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Lesson 10

Dandakaranya / Sage Agasthya’s blessings / Shurpanakha / Dandakaranya

Ramayan – Lesson 10

It happended that the rishis and munis in Chitrakuta suddenly began to leave the forest in large numbers. Sri Rama was surprised. He said to them, Sages, why are you going away from this beautiful forest? They answered, Sri Rama, Janasthana is on another edge of this forest. A rakshasa, Khara by name, lives there. He is the stepbrother of Ravana, the king of Lanka. He is very cruel, and a wicked fellow. He lives only to harass good people. He obstructs the sacrifices performed by rishis and munis. We are afraid of him and are going away.

Sri Rama said, Holy sirs, do not go away from here. If Khara steps in here I will protect your sacrifices. Fear not. But the sages, who were shaken by the fear of Khara, left all the same. And so Chitrakuta became bereft of rishis and munis.

This upset Sri Rama. Chitrakuta was beautiful, no doubt, but without the sages it looked barren.Besides, it often reminded him of his mothers and his brothers who had come there to see him. So he decided to go elsewhere. He decided to go towards Janasthana where Khara used to harass the sages. With Seeta and Lakshmana he travelled towards south. They first reached the hermitage of Sage Athri.

Anasuya was the wife of Sage Athri. She herself was a great tapaswini. Once rains failed so cruelly that there was a terrible famine. Then Anasuya created fruits by the sheer power of her tapas; she made water flow once again in the rivers which had dried up. Because there was not even a hint of Asuya “ jealousy in her, she came to be called Anasuya (one free from jealousy).

Anasuya welcomed Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana affectionately and treated them very hospitably.She listened to Seeta Kalyana – the wedding of Seeta narrated by Seeta herself and was delighted. She explained to Seeta the power of pathivrathya (chastity of a married woman).

Dandakarany was a vast forest. Numerous animals and birds dwelt there. Several rishis had put up ashrams and were living there. The hermitages of these sages engaged in tapas filled the minds of one and all with holy feelings. As soon as Sri Rama entered the forest the sages living there welcomed him cordially. Sri Rama made obeisance to them and made enquiries about their welfare.They said,you have come here like our God. We are engaged intapas, but the wicked rakshasas here have only one aim, to disrupt our tapas. We are very much troubled. We aretapaswis and should not lose self-restraint. We cannot curse them. Therefore, you must protect us. Sri Rama said,Holy Sages, do not be worried. Armed, my brother and I will keep vigil. These rakshasas are perhaps strangers to our prowess. We shall overcome them. You can brush aside your apprehensions and engage in tapas. Having given this assurance Sri Rama continued his journey with Seeta and Lakshmana.

As they continued their journey a monstrous rakhasa obstructed them. He was very tall and had a very huge belly; he had long legs and arms protruding sharp teeth. He was fearful to behold; this rakshasa was Viradha.

Viradha was surprised when he saw Rama and Lakshmana because no human beings had ever come within his sight fearlessly. Once again he looked at Sri Rama,, Seeta and Lakshmana. He was enamoured of Seetas beauty. Straight he rushed at her. He lifted her and placed her on his shoulder and began to run away. Sri Rama and Lakshmana chased him. They shot sharp arrows and cut off his arms. Viradha put Seeta on the ground and turned upon them. Rama and Lakshmana used several weapons and felled him to the ground. But they could not kill him.

Viradha then said, Now I know who you are. You are Sri Rama, the son of Dasharatha. Do not look at my form and take me to be a rakshasa. I am a gandharva who was once in the court of Lord Kubera. My name is Tumbura. I once offended Kubera and his curse transformed me into a rakshasa. My Lord Kubera said, When Sri Rama, the son of Dasharatha, buries you in the earth you will be freed from this curse. That auspicious moment has now arrived. Dig a huge pit and bury my body in it. I will be liberated from the curse. Sri Rama and Lakshamana did so, and Tumbura was freed.

They proceeded and reached the banks of the Godavari. There stood the hermitage of Sharabhangamuni. He was awaiting Sri Ramas arrival. He treated Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana very hospitably. He then gave up his body and ascended Brahmaloka. Rama, Seeta and Lakshamana continued the journey, all the while eulogizing the great sage. They came upon a number of hermitages. The sages dwelling in them all came up to Sri Rama and bewailed the harassment they had to suffer at the hands of the rakshasas, and their own helplessness. They sought protection from him. Sri Rama assured them that they need have no fears.

