|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Other Scriptures by Acharyas > Valmiki Ramayana > Bala Kanda|
One day, the great celestial sage, Narada Muni, came to Valmiki’s ashram. Valmiki was conversing with his disciples, and upon seeing the arrival of his illustrious guest, he immediately stood up to show respect. After offering their obeisances, and seating him very comfortably, the rishis washed Narada’s feet and offered him suitable presentations.
There were the usual inquiries of one another’s welfare, and then Valmiki asked, “O best of all those who know the truth, please tell me whom, now present on the earth, is the foremost of all great personalities? Who is the most learned, the most powerful, and possesses the most attractive bodily features? Who is noble-minded, truthful, grateful, and most clever? Who possesses flawless character, and who always looks after the welfare of all living beings? Who is never subject to the influence of anger or malice, and yet instills fear in the hearts of even the demigods (devas)? Who has the strength to give protection to everyone within the three worlds? Unto who has the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, bestowed all her blessings? Who is the reservoir of all opulence in full?”
Narada Muni replied, “O rishi, there is a king named Rama who has appeared in the dynasty of Ikshvaku as the son of Maharaja Dasharatha. He is the embodiment of all good qualities, the reservoir of all opulence, and the master of unlimited potencies. Ram’s mighty arms extend to His knees, His throat is decorated with three lines like those on a conch shell, and His shoulders and chest are broad. His head is beautifully formed, His eyes are large, and His complexion is tinged with green and is very lustrous. His stature is medium-tall and His limbs are symmetrical and well formed. His intelligence is unfathomable, His continence is grave, and His speech is deep in tone and very eloquent.”
“Rama is fully conversant in the use of weapons, He possesses absolute knowledge of the Vedas, He is the ideal follower of religious principles, and He is the upholder of the varnashram-dharma social system. Rama is simultaneously the destroyer of all foes and the only shelter for fully surrendered souls. He possesses unflinching determination, and He is a genius with unfailing memory. He is wise, compassionate, and grave like the ocean. Rama is heroic in battle, loved by all creatures, and He is impartial toward both friends and enemies.”
“In fortitude Rama is like the Himalayas. In prowess He is like Lord Vishnu. His beauty surpasses that of the full moon, His forbearance is like that of the earth, and His anger is like the fire that blazes forth at the time of universal devastation. In truth, Rama is the very support of the entire universe and He is a plenary expansion of Lord Vishnu, being equal to Him in all respects.”
Narada Muni briefly narrated the life history of Lord Ramachandra, and then informed Valmiki that the very same personality was now ruling over His subjects in a most exemplary manner.
Narada said, “During the reign of Lord Rama no one within His kingdom suffers from disease or mental disturbance. Everyone is quite happy and prosperous, being without any fear of thieves, scarcity or hunger. All towns and villages are filled with abundant food grains, fruit, vegetables and milk products. Actually, the people experience the same degree of piety and happiness that was formerly exhibited during Satya-yuga. There are no natural disturbances like floods, earthquakes or drought. All women are very chaste, and they never have to suffer the pain of widowhood. Lord Ramachandra will rules the earth for 11,000 years before returning to His supreme abode in the spiritual sky, Vaikuntha.”
After Narada’s departure, to continue his travels, Valmiki went to the banks of the River Tamasa, along with his disciple Bharadvaja. There, Valmiki sat down in order to meditate deeply upon Narada’s words. Within the forest, Valmiki’s gaze happened to fall upon a pair of krauncha birds (cranes), engaged in sexual pleasure and singing very melodiously.
Suddenly, a malicious hunter of the Nishada race came out of hiding and pierced the male bird with his arrow. The bird fell to the ground, shrieking with pain. Seeing her mate writhing upon the ground in the agony of death, smeared with his blood, the female krauncha cried out piteously- herself having been cast down from the heights of sensual enjoyment to the depths of despair.
Seeing this, Valmiki felt pained at heart, and he considered the hunter to be very sinful. Flaring up with rage, Valmiki cursed the hunter, saying, “O killer of birds, may you never find peace of mind for endless years to follow. Let this be the punishment for your heartless killing of an innocent creature who was engaged in gratifying his mate.”
However, as soon as the curse was uttered, Valmiki felt shame for having become a victim of uncontrolled anger. As an enlightened soul, he knew very well that all living beings are acting helplessly, under the influence of the three modes of material nature. Because of this, Valmiki regretted that he had retaliated against the hunter. And yet, at the same time, he was astonished to realize that the curse had come out of his mouth in perfect poetic meter. And, the curse seemed to give a hint of the predominant emotion portrayed in the life story of Lord Rama, which Valmiki had been contemplating ever since his meeting with Narada.
Valmiki then remarked to Bharadvaja, “From my sorrow has come a verse of four lines, each containing eight syllables. From ‘shoka’ (remorse) has come a very nice ‘shloka’ (verse), for without compassion there can be no genuine poetic expression.”
Valmiki bathed in the River Tamasa and then returned to his ashram. Soon thereafter, as he was seated at ease, contemplating deeply about his having cursed the hunter, Valmiki saw Lord Brahma descending from his abode, the topmost planet in the universe. Being highly astonished, Valmiki jubilantly got up from his seat to welcome the secondary creator of the universe, who had appeared directly from the abdomen of Lord Vishnu. When Lord Brahma came before him, Valmiki very humbly bowed down to offer his obeisances, and then began to worship him to the best of his ability, with great respect.
After being honored, Lord Brahma, who can understand the hearts of everyone, spoke as follows: “Blessed sage, do not grieve, thinking that you had wrongly cursed the hunter. I will tell you something very confidential. The words that you had angrily spoken were not your own. They were my words, spoken by you instrumentally, for the purpose of inspiring you to accomplish a great task. The time has come for you to compose the history of Lord Ramachandra’s life. This will be a narration that is full of transcendental pastimes, and which is meant for the ultimate welfare of all in this world.”
“My dear Valmiki, please give up your anxiety. By the strength of my benediction, even that which is unknown will be clearly revealed to you from within your heart. By my grace, your narration of Ramayana will be faultless.”
After favoring Valmiki, Lord Brahma departed upon his celestial swan carrier, filling the hearts of those who beheld him with wonder. Valmiki then sat down in meditation so that he could visualize all the pastimes of Lord Ramachandra. When Valmiki became deeply absorbed in the trance of meditation, he was able to clearly see all the events comprising Lord Ramachandra’s manifested appearance on this earth. (This may seem quite astonishing, but Valmiki was able to witness the entire life of Lord Rama, just as we are now able to watch live coverage on television.)
