result. I wanted to perform one hundred sacrifices in order to ascend to heaven in my physical body, O sage of pleasant appearance, but I was unable to carry it out. I have never previously spoke a lie, nor will I every do so, even when in hard times. I swear by my adherence to the principles of chivalry. Worship has been performed by various kinds of sacrifices and the citizens have been governed under righteousness. The elders of society have been satisfied with my virtuous conduct. My preceptors, however, were not pleased with me, even though I struggled for the cause of righteousness and wanted to undertake a sacrifice. I therefore consider fate alone as supreme and personal effort useless. Everything is surpassed by fate. Fate is, thus, the ultimate shelter. Please bestow your mercy upon me, who desires it, for I am sorely afflicted by the obstruction of my efforts by fate. Bless you. I shall seek the shelter of no one else. Indeed, I have no other shelter. Please avert my misfortune by your personal efforts."
Vishvamitra Agrees to Perform the Sacrifice for Trishanku
When the king who had become a candala finished speaking, Vishvamitra, the descendant of Kushika, kindly spoke sweet words to him: "Welcome, O descendant of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. I know you are righteous, my child. I shall as such give you shelter. Do not worry, O best of kings. I shall invite all the great sages who are engaged in acts of piety to come and assist in this sacrifice. Then, O king, you will perform your sacrifice without any difficulty. In this very form inflicted with the curse of your guru you will ascend to heaven. I consider the attainment of heaven as already in your hands, O monarch, in as much as you have come to take shelter of me, who am capable of giving shelter to others."
After saying this, the glorious Vishvamitra commanded his supremely righteous and intelligent sons to prepare for the sacrifice. Summoning all his disciples, he spoke to them the following words, it is said: "By my order, bring all the sages well-versed in the scriptures, including the sons of Vasishtha, not to mention their disciples, friends and assistants. If anyone makes any disrespectful remark on account of what I have said, relate it to me in its entirety."
Hearing his instructions, they departed in all directions by his order. Then exponents of the Absolute Truth began to arrive from all different lands. His disciples also returned to him, glowing as he was due to his asceticism. They related to him everything the exponents of the Absolute Truth had said: "Hearing your request, all the twice-born brahmanas are coming from all lands, except Mahodaya and the one hundred sons of Vasishtha. Hear, O best of sages, all the words filled with anger exactly as they were spoken:
When the performer is a warrior and the beneficiary a candala, how could the gods and sages accept the offerings? Or how will the brahmanas and mahatmas go to heaven if they eat the remnants of food eaten by a candala in a sacrifice patronized by Vishvamitra?
"The sons of Vasishtha, accompanied by Mahodaya, spoke these harsh words with eyes red with anger, O tiger among sages."
After hearing what they had said, Vishvamitra's eyes turned red with ire, and he angrily said: "Because they vilify me, who am faultless and am engaged in the execution of severe austerities, these rascals will be burned to ashes without a doubt. This very day they will be dragged by the noose of time to the abode of death. Let them be born for seven hundred lives as the unfortunate bearers of corpses known by the name of mushtikas that feed on dog's flesh. Let them wander in the world, deformed and hideous. The evil-minded Mahodaya who vilified me though I am faultless, will be disparaged in all worlds and will become a nishada98. By my anger he will become merciless, eking out a living by causing suffering to other living creatures, suffering misfortune himself for a long time." Speaking in this way, the powerful ascetic Vishvamitra remained silent, standing in the midst of the great sages.
The Elevation of Trishanku and Other Feats by Vishvamitra
Upon learning of the elimination of the accumulated mystic power of Mahodaya and the sons of Vasishtha, the glorious Vishvamitra spoke as he stood there in the midst of the sages: "See here Trishanku, the heir of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, who is well-known, righteous and magnanimous and who has taken shelter of me with the desire to ascend in his physical body to the world of the gods. Let a sacrifice now be undertaken by you, as well as by me, which will elevate him in his physical body to the world of the gods."
When Vishvamitra had finished speaking, all the great sages conferred among themselves and quickly made the following righteous observation: "This sage Vishvamitra, the descendant of Kushika, is highly irritable. His proposal must undoubtedly be carried out, or else the sage, who is like fire, will pronounce a curse upon us out of anger. Therefore, let the sacrifice be executed that will raise Trishanku to heaven in his material body by virtue of Vishvamitra's own power. Hence, let the sacrifice begin. All of you take your positions."
Speaking in this way, the great sages took charge of their respective duties. The most glorious Vishvamitra was the chief priest in that sacrifice. The other priests, who were expert in the recitation of mantras, began chanting the appropriate prayers in order and performed all the rituals exactly according to the rules and regulations of scripture. Then, for a long time, the mighty ascetic Vishvamitra invoked the presence of all the gods to accept their share of the offerings, but none of them came. Infuriated, Vishvamitra raised his sacrificial spoon and said to Trishanku: "See the power of my austerities achieved by my own efforts, O king. Look, I send you to heaven with your present material body by dint of my spiritual potency. Go to heaven, O king, which is difficult to attain in a material body. Whatever reward I may have acquired by my austerities, O king, on the strength of that go you now physically to heaven!"
When Vishvamitra finished saying this, the king began physically rising up to heaven, O Rama, as the sages watched. Seeing that Trishanku had reached heaven, Indra, along with all the hosts of gods, spoke the following: "Trishanku, go back. There is no place for you in heaven, you fool. Cursed by your guru, fall head-first to earth!" Trishanku then began to fall back to earth, calling out to Vishvamitra for help. Hearing Trishanku's cries, Vishvamitra became extremely angry and said to Trishanku: "Stop! Stop!" Standing in the midst of the sages, Vishvamitra, as if he were another Brahma, created a duplicate of the constellation Great Bear in the Southern Hemisphere. He then created a whole mass of constellations there, incensed as he was with anger. Having created those constellations in the Southern Hemisphere, out of wrath he said: "I shall make another Indra, otherwise let those worlds remain without any Indra." Then he began creating other gods.
After that, all the gods, asuras and hosts of sages, being greatly perturbed, humbly addressed the great soul Vishvamitra: "O fortunate sage rich in asceticism, this king devastated by the curse of his guru does not deserve to go to heaven in his physical body." Hearing their entreaty, Vishvamitra, the descendant of Kushika, gave the following noble reply to the gods: "Bless you all! I promised King Trishanku that I would raise him physically to heaven. I do not dare break my word. Let Trishanku always remain physically in the heaven I created for him. Also let all the constellations that I created remain permanently. So long as these worlds created by Brahma exist, so also should those created by me. O gods, please agree to this."
Upon receiving this request, they all replied to the best of sages: "So be it. Bless you! Let them all remain. Let those constellations remain in the sky outside the elliptical path of the sun. Let Trishanku be fixed shining among those stars with his head downwards, enjoying like a god. Indeed, those stars will circumambulate Trishanku, who, having accomplished his goal, will be as glorious as the denizens of heaven." Being praised by all the gods, the righteous soul Vishvamitra, standing among the sages, replied to the gods: "All right." Then, at the end of the sacrifice, the gods, mahatmas, sages and ascetics departed as they had come, O best of men.
How Shunahshepa was Taken to be Sacrificed
Seeing that the forest-dwelling sages were all about to depart, Vishvamitra said: "The sky over this southern region is marred by the presence of Trishanku. We shall resort to another region and practice austerities there. We shall easily practice austerities in the forests on the banks of the lakes at Pushkara in the extensive western region." Having spoken thus, the highly effulgent sage began performing difficult austerities at Pushkara, eating only fruits and roots.
