Ramayana – Vishwamitra asks for Rama’s help

Although Rama wanted to show the universe that he was only human, there were a lot of places where the God in him erupted out like a volcano. When we read the Ramayana, we can find a lot of instances in which Rama’s Godliness is displayed by him intentionally or unintentionally, or by people around him.

Vishwamitra comes to Dasaratha’s court asking to take Rama and Lakshmana to guard his Yagna. The king is not ready to send his sons. They are after all 12 years old. But then he also realizes that he cannot give a direct “no” as an answer to the great sage. So he indirectly states that he is not ready to send Rama (and Lakshmana). The dialogue that happened between the king and the sage is as follows.

“My Rama is not even 16 years old! He is lotus eyed. How can I send him with you?” asks the king.

The sage is not ready to take “no” as an answer though. He says

“I know who Rama is. He is the Mahatma (who is on top of all the Jivatmas) and so full of Valor and Satya Parakrama. You can even ask sage Vasishta, your guru. He will agree with me on this”

What Dasaratha said, is loaded with hidden meanings and that is why the sage had to emphasize on the fact that Rama was indeed God.

When the king talked about Rama’s age, he made it clear to Vishwamitra that Rama was not ready to fight as dharma stated that a person had to be at least 16 years old to engage in a fight. When he said that Rama was lotus eyed, he indirectly meant that Rama was still a kid and was like a gentle lotus which would close all its petals once the sun set in the evening and would wait for the sun to rise before opening its petals again. This can be seen as an important reason because the sage was asking for Rama’s help to kill Rakshasas and Asuras who fight through the night. So the king meant that Rama was not ready for such a fight spanning across nights as he was still a gentle boy not accustomed to being awake through the night.

To counter this argument, Vishwamitra had to admit to Dasaratha, something that he always knew- that Rama was the Supreme Lord himself and in one of his incarnations and also asked for Vasishta’s help to re-inforce this fact with the king. Vasishta and Vishwamitra were always found on the opposite sides of an argument and never saw things similarly. But Vishwamitra was confident that in this context Vasishta realized the same thing and hence would agree with him. Vasishta agreed with him and nudged the king to send Rama and Lakshmana with Vishwamitra.

Someone as august as Vishwamitra and Vasishta knowing that Rama was God clearly tilts the balance in favor of Rama being more God than human. Let us see other such instances in the future posts.

Ramayana – Rama fights Khara

Rama sends Sita and Lakshmana from the battle ground and gets ready to fight the 14000 strong army of the asuras alone. Khara comes to the place in the ground on his chariot where Rama is standing casually, with his bow swaying back and forth. Khara is encircled by his deputies who are giving out loud battle cries. They are all charging towards Rama with their maces, tridents and various other deadly weapons.

The devas and other celestial beings are watching this scene from their abodes high up. Although they know Rama has an uphill task in the fight, they are not ready to help him yet and he is not expecting any, anyway. He uses his bow and the quiver of arrows to injure and kill all the asuras including Khara, but leaves one asura named akampana to live. (Rama makes it a habit to let one asura live!)

For the first time, Rama shows how skillfully ambidextrous he is. The speed with which he selects his arrows, strings them and releases them with the highest precision clearly shows that he is no human. It is crystal clear to everyone around him seeing this episode in Ramayan that it is no mean feat to kill 14000 asuras single-handedly and suggests that Rama is divine.

Let us come to the question that we asked in the previous post. Why was Rama happy to get into this fight when Lakshmana could have easily killed all the asuras? He could have easily asked his brother to finish the battle while he was taking rest which Lakshmana would have finished with equal skill and dexterity.

The humanely husband in him took control and came to the forefront when he assessed the situation. He thought that this was a chance to prove his bravery and valor to his beloved wife although he knew that Sita uttered those angry words just to make him agree to her proposal. Still, he grabbed it with both hands like any other normal husband would have. He displayed his divine fighting skills and the “always waiting to please his wife” husband emotions at the same time.

There were a couple of occasions where Rama showed that he was God and not human at all…

Ramayana – Rama wants to fight

“What would King of Mithila, Janak, think of himself to get Rama – a woman in the form of a man – as his son-in-law?”

“It is a pity that the people of Ayodhya are preaching a falsehood that Rama is like the blazing sun and full of valor

We would be surprised to know that these strong statements about Rama came from none other than Sita!

Rama tells her that he has to go to the forest and that she cannot accompany him as life in the forest is full of hardships. Sita tries her best to persuade Rama to take her, but fails as he is steadfast in his decision. First, she pleads and then she requests. But nothing moves Rama. Then she becomes aggressive and utters the above two statements to him after which she makes him understand that she is totally dependent on him and cannot imagine a life without him. Rama finally agrees to take her with him.