As they walked on Seeta said to Sri Rama, Noble husband, you have assured these rishis that you would kill the rakshasas; was that right? How have the rakshasas harmed us? Wont we be adding to our sins by killing them without justification? And will not the number of our enemies also increase?

Sri Rama replied, Seeta, who do you think these rakshasas are? They are forces of evil. They live only to harass others. They do not pause to reflect whether what they are doing is right or wrong, just or unjust. They find delight in tormenting others and in cruel deeds. It is our duty to subdue such forces. In this region rishis are engaged in tapas, and they do it for the welfare of the world.Punya “ spiritual merit accrues in the world by the tapas of such virtuous people. People become righteous and truthful. All share in the spiritual merit that tapaswis earn. It is our duty to annihilate those who seek to obstruct such meritorious undertaking, and that is precisely what I am doing. Because of this no sin will accrue to us. Do not worry yourself. Seeta felt relieved.

Later they reached the foot of a lovely hill. Chakravakas and antelopes sported there. Cranes sported in the midst of lotuses in the pools. Deer roamed about in herds. In the evening the travellers came to a big lake. It was full of white and red lotuses. A herd of elephants had entered the lake. The water creatures with which the lake abounded heightened the loveliness of the lake. Sounds of music and musical instruments rose from the clear waters. Sri Rama and Lakshmana were amazed.

A muni who was accompanying them said, Sri Rama, the nectar of music emanating from the lake has surprised you, hasnt it? I shall give the background to it. Once upon a time there was a rishi by name Mandakarni by name. He performed tapas for many years. This scared the gods. The thought that Mandakarni might earn immense spiritual merit and push them into a corner worried them. They sent five enchanting seductive celestial nymphs to disturb his tapas. Mandakarni became enamoured of them and forgot himself. He was lost in amorous dalliance with them. He now lives under the water here with the nymphs. The nymphs are singing and playing on musical instruments. Those are the sounds you hear. This lake is known as Panchapsara.

There were several hermitages in Dandakaranya. Sri Rama visited them with his wife and brother. The rishis and the munis welcomed them and treated them cordially. In deference to their wishes Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana spent some days in the hermitages. Because Sri Rama and Lakshmana, masters of martial weapons, were in Dandakaranya, the rishis and munis devoted themselves to their meditation with a carefree mind. Several years went by.

Once Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana went to the Ashram of Sutheekshna Muni. The sage said, Sri Rama, you have come to Dandakaranya. The ashram of the great sage Agasthya is just four yojanas from here. Pay your respects to him and get his blessings. Accordingly Sri Rama travelled towards the south, with Seeta and Lakshmana. They reached the ashram of the Sage Agasthya.

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Sage Agasthya’s blessings

Agasthya was a Brahmarshi. He was the son of the gods Mithravarunas, and so was also known as Maithravaruna. Lopamudra, the daughter of the king of Vidarbha, was his wife.

Great among the great was Sage Agasthya. He had once rescued the rishis who dwelt there from a dreadful harassment.

Long ago two rakshasas, Vatapi and Ilwala by name, lived in this forest. They were brothers. They used to live in a hut of leaves. Vatapi used to be in the form of a goat. If a guest turned up, Ilwala would kill the goat and prepare a meal. After the guest had eaten, Ilwala would call out: Vatapi, come out. Vatapi would cut open the stomach of the guest and emerge. Then the two would feast on the body of the guest. Several rishis had fallen prey to these brothers. Once Agasthya came there. As usual, Ilwala killed the goat, made a meal and served it. Agasthya knew all about these brothers. He knew that he was eating, not goats meat but that of Vatapi in the form of a goat. He had a leisurely meal. Then he moved his hand over his stomach and said, Vatapi, be digested. Vatapi was assimilated. Poor Ilwala did not know this. He cried out, Vatapi, come out. No, there was no Vatapi. Again and yet again Ilwala called out, but all in vain. Then Agasthya cursed and killed Ilwala too.

