Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Satrughna, the four sons of king Dasaratha, displayed remarkable characteristics while they grew up. Rama showed an unwavering devotion to duty and truth. Lakshmana was strict and impulsive. Bharata was noble and dutiful. Satrughna was kind and gentle.Dasaratha arranged the best training for his four sons in all that was to be learnt, including warfare and archery. The king was very proud of his sons and feeling very happy.
When time was passing in that manner one day, it was announced to Dasaratha in his Court that sage Vishwamitra was waiting to be received by the King. Dasaratha hurriedly came down from his throne and received the sage with great reverence. He inquired the purpose of his visit and offered his services in whatever manner he desired. Vishwamitra expressed his wish. He said, “It is the duty of the king to protect all acts of righteousness. I have started a large-scale Yagna. But, the Rakshasas are desecrating it. I have decided that your son, Rama, is the proper person to punish these Rakshasas and save the Yagna.”
Dasaratha was dumbfounded at this. He pleaded that Rama was too young to undertake this tough task. He offered to place under Vishwamitra the entire army of Ayodhya and even offered to lead the army himself and fight the Rakshasas. Vishwamitra got annoyed at this. He immediately got up from his seat and ridiculed Dasaratha for going back on his own word.
Vasishtha, the preceptor of Ayodhya kings, sensed some unpleasant situation and intervened. He told Dasaratha, “King, Vishwamitra is a great sage. He knows that Rama, though a boy, is the proper person to kill the Rakshasas and protect the Yagna. So, send Rama and Lakshmana along with this sage, without any hesitation. This is, indeed, a great boon to your sons.”
On this advice, Dasaratha decided to send Rama and Lakshmana and sent for them at once. The brothers entered the court. Rama touched the feet of His mother, father , Preceptor Vasishtha, and then paid His respects to the sage, Vishwamitra. Dasaratha directed his sons to go along with the sage and obey his instructions.
The first adventure of the Princes:
Vishwamitra took his wards and rested for the night on the banks of the river, Sarayu. There, he gave them Mantras for protection against fatigue and harm and also, taught them the use of divine astras. From there, they proceeded and crossed the river Ganga. Then, they reached Dandaka forest.
In that forest, they came across a Rakshasi, Tataki by name. She had a reputation of having the strength of many elephants. Vishwamitra asked Rama to kill her without delay, as she was positively dangerous to Rishis and the Yagnas. Rama obeyed Vishwamitra’s words instantly and killed Tataki with His bow and arrows.
Then, they reached Siddhashrama, Vishwamitra’s hermitage. Next morning, the sage commenced his Yagna assisted by many other holy men. Rama and Lakshmana were asked to keep vigil against interference by Rakshasas. On the sixth day, the sky was covered with a Rakshasa army led by Maricha and Subahu. These two demon leaders were getting ready to pour impure flesh and blood into the sacred fire flaming below.
Rama and Lakshmana took up the challenge with enthusiasm. The powerful Astras let go by them killed Subahu and drove Maricha away to a distance of a thousand Yojanas to the sea.
Vishwamitra completed his Yagna successfully and complimented the young princes. Next morning, Vishwamitra told them that they are going to Mithila, the capital city of King Janaka, Lakshmana protested, saying that they had come to protect the Yagnas and once it was done, they had to return to Ayodhya. But, Rama said, “Dear brother, father asked us to follow the instructions of the sage. So, it is our duty to act according to his wishes.”
Accordingly, Vishwamitra started on his journey to Mithila accompanied by Rama and Lakshmana.
- Why did Dasaratha hesitate to send Rama and Lakshmana along with sage Vishwamitra?
- On entering the court, why did Rama touch the feet of His mother first, then His father, next in order His Preceptor, and lastly the visiting sage?