In the forest, they are living a peaceful life, till Surpanaka enters the scene. She lusts for Rama and Lakshmana, gets her ears cut by Lakshmana and reports this to her brother Khara. She misguides him to think that she has been punished unjustly and this act needs to be avenged. Khara first sends 14 demons to Rama. Rama asks Lakshmana to stay away from the fight and takes on the 14 dreaded asuras himself. Rama easily slays them in no time. Surpanaka reports the slaying to Khara and asks him to wage a war on the brothers, adding that they might ask khara to a battle, if not attacked first. Khara hesitates to do that, but finally succumbs to his sisters’ pressure tactics and comes to fight Rama with 14,000 asuras.

On seeing the big army, Rama is very happy. Although Laskhmana gets ready for the fight, Rama stops him once again and assigns him, the duty of guarding Sita. The younger brother takes her to a distant cave, although puzzled at why Rama insisted on fighting alone. He knows that Rama possesses an array of missiles that they obtained from Vishwamitra, but he also knew that if both stood together, the army of asuras was nothing and could be destroyed without breaking a sweat.

So, why would Rama, who does not want unnecessary fights, happy to get into this fight wantonly and alone at that?

Ramayana – Rama slays Subahu

After Tadaka was killed by Rama, it was the turn of her sons – Maricha and Subahu who came roaring from the skies and poured blood in the ritual altar on the last day of the yagna. Rama and Laskhmana were now stronger than before due to their new found knowledge of the divine astras.

Rama used an astra called Maanava on Maricha. The astra hit the asura on his chest and threw him away a hundred yojanas into the sea but did not kill him. Rama realized that the astras that he was using were acting in accordance to his thoughts and that this blessing was due to Vishwamitra. But even after this warning, Subahu continued to dirty the altar. Hence Rama used another astra called Aagneya to kill Subahu. Then he used the Vaayavya astra to decimate the remaining asuras.

Maricha who was let off by Rama, was so clearly shaken by Rama’s valor. We will see about the impact that this meeting had in him in subsequent posts.

But why did Rama kill one asura and let one asura live? While the story is straight forward, the inner meaning is not.

We, as Jivatmas, commit loads of sins in our lives. But after we surrender ourselves to the feet of the lord, he completely washes away the sins that we have committed till that point of time like cotton destroyed in a fire. But what about the sins that we commit after the surrender? Those that we commit unwittingly after the surrender (please note the word unwittingly!)-he whisks them away from us like water from the surface of the lotus leaves so that they don’t stick to us. While killing of Subahu is an allegory to the first situation, throwing Maricha into the sea to remove him from the scene, is a parable to the second situation.

Clearly shows that every little story in our scriptures have more substance and context than what meets our eyes.

In this instance, Rama showed that he was God, although indirectly. But there was another situation in which he acted like a human and true to his role of a husband…

Ramayana – Tadaka killed by Rama

The Ramavatar is the seventh avatar of Dasavatar. In this, the lord takes the form of an human being and lived the life of one, to show the world who a perfect human being is. Our ancient scriptures have clearly differentiated between his birth as a human and our births. While we are born as a result of our karma, He decides to be born into this world and chooses his own parents.

In the Ramavatar, he chose King Dasaratha and Queen Kousalya as his parents. He always introduced himself as “the son of Dasaratha” ! showing all of us how humble he was, as Rama. Throughout his life he always displayed humanly characters, underwent all the tribulations like any other person, cried and laughed and made mistakes. At the same time, he showed his godly side from time to time too.

Let us look at both these characteristics of Lord Rama in the next few posts.

Sage Vishwamitra took Rama and Lakshmana to safeguard his yagna. Although king Dasaratha was very reluctant to send them at first, he finally heeded to the words of his Guru Vasishta and let them accompany Vishwamitra in what he perceived to be a dangerous mission.

But we all know how this mission turned out to be, for Rama and Lakshmana. Actually Vishwamitra wanted to test Rama’s resolve for upholding dharma and the law of the land as he knew Rama would become king soon. The first test was killing Tadaka who was an Yakshi turned asura. Although Rama hesitated to kill her at first since she was a woman, he soon realized that she was no ordinary woman and that she deserved to be killed. After the death of Tadaka, the sage was so happy that he taught about the various astras or missiles and their usages to Rama and Laskhmana knowing fully well that the techniques were in safe hands. But Rama was more interested in the annulment of such supernatural missiles rather than their usage!

so what happened next? who followed tadaka to the Yagna? in the next post…


Vamana Avatar – 5

We have seen about Vamana Avatar in the previous posts. So what’s the importance of the Avatar?