At one time, rakshasas known as Kaleyas were harassing the gods. During the day they would hide in the sea; at night they would suddenly mount attacks on the gods. The gods were worried. Following Brahmadevas advice they approached Agasthya and appealed to him for help. He went up to the sea and drank all the water. So the Kaleyas had nowhere to hide and came into view. The gods easily destroyed them. Thus, Agasthya had the distinction of having helped the very gods.

Long ago, the Vindhya mountain challenged the sun and began to grow. This troubled every one.People, therefore, went to Agasthya and begged him to arrest the growth of Vindhya. He went to Vindhya. He ordered the mountain not to grow any further. At once the mountain obeyed. Because he arrested the aga “ mountain itself he came to be known as Agasthya.

Thus Agasthya was a very powerful sage. Every one who came to his hermitage would be deeply influenced. There was no lie or theft in the region of the ashram. Every muni and tapaswi who lived there attained salvation. It was to the hermitage of such a sage that Sri Rama had come with his wife and his brother.

It was a beautiful forest. The ashram of Agasthya was particularly enchanting. The three walked on,enjoying the beauty of the ashram. Calm deer moved about there. The three enjoyed the sight and visited several temples there. There were Brahmasthana and Agnisthana there. There were temples dedicated to Vishnu, Mahendra, Chandra, Bhaga and Kubera. There were temples sacred to Dhatru, Vidhatru, Vayu, Vasuki, Gayathri, Anantha, the eight Vasus, Varuna with a chord, Kartikeya and Dharma. The three visited these temples and then entered the ashram. They went up to the great sage and prostrated before him. Sage Agasthya blessed them. He said, Sri Rama, I heard that you had arrived in this forest. I was expecting you. It is providence that has brought you to the forest. You or Lakshmana or Seeta should not repine at your fate.

Sri Rama answered, Great Sage, I have come to the forest to obey my father. I am not unhappy over this. Instead, I am happy that I am fulfilling the promise of my father. Great Sage, I will have to spend some years in this forest. So, I pray to you to indicate a suitable spot for our stay. It must be close to a water source. It must be beautiful. It must be accessible to the rishis and the munis. It should be possible for us to hasten to their rescue if they are in any way threatened. Be pleased to suggest such a spot.

Sage Agasthya replied, Sri Rama, there is a place close by known as Panchavati. There are gardens there which bear fruits of different kinds. There are pools with crystal clear water. Near by flows the Godavari. Therefore it is best for you to settle there. But before that I will give you some astras. He gave Sri Rama two quivers, a diamond studded bow, the Vishnu Dhanus, a sword with a gold hilt,and magnificent weapons. They were weapons which Mahavishnu had employed against daityas.The quivers were inexhaustible; they would be full of arrows always. Agasthya was pleased to bestow them all on Sri Rama.Sri Rama received them devoutly. His heart overflowed with gratitude. He expressed his gratitude to Agasthya and made obeisance once again. He then bent his steps towards Panchavati with Seeta and Lakshmana.

On the way they saw a huge eagle. It was sitting on the branch of a banyan tree. Sri Rama suspected it to be a rakshasa in the disguise of a bird and asked, Who are you? The bird replied, Havent you heard of Vynatheyas? I am one of them. Kashyapa Brahma had a wife, Vinatha by name. She had two sons, Garuda and Aruna. They came to be known as Vynatheyas because they were the sons of Vinathe. Garuda became Lord Vishnus vehicle, while Aruna became the Sun Gods charioteer. Two sons were born to Aruna “ Sampathi and Jatayu. I am Jatayu. My elder brother Sampathi is on the coast of southern sea. I have lived here for many years. Who are you, and why have you come here? Sri Rama told him who they were. Jatayu was very happy and said, Rama my child, I am a friend of your father Dasharatha. I am old, but yet, if you stay on in Panchavati, I will render whatever help I can. Sri Rama was very happy. He travelled towards Panchavati with Jatayu.

Just as Sage Agasthya had indicated, Panchavati was the loveliest part of the forest. Five banyan trees grew in a cluster and therefore the place came to be known as Panchavati. (The region of pancha “ five vatas “ banyan trees). Sweet fragrance reached the nostrils as soon as they entered the region. The expansive greenery all round was all charm. The place abounded in animals which could be hunted. The godavarri flowed near by, so that religious rites could be conveniently performed. There were trees laden with fruit which would satisfy ones hunger. What more could they ask for?