Valmiki composed the Ramayana in 24,000 verses. After completing the epic poem, he wondered to whom he could teach it so that it would remain intact in memory and then later on be propagated all over the world. (These were the times before printing presses were invented, or alternatively, the times when memory was so sharp that writing was unnecessary.) While Valmiki was considering this, Lava and Kush came to submissively touch his feet, as was their daily custom. Dressed like rishis, these two sons of Rama that Sita had delivered while in exile had been under Valmiki’s care ever since birth. As Valmiki fondly gazed upon the twins, he realized that they were the most suitable and qualified to become the recipients of his great epic.
Thereafter, Valmiki very carefully taught Lava and Kush the entire Ramayana, and after it was memorized, they recited it for the first time in an assembly of brahmanas. These learned brahmanas experienced great transcendental pleasure while listening to the pastimes of Lord Rama. After praising Lava and Kush very highly, they rewarded the twins with ample gifts.
From that day onward, Lava and Kush began travelling over the earth, reciting Ramayana. In the course of their wanderings, they came to the city of Ayodhya, within the Koshala province. Lord Rama happened to see the two boys, wandering through the streets, dressed as rishis. Because they were reciting His transcendental pastimes, and were being acclaimed by the citizens of Ayodhya, Lord Rama brought them back to His palace with great pleasure. Rama respectfully escorted the two boys into the royal assembly so that they could recite Ramayana for all to hear. Rama noticed that the twins possessed bodily features more like those of warriors than scholars, but other than this, He had no idea of their actual identities. As Lava and Kush began to unfold the wonderful narration, Rama and His brothers soon became so absorbed in hearing that They forgot about everything else.
This is the effect of Krishna consciousness. Although we are living in this world, if we absorb our thoughts in Ramayana and other such literature, we can remain aloof from material contamination and, in our consciousness, reside in the Kingdom of God.
Since a very remote time, the earth had been ruled by the descendents of Ikshvaku, the eldest son of Vaivasvata Manu. Within the Koshala province, Manu had built his capital city, Ayodhya, on the banks of the river Sarayu. Later on, under the rule of Ikshvaku’s descendent, Maharaja Dasharatha, Ayodhya flourished wonderfully.
The city was well laid out with broad and straight avenues that were washed by perfumed water sprayed from the trunks of elephants. The arched gateways to the city were made of marble, and the gates were made of gold and silver, inlaid with valuable jewels. The city walls were strongly fortified, and thousands of warriors were posted to protect the city from invaders. Throughout the city were seven-story palaces, surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens, within which were ponds filled with lotus flowers.
The sounds of parrots and peacocks could be heard everywhere, along with the vibrations of musical instruments. Gentle breezes carried droplets of water from the numerous fountains, cooling the passers-by in the heat of summer. In this way, Ayodhya appeared to rival Amaravati, the abode of Indra, the king of heaven.
The streets of Ayodhya were always filled with travelers. Kings and princes from all parts of the world came to pay their annual tribute, as well as respects, to the emperor. Maharaja Dasharatha was a great rajarshi, considered to be almost on the level of a maharshi. He was devoted to truth and greatly loved by all his subjects. Maharaja Dasharatha was an atiratha, capable of fighting with many thousands of opposing warriors. Because of his piety, as well as that of the citizens, Vedic civilization was being practiced to its perfection. All kinds of opulence were wonderfully exhibited, whereas material miseries, which are the results of sinful life, were practically non-existent.
In Ayodhya, all the four social orders- the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras, participated cooperatively for the peace and prosperity of the kingdom. No one was cheated and no one was miserly. Arrogance, atheism, as well as harsh behavior and speech were conspicuous by their absence.
Yet, despite possessing all this opulence and prestige, Maharaja Dasharatha was unhappy because he had no son to perpetuate his dynasty. Finally, after much deliberation, he decided to perform a horse sacrifice (ashvamedha-yagya) for attaining the fulfillment of his desire. With this in mind, Maharaja Dasharatha sent his chief-minister, Sumantra, to call for his family priests.
When the brahmanas, headed by Vasishtha and Vamadeva, had assembled, Maharaja Dasharatha addressed them as follows: “O best of the twice-born, for so long I have desired to beget a son, but my hopes have been in vain. Because I have no heir, I can no longer even pretend to be happy. My days are simply filled with grief. After thinking over the matter very carefully, I have decided to perform a horse-sacrifice, with your permission. All of you know shastra (religious texts) very well, and so I request you to lead me on the right path.”
The brahmanas unanimously agreed to the King’s proposal, and so he immediately ordered his ministers to begin preparations. Sumantra then took Maharaja Dasharatha aside and told him something he had formerly heard Sanat-kumara relate to an assembly of great sages. “You will be very interested to hear this narration, my dear King”, Sumantra said, “because it predicts that in the future you will become the father of four glorious sons.”
Due to some past offense committed by King Romapada, there once was a terrible drought in his kingdom, causing great fear among all the living beings. When the condition became intolerable, Maharaja Romapada summoned his council of learned brahmanas and inquired, “I know that it is because of my own fault that this drought has afflicted my kingdom. O best of the twice-born, since your knowledge is boundless, kindly prescribe the proper atonement, so that I can become freed from the reactions to my past sins, whatever they may be.”
The brahmanas replied, “My dear King, there is a great sage named Vibhandaka, the son of Kashyapa, living in the forest. Vibhandaka’s son is Rishyashringa. If you can bring this boy to your kingdom and give him your daughter, Shanta, in marriage, then the drought will immediately end.”
Shanta was actually the daughter of Maharaja Dasharatha. At the request of his childless friend, King Romapada, Maharaja Dasharatha had given his daughter so that the king could raise her as his own. Romapada was very happy to learn the means of ending the drought, but when he asked his priests to summon Rishyashringa, they refused.
The brahmanas explained, “Vibhandaka will curse us if we try to lure his son away from home. You see, Rishyashringa has been brought up in complete isolation and has never seen another human being except his father. This is his father’s way of saving him from entanglement in worldly affairs.”
“My dear King, we all desire your welfare and so we have devised a way of bringing Rishyashringa to your kingdom. Because the boy has never even seen a member of the opposite sex, he is completely unaware of the pleasure of their association. Let the most beautiful courtesans go and allure him with their feminine ways. We are convinced that this is the method whereby your purpose will easily be accomplished.”
Maharaja Romapada accepted this proposal and then sent for the foremost of young and beautiful prostitutes. After being instructed by the King and being promised sufficient reward, the girls departed for the forest, determined to bring back the young rishi at all costs. Thereafter, the girls made their camp near Vibhandaka’s ashram and began to wait for a suitable opportunity. Then, one day, as Rishyashringa was wandering in the forest, he happened to come to the prostitutes’ camp.
The girls jubilantly got up to greet Rishyashringa. When they inquired about his identity, the boy replied, “I am the son of Vibhandaka and I am engaged in performing austerities at my father’s ashram, nearby. All of you are so beautiful! I would like you to come to my home, to accept my worship and hospitality.”