At this time, the great ruler of Ayodhya, known as Ambarisha, had begun a sacrifice. Even as he was performing the sacrifice, Indra stole the sacrificial horse, so it is said. After the loss of the sacrificial animal, the priest said to the king: "The animal brought here to be sacrificed has been lost due to your negligence, O king. The faults of a king who does not protect his sacrifice destroy him, O ruler of men. In order to atone for this offense, quickly bring back the animal or a human substitute so that the sacrifice can be concluded."
Hearing the instructions of the priest, the king went in search of the stolen horse, bringing with him thousands of cows to exchange for a sacrificial victim. After searching in many lands, principalities, towns, forests and pious hermitages, the king saw at Bhrigutunga the sage Ricika sitting with his wife and sons, so they say, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. Bowing down to the sage Ricika, who was glowing due to the austerities he had performed, and pleasing him by inquiring about his welfare, the king said:
"If you will sell me your son as a sacrificial victim for the price of one hundred thousand cows, I will consider my purpose accomplished, O most fortunate descendant of the sage Bhrigu. I have traversed all countries but have not recovered the sacrificial horse. As such, you must sell me one of your sons."
To this, the splendorous Ricika replied: "I am under no circumstance prepared to sell my oldest son, O best of men." Hearing Ricika's words, the mother of the boys said to King Ambarisha: "My husband has declared our eldest son as unsellable. Know that our youngest son, Shunaka, is my favorite, O lord. Therefore I shall not give you the youngest boy, O king. Usually the oldest son is dearer to the father and the youngest is dearer to the mother. Therefore, I shall protect the youngest."
When the sage had spoken thus, and his wife also, Shunahshepa, the middle son, spoke of his own accord as follows: "My father says his eldest son cannot be sold, and my mother says the same of her youngest. I therefore conclude that the middle son can be sold. O king, take me away."
Taking Shunahshepa, who was conversant with spiritual teachings, in exchange for heaps of gold coins and jewels and one hundred thousand cows, the king, being highly pleased, departed. The glorious royal monarch Ambarisha quickly placed Shunahshepa in his chariot and hurriedly left.
Shunahshepa Approaches Vishvamitra for Help
Bringing Shunahshepa, the glorious king rested at Pushkara when it was noon. While the king was resting, Shunahshepa made his way to the principal lake. There he saw his maternal uncle Vishvamitra practicing austerities in the company of other sages. Being sorely pained, with a distressed look in his face, and wretched due to thirst and exhaustion, he fell into the sage's lap and said: "I have no mother. I have no father. Where are my kinsmen and friends? By the principles of righteousness you must protect me, O best of sages. You are the protector of everyone and the source of all desired things, O best of men. Let the king attain his goal and let me enjoy a long, flawless life engaged in austerities until I attain the topmost heavenly world. With a peaceful mind, be my protector, for I have been abandoned. You must protect me from this sin, O righteous soul, as a father would his son."
On hearing the boy's plea, Vishvamitra consoled him in many ways and then said to his own sons: "The time has come for achieving our good fortune in the other world, for which purpose fathers beget sons. This child, being the son of a sage, has taken shelter of me. Do him a favor, my sons, by giving your lives. You are all engaged in pious activities and are devoted to duty. Taking the role of sacrificial victims, give satisfaction to the sacrificial fire of the king. Let Shunahshepa be protected and the sacrifice be completed. Thus the gods will have been propitiated and my promise fulfilled."
Hearing the sage's request, his sons headed by Madhucchanda replied haughtily and derisively: "How is it that you reject your own sons to protect someone else's son? We consider this almost as abominable as including dog's flesh in one's food." When the sage heard what his sons said, he began to curse them, his eyes red with anger: "Disregarding my request, your reply is defiant, devoid of virtue, harsh and shocking. May you all be born on this earth for a full thousand years as dog-eaters, like the sons of Vasishtha."
After cursing his sons, the foremost of sages said to the distressed Shunahshepa in order to afford him complete protection: "When you are decorated with a garland of red flowers, smeared all over with red sandalwood paste and bound with ropes of kusha grass to the sacrificial post which is sacred to Lord Vishnu, pray to Vishnu and to Indra. Sing these two divine hymns during King Ambarisha's sacrifice, O son of the sage, and you will achieve your goal."
After learning those two hymns with a composed mind, Shunahshepa returned to King Ambarisha and hurriedly said to him: "O lion among kings, O most intelligent monarch, let us go quickly. Consecrate yourself for the sacrifice and conclude it." When the king heard these words spoken by the sage's son, he was delighted. Throwing off his lethargy, the king quickly proceeded to the sacrificial arena. Under the advice of the chief priest, the king bound the boy with ropes of kusha grass, dressed him in red clothes and decorated him with other marks of a sacrificial victim. Being bound, the son of the sage duly glorified with the choicest hymns the two divinities, Indra and his younger brother Vamanadeva, who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Being pleased by those confidential hymns in praise of Vishnu, Indra granted long life to Shunahshepa99. King Ambarisha was also able to achieve the manifold fruit of his sacrifice by the grace of Indra. The righteous soul Vishvamitra again engaged himself in the execution of austerities on the banks of the lakes at Pushkara for another thousand years.
Vishvamitra Becomes a Rishi and then a Maharshi
After one thousand years had passed, all the gods went to visit Vishvamitra, who had just finished bathing on the completion of his vow, in order to bestow a boon upon him. The most splendorous Brahma spoke the following sweet words: "By dint of the pious acts you have performed, you are now a rishi100. Bless you." Saying so, the lord of the gods returned to his heavenly abode. The glorious Vishvamitra again began practicing great austerities. After a long time Menaka, the foremost of apsaras, came to Pushkara to bathe in its lakes. There Vishvamitra saw the illustrious Menaka, whose beauty was unmatched, like lightning in a cloud. Coming under the influence of Cupid, the sage spoke as follows: "Welcome, O apsara. Please stay in my hermitage. Bless you. Be gracious to me, infatuated as I am by love."
Accepting the sage's request, the lovely Menaka took up residence there. Indeed, a great obstacle to austerity had been encountered by Vishvamitra. She resided happily for ten years in Vishvamitra's hermitage, O Rama. When that time had passed, the great sage Vishvamitra felt ashamed and became overcome with anxiety and grief. The sage angrily realized that all this was an arrangement by the gods to rob him of his great austerities: "Ten years have passed like one day while I was infatuated with love. This is an obstacle for me." Sighing deeply, the best of sages was sad due to remorse. Seeing the apsara Menaka standing before him with folded hands, trembling with fear, Vishvamitra sent her off with sweet words. Then he departed for the northern slopes of the Himalaya Mountains.
Deciding to observe complete celibacy for the purpose of conquering his passions, the illustrious sage went to the shore of the Kaushiki River and engaged himself in very difficult austerities. Seeing him seated on the northern slopes of the Himalayas practicing severe austerities for thousands of years, the gods became frightened. All the gods and sages approached Lord Brahma and beseeched him: "This holy man Vishvamitra, the descendant of Kushika, wants to attain the title of maharshi." Hearing their plea, Brahma, the grandfather of all the worlds, spoke the following sweet words to Vishvamitra, who was rich in austerity: "Welcome, O great sage. I am very pleased by your gruesome austerities. I therefore bestow upon you the title of maharshi101, O descendant of Kushika."