Lakshmana constructed a beautiful hut of leaves, using wooden logs and other material. They brought flowers and fruits and offered worship to parnakuti and entered the hut.

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Some years passed. One day, as they were all sitting in the hut, a rakshasi, Shurpanakhi by name, came that way.

Shurpanakhi was the step-sister of Ravana, the ruler of Lanka. In other words, she was the daughter of Ravanas step mother. In one corner of Dandakaranya was a region known as Janasthana. It was a part of Ravanas realm. Ravana had stationed his step brothers, Khara and Dushana, there, with a big army, for the defence of Janasthana. Shurpanakhi lived with her brothers.

Shurpanakha was very cruel by nature. She delighted in harassing people. She was very ugly but she had the power of putting whatever form she pleased. She saw Sri Rama in Panchavati. He was handsome and well-built and she was attracted to him. She came up to him and asked,Who are you? Why have you come here? Who are these two with you? Sri Rama answered according to his simple nature and told her who they were. Shurpanakhi said, Sri Rama, I have a desire; fulfil it. I am attracted to you; marry me.

Her words amused Sri Rama. He wished to have some sport. He said to her., Shurpanakhi, I am sworn to have only one wife. So I cannot have another wife. But ask my brother. Shurpanakhi came up to Lakshmana and asked him to marry her. He burst into a laughter. Shurpanakhi was enraged.She understood that they were making fun of her. She said, O you are making me a butt of ridicule, are you? I will teach you a lesson. All this trouble is caused by this woman here, isnt it? I will eat her. She then rushed towards Seeta.. Lakshmana then realized the threat. He caught hold of her and cut off her ears and nose.

Screaming dreadfully, Shurpanakhi ran towards the Janasthana, which was in another corner of the forest, to complain to her brother Khara. When he saw her with her ears and nose cut off, Khara angrily roared. Sister, who brought you to this state? Tell me at once. I shall despatch them to the land of death. Shurpanakhi narrated all that had happened. Khara summoned fourteen of his chief generals and sent them with Shurpanakhi. His orders were,Kill Rama and bring his head.

They all came to Panchavati. They rained arrows on Sri Rama. Sri Rama saw the fourteen generals and Shurpanakhi who was with them. He understood the situation. Before beginning the fight he said to them, who are you? Why are you employing weapons here? We aretapaswisi, and adhere to the path of righteousness. Why do you trouble us? I am not afraid of you. If you wish to fight, I am ready.. But I am giving you advice, lest you should all die needlessly.

The rakshasas replied, We are the generals of Khara. This Shurpanakhi is the sister of Khara. You have cut off her ears and nose and disfigured her. Our master Khara is, therefore, enraged. Can we let you go unpunished? If you have the strength, fight with us. So saying they started the fight. They had very powerful weapons  weapons so powerful that the antagonists would be reduced to ashes, and the entire army would be annihilated. But Sri Rama overcame them all with his arrows. He fixed fourteen arrows, all as powerful as the sun, to his bow and let them all fly simultaneously. The rakshasas were all crushed and, screaming wildly, fell to the ground and died.

The sight stunned Shurpanakhi. Screaming dreadfully she ran to her brother and reported to him what had happened. He was furious. He could not believe that a mere human being could overpower formidable rakshasas.Very well, I shall teach him a lesson, he said and summoned his younger brother Dushana, who was the commander of his forces and another general Trishira. He set out with them and a force of fourteen thousand brutal and powerful soldiers. The army of the rakshasa armed with weapons of different types, set out with much fanfare and shouting. There were unfavourable omens as they advanced, but the arrogant Khara ignored them and marched on. He reached Panchavati.

Gods assembled in the skies to watch this battle between truth and untruth, between righteousness and unrighteousness and between peace and cruelty. Sri Rama saw Khara and his army and said to Lakshmana, Lakshmana, this seems to be Shurpanakhis brother. He has now marched against me. I have decided that I myself will kill this rakshasa; so take Janaki with you and go far from here.Lakshmana obeyed his brother without a word.

Sri Rama put on his armour, took up his formidable Kodanda and twanged the bowstring. The gods,the rishis and the gandharvas who had assembled to watch this battle cried, May victory favour the virtuous, may Dharma win. They were apprehensive as Sri Rama was to fight single handed against an army of fourteen thousand.