The girls went with Rsyashringa to his ashram, and there he gave them offerings of arghya, water for washing their feet, and various kinds of fruit and roots. But, the girls were very fearful that his father might return at any moment and so they did not want to stay very long.
Before departing, however, the girls said, “My dear friend, our way of receiving guests is quite different from yours. Now, please accept our offerings of honor and respect in return.”
Saying this, the girls embraced Rishyashringa very tightly and with great affection, and then fed him some delicious sweets. Never before had the innocent rishi’s son tasted anything so pleasing, for he was accustomed to eating the fruit and roots available in the forest. Actually, he thought that the sweets must be some kind of wonderful fruit that he had never seen or tasted before. And, because he had previously only seen his father, he considered the prostitutes to be enchantingly beautiful men.
After the girls left, Rishyashringa began to feel restless at heart because the seed of lusty desire, which had remained dormant there for so long, had now sprouted. Rishyashringa could not drag his mind away from thinking about the beautiful girls, for his heart had become captivated by their tender words and warm embraces. That night he could hardly sleep, and the next morning, when his father became engaged elsewhere, he went to where the prostitutes were staying.
The girls were delighted to see Rishyashringa, and they said, “My dear boy, this is not our real home. Please come with us aboard our magnificent floating hermitage, and we will take you to a place where we can entertain you in a much better fashion. We have so many varieties of fruit and roots, and we will enjoy ourselves so much that we will hardly know how the time is passing.”
Being completely enamored, Rishyashringa unhesitatingly accompanied the prostitutes. In this way, the girls were able to bring him to Romapada’s capital within the kingdom of Anga. Even as Rishyashringa was being carried down the Ganga, Indra sent forth showers of rain, giving great joy to all living creatures.
When he came to know of Rishyashringa’s arrival, King Romapada came out of his palace to greet him. After bowing down before the young rishi, the King worshiped him with great attention, and then escorted him into the inner chambers of his palace, where his daughter resided. Maharaja Romapada presented Shanta to Rishyashringa.
Understanding that the rishi was very satisfied, the King requested, “Please offer me the benediction that neither you nor your father will retaliate for the duplicitous manner in which you were lured away from home and brought to my kingdom.”
Rishyashringa gave the King assurances, and the marriage was celebrated with great festivity. After the wedding, the couple continued to reside in King Romapada’s palace, passing their time quite happily in royal comfort.
Maharaja Dasharatha was very pleased to hear this story from Sumantra. Without wasting time, he departed for the kingdom of Anga, along with his retinue. King Romapada received his friend very warmly, and at that time he informed Rishyashringa that Maharaja Dasharatha was his actual father-in-law.
After enjoying King Romapada’s hospitality for about a week, Maharaja Dasharatha explained to his friend, “For a very long time I have been morose on account of not receiving a son to perpetuate my illustrious dynasty. Now, I request you to allow Rishyashringa to accompany me to Ayodhya so that he can perform the ashvamedha-yagya on my behalf.”
Romapada happily agreed, and so Maharaja Dasharatha returned to his capital, along with Rishyashringa and Shanta. Then, when spring arrived, the King humbly approached the rishi, asking him to give directions for the performance of his sacrifice. In this way, preparations began, and a site was selected on the northern bank of the Sarayu. Understanding that King Janaka would be the future father-in-law of his sons, Dasharatha sent him the first invitation.
The method of ashvamedha-yagya entails the release of a challenge-horse, which then wanders at will, accompanied by royal guards. While the horse roams the earth, all subordinate kings pay tribute to the emperor, or else show their insubordination by trying to capture it. If the challenge-horse returns to the place of sacrifice without being captured, then the ashvamedha-yagya can be successfully performed. Thus it came to be that after wandering the earth for one full year, when the challenge-horse returned to Ayodhya, the sacrifice commenced.
Outside the city, a huge assembly had gathered in an area of tents and pavilions. There were kings and their queens, along with princes and princesses, who had come from all corners of the earth, bringing with them costly gifts for the emperor. At the center were the sacrificial fires, surrounded by brahmanas engaged in chanting the Vedic mantras.
Maharaja Dasharatha’s eldest queen, Kaushalya, circumambulated the challenge-horse, which was tied to a sacrificial stake. Then, with three strokes of a sword, she severed the horse’s head, as prescribed by the injunctions of shastra. Rishyashringa offered the fat of the dead horse into the sacrificial fire, and Maharaja Dasharatha was made to inhale the fumes, because this act frees the performer from all sinful reactions. After this, the assisting priests offered the various limbs of the horse into the sacrificial fire, and in this way the three-day ashvamedha-yagya came to an end.
In previous ages, such sacrifices were performed, and it was assured that the sacrificed animal would instantly achieve a place in heaven. The success of such sacrifices depended upon the prowess of the brahmanas, who could chant the mantras to perfection, and who could invite the demigods to accept their offerings, by dint of their unparalleled piety. (The Sanskrit word deva refers to the controlling gods within this universe. We will refer to them as demigods, indicating that they are not on the level of the Supreme Lord.) Today, such qualified brahmanas no longer exist, and so the performance of these sacrifices is forbidden.
At the conclusion of the sacrifice, Maharaja Dasharatha gave away the entire earth to the four chief priests. But, the brahmanas returned the gift, saying, “O King, because we are devoted to the study of the Vedas and the performance of austerities, we have no interest in ruling a kingdom. Please give us gifts that are useful to us, like cows or gold.”
Rishyashringa then approached Maharaja Dasharatha and said, “My dear King, you will surely receive four glorious sons, but I propose that a separate sacrifice known as Putreshti be performed for that purpose.”
Maharaja Dasharatha readily agreed, and the sacrifice commenced soon after. Meanwhile, the leaders of the demigods approached Lord Brahma and said, “O Grandsire, because of your benedictions, Ravana has become so powerful that he is harassing everyone at will. Even we cannot subdue the wicked Rakshasa, and so we beg you to devise some means for his destruction.”
Lord Brahma paused for a moment to think, and then he said, “At the time of receiving benedictions, Ravana did not bother to ask for immunity from death at the hands of human beings, for he considered them to be too insignificant.”
While Brahma was considering the matter carefully, Lord Vishnu suddenly appeared there, riding upon His carrier, Garuda. With the effulgence of many suns, the Lord appeared in His four-armed form, dressed in bright saffron-colored garments and carrying in His hands a conch shell, disc, club and lotus flower.
The demigods worshiped Lord Vishnu with great reverence and then said, “O master of the universe, please come to our rescue by dividing Yourself into four. Become the sons of Maharaja Dasharatha, and then arrange for the destruction of Ravana.”
Lord Vishnu replied, “Rest assured that you no longer have need to fear. I will incarnate as the sons of Maharaja Dasharatha, and rule over the earth for 11,000 years after vanquishing your enemy, the King of the Rakshasas.”