For starters – the all-pervading lord showed the world that he will do anything to protect those who surrender to him, by taking the form of a dwarf. Thus he is also called Raksha Vaamana. From Bali’s perspective, he surrendered to the lord at the end and Hari took the form of a watchman to protect Bali!

Next is the fact that the Supreme Being went begging. During Nrsimha Avatar, He promised Prahlaada that he will not harm any of his family members and descendants. So when Indra asked for help, he knew that he could not kill Bali since Bali was Prahlaada’s grandson. So he performed the lowly act of begging to complete what he could not complete by force-defeat bali. This shows that as the Paramatma, he will stoop to any level to protect us.

Also, the Lord who always likes to be identified with Goddess Lakshmi (that is why he is called Sreeman Narayanan – Lakshmi’s name always comes first) took the vamana avatar without any association with the Goddess – as a Brahmacari. It is said that He went to her and asked her to alight from her permanent place (the right side chest) so that he could go to Bali as a Brahmacari (This was because he was going to take everything away from Bali. But if Bali was seen by Lakshmi- he would get everything back due to Lakshmi Kadaksham!). But she refused the suggestion outright and made it clear that she will not forego her place and it was up to him to manage his business. So he used a vastram to cover her.

It is clear that this reincarnation was taken to tell everyone the significance of Saranagathi. If we leave everything to the lord and fall in his feet, he will do whatever it takes to fulfil our wishes and keep us safe even if it means that he is belittled in that process. One who helps others but expects something in return is a adhaman. One who helps others without expecting anything in return is a madhyaman. But the one who belittles himself and does not mind being dishonored while helping others is a Uthaman.

That is why we call him Uthaman.

We have seen about the lesser known Avatars in the Dashavatar series till now. From the nest post we will start seeing about some interesting stories in Krishna Avatar and Rama Avatar.( not the Avatars themselves, but some interesting stories that happened during their times on earth)

Vamana Avatar – 4

Bali did not feel bad that his guru Sukacarya had lost an eye while trying to stop him from extending alms to the Lord. Instead he was elated that he was going to fulfil his dharma. Now it was time for Vamana to pace the land.

From his present avatar of a dwarf, he started increasing in size and grew and grew and grew until his body contained the entire universe. All the people who were present there could see everything (including the planetary systems of the universe, the sky, the earth, the directions, all the important manifestations of the earth like mountains, seas, oceans, birds, humans and beasts and even the demi-gods and the other beings who reside in the higher lokas of the universe, the gross material elements, the senses, the sense objects, the mind, the intelligence and the false ego) within the Supreme Being.

Being in this form, He took his first step and covered the entire universe. He covered the entire surface of the Prithvi with his step, the sky with his body and all the directions with his extended arms. Then he paced in his next step and covered the entire planetary systems of the cosmos. From the Bhu loka, the legs extended till the Satyaloka , passing through Maharloka, Janaloka and Tapoloka. Brahma who was seated in his position was amazed to see one leg suddenly coming out of nowhere. Immediately he realized whose leg it was – for he knew that only one entity could measure the entire universe. The effulgence of Satyaloka and all its residents dimmed by the effulgence emanating from the toe nail of the leg that appeared.  Lord Brahma offered his prayers and paid his obeisance by washing the lotus feet with the holy water from his kamandal. This water poured down, purifying all it touched and reached Earth as Ganges.

King Bali now realized that there was no place for the third step and hence he would fail in his promise to the Brahmacari. So he asked Vamana to place the third step on his head. Vamanadeva knew that Bali had to be punished for not fulfilling his promise. At the same time, He was also happy with the truthfulness and integrity of Bali. So he placed his feet on Bali’s head and sent him down to Sutala loka, showered all the necessary benedictions and made him the owner of the loka. Since Lord Vamana was very pleased with Bali, He graciously offered his disc to protect Bali Maharajah and also promised to remain with him in Sutalaloka as the doorman! This was something that even the demi-gods could not achieve. Furthermore when the time of Savarni Manu comes, Bali would become the head of the heavenly planets or Indra!

We will see about the significance of this avatar in the next post.

Vamana Avatar – 3

When Lord Vamana Deva asked for 3 paces of land, He did not do so without a prelude! First He praised all the brahmans who were guiding Bali on his Yagnas. Then he praised Bali’s ancestors HiranyaKasipu and Hiranyaksa who were actually Asuras killed by the Lord himself! Finally he showered praises on Prahalad who was Bali’s grandfather. After hearing all the praises, Bali got ready to grant Vamana his wish.  But Sukacarya stopped him and explained to him that the person who had come was none other than Lord Vishnu himself and that He had come at Indra’s behest to destroy all that Bali had rightfully earned.