The fierce army rushed at Sri Rama. Sri Ramas eyes spit fire. Khara began with a thousand arrows all of which he shot together at the same time. With his fierce bow Sri Rama cut them all into pieces. The rakshasas sent forth arrows of different types, but Sri Rama cut them also into pieces. The enraged rakshasas assaulted Sri Rama. The huge army which comprised horses and elephants also surrounded Sri Rama. But he broke the arrows into smithereens; the weapons shot by the rakshasas fell to the ground broken, even before they reached Sri Rama.

At the same time, Sri Ramas arrows took heavy toll of whole sections of the rakshasa army. Once Sri Rama roared like a lion and, fixed the gandharvastra to his bowstring and shot it. At once thousands of arrows leapt from the bow and began to massacre the rakshasas. The arrows seemed to fill the entire sky. All the rakshasas who had accompanied Khara, barring a few who were lying injured, were now dead. At the sight of the innumerable rakshasas lying dead Dushana and Trishira felt humiliated. Together they fought valiantly against Sri Rama, but both were killed and fell to the ground.

Khara was now bursting with anger. Some fear also clouded him. Almost his entire army had been wiped out, he was alone. Yet unyielding , he faced Sri Rama. He rained arrows on Sri Rama. Some of them reached Sri Ramas forehead. His armour was broken by some arrows. Sri Rama then strung the Vaishnava bow which had been gifted by Sage Agasthya and assailed Khara. He cut the banner on his chariot. He killed the horse and the charioteer. He broke Kharas bow. Khara then threw away his bow and jumped down from his chariot, his mace in his hand.

Sri Rama addressed Khara who was now standing on the ground, armed with his mace: You rakshasa, without reason you have brought your army here and are fighting. This is unrighteous.You who act against the interests of your subjects do not deserve to live. You should not be allowed to live but should be killed. You should be exterminated like a serpent which has crept into the house.Livid with rage Khara hurled his mace at Sri Rama. Sri Rama aimed arrows at the mace which was whirling and advancing towards him. He shot the arrows at the mace. The mace was broken in the air and fell down in pieces.

This added fuel to the fury of Khara. He uprooted a saal tree which grew near by and hurled it at Sri Rama. Sri Rama cut it, too, and felled it. He decided that Khara should no longer be permitted to live,and shot an arrow which was equal of Brahmastra. The weapon struck Kharas chest. The rakshasa fell to the ground with an unearthly yell and died. The gods cried out in joy. The munis came up to Sri Rama and said, Sri Rama, a dreadful danger has been eliminated. Hereafter we can engage in our sacrifices untroubled. Seeta and Lakshmana, too, arrived and eulogized Sri Ramas greatness. They all spent the day happily.

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Examination on Lesson – 10

Choose answers to all the questions. All the best !!

Q1. Who was the great sage residing in Dandakaranya who had destroyed many Rakashas ?

Ans: a)Sage Atri b)Sage Agastya c) Sage Sutheekshna d) Sage Mandakarni

Q2. Why did Shri Rama leave beautiful Chitrakuta to go to Dandakaranya ?

Ans: a) Because Dandakaranya was more beautiful b) Because he was scared of Rakshasas c) Because Sita Devi did not like Chitrakut d) Because all the Rishies and Munies left the Chitrakut forest

Q3 Which friend of King Dasaratha did Shri Rama meet on the way to Panchvati ?

Ans: a) Viradha b) Jatayu c) Khara d) Lord Kuber

Q4. What did Shurpanakha want ?

Ans: a)Kill Shri Rama b) Kill Laxmana c)Marry Shri Rama d) Take them to meet Khara

Q5. Why did Khara and Dushana attack Shri Rama ?

Ans: a) Because he had challenged them b) Because Shri Rama had come to stay in Panchvati c) Because Shri Rama wanted them to leave Jana sthana d) Because Shri Rama and Laxmana had disfigured Shurpanaka

Correct Answers below

Examination 10 –

Q. 1 Ans (b),

Q. 2 Ans (d),

Q. 3 Ans (b),

Q.4 Ans (c),

Q. 5 Ans (d),

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