After saying this, Lord Vishnu mysteriously vanished from sight, much to the astonishment of the demigods. Meanwhile, from the sacrificial fire of Maharaja Dasharatha there appeared an exceptional being of dark complexion, possessing all auspicious bodily features. This person appeared to be unlimitedly powerful, he was decorated with transcendental ornaments, and in his hands he carried a large golden pot containing a sweet made from rice and milk. That divine personality then announced to Maharaja Dasharatha, “I am a messenger of Lord Vishnu.”
With hands joined in supplication, Maharaja Dasharatha replied, “O Vishnuduta, please order me. What service can I render?”
The servant of Lord Vishnu said, “This pot of kheer is the reward for your two sacrificial performances. Give portions to your three wives, and then through them you will be able to beget four sons who will forever perpetuate your fame.”
Maharaja Dasharatha gratefully accepted the pot of prasad, and after he reverentially circumambulated the Vishnuduta, that servant of Lord Vishnu suddenly disappeared from view. Without wasting time, the King quickly went and fed the prasad to his wives, for he was extremely eager to have sons.
First-of-all, Maharaja Dasharatha gave half of the kheer to his eldest wife, Kaushalya. Then he gave Sumitra one-fourth and Kaikeyi, his youngest wife, one-eighth. After some deliberation, the King gave the remaining one-eighth to Sumitra, and all of the women were overjoyed, for they were confident that they would soon become mothers. With great eagerness they ate their shares of the prasad, and in due course of time, each could feel the presence of divine offspring within her womb. When Maharaja Dasharatha understood that his wives were pregnant, he also became very, very pleased.
Meanwhile, Lord Brahma gave the following orders to the demigods: “Lord Vishnu will soon appear in human society, and so all of you should beget partial manifestations of yourselves to assist Him. I want you to create a race of divine monkeys by uniting with the Apsaras, female monkeys, Yakshas, Nagas, Vidyadharas and Kinnaras. These offspring must be capable of assuming any form at will, and they must possess the other mystic powers as well. In addition, they must all be very intelligent, and they must be highly skilled in the use of weapons. They must have strength equal to yourselves, and they must possess ethereal bodies.”
After receiving this order, Indra begot Vali, Surya begot Sugriva, Brihaspati begot Tara, Kuvera begot Gandhamadana, Vishvakarma begot Nala, and Agni begot Nila. The Ashvini-kumaras begot Mainda and Dvivida, Varuna begot Sushena, and Vayu begot Hanuman. Besides these principal monkeys, many thousands took birth in order to assist Lord Vishnu in His mission. All of them were gigantic like mountains, and they were exceedingly eager to fight with Ravana. Like the demigods who begot them, these monkeys were born just after conception, and they were so powerful that they could agitate the ocean with their impetuous energy.
There were actually three classes of beings created by the demigods. Formerly, Jambavan, the king of the bears, had emanated from Lord Brahma’s mouth as he was yawning. These bears were one class and the other two classes were monkeys, one of which had long tails like those of cows. There were more than ten million of these bears and monkeys, and so the earth became overrun with them as they wandered through the forests, eating wild fruit and various kinds of roots.
Meanwhile, after the completion of the Putresthi sacrifice, the demigods who had personally come to accept the offerings, the assisting priests, Rishyashringa and Shanta, as well as all the invited guests, returned to their respective residences.
Then, after a pregnancy of twelve months, on the ninth day of the waxing fortnight in the month of Chaitra, Kaushalya gave birth to a son. Having reddish eyes and lips, long arms, and a body possessing all auspicious markings, the son of Kaushalya represented one-half of the potency of Lord Vishnu.
Soon thereafter, a son representing one-fourth of the potency of Lord Vishnu was born to Kaikeyi, Maharaja Dasharatha’s youngest queen. Then, two days after the birth of Kaushalya’s son, Sumitra gave birth to twins, each representing one-eighth of the potency of Lord Vishnu. All four newborn children greatly resembled one another, They were very brilliant, and were exceptionally pleasing to behold. At the birth of these four sons of Dasharatha, the demigods showered flowers from heaven, and the sound of celestial music could be heard coming from the sky.
In Ayodhya there was a great festival as all the citizens crowded into the streets and took part in the merry-making, along with the musicians, dancers and actors who provided entertainment.
Thirteen days after the birth of Kaushalya’s son, Vasishtha Muni, the family priest, performed the name-giving ceremony. The greatly fortunate rishi named the son of Kaushalya, Rama, the son of Kaikeyi, Bharata, and the twin sons of Sumitra, Lakshman and Shatrughna.
Thereafter, Vasishtha Muni took charge of performing all the purifying rituals for the sons of Maharaja Dasharatha, culminating in the sacred thread ceremony. Under Vasishtha’s able guidance, all four became masters of the Vedas, great heroic warriors, and the reservoirs of all godly qualities. From His birth, however, Rama outshone His brothers in all respects, and so He naturally became the pet son of His father. From childhood, Lakshman was very attached to Rama, and Rama was also attached to Lakshman. In fact, Rama would not eat anything, or even go to sleep, without Lakshman. When Rama would go hunting in the forest, Lakshman would accompany Him without fail. Similarly, Bharata and Shatrughna were very dear to one another and practically inseparable.
After Rama, Lakshman, Bharata and Shatrughna had completed Their education, Maharaja Dasharatha consulted with Vasishtha about Their marriages. During one such discussion, the greatly powerful brahmarshi, Vishvamitra, arrived at Ayodhya and entered the royal palace. Maharaja Dasharatha and Vasishtha immediately got up from their seats to welcome the great sage. The King then worshiped his guest in a befitting manner. Afterwards, Maharaja Dasharatha escorted Vishvamitra into the royal court and seated him upon an opulent throne.
The King then very submissively said, “O foremost of saintly persons, I hope that your endeavors to conquer over the cycle of repeated birth and death are meeting with success. I consider your coming here to be as welcome as a gift of nectar placed in one’s hands, a torrential rainfall after a long drought, the birth of a son for one who is childless, or the recovery of great wealth that was considered irrevocably lost.”
When Vishvamitra inquired about his welfare, Maharaja Dasharatha humbly replied, “O great rishi, your coming here is a great blessing for me. I am honored by your presence. Now, please tell me what you desire, so that I may serve the purpose of your visit.”
Vishvamitra was very pleased with the King’s reception, and he replied as follows: “I was performing a great sacrifice, but as it was nearing completion, two vicious Rakshasas named Maricha and Subahu interrupted it. Being determined to frustrate my attempts, they have repeatedly polluted my sacrificial arena by dropping flesh and blood upon the altar. Maharaja, so that I may successfully complete my sacrifice, I wish to take your son Rama so that He can kill these two terrible Rakshasas. Please do not hesitate, out of parental affection, to honor my request, for I can assure you that Rama will easily accomplish this task. In return for your generosity, I shall give you ample benedictions, so please let me take Rama for just ten days. Rest assured that He will return to you safely.”