Hearing Brahma's words, the austere Vishvamitra joined his palms, bowed and then replied to Brahma: "If you bestow upon me the unparalleled title of brahmarshi as a reward for the auspicious activities I have performed, I will know that I have conquered my senses and mind." Then Brahma replied to him: "You have not yet conquered your senses. Continue trying, O tiger among sages." Having spoken thus, Brahma returned to the heavenly world. When the gods had left, the great sage Vishvamitra undertook austerity by standing with his arms raised above his head and eating only air. During the hot season he exposed himself to the sun while sitting between four blazing fires. In the rainy season he lived in the open air without any shelter. In the cold season he stood in water for days and nights. Thus he spent one thousand years engaged in difficult austerities. While the great sage Vishvamitra was performing such austerities, the gods headed by Indra became perturbed. Indra, accompanied by all the Maruts, addressed the apsara Rambha with words that were injurious to Vishvamitra.
Vishvamitra Curses Rambha
You must perform for the gods the great task of beguiling Vishvamitra, bewildering him with lust, O Rambha." After Indra said this to the apsara, O Rama, being embarrassed and with folded hands, she said to Indra: "O lord of the gods, this great sage Vishvamitra is dangerous. He will doubtlessly unleash his terrible wrath upon me. Therefore, my lord, I am frightened. Be merciful to me." When she had finished speaking, gripped as she was with fear, Indra addressed her, who stood trembling before him with her palms joined: "Do not be afraid, Rambha. Bless you. Carry out my instruction. I, accompanied by Cupid shall stay at your side in the guise of a nightingale that captivates the heart with its song, as it does in the spring when the trees are covered with fragrant flowers. Dressing yourself gorgeously with resplendent ornaments, divert the ascetic sage Vishvamitra, O lady."
After decorating herself superbly, Rambha, with a lovely smile, began alluring Vishvamitra. He heard the warbling notes of the nightingale and, seeing Rambha, became doubtful of her intentions. Realizing that this was an arrangement of Indra, Vishvamitra became furious and cursed Rambha: "Because, O unfortunate Rambha, you tried to seduce me, who am desirous of conquering lust and anger, you must stand as a stone for ten thousand years. At that time, the most glorious brahmana endowed with the strength of austerity and known by the name Vasishtha will deliver you from my anger aroused by your foul deed." Speaking in this way, the powerful sage Vishvamitra, have been unable to restrain his anger, began to lament.
By his mighty curse, Rambha became stone. When Indra and Cupid heard Vishvamitra's curse, they fled. Seeing how his anger had deprived him of the strength of his austerities, Vishvamitra had no peace of mind because he had failed to conquer his senses. After losing his pious credits, he began thinking: "I shall never again become angry like that, nor shall I speak under any condition. Or else I shall not even breathe for hundreds of years. In order to conquer my senses, I shall decimate my body. I shall remain for countless years without breathing or eating until I attain by my efforts the status of a brahmana. Nor will my limbs become atrophied while I am engaged in austerities." Thus the best of sages swore to observe for one thousand years a vow unequaled in this world.
Vishvamitra Attains the Status of a Brahmana
Leaving the northern region of the snow-packed Himalayas, the great sage Vishvamitra went to the southern region and began practicing the most severe austerities. Taking the supreme vow of remaining silent for one thousand years, he embarked upon austerities that were unequaled because of their great difficulty. After one thousand years, he remained as firm as a wooden post. Although confronted with many obstacles, anger could not overcome him. Having decided to remain in unending austerity, the mighty sage fulfilled his vow of one thousand years. Just as he was about to eat his first food, Indra appeared before him in the guise of a brahmana and asked him for the cooked food. Vishvamitra gave all the cooked food to the brahmana. With no food left for himself, the austere sage remained without eating. Because he was still bound to observe his vow of silence, he did not say anything to the brahmana. Thus he again began observing his vow of silence and not breathing.
The foremost of sages passed another thousand years without breathing. While he restrained his breath, smoke rose from his head. This scorched and bewildered all the three worlds. Thereafter the gods, rishis, gandharvas, snakes, serpents and rakshasas were bewildered by his austerities, and their splendor was diminished by his brilliance. Overwhelmed with alarm, they addressed Lord Brahma: "Although tempted in many ways by lust and anger, the great sage Vishvamitra is increasing in austerity. One can not find even the slightest flaw in him. If what he desires in his mind is not given to him, he will destroy the three worlds of moving and nonmoving beings by the strength of his austerities. Already his smoke has covered the universe and nothing can be seen. The oceans are turbulent, all the mountains are shattered, the earth is quaking and the wind blowing violently. We cannot find the means to counteract this. Therefore people are becoming atheists. The three worlds are baffled and confused about what to do. The brilliance of that great sage outshone that of the sun. O Lord Brahma, give the great sage, whose form is resplendent like fire, whatever he desires, before he sets his mind on destroying all the three worlds, just as they were previously by the fire of annihilation. Grant him whatever he wants, even if it be sovereignty over the gods."
Then Lord Brahma led all the gods to the great soul Vishvamitra and spoke the following sweet words: "Greetings, O brahmarshi. We are very pleased with your austerities. O descendant of Kushika, by your awesome penances you have attained the position of a brahmana. Accompanied by the Maruts, I grant you longevity, O brahmana. May you achieve good fortune. Bless you, child. Now go happily."
Hearing Lord Brahma's words, Vishvamitra was overjoyed and offered respects to all the denizens of heaven, saying: "If I have achieved the status of a brahmana, as well as longevity, let the sacred syllable om, the sacrificial mantra vaushat and the Vedas choose to come to me. Let Vasishtha, the son of Brahma, being the wisest of those with military knowledge or spiritual knowledge also call me a brahmana. If this supreme desire is fulfilled, you may depart, O best of the gods."
Being placated by the gods, Vasishtha, the best of chanters, accepted Vishvamitra's status as a brahmana, saying, "So be it. You are no doubt a brahmana. Everything you desire is fulfilled." When Vasishtha finished speaking, all the gods departed as they had come. After the righteous soul Vishvamitra attained the supreme position of being a brahmana, he offered respects to Vasishtha, the best of chanters. Having realized his goal and remaining fixed in the practice of austerities, he wandered the earth. Thus, O Rama, did the great soul become a brahmana. Vishvamitra is the best of sages; he is the personification of austerity; he is supreme righteousness and the eternal shelter of prowess.
Having spoken thus, the super-excellent brahmana Shatananda remained silent. Hearing this narration by Shatananda, King Janaka, with folded hands, spoke to Vishvamitra in front of Rama and Lakshmana: "O topmost sage, I am most fortunate and obliged that you have come to my sacrifice, bringing the two sons of King Dasharatha. I am purified just by seeing you, O brahmana. By seeing you I have acquired manifold good qualities. By attending this assembly with my counselors, O brahmana, I, in the company of the great soul Rama, have heard at length the many qualities of your glories and great austerities. Immeasurable is your austerity and immeasurable is your power. Your qualities too are always immeasurable, O descendant of Kushika. O master, I am never satiated by the wonderful stories about you. The time for the evening rites is drawing near, O best of sages, as the sun is about to set. Tomorrow morning please see me again, O glorious sage. You may then give me instruction. Welcome to our city."
Having been addressed in this way, Vishvamitra was quite pleased and praised the joyful King Janaka, then soon bid him farewell. Then Janaka, the king of Mithila, accompanied by his priest and relatives, circumambulated the sage before departing. The righteous Vishvamitra, having been honored by those great souls, also went to his camp with Rama and Lakshmana.
Janaka Related to Rama the Appearance of Sita
The next day at sunrise when King Janaka had finished his morning duties, he summoned the great soul Vishvamitra, along with Rama and Lakshmana. After honoring Vishvamitra and the two sons of King Dasharatha according to the dictates of scripture, he spoke as follows: "Welcome, my lord. What can I do for you? Tell me what I should do. I am at your command."