But Bali was steadfast in his dharma that he had to fulfil his promise. Sukacarya tried his best to stop him by taking the form of a bee and hiding in the spout of the water jug so that water would not flow. But Lord Hari knew about it and poked him with a stick which resulted in the asura guru losing an eye.  Bali insisted by saying that if Lord Vishnu himself was seeking alms from him, He would give what the lord wanted because there was no greater glory for him. He added that just because he knew the true form of the brahman, he will not retract from his promise, as that would mean that the king had cheated a brahman which was against the dharma of a king. Therefore he decided that he would carry out his promise irrespective of whether the Lord killed him or showered all his benedictions on him.

The Lord always knew that Bali would fulfil his promise. He also knew what he would do with Bali, since he had promised Prahalada that he would not kill anyone from his family or any of his descendants. All that was left now was to execute his pre-conceived plan.

Now it was time for Lord Hari to pace the land with his steps.

He did it and How!

Vamana Avatar – 2

Once Lord Janardhana decided that He will take the avatar of Vamana and be born to Aditi and Kasyapa, He also decided that it would be on the auspicious moment of Sravana Dvadasi, the twelfth day of the bright fortnight of the month. Amidst the vibrations of the conchshells, drums, panavas and anakas, the Lord appeared in all his glory, fully decked with ornaments and weapons. Then in the presence of his parents, he took the form of a dwarf by seeing which both Kasyapa and Aditi were astonished. What a sight it would have been, to see Hari, transform himself into a dwarf from his ever existing form! All the great sages performed the birthday ceremony for Lord Ananta. Once he attained the right age, his parents performed the sacred thread ceremony for him during which Brhaspati, Mother Earth, Brahma, the seven great rishis and all the other deities honored him by their presence.

After the ceremony, He visited the northern part of the Narmada River called Bhṛgukaccha, where all the descendants of Bhrigu Maharishi were performing Yagnas. When he appeared in the Yagna area of King Bali, He was wearing a belt made of munja straw and the sacred thread. He also wore a deerskin cloth to cover the upper part of his body. He was carrying a danda, an umbrella and a Kamandalam in his hands. There was such a radiation of pure energy from him that all the descendants of Bhrigu Maharishi stood up and paid their obeisance to him, although they did not know who he was. His sheer presence made them see through his size.

Following the dharma of a King, Bali Maharaj received the Lord and washed Vamana’s feet first. Then Bali enquired on what he actually wanted. Lord Vishnu responded by saying that He wanted three paces of land. Bali was surprised at the request, as he had never seen anyone ask for so little. But then, true to his dharma he accepted the request from Vamana. As is the tradition, Bali took the water pot to seal his promise with water.  But he never knew that this act would cause great hard ships to his Guru Sukracarya.

So what’s the importance of Vamana Avatar in the Dashavatar series?  What does the Lord want to convey to us, the Jeevatmas through this incarnation of His? We will see in the coming posts.

Vamana Avatar – 1

We saw how The Supreme Being took Kurma Avatar and defeated King Bali to help the devas. True to the principle that in the cycle of Life, highs and lows come in measures depending on one’s Karma, Bali lost the war with devas which marked a low in his life.

After his defeat in the hands of the Devas, Bali lost all his luster and opulence and died. Sukracharya treated him and made him regain his powers and life.  After this, King Bali began to serve Sukracharya with great faith and devotion.  Happy with his devotion, Sukracharya and the other Brahmans who were the descendants of Bhrgu Muni engaged him in performing a yajna called Visvajit so that he could attain all that was needed to embark on an attack of Kind Indra and his kingdom.

At the end of the Yajna came a chariot which was covered with gold and silk, a flag marked with a lion, a bow, 2 quivers full of arrows and many yellow horses. Prahlada who was the grandfather of king Bali, gave him a garland made of eternal flowers.  His guru Sukracharya gave him a conch shell. Equipped with all these essentials, he reached the outskirts of indrapatna and waged a war. Indra on seeing Bali-and his army which contained a large number of soldiers and demon chiefs who were equal to Bali in strength and opulence-immediately realized that this battle could not be won by him. So he reached out to his guru, brhaspati, for counsel. Being the wise man he was, brhaspati asked him to go to Lord Hari and pray for help.  At the same time, all the demi-gods were asked to vacate and go to a distant place and be invisible till Indra could get help. With no one to defend, indrapatna soon became Bali’s.

After conquering Indra’s city, Bali engaged himself in doing one hundred asvamedha sacrifices. At the end of these sacrifices he became totally in control. Aditi-mother of the devas, realized that Bali could not be defeated and her sons could not gain whatever they lost. So she prayed to Lord Hari. He was very happy with her prayers and soon, agreed to be born to her and Kasyapa as their son. Thus started the Vamana Avatar.