Vishvamitra’s words pierced the very core of Maharaja Dasharatha’s heart, so that his entire body began to tremble. When the rishi stopped speaking, the King fainted, while seated upon his throne. Maharaja Dasharatha soon regained consciousness, but when he once again thought of losing Rama, he fainted a second time, falling onto the floor. This time, it was only after about an hour that the King came to his senses.
When he saw Vishvamitra seated before him, Maharaja Dasharatha pleaded, “O foremost of sages, you are everyone’s well-wisher. My dear son Rama is only sixteen years old and He has not yet finished His military training. He has not once entered a battlefield. Please, do not take my inexperienced son. Instead, allow me to accompany you, along with a large army, and let us do the work of killing the two Rakshasas. Or, if you insist that Rama must go with you, then let me and my army go as well, so that we may fight along side Him.”
“My dear Vishvamitra, I am an old man, and without Rama I could not bear to go on living. Now, please tell me more about these two Rakshasas, and give me some idea of the extent of their prowess.”
Vishvamitra replied, “Ravana is the king of the Rakshasas, and he is oppressing the entire world. When he does not personally obstruct a sacrifice, he deputes these two powerful Rakshasas- Maricha and Subahu, to do the mischief.”
When he heard the name Ravana, Maharaja Dasharatha became even more fearful and exclaimed, “No one is able to fight with Ravana! Even the other two Rakshasas are much too formidable, either for me or for my son. O rishi, I cannot fulfill your request. I cannot even bear to think of allowing my son to accompany you!”
Having become practically mad with grief, Maharaja Dasharatha continued to speak incoherently while refusing Vishvamitra’s request. Because of this, the rishi felt insulted.
Flaring up, Vishvamitra angrily declared, “Foolish King! Your impudence will cause the ruin of your entire dynasty! First of all you promised to serve my purpose and now you are going back on your word! Such behavior toward a brahmana has never before been heard of in the Raghava dynasty, and so I shall immediately leave this condemned place!”
As Vishvamitra’s body shook with anger, the entire earth began to tremble, so that even the demigods in heaven became afraid.
Vasishtha Muni quickly approached Maharaja Dasharatha and said, “O King, do not destroy all of your previously acquired pious credit by abandoning righteousness now. You made a solemn promise, and so you must fulfill Vishvamitra’s request by giving him your son.”
“Formerly, when Vishvamitra was a king, he received celestial weapons from Lord Shiva that had been born from Daksha’s daughters, Jaya and Suprabha. Vishvamitra will surely give these weapons to Rama, as well as the necessary prowess to kill the Rakshasas. Actually, Vishvamitra could easily kill Maricha and Subahu himself, but he is asking for help just to enhance your son’s glory.”
While listening to his preceptor’s words, Maharaja Dasharatha’s fear subsided and his mind once again became balanced and pacified. The King then cheerfully agreed to allow his son to accompany Vishvamitra, and because of this, the rishi also became satisfied.
Maharaja Dasharatha then called for Rama, and because the two were practically inseparable, Lakshman soon appeared with His elder brother. The King briefly described Vishvamitra’s request, and then he affectionately smelled the heads of his sons. The rishi then turned and departed, while Rama and Lakshman followed behind, carrying their bows in their hands. As the three went out of the palace, flowers showered down from heaven, being wafted by gentle breezes, and celestial music could be heard in the distance.
Before long, Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshman left Ayodhya far behind. After walking along the banks of the River Sarayu for about twenty kilometers, Vishvamitra stopped and said, “My dear Rama, please sip some water to perform achmana for purification. I shall now teach You the mantras known as Bala and Atibala. After learning these mantras You will become freed from the influence of fatigue and old age, and You will gain incomparable wisdom and strength. I know that these qualities already exist in You, but still, I desire to impart these mantras for Your benefit.”
After receiving the Bala and Atibala mantras, Lord Rama appeared to shine with the brilliance of a thousand suns. Rama, Lakshman and Vishvamitra spent the night very pleasantly by the side of the river, and the next day they reached the confluence of the Sarayu and Ganga.
When Rama saw an ashram of rishis there, He inquired about its history. Vishvamitra explained, “This is the very place where Lord Shiva burnt Kamadeva (Cupid) to ashes, after the god of love tried to disturb his meditation.”
After being welcomed by the rishis, the three travelers spent the night at their ashram. The next morning, they crossed the Ganga, and at mid-stream Rama could distinctly hear the sound of cascading water, although there appeared to be no cause for this.
When Rama mentioned this to Vishvamitra, the rishi said, “Once, Lord Brahma created a reservoir of water from his mind, and so it became known as Manasa-sarovara. That lake is the source of the River Sarayu, and the sound that you hear is water coming down from Manasa-sarovara and entering the Ganga. O Rama, You should offer Your prayers and obeisances at this sacred place.”
After reaching the southern bank of the Ganga, Rama saw a dense, uninhabited forest. He said, “This desolate forest inspires fear in the heart of whoever happens to see it. Please tell Me why, if you know the reason.”
Vishvamitra replied, “After King Indra killed Vritrasura, he became overwhelmed by sinful reactions, and as a result, he lost his usual splendor. To restore Indra to his normal condition, the demigods bathed him in Ganga water that they had empowered by chanting Vedic mantras. Afterwards, they took the water that contained all of Indra’s impurities and threw it in this place. Because of this, the land had to accept Indra’s sinful reactions, but in return, the King of heaven gave it the benediction that it would become a very prosperous place. As a result, two flourishing kingdoms- Malada and Karusha were established here.”
“Later on, a wicked Rakshasa woman named Tataka came here and began to terrorize the citizens. Tataka is the wife of the Rakshasa, Sunda, and their son is Maricha, whom I have brought You here to kill. Being greatly harassed by Tataka, all the people gradually left this place, so that now it is completely deserted.”
“My dear Rama, I want You to destroy this she-demon today, and thus free this country of its oppression. As long as this Rakshasi remains alive, no one dares to even enter this forest. Rama, Tataka is thoroughly wicked, and so cast aside all hesitation to kill a woman.”
Rama responded, “You are My guru, and so it is My duty to obey your orders” and then He drew back the string of His mighty bow. The twanging sound created when Rama let go of the bowstring reverberated throughout the four directions, terrifying all creatures. That awesome sound entered Tataka’s cave, and the Rakshasi became enraged upon hearing it. As Tataka madly soared through the air, rushing toward the spot from where that sound had come, Rama could see her approaching.
He exclaimed, “Lakshman, just see this gigantic, hideous creature! But, after all, she is a woman. I will not kill her, but I will render her harmless by cutting off her hands and feet.”
By use of her mystic powers, Tataka created a dust storm that temporarily clouded Rama and Lakshman’s vision. Then, a shower of stones poured from the sky. Quickly regaining His composure, Rama smashed all the stones with His arrows, and then cut off Tataka’s arms. At Rama’s urging, Lakshman cut off Tataka’s ears and the tip of her nose, but then, suddenly, she disappeared.