Having been addressed in this way by King Janaka, the righteous soul Vishvamitra, being an eloquent speaker, replied as follows: "These two world-renowned princes, sons of King Dasharatha, are eager to see the excellent bow which now rests with you. Show it to the two princes so that Their desire will be satisfied. Bless you. After seeing the bow, They will leave as They came."
King Janaka then replied to the great sage: "Listen to the reason why this bow is here with me. King Nimi's eldest son was known as Devarata. This bow was entrusted into his hands by the gods, my lord. It is said that previously Lord Shiva playfully plucked this bow to destroy Daksha's sacrifice. He angrily said to the gods:
OBecause you have not offered me my share of the sacrifice, even though I desired it, I shall cut off your most worshipable heads with this bow.'
All the gods became alarmed at this and began propitiating Lord Shiva, after which he became pleased with them. Feeling compassion, he gave the bow to them. This is that jewel of bows which belonged to Lord Shiva. It was deposited as a trust with my powerful ancestor Devarata.
Afterwards, as I was plowing the site for a sacrifice, a baby girl arose from the furrow. Because I got her by plowing the field, she became known by the name Sita102. Although she came out of the earth, she has grown up as my own daughter. I have established that my daughter, though not born from anyone's womb, will be given in marriage for the price of valor. Sprung from the earth, she is maturing. Kings are constantly coming to seek her hand, O best of sages. To all those monarchs who came seeking her hand I said "O lord, except at the price of valor, I do not give my daughter." Then all the princes came in a group to Mithila and inquired as to how their valor would be judged. After they made this inquiry, Shiva's bow was brought before them. They were, however, unable to lift it, what to speak of holding it in order to ascertain its weight. Seeing those princes to be deficient in valor, I rejected them. Hear, O great sage, what those princes did after that.
Considering themselves insulted by me, those kings, extremely enraged as they were, laid siege to the city of Mithila. After a full year had passed, all my resources were exhausted, for which I was extremely distressed. As such, I propitiated all the gods by practicing austerities. Highly pleased, the gods gave me a complete army of horses, elephants, chariots and infantry. When the siege was broken and their soldiers slaughtered, the evil-acting princes whose valor had been brought into question fled like cowards in all directions with their ministers. This is that supremely effulgent bow, O tiger among sages. I shall also show it to Rama and Lakshmana, O sage of noble vows. If Rama can string that bow, I shall give Him my daughter Sita.
Rama Breaks the Bow
After King Janaka finished speaking, the great sage Vishvamitra said to the monarch: "Show the bow to Rama." Then King Janaka instructed his counselors: "Bring the divine bow smeared with sandalwood paste and draped with flower garlands." Being ordered by King Janaka, the shining ministers entered the city and carrying the bow before them, came out of the city. Five thousand big, strong men somehow or other managed to push the eight-wheeled box holding the bow. Bringing that iron box that held the bow, the ministers said to King Janaka, who was like a god: "O king, here is the bow honored by all kings. O ruler of Mithila, if you wish, you may now show it."
When the king heard their announcement, King Janaka joined his palms and said to Vishvamitra as well as to Rama and Lakshmana: "Here is the excellent bow, O brahmana, which has been worshiped by my ancestors and by very powerful kings who were unable to bend it. The hosts of gods, as well as the asuras, rakshasas, gandharvas, yakshas, kinnaras and celestial serpents were unable to bend it. As such, how can any human bend this bow, string it, fix an arrow to it, pluck its string or weigh it in his hands? That very bow has been brought, O best of sages. Show it to the two princes."
Thereafter, Vishvamitra said to Rama: "My child, go see the bow." On the order of that great sage, Rama opened the box in which the bow rested. Seeing it, He said: "I now grasp with my hand this divine bow. I shall also try to weigh it in My hands and even bend it." "Very well," said the king, and so also the sage. By the sage's word, Rama sportingly grabbed the bow in the middle. As many thousands of people looked on, Rama strung the bow, as if in jest. Having strung the bow, the most glorious and excellent of men began to bend it. At that moment, the bow broke in two. The noise was tremendous, like a clap of thunder, causing the earth to tremble, as when a mountain is shattered. Everyone was knocked over by the blast of that sound, except the sage, the king and the two sons of King Dasharatha. When the people were reassured that everything was all right, the king, whose misgivings had been removed and was expert in speaking, spoke with joined palms to Vishvamitra: "O master, now I have seen with my own eyes the prowess of Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. This is amazing, unbelievable and most glorious. Having achieved Rama, the son of King Dasharatha as her husband, my daughter Sita will bring fame to the dynasty of the Janakas. My pledge to give Sita in marriage only in exchange for an act of valor has been fulfilled. My daughter, Sita, who is dearer to me than life, remains to be given to Rama. With your permission, O brahmana, let my counselors immediately leave for Ayodhya. Bless you. Let them bring King Dasharatha to my capital with courteous words. Let them also tell everyone about Rama's payment in valor and Sita's betrothal to Him. Let them related about the two descendants of Kakutstha who are protected by yourself. Moreover, let them affectionately bring King Dasharatha with haste."
Vishvamitra said: "So be it." Summoning his counselors, the king dispatched them to Ayodhya with instructions to narrate everything that had happened and also to bring King Dasharatha.
King Dasharatha is Informed of the Impending
Marriage of Sita to Rama
Ordered by King Janaka, the envoys rested their tired horses for three days on the way and entered the city of Ayodhya. By King Dasharatha's command, they were brought inside the royal palace. There they met the aged King Dasharatha, who was like a god.
Their misgivings dispelled, all the envoys, with joined palms, spoke words that were sweet and courteous to the king: "Janaka, King of Mithila, with the sacred fire placed before him, is constantly inquiring with sweet words full of affection about the perpetual welfare of you, your priests and attendants. Having inquired about your welfare, Janaka, the king of Mithila, with the permission of Vishvamitra, sends you the following message:
You must be familiar with my promise to give my daughter's hand for the price of valor. The kings became jealous for Sita, but lacking sufficient valor, were turned away. My daughter has been won by your son Rama, who came by luck to my capital, being led by the sage Vishvamitra. That divine jewel among bows was broken in the middle by the great soul Rama in a grand assembly of people. Sita, who was won through a feat of valor, remains to be given by me to the great soul Rama. I wish to fulfill my pledge. Please give your consent. Accompanied by your preceptor, with the family priest placed before you, please come quickly to see the two descendants of the Raghu Dynasty. Bless you. Allow my pledge to be fulfilled, O lord of kings, thus you will be able to see the present blissfulness of your two sons.
"Thus are the sweet words spoken by the King of Mithila, which were confirmed by Vishvamitra and Shatananda."
Hearing the message of the envoys, King Dasharatha was overjoyed. He said to Vasishtha, Vamadeva and his counselors: "Protected by Vishvamitra, the son of Kushika, Rama, who increases the bliss of His mother Kausalya, along with His brother Lakshmana, is staying among the residents of Mithila. The prowess of Rama has been seen by the great soul Janaka. Now he wants to give his daughter in marriage to Rama. If this news pleases you, let us go at once to King Janaka's city. Do not delay." The counselors, along with all the sages, said: "Very well." Highly pleased, the king said to Janaka's envoys: "Tomorrow we shall start." King Janaka's counselors, who were endowed with all good qualities and highly honored by King Dasharatha, passed the night happily in Ayodhya.