While remaining invisible, Tataka continued to shower stones, and at this time, Vishvamitra urged with an impassioned voice, “Rama, twilight is approaching! At that time the Rakshasas’ powers greatly increase! Now, give up Your merciful attitude and kill Tataka at once!”
In response, Rama proceeded to release torrents of arrows. But then, suddenly, Tataka became visible and rushed at Him impetuously. Without being disturbed, however, Rama took an especially powerful arrow from His quiver and released it at the onrushing she-demon. That single blazing arrow pierced Tataka in the chest, making her scream with pain and then fall down dead onto the ground with a terrible crashing sound.
At this time, the demigods, headed by Indra, came to see Vishvamitra in a secluded place. They said, “Rama has a very important mission to accomplish on our behalf, and so you should unhesitatingly teach him your complete knowledge of celestial weapons.”
After saying this, the demigods instantly vanished. Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshman happily spent the night there. The next morning, Vishvamitra taught Rama his complete understanding of celestial weapons. When Rama thus received the mantras that invoked them, the celestial weapons came before Him in their personified forms. They said, “Lord Rama, please give us Your order. Of what service can we be to You?”
Rama replied, “My request is that all of you kindly appear before Me when thought of.”
After the departure of the celestial weapons, Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshman continued on their journey. Later in the day, they arrived at Vishvamitra’s hermitage, called Siddhashram. Vishvamitra’s disciples came out and welcomed their guru, along with Rama and Lakshman.
Vishvamitra said, “Rama, this place was formerly the residence of Lord Vishnu in His incarnation as Vamanadeva. You are the same Lord of all creatures, now appearing in human form. This sacred place has the power to terminate the cycle of birth and death, and You should consider it as Your own.”
Vishvamitra began to prepare for the continuation of his sacrifice, while Rama and Lakshman guarded the arena with bows in hand. Six days and nights passed without incident in this way, with everyone forgoing sleep. Then, on the critical sixth night, when the soma-rasa was to be extracted, the sacrificial fire suddenly blazed forth brightly, indicating the immanent arrival of the Rakshasas.
After a moment, a fearful clamor was heard in the sky as Maricha and Subahu, along with their followers, swooped down without warning. By use of their mystic powers, the Rakshasas caused torrents of blood, pus, stool, urine, flesh and other contaminated substances to rain down upon the sacrificial altar.
Rama said, “Lakshman, I will disperse these evil Rakshasas with My weapons, but I will not kill them, because they are destined to live for some more years.”
After saying this, Rama released a mighty arrow that struck Maricha in the chest and flung him into the middle of the ocean without killing him. Then, taking another arrow, Rama pierced Subahu in the chest, making him fall down dead onto the ground. By invoking a third celestial arrow, Rama dispersed all the remaining Rakshasas, so that the area once again became calm. All the rishis residing at Siddhashram came and congratulated Lord Rama, and that evening, the sacrifice came to a successful conclusion.
After passing the night, Rama approached the rishis and inquired, “O brahmanas, now that your ashram has been freed of all disturbances, is there anything more that We can do to be of service?”
At Vishvamitra’s urging, the rishis replied, “We are about to depart for the kingdom of Mithila, so that we can take part in a grand sacrifice that is being arranged by Maharaja Janaka. We would like You two brothers to accompany us. There is a wonderful bow that had formerly belonged to Lord Shiva being kept at the sacrificial arena. Lord Shiva had given this bow to the demigods, who, in turn, presented it to Devavrata, the king of Mithila in a bygone age. This bow is so formidable that even demigods cannot bend it, and so what to speak of human beings. It has remained at Mithila for a very long time, being worshiped on an altar with offerings of flowers, sandalwood paste and other auspicious articles.”
Rama happily agreed to accompany the rishis. Soon afterwards, a great caravan set out with about one hundred carts loaded with the paraphernalia that was required for Maharaja Janaka’s sacrifice. After travelling all day, the party reached the banks of the Sone River and it was decided that they would stop there for the night. Every evening, Rama and Lakshman would sit with Vishvamitra in a very relaxed and friendly manner. Taking advantage of the rishi’s vast knowledge, Rama would inquire about the histories of the places that they visited while traveling to the kingdom of Mithila.
The next morning, the caravan continued its journey, and by sunset it reached the banks of the Ganga. That evening, Vishvamitra entertained Rama and Lakshman with the stories of Kartikeya’s birth and Ganga’s descent to the earth.
The next morning, the caravan crossed the Ganga, and by evening they reached the city of Vishala. Maharaja Sumati, the king of Vishala, came out of the city to welcome Vishvamitra, and he invited the party to spend the night with him. Then, next morning, the caravan traveled on, and that day they reached the outskirts of Mithila, the kingdom of Maharaja Janaka. There, Rama saw an old, desolate ashram, and so He inquired about it from Vishvamitra Muni.
Vishvamitra explained, “This ashram formerly belonged to Gautama Rishi, who practiced austerities here along with his wife, Ahalya.”
Vishvamitra then narrated the history as follows: One day, knowing that Gautama was away from his ashram, King Indra assumed a form that very closely resembled the rishi and went there. Approaching Gautama’s wife, Indra said, “Those who hanker for the enjoyment of sexual intercourse do not bother to wait for the time of conception, which is sixteen days after a woman’s menstrual period. My dear beautiful one, I want to have union with you now and so please do not disappoint me.”
Ahalya could understand that it was Indra disguised as Gautama who stood before her. Still, she did not refuse his request, because she eagerly wanted to enjoy his embraces. Thus, their union took place. After their urges were gratified, Ahalya begged, “Indra, please protect both of us from the wrath of my husband.”
Indra replied, “There is no need to be afraid. I will depart at once and so no one will see me.”
But it so happened that as Indra was fearfully sneaking away, Gautama returned after having taken his bath. When Gautama saw Indra disguised as Gautama, his head hanging down in shame, he could very well understand the nature of his misconduct. With great anger, Gautama cursed Indra, “You lusty fool! May your testicles fall off at once as punishment for this abominable act!”
As soon as this curse was pronounced, Indra’s testicles fell from his body and dropped onto the ground. After entering his ashram, Gautama cursed his wife as well: “O wretched woman, from now on you will have to stay alone in this hermitage, invisible to others. You will be incapable of eating or drinking, and you will have to lie down on a bed of ashes. Only when, in the far distant future, you offer hospitality to Lord Rama when He comes here, will you be become absolved of your sin, freed from all lusty desires, and reunited with me as husband and wife.”
After saying this, Gautama left for the Himalayas. Meanwhile, in the heavenly planets, Indra informed the demigods, “I have successfully spoiled Gautama Rishi’s attempt to usurp my position as king of heaven, by making him angry. Unfortunately, in the process I lost my testicles. Somehow or other, please arrange for my manhood to be re-established.”
In response to Indra’s plea, the demigods arranged for the Pitris to castrate a ram and graft the testicles onto his body.
Vishvamitra then said, “O Rama, let us now enter Gautama’s ashram, so that You can free Ahalya from her husband’s curse.”
As soon as Rama entered, the invisible Ahalya regained her original form, which was dazzling with ascetic splendor. Rama and Lakshman went and touched Ahalya’s feet out of respect, and in turn, she welcomed the two brothers along with Vishvamitra, offering them all kinds of hospitality. As soon as this was done, flowers rained down from heaven and the beating of celestial drums could be heard. Gautama Rishi then came there to be re-united with his wife, and he worshiped Rama and Lakshman with great reverence.
Thereafter, Vishvamitra, along with Rama and Lakshman, went to the sacrificial arena of Maharaja Janaka. Lord Rama was pleased to see that thousands of brahmanas had assembled there, having come from all parts of the world. There were camps arranged for all classes of visitors, and the preparations for the grand sacrifice were underway. As soon as Maharaja Janaka heard of Vishvamitra’s arrival, he hurriedly came to greet him.
After seating Vishvamitra amongst the foremost of sages, Janaka said, “This sacrifice will take twelve days to reach its conclusion, at which time the demigods will personally appear to accept their shares of the offerings. Please tell me- who are these two exalted personalities that have accompanied you? They seem to be gods, appearing in human form.”
Vishvamitra replied, “These two young men are the sons of Maharaja Dasharatha, and Their names are Rama and Lakshman. I brought Them from Ayodhya to my ashram to kill the Rakshasas who were disturbing my sacrifice. Now, They have come here to see the wonderful bow that you have been worshiping with such care and devotion.”
Later on, when all were seated at ease, Shatananda, the chief priest of Maharaja Janaka and eldest son of Gautama Rishi, requested Vishvamitra to recount the story of how his mother had regained her original form, by the mercy of Lord Rama. Vishvamitra was happy to relate the incident in detail. Then, in turn, Shatananda narrated the glorious history of Vishvamitra, who, although born a kshatriya, was able to elevate himself to the status of brahmarshi. After this, everyone retired for the night.
The next morning, Maharaja Janaka called for Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshman, and after very respectfully greeting them he said, “I know that great personalities like you would not come here without some grave purpose. Therefore, please let me know how I can serve you.”
Vishvamitra smilingly replied, “Rama and Lakshman have come here simply because They are very eager to see the wonderful bow that your family has worshiped for such a long time.”
Maharaja Janaka then explained, “Long ago, Lord Shiva used this bow to disrupt the Daksha-yagya. Being denied his rightful share of the offerings, Lord Shiva had picked up this bow and threatened to annihilate the demigods. Coming to their senses, the demigods were able to pacify Lord Shiva, who in turn gave them his bow. Later on, the demigods entrusted the bow to Devavrata, the eldest son of Maharaja Nimi, my forefather.”
After describing the history of the bow, Maharaja Janaka next talked about his daughter: “One day, as I was preparing the sacrificial ground by leveling it with a golden plow, much to my surprise, I uncovered a baby girl in one of the furrows. I named her Sita (furrow) and began to raise her as my foster daughter. Sita grew up quickly, and upon reaching the age of puberty, many princes came to ask for her hand in marriage. I explained to the princes that because my daughter was not an ordinary girl, born from the womb of a mother, only a man of great valor deserved to have her. When the princes asked about what kind of valor was expected, I showed them the bow of Lord Shiva and asked them to string it.”
“Most of the princes could not even pick up the bow, and so what to speak of string it or even bend it. Because of this, these princes felt highly insulted. Banding together, they attacked Mithila, and a fierce battle raged for twelve months. Finally, as my army began to falter, I fervently prayed to the demigods for help. In answer to my prayers, the demigods sent a celestial army, and just by seeing it the princes ran away in fear.”
“Because Rama is very eager to see the bow of Lord Shiva, I will have it brought here for Him to examine. If Rama is able to string it, then I will gladly give Him my beautiful daughter, Sita.”
Maharaja Janaka gave the order, and soon, five hundred strong men were seen pulling the immense bow, which was encased in a chest and mounted upon a vehicle having eight wheels. When it came before them, Vishvamitra asked Rama to open the chest, while thousands of people gathered around out of curiosity.
As Rama admired the wonderful bow, Maharaja Janaka warned, “Even great demigods, demons, Rakshasas, Yakshas, Gandharvas and Nagas have failed to bend this mighty bow. How then can a mere mortal succeed in stringing it?”
Nevertheless, Rama sportingly placed His left hand upon the middle of the bow, and, as everyone looked on, He effortlessly lifted it out of its case. Then, to the great astonishment of everyone, Rama strung the bow in an instant and continued bending it with great force. Suddenly, there was a thunderous cracking sound, as the bow snapped in the middle. Actually, the breaking bow sounded like a mountain bursting apart, and it stunned the senses of all the people assembled there, making them fall to the ground, with the exception of Vishvamitra, Janaka, Rama and Lakshman.
Maharaja Janaka then asked Vishvamitra to send messengers to Ayodhya, inviting King Dasharatha to attend the marriage of Rama and Sita. It took the messengers three days to reach Ayodhya, and when they described Rama’s heroic winning of Sita, Maharaja Dasharatha became overjoyed. After consulting with Vasishtha and Vamadeva, the King departed early the next morning, keeping his priests in front, and taking with him much wealth and a large army.
After travelling for four days, the party reached the outskirts of Mithila, and with great pleasure Maharaja Janaka came out to give his guests a royal reception. After Maharaja Dasharatha consulted with his sons, it was decided that the preliminary marriage rituals would begin at an auspicious moment the very next day.
The next morning, after everyone had assembled, Maharaja Dasharatha requested King Janaka to hear the history of his dynasty from Vasishtha Muni. At the conclusion of his narration, Vishvamitra formally requested Maharaja Janaka to give his two daughters, Sita and Urmila, to Rama and Lakshman.
In reply, King Janaka first related the history of his own dynasty, and then happily concluded the solemn agreement to marry his two daughters to the sons of Dasharatha. Some preliminary rituals were performed, and at this time Vishvamitra and Vasishtha requested that the two daughters of Janaka’s younger brother, Kushadvaja, be given in marriage to Bharata and Shatrughna. Janaka Maharaja happily agreed, and the date for the marriage was fixed for three days later, because it was a very auspicious time.
Thereafter, on the appointed day, at the auspicious hour known as Vijaya, Vasishtha approached Maharaja Janaka and said, “The ruler of Koshala, along with his four sons, is waiting outside for he who will give away his daughters. Let the auspicious wedding sacrifice begin, without any further delay!”