Dasharatha Proceeds to Mithila for the Wedding
After the night was over, King Dasharatha, who was accompanied by his preceptors, relatives and friends, jubilantly addressed his minister Sumantra: "Today, let the treasury officials adorned with many jewels take abundant wealth from the treasury and carry it in the lead. Let my entire army of horses, elephants, chariots and infantry also proceed with haste. As soon as I command, let palanquins and horse-drawn vehicles be prepared. Let the brahmanas Vasishtha, Vamadeva, Jabali, Kashyapa, the long-lived Marikandeya and Katyayana lead the procession. Prepare my chariot. Do not tarry long. I am being hurried by King Janaka's envoys."
By the order of the king, the fourfold army followed behind the king, who was accompanied by the sages. After four days on the road, they reached the land of Videha where Mithila is. When King Janaka heard of their arrival, he prepared everything for their reception. Approaching the elderly King Dasharatha, King Janaka experienced supreme bliss. In ecstasy, he said to King Dasharatha: "Welcome, O best of men. By our good fortune you have come, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. You will be able to see the blissfulness of your two sons, acquired through Their prowess. By our good fortune the great sage and most glorious Vasishtha has come, along with all of the best brahmanas expert in sacrificial performances and who are almost like gods. By good fortune my obstacle has been removed. By good fortune my dynasty has been honored by its relation with the descendants of the Raghu Dynasty, who are unexcelled in prowess and strength. Tomorrow morning, O king, at the conclusion of the sacrifice, you ought to celebrate the wedding with the help of these eminent sages."
Hearing his request, King Dasharatha, who was standing among the sages, himself an eloquent speaker, replied as follows to King Janaka: "I have heard in the past that a gift depends on the giver. We shall do whatever you say, O knower of righteousness." Hearing this virtuous and glorious reply from the truthful king, the ruler of Mithila was highly astonished. Filled with joy at meeting each other, the host of sages spent the night there comfortably. Then Rama, accompanied by Lakshmana, with the sage Vishvamitra leading, came before His father and touched his feet. Greatly delighted to see his two sons and duly honored by King Janaka, King Dasharatha passed the night most happily. After dutifully concluding the rites of the sacrifice and betrothing his two daughters to Rama and Lakshmana, the glorious King Janaka retired for the night.
Vasishtha Recounts the Lineage of King Dasharatha
After finishing his morning duties with the help of the great sages, the eloquent King Janaka said to his family priest Shatananda: "My glorious brother known as Kushadhvaja, who is valorous and righteous, is residing in the auspicious city of Sankashya, which, with its formidable surrounding walls, resembles the celestial Pushpaka airship of Kuvera. He drinks the water of the Ikshumati River which flows nearby. I wish to see him here because I consider him the protector of this sacrifice. He will enjoy with me this joyous occasion."
When Janaka said this in the presence of Shatananda, several grave attendants arrived and Janaka instructed them. By the order of the king, they proceeded on swift horses in the same way that Indra's servants went to bring Vishnu in His incarnation as Vamana. Reaching Sankashya, they saw Kushadhvaja and informed him about what had happened and about what Janaka was thinking. When the king heard from the swift messengers what had taken place, at the behest of King Janaka, Kushadhvaja went to Mithila. There he saw the great soul Janaka, who is fond of righteousness. Greeting Shatananda and the most virtuous King Janaka, he sat down upon a brilliant throne fit for royalty.
Having both sat down, the two brothers of immeasurable brilliance dispatched their foremost counselor Sudamana: "Go quickly, O chief of counselors, to the insurmountable King Dasharatha, whose bodily effulgence is immeasurable, and bring him, along and his sons and ministers." Reaching the tent where the members of the Raghu Dynasty were staying, he saw King Dasharatha and greeted him by bowing his head. Then he said: "O ruler of Ayodhya, Janaka, the ruler of Mithila, desires to see you along with your preceptor and priests."
Hearing the counselor's message, King Dasharatha went with his accompanying sages and relatives to where King Janaka was waiting. King Dasharatha then spoke the following words to King Janaka: "O Maharaja, it is known that Vasishtha is the worshipable deity of the Ikshvaku Dynasty. The mighty sage Vasishtha is our spokesman at all occasions. In the presence of all these great sages and with the consent of Vishvamitra, the virtuous Vasishtha will recount my genealogy." When Dasharatha was silent, the great sage Vasishtha began speaking to Janaka in the company of his family priest:
"Sprung from the Unmanifested, Lord Brahma is eternal103, immortal and undecaying. From him was born Marici, and from Marici was born Kashyapa. Vivasvan was born from Kashyapa, and Vivasvan's son was known as Manu. Manu was the first prajapati104 and Ikshvaku was his son. You may note that Ikshvaku was the first king of Ayodhya. Ikshvaku's glorious son was the well-known Kushi. To Kushi was born a glorious son named Vikushi. Vikushi's son was the mighty and splendorous Bana. Bana's son was the powerful Anaranya. From Anaranya, Prithu was born, and from Prithu, Trishanku. Trishanku's son was the highly famous Dhundhumara. From Dhundhumara was born the mighty warrior Yuvanashva. Yuvanashva's son was the world emperor Mandhata. Mandhata's son was the glorious Susandhi. Susandhi had two sons - Dhruvasandhi and Prasenajit.
"The famous Dhruvasandhi's son was known by the name Bharata. From Bharata was born a most powerful son named Asita. Against him stood the kings of the Haihaiyas, Talajanghas and valiant Shashabindus. While engaged in war with them, Asita was defeated in battle and banished from his kingdom. He went to the Himalaya Mountains with his two wives. Very few of his forces survived to accompany him. Eventually he met his death there. His two wives had meanwhile become pregnant, so it is heard. One of the queens administered poison to the other in order to abort her fetus. Then the descendant of Bhrigu, known by the name Cyavana, came to that pleasant mountain peak, desiring to reside there. At that time, one of the queens, Kalindi by name, whose eyes were as broad as lotus petals, being desirous of bearing a noteworthy son, approached the sage, who was as effulgent as a god, and praised him. Regarding the birth of a son, the sage said to her: "From your womb, O most fortunate lady, will be born after some time a virtuous and most powerful son. He will have tremendous prowess and strength. The glorious child will be born along with the poison that was administered to you. Do not worry, O lotus-eyed lady." After offering homage to Cyavana, the widowed queen who was devoted to her husband returned to her residence. After some time she gave birth. The other co-wife of King Asita had given her poison to kill the fetus. Because the child was born along with that poison, it was named Sagara105. Sagara had a son named Asamanja, and from Asamanja was born Amshuman. Dilipa was the son of Amshuman, and Dilipa's son was Bhagiratha. From Bhagiratha, Kakutstha was born; and from Kakutstha, Raghu was born. Raghu's son was the powerful Pravriddha, who later was cursed to become a man-eating rakshasa. After that he became known as Kalmashapada. From Pravriddha was born Shankhana. Sudarshana was born from Shankhana, and Agnivarna from Sudarshana. Shighraga was the son of Agnivarna, and Shighraga's son was Maru. Maru's son was Prashushruka, and Ambarisha was born from Prashushruka. Ambarisha's son was Emperor Nahusha. Nahusha's son was Yayati, and Nabhaga was born from Yayati. From Nabhaga was born Aja, and from Aja was born Dasharatha. From this Dasharatha were born the two brothers Rama and Lakshmana.
"I request your two daughters for Rama and Lakshmana, who are descendants of the kings of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, who, from the very beginning, are pure, supremely righteous, valiant and truthful. You should give your daughters to such worthy suitors, O best of men."
Janaka Recounts His Genealogy
When Vasishtha finished speaking, King Janaka, with folded hands, replied: "Bless you. Please listen to the glories of my dynasty. Before giving away one's daughter, the genealogy of the dynasty must be recounted by one born in it, O best of men. Therefore, learn it from me.
"There was a king famous throughout the three worlds for his activities. He was the most righteous person and the best of those endowed with all good qualities. His name was Nimi. His son was named Mithi. Janaka was the son of Mithi. He was the first king to bear the name Janaka. From Janaka was born Udavasu. From Udavasu was born the righteous-minded Nandivardhana. The son of Nandivardhana was a warrior known by the name Suketu. From Suketu was born the powerful Devarata. From King Devarata was born a son known as Brihadratha. From Brihadratha was born a mighty warrior named Mahavira. Mahavira's steadfast and valiant son was Sudhriti. Sudhriti's virtuous son was Dhrishtaketu. King Dhrishtaketu's son was known as Haryashva. Haryashva's son was Maru, and Maru's son was Pratindhaka. Pratindhaka's son was the righteous King Kirtiratha. The son of Kirtiratha was known as Devamidha. Devamidha's son was Vibudha, and Vibudha's son was Mahidhraka. The son of Mahidhraka was the most powerful King Kirtirata. From King Kirtirata was born Maharoma. From Maharoma was born the virtuous Svarnaroma, and from King Svarnaroma was born Hrasvaroma.
"That pious and great-souled king had two sons. I am the oldest son and my younger brother is the valiant Kushadhvaja. Being the eldest son, my father installed me as king and, entrusting Kushadhvaja in my care, went to the forest. When my aged father ascended to heaven, I dutifully executed the affairs of the kingdom, looking after my brother Kushadhvaja with affection, as if he were a god. Some time later, however, came the powerful King Sudhanva from the city of Sankashya to besiege the city of Mithila. He sent me this message:
ODeliver to me the excellent bow belonging to Lord Shiva, and also your daughter Sita, whose eyes are like lotus flowers.'
When I did not deliver these to him, he declared war against me. In the ensuing battle, I personally killed Sudhanva with my own hands. Having eliminated King Sudhanva, O best of sages, I installed my own valiant brother Kushadhvaja on the throne of Sankashya.
"My brother is the younger, O great sage, and I, the older. It is with the greatest pleasure that I give you, O best of sages, these two maidens. Sita is for Rama, and rrmila is for Lakshmana. Bless you. I declare three times that I gladly give to you, O best of sages, the two maidens: Sita, who could only be gained by a feat of valor and who is like the daughter of a god, and my second daughter rrmila."
Then King Janaka addressed King Dasharatha: "For the good fortune of Rama and Lakshmana, give away cows in charity and perform the obsequial rites of your ancestors. Then you can perform the marriage ceremony. Today the asterism Magha is in the ascendant. Perform the wedding on the third day, O king, when the asterism Phalgu is in the ascendant. After that, distribute gifts to procure the future happiness of Rama and Lakshmana."
Vasishtha and Vishvamitra Ask for the Hands of Kushadhvaja's
Two Daughters for Bharata and Shatrughna
To King Janaka, who had just finished talking, Vishvamitra, accompanied by Vasishtha said the following: "Inconceivable and immeasurable are the dynasties of Ikshvaku and Vaideha, O best of men. There is no equal to them. The matching of Rama and Lakshmana with Sita and rrmila is similar in virtue and physical beauty. There is still more to be said, O best of men. Listen to my words. Here is your younger brother King Kushadhvaja, a knower of righteousness. I seek the hands of Kushadhvaja's two daughters whose beauty is unequaled in this world, O king. I ask these two maidens as wives for these princes - the youthful Bharata and the wise Shatrughna. These four sons of King Dasharatha are endowed with exceptional beauty and youth. They are equal to the protectors of the world, and are equal to the gods in prowess. By the auspicious marriage of these four couples, let the Ikshvaku Dynasty be bound by this relation to you, O king. Do not be perturbed by this."
Hearing Vishvamitra's request, which was seconded by Vasishtha, King Janaka, with joined palms, addressed the two sages: "I consider my dynasty fortunate indeed that you two great sages have personally ordered us to join our families by these perfect matches. Let it be so. Good fortune be unto you all! Let these two daughters of Kushadhvaja be accepted as wives by Bharata and Shatrughna. Let all four princes accept the hands of these maidens on the same day, O great sage. It should be done on the fourth day, for the wise extol a marriage on the day when the Purva Phalguni and Uttara Phalguni asterisms are in the ascendant, since Lord Brahma presides over that day."
Having made this humble request, King Janaka stood up with folded hands and addressed the two distinguished sages: "The highest merit has been conferred on me. I am the disciple of you two, just as King Dasharatha is. Please seat yourselves on these comfortable thrones, O best of sages. As this city is King Dasharatha's, so also is the city of Ayodhya mine. There is no doubt about your authority in these matters. Therefore do whatever is necessary."
While King Janaka of the Videha Dynasty was speaking in this way, King Dasharatha, a descendant of the Raghu Dynasty jubilantly addressed the king: "You two brothers, the rulers of Mithila, possess incalculable qualities. You have greatly honored the assembled sages and kings. May you attain good fortune. Bless you both. We shall now retire to our quarters, where we shall perform the funeral rites of our ancestors according to the scriptural rules."
Taking leave of the emperor and placing the two great sages before him, the famous King Dasharatha departed. Going to his residence, the king performed the obsequial rites according to the rules. The next day, at sunrise, he gave away cows in charity. On behalf of each son, the king gave one hundred thousand cows to the brahmanas, in accordance with the principles of religion. Each cow was with a calf, had her horns plated with gold and a brass bucket for milking. King Dasharatha, who was very affectionate to his sons, thus gave four hundred thousand cows in charity to the brahmanas. After that act of charity was performed, King Dasharatha was surrounded by his four sons. Thus he resembled Lord Brahma when he sits peacefully, surrounded by the guardians of the worlds.
Vasishtha Performs the Marriage Ceremony
In that very day when King Dasharatha gave cows in charity, Yudhajit, the son of the king of Kaikeya and Bharata's maternal uncle, arrived. Seeing the King Dasharatha and inquiring about his welfare, he said: "Out of affection, the king of Kaikeya has inquired about your welfare, adding that everything is fine with those whose well-being you desire. The king was desirous of seeing my nephew, O lord of kings. For that purpose I went to Ayodhya. But in Ayodhya I heard that you had accompanied your sons to Mithila for Their marriage. In a great hurry I have come, desiring to see my sister's son."
Then King Dasharatha, seeing that this dear guest had arrived and that he was worthy of honor, entertained him with the greatest respect. Then King Dasharatha passed the night in the company of his great-souled sons. At the break of day, he got up and performed his morning duties. Then, placing the sages before him, he went to the sacrificial arena. When the right moment arrived, Rama, decorated with all kinds of ornaments and accompanied by His brothers, performed rituals for auspiciousness. With Vasishtha and other sages leading Them, They entered the arena. After Vasishtha arrived, he spoke as follows to Janaka: "King Dasharatha and his exceptional sons who are dressed festively for this auspicious occasion are waiting for you, the donor, for gifts can only occur when there are both a donor and a receiver. In this regards, to perform the marriage rites, you must carry out your corresponding duties."