King Janaka replied, within the hearing of Maharaja Dasharatha, “Whose permission does the royal guest require to enter his own house? I consider this kingdom to belong to the ruler of Koshala. Let the four princes come forward so that the marriage ceremony can begin at once!”
Maharaja Dasharatha brought his four sons into the sacrificial arena, while Vasishtha Muni prepared the sacrificial altar, decorating it all around with sandalwood paste and flowers, potted plants, pots of incense, bowls of grains and turmeric, and other auspicious articles. When all was ready, Vasishtha lit the sacrificial fire and began to offer oblations while the brahmanas chanted the Vedic mantras. Maharaja Janaka then escorted Sita into the sacrificial arena, and seated her next to Rama.
With a voice that tremble with emotion, the King said, “O noble prince, this is my daughter, Sita. Please take her by the hand, and accept her as your life-long partner. She is a reservoir of all auspicious qualities, and she will be forever devoted to You, as faithfully as Your own shadow.”
Amid showers of flowers raining down from heaven and the beating of celestial drums, King Janaka placed the hand of the goddess of fortune, Sita, into the hand of the Supreme Lord, Rama. In the heavens, the Gandharvas sang while the Apsaras danced in ecstasy, as next, King Janaka placed the hand of Urmila into Lakshman’s hand, then Mandavi’s hand into Bharata’s hand, and finally Srutakirti’s hand into Shatrughna’s hand. The four brothers then circumambulated the sacrificial fire three times, while clasping the hands of Their wives. After that, They circumambulated King Janaka and the rishis.
Rama felt great satisfaction, having gotten Sita as His wife. She was the embodiment of all loveliness and virtue. Sitadevi also felt unprecedented happiness upon getting her beloved Rama, the Lord of her heart and the emblem of goodness, chivalry, intelligence and masculine beauty. Dedicating their hearts to each other, Sita and Rama shone resplendently, just as Lord Vishnu shines in the company of His beloved consort, Lakshmi.
At the conclusion of the festivities, the marriage party retired for the night. The next morning, Vishvamitra departed for the Himalayas. Later in the day, Maharaja Dasharatha left for Ayodhya, along with his four sons and Their wives, taking with Them the large dowry received from King Janaka. But while going, Maharaja Dasharatha observed an inauspicious sign- fierce birds were screeching overhead. Then, he saw the auspicious sign of deer crossing his path from left to right. Becoming fearful, the King mentioned this to Vasishtha, who then explained that the inauspicious sign indicated danger while the auspicious sign assured that there was no need of fear.
As the two were thus conversing, a fierce wind began to blow, shaking the earth and knocking down many trees. As dust clouded all directions, it became so dark that everyone became bewildered and panic-stricken, with the exception of Maharaja Dasharatha, his four sons, Vasishtha and the other rishis.
Suddenly, Parashurama appeared there in a very fierce form. His hair was matted, on his right shoulder he carried an axe, a bow on his left, and in his hand was a powerful arrow. The rishis were very surprised to see Parashurama like this, because previously, after annihilating the kshatriyas twenty-one times, he had vowed to give up his anger and remain fixed in the execution of austerities.
While the rishis were thus wondering why he had once again become enraged, the son of Jamadagni addressed Lord Rama as follows: “You have certainly performed a heroic feat by breaking Lord Shiva’s bow. But, I am carrying an even greater bow- the bow of Lord Vishnu! If You actually consider Yourself to be a great hero, then take this bow and string it. If You are able to draw the arrow back to its full length, then I shall consider You to be a fit person to fight with.”
When Maharaja Dasharatha heard this challenge, he became very afraid of losing his beloved son. With a faltering voice, he pleaded, “O best of rishis, please desist from your aggressive spirit. I beg to remind you of your vow to renounce fighting which you had made after handing over the earth to Kashyapa.”
Parashurama ignored the King and continued speaking to Rama, “Both Lord Shiva’s bow, which was given to him to kill Tripurasura, and Lord Vishnu’s bow were constructed by Vishvakarma. Once, at the behest of the demigods, Lord Brahma created some dissention between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, and in the fierce duel that ensued, Lord Vishnu cut Lord Shiva’s bowstring and emerged victorious. In disgust, Lord Shiva gave his bow to Devavrata, while Lord Vishnu gave His bow to the great sage, Richika, the father of Jamadagni.”
“I had retired to Mount Mahendra, and was executing great austerities, but when I heard the news of Your breaking Lord Shiva’s bow, I felt compelled to come here and challenge You. Now, if You consider Yourself competent, take this bow and see if You are worthy of fighting with me.”
Without uttering a reply, Rama accepted Parashurama’s challenge by snatching the bow and arrow right out of his hands, along with his acquired ascetic prowess. As the son of Jamadagni looked on in wonder, Rama effortlessly strung the bow and drew the arrow back to its full length.
Rama then declared, “Because you are a brahmana, and related to Vishvamitra, I will not kill you. However, My taking up this arrow can not go in vain. So that your challenge may be properly answered, I will now use it to destroy the attainment of heaven that you had earned as a result of your penance.”
All the demigods and celestial rishis had assembled in the sky. Parashurama had already been rendered impotent, and so all he could do was gaze upon the Lord with wide-open eyes.
Finally, as Rama stood motionless with the arrow pulled back to His ear, Parashurama said, in a subdued voice, “After I gave him the earth, Kashyapa ordered me not to reside here, and for this reason I must leave before nightfall. Although my access to heaven has been taken away, I beg You to allow me to return to Mount Mahendra, so that I may resume my performance of austerities.”
“O Rama, I can now understand that You are Lord Vishnu Himself, and so I am not at all ashamed at being defeated by You.”
Rama silently accepted Parashurama’s request and released the mighty arrow. Parashurama departed for Mount Mahendra, and immediately the darkness became dispersed. From their position in the sky, the demigods glorified Lord Rama with great enthusiasm, while raining down fragrant flowers upon Him. Rama then presented the bow of Lord Vishnu to Varuna, and the party continued its journey to Ayodhya. After returning home, Rama, Lakshman, Bhararta and Shatrughna began living very happily with Their wives.
Once, King Yudhajit came to Ayodhya on a visit. He was the son of Kekaya and maternal uncle of Bharata, and he invited his nephew, along with Shatrughna, to come and stay with him for some time. After the departure of Bharata and Shatrughna, Rama began serving His father and three mothers even more carefully. Rama carried out His duties of state administration so honestly and conscientiously that all the citizens came to love Him very dearly.
Sita and Rama’s natural attachment for one another grew stronger, day by day. Being bound by each other’s beauty and good qualities, They became completely dedicated to one another. Sita was beauty incarnate, being the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi. With her mind, she could vividly read every detail of all that was in the innermost core of Rama’s heart. Being always determined to please her husband, and herself being the very emblem of womanly gentleness and chastity, Sita was soon able to bring Lord Rama’s heart under her control.