When the magnanimous Vasishtha had spoken thus, King Janaka, who was conversant with the principles of righteousness, replied: "Who stands guarding my door, and whose order does the king seek? What hesitation should there be in entering one's own home? This kingdom is as much yours as it is mine. Having performed the preliminary auspicious rituals, my daughters, shining like flames of fire, are seated at the foot of the altar, O best of sages. I am presently waiting for you at the altar. Please perform the ritual for warding off inauspiciousness. Why is everything being delayed?" Hearing King Janaka's reply, King Dasharatha ushered in his sons and all the sages. Then Janaka, the king of the Videhas, said to Vasishtha: "O pious sage, please perform the marriage ceremony of Rama, the joy of the world, with the help of the sages, my lord." Saying "Let it be so," the great sage Vasishtha placed Vishvamitra and the pious Shatananda before himself and prepared a sacrificial altar in the center of the pavilion according to scriptural directions. He decorated the altar all around with sandalwood paste and flowers. He also placed around it gold plates and different colored pots filled with sprouts, earthenware bowls filled with sprouts, incense holders with billowing clouds of incense, conchshells on stands, sacrificial spoons and ladles, cups filled with liquids for the ritual washing of the hands, feet and mouth, and other articles of worship. There were also baskets filled with parched rice and whole grains of rice stained with turmeric powder. Vasishtha spread blades of kusha grass of equal length around the sacrificial altar and placed the sacred fire upon it.
After escorting in Sita, who was completely decorated in golden ornaments, and seating her before the sacred fire at the side of Rama, King Janaka addressed Rama: "Here is my daughter Sita to be Your assistant in executing Your sacred duties. Take her hand and accept her. Good luck to You. This fortunate lady will be devoted to You, following You always like a shadow."
After the king said this, he poured water consecrated with prayers from the spout of a copper vessel over Rama's hand. At that moment the gods and sages exclaimed: "Very good! Very good!" The air reverberated with the beating of celestial drums and showers of flowers fell from the sky. After giving his daughter Sita to Rama by the pouring of water consecrated with prayers, King Janaka, overjoyed as he was, said to Lakshmana: "Come, Lakshmana. Good luck to You. I offer You rrmila. Take her hand and accept her. Do not waste time." King Janaka then addressed Bharata: "Please take the hand of Mandavi, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty." Then the righteous lord of Mithila said to Shatrughna: "With Your hand, take the hand of Shrutakirti. All four of You are gentlemen and have observed the appropriate vows. Let Yourselves be married, O descendants of Kakutstha. Do not delay."
Hearing Janaka's words, the four princes, who were obedient to Vasishtha's instructions, grasped with Their hands the hands of Their brides. After circumambulating clockwise with Their brides the sacred fire, the sacrificial altar, King Janaka and the sages, They underwent the marriage ceremony as described in the scriptures. A tremendous shower of brilliant flowers fell from the sky, accompanied by the beating of celestial kettledrums and the sounds of singing with musical instruments. The celestial maidens danced ecstatically and the gandharvas sang sweetly. Such were the wonderful occurrences during the wedding of the sons of King Dasharatha. While such musical instruments were playing, the four princes went around the fire three times and married Their brides. Then They, being the source of joy for the Raghu Dynasty, went with Their wives to Their tents. Beholding Them, King Dasharatha followed behind with the sages and family relations.
The Wedding Party Meets Parashurama
When the night had passed, the great sage Vishvamitra took leave of the two kings and set out for the northern mountains. After Vishvamitra had left, King Dasharatha took leave of King Janaka and prepared to return to his own capital. Then Janaka, the king of the Videhas, gave a rich dowry to the princes: many hundreds of thousands of cows, premium carpets, silk cloth and thousands of garments, elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers, one hundred maidens adorned with celestial beauty as companions for the brides, male and female servants, as well as gold, silver, pearls and coral. The king gladly gave this most excellent dowry. After giving presents profusely, King Janaka took leave of King Dasharatha and entered his palace in Mithila. Accompanied by his sons, King Dasharatha left for Ayodhya, with the sages leading the way and the army following.
As they proceeded on their way, they suddenly heard from the sky the frightful shrieks of birds. On the ground, the deer all crossed their path from the left. Seeing this, the tiger among kings inquired from Vasishtha: "I hear the frightful shrieks of birds, which is a bad sign, and deer cross my path from the left, which is a good sign. What is this that causes my heart to quiver? My mind is disturbed." The great sage Vasishtha answered with a mellow voice: "Hear what it indicates. The shrieking birds portend that a great danger is imminent. The passing of the deer will allay that danger. Abandon your anxiety." As they were talking there, a storm rolled in. The whole earth shook and huge trees fell to the ground. The sun was covered in darkness and no one could see in any direction. Covered all over with dust, the army was dumbfounded. With the exception of Vasishtha and the other sages and the king and his sons, everyone else fell unconscious on the spot. In that terrible darkness the army became covered in dust.
Then the king saw Jamadagni106, the descendant of Bhrigu, the destroyer of kings, whose appearance was fearful, with his dreadlocks tied in a bun on his head. He was as unassailable as Mount Kailasa and as unbearable as the fire of annihilation. Blazing as he was with his effulgence, he was difficult to be seen by common people. With an axe resting on his right shoulder and a bow on his left, he held in his hand a lance that was like a bolt of lightning. Thus he resembled Shiva, the destroyer of the three cities of demons. Seeing him with his frightening appearance blazing like fire, the leading sages headed by Vasishtha gathered together and discussed among themselves: "Let us hope, out of indignation over the murder of his father by warriors, he will not wipe out the warrior caste. Having already mitigated his anger by massacring the warrior caste in the past, surely he does not intend to do so again." Speaking in this way and bringing water to wash his hands, the sages approached Parashurama, whose appearance was terrifying, and addressed him sweetly, saying: "Rama! Rama!" After accepting the worship offered by the sages, the formidable Parashurama, the son of Jamadagni, addressed Rama, the son of King Dasharatha:
Parashurama Challenges Rama to String Vishnu's Bow
O Rama, son of Dasharatha, I have heard of Your wonderful prowess. I have heard all about how You broke Lord Shiva's bow. It is inconceivable that someone could have broken that bow. Hearing about that, I have come here, bringing another excellent bow. To this awesome bow which was given to me by my father Jamadagni, fix an arrow and draw it. Show us Your strength. After seeing Your strength in drawing the bow, I shall offer You a fight which will give credit to Your valor."
Hearing his challenge, King Dasharatha, with a downcast face and joined palms, said the following: "O glorious brahmana, after giving up your anger against the warrior caste and becoming pacified, you should assure the safety of my juvenile sons. Born in the line of the Bhargavas, who are distinguished in erudition and vows, you put down your weapons, promising so to Indra. You then dedicated yourself to piety, giving the earth to Kashyapa. Going to the forest, you took up residence on Mount Mahendra. You have come here to totally destroy me, O great sage. If you so much as kill Rama, we shall all be unable to live."
When King Dasharatha had said this, the mighty Parashurama disregarded his plea and said to Rama: "The two divine bows honored by the whole world are superb, firm, strong, outstanding and well-made by Vishvakarma. The first is the bow given by the gods to Lord Shiva when he wanted to fight the demon Tripura, the same having been broken by You, O descendant of Kakutstha. The second unassailable bow was given by the foremost gods to Lord Vishnu. This is that bow of Vishnu, O Rama, which can destroy the enemy's stronghold. It is in fact equal in strength to Shiva's bow.
"When Lord Shiva killed the Tripura demon, all the gods approached Brahma with the desire to know the strengths and weakness of Shiva and Vishnu. Understanding their intention, Brahma, the foremost of those dedicated to truth, instigated enmity between Shiva and Vishnu. On account of the enmity, a great and electrifying battle ensued between Shiva and Vishnu, who were eager to conquer each other. During the fight, the fearsome bow of Shiva was loosened and Shiva himself dazed by the roar of Vishnu. Then all the gods, sages and caranas came there to pacify the two great divinities. Seeing that Shiva's bow was slackened by the prowess of Vishnu, the gods and sages considered Vishnu greater. Angered at being slighted, Lord Shiva delivered the bow and arrows into the hands of the glorious royal sage Devarata of the Videha Dynasty.
Lord Vishnu, however, by His mercy, entrusted His bow, which is capable of shattering the enemy's stronghold, to Ricika, the descendant of Bhrigu. The glorious Ricika bestowed that divine bow upon his son Jamadagni, who was my father, although he was too meek to retaliate against anyone. My father, who was invested with the strength of austerities, entrusted that weapon to me. Afterwards, Kartaviryarjuna, considering my father an ordinary man, killed him. Hearing of my father's most cruel and undesired death, out of anger I liquidated the warrior caste many times, even as they were born. After acquiring the whole earth in this way, at the end of the sacrifice which I performed to rid myself of the sin of murder, I gave the earth as charity to Kashyapa. Having done so, I went to Mount Mahendra to increase my strength through austerities. This is that bow of Vishnu which belonged to my illustrious grandfather, O Rama. Placing foremost Your duty as a warrior, take this excellent bow. Put an arrow to it and draw it. If You are able to do so, I shall thereafter engage in battle with You."
Parashurama Recognizes Rama to be Lord Vishnu
Upon hearing Parashurama's challenge and seeing what effect it had on His father King Dasharatha, Rama was tongue-tied for some time. Then He said to Parashurama: "O descendant of Bhrigu, I have heard what you have done to pay the debt to your father, and I approve of it. Since you despise Me, who am devoted to the duties of a warrior, as if I were devoid of potency, now see My strength and My prowess."
Saying this, in anger Rama swiftly grabbed the bow and arrow from the hands of Parashurama. Rama raised the bow, placed an arrow on it and drew it. Then He angrily said to Parashurama: "You are worshipable by Me because you are a brahmana, and also because of your kinship with Vishvamitra. Therefore, I cannot shoot the deadly arrow at you, O Parashurama. I shall therefore take away either your ability to move swiftly everywhere, or the unequaled worlds which you have attained by dint of your austerities - this is My idea. This transcendental arrow of Lord Vishnu, which can crush an enemy's stronghold or smash the pride of an adversary by its power, never misses its target."
Placing Lord Brahma before them, all the gods and sages came there to see Rama wielding that excellent bow of Vishnu. All the gandharvas, apsaras, siddhas, caranas, kinnaras, yakshas, rakshasas and nagas came to see that wonderful event. When Rama raised the excellent bow, everyone was dumbfounded. Parashurama himself was rendered powerless and gazed at Rama. Dazed and rendered powerless by the brilliance of Rama, whose eyes were like the petals of a lotus, Parashurama spoke with a slow and deep voice: "When I previously gave the earth to Kashyapa, he commanded me: "You may no longer inhabit my kingdom." Obeying the words of my guru, I do not remain on the earth at night, for I have promised this before him. As far as my movement is concerned, do not deprive me of that, O descendant of the Raghu Dynasty. I shall forthwith go at the speed of the mind to the super-excellent Mount Mahendra. You may, O Rama, destroy with the arrow the unparalleled worlds which I have achieved by my austerities. Do not delay. By Your seizing and bending this bow, I can understand that You are the imperishable Lord Vishnu, the slayer of the Madhu demon and Supreme Lord of the gods. All glory to You, O chastiser of foes. All these hosts of gods gathered here are looking at You, whose activities are unparalleled and who is unmatched in combat. My defeat before You is not a cause of embarrassment for me, for I have been reduced by You who are the Lord of the three worlds. Release that unequaled arrow, O Rama, then I shall retire to the excellent Mount Mahendra."
After Parashurama had spoken to Rama in that way, Rama, the son of Dasharatha, fired that supermost arrow. Rama saw it destroy all the worlds which Parashurama had acquired by means of his austerities. Parashurama thereafter immediately left for Mount Mahendra. Then all directions were cleared of darkness and the gods and sages praised Rama, who stood holding the bow. Circumambulating Rama, Parashurama offered all respect to the honorable son of King Dasharatha, and then went on his way.
The Return of the Wedding Party to Ayodhya
After the departure of Parashurama, the peaceful-minded Rama, son of Dasharatha, delivered the bow into the hands of the immeasurable Varuna. After offering obeisances to Vasishtha and other outstanding sages, and seeing that His father Dasharatha was in a daze, Rama said to him: "Parashurama has gone. Under your protection, let this army return to Ayodhya."
Hearing Rama's words, King Dasharatha embraced Him and smelled His head. The news of Parashurama's departure delighted the king, who felt as if he and his son had been born again on that occasion. Urged onward by King Dasharatha, the army soon reached the capital, which was festively decorated with flags and banners and resounding with the music of trumpets. Its streets were freshly washed and heaps of flowers scattered over them. The citizens' faces shone with satisfaction over the entry of their king, and they carried auspicious articles in their hands. The people of the city, accompanied by the resident brahmanas, came out a long distance to greet the king.
Followed by his glorious sons, the exalted king entered his delightful palace, which was as huge as a Himalayan mountain. Entertained with luxuries by his own people, the king was jubilant. Kausalya, Sumitra, the shapely Kaikeyi and other royal women engaged themselves in preparing the reception of the brides. Then the royal women received the highly fortunate Sita, the noteworthy rrmila, and the two daughters of Kushadhvaja, Mandavi and Shrutakirti. The beautiful ladies were dressed in silken garments attended a function in which auspicious hymns were chanted and the oblations of clarified butter were offered in the sacred fire. Later they all went to the temples to worship. Offering respects to those who deserved it, they all dwelt happily in the palace with their husbands. Newly wedded, skilled in weaponry, possessed of wealth and surrounded by well-wishers, those exceptional princes engaged Themselves in the service of Their father.
Some time after this, King Dasharatha said to his son Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi: "My son, your maternal uncle Yudhajit, the son of the king of Kaikeya, has come to take You to his father." Hearing King Dasharatha's statement, Bharata prepared to leave with His brother Shatrughna. Taking leave of His valiant father, of Rama, who accomplished things with no trouble, and of His mothers, He set off with Shatrughna. Overjoyed at getting Bharata along with Shatrughna, Yudhajit, entered his capital, highly pleasing his father.
When Bharata had left, Rama and the strong Lakshmana engaged Themselves in worshiping Their father, who was like a god. Placing His father's order before everything else, Rama thoroughly executed the affairs of the state in a manner that was enjoyable and beneficial for the citizens. Personally doing the duties of His mothers, Rama, who was the most self-restrained, from time to time looked after the affairs of His elders. In this way, King Dasharatha, the brahmanas, the merchants and all the residents of the kingdom were pleased by the character and conduct of Rama. In this world, Rama, whose valor was unfailing, surpassed His other brothers in good qualities, as Brahma surpasses all beings.
The wise Rama, whose mind was absorbed in Sita, having offered Himself to Her heart, enjoyed with Her for many months. Sita was most dear to Rama, having been made His wife by Her father. Because of Her exceptional qualities and physical beauty, His affection for Her was ever-increasing. Her husband too, by His fine qualities and good looks, established a firm hold on Her heart. Sita, the daughter of the King of Mithila, whose beauty was like a goddess and who resembled the goddess of fortune Herself, was able to delineate in minute detail with Her mind what was in the mind of Lord Rama. Having married that unexcelled princess, who was the object of His love and thereby experiencing great delight, He shone excessively, as does the all-powerful Vishnu, the Supreme Lord of the immortal gods, in the company of the goddess of fortune.