Episode 147 – Soorpanaka wants to marry Rama – Rama directs her to Lakshmana!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Soorpanaka, Ravana’s sister had accidentally come across Rama at Panchavati and she has fallen in love with him at first sight! Hence she approaches Rama by changing her form into a young beautiful girl and introduces herself to him. In turn, Rama also introduces himself to her and in due course we also witnessed the important life lesson of being straightforward and honest at any situation in life. Eventually Rama asks Soorpanaka the reason as to why she’s there in front of him and upon that she replies that she intends to marry him and she has fallen in love with him the moment she saw his handsome appearance!

Upon hearing this from Soorpanaka, Rama was surprised, but at the same time he didn’t get angry on her for what she had uttered! Yet, he tried to explain to her calmly. Rama says,

“Sweschayaa svakshayaa vaachaa smitha poorvamathaabhraveeth!

Kritha dhaarosmi bhavathi bhaaryeyam yayithaa mama!!”

From the above sloka, Rama replies to Soorpanaka, “Oh Young woman! Please realize that I’m a married man (“Kritha dhaarosmi!”) and I cannot marry another woman in this birth!” Here, “Dhaaraaha” means “wife”.

“Tva vidhaathu naareenaam sudhurthaartha svabhaha pradhaa!

Shreemaan akritha dhaarasya lakshmano naama veeryavaan!!”

Rama continues in his reply: “Moreover, even if I marry you, over a period of time, you might also not like to be a “second wife” of a man. You can see my brother standing besides me isn’t it? His name is Lakshmana and he is unmarried!!! (“Akritha dhaarasya”) Maybe you can try and approach him!”

From this above reply of Rama we can find an interesting twist in the tale! What is that? Rama is asking Soorpanaka to approach Lakshmana, who is “Unmarried”! Now this seems a gross statement! How can Lakshamana be told that he’s unmarried? Isn’t he married to one of Sita’s sisters, Urmila? We might be surprised here as to how did Rama utter a lie?

Even Valmiki Maharishi was utterly surprised by this “peculiar” reply of Rama! So how do we interpret this controversial statement made by Lord Rama? Let me explain it in a bit more detail. In Sanskrit, “Dhaaraa” means “Wife”. There are other similar terms used to denote a wife – “Kalathram”, “Dhaaraha”, “Pathnee”, “Bhaaryaa”. All these words mean “wife” in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit language, only “Shabdhas” will have the “Masculine” and “Feminine” differentiation (Pullingam and Streelingam) and not individual words! We’ve to differentiate this very carefully here! Here, “Dhaaraaha” is a “Shabdha” and is considered to be “Masculine” (Pullingam). “Pathnee” is another shabdha and is considered to be “Feminine” (Streelingam). However, both these “Shabdas” indicate the term “Wife”. In other languages however, this kind of a “Masculine” and “Feminine” differentiation is done only with respect to people and not with respect to phrases and words! Hence, the phrase “Akritha dhaarascha” should be read as “A-saha kritha dhaarascha” which means that the person is married, but “his wife is not currently physically near him”.

Thus, we can infer from this explanation that, Rama is not denoting Lakshmana as an unmarried person, but he is trying to say that Lakshmana is married, but his wife is not with him at this moment! This is how we need to interpret the above phrase.

Thus, Soorpanaka thinks to herself, “Alright! Even if we are not lucky enough to marry this Rama, atleast we can try our luck with Lakshmana! He also looks equally good and handsome!” She now approaches Lakshmana and proposes to marry him! What was Lakshmana’s reply? Did he accept the offer or reject it? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out! 🙂

Episode 146 – Why should we be “honest” and “straightforward” in our lives?? – An important message!!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Soorpanaka, Ravana’s sister strays her way into Panchavati and her eyes fall on the handsome Rama! We also witnessed a beautiful exhibition of “Haasya Rasa” wherein Valmiki Maharishi makes a funny comparison between Rama and Soorpanaka! Thus the moment Soorpanaka sets her eyes on Rama, she changes her appearance into a beautiful looking girl and approaches the hamlet where Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were staying! She has now fallen in love for the handsome prince!

Now Soorpanaka reaches Rama’s hamlet and asks, “Oh Handsome prince!! Who are you?” This was the only question that she asked! For a moment let’s introspect within ourselves – If a stranger comes and asks us who are we, what would we reply? Most of the time we would ask back, “Who are you?” 🙂 We’re so straightforward! We would never reveal our identity to anybody! Sometimes it would be very interesting to note people who pick up the phone and start a conversation – If the other person asks “Hello! Who’s speaking?”, we would immediately shoot back, “Whom do you want?” 🙂 Thus, normally we never reveal our identity to anyone so easily! Of course, in the modern day there are other reasons that are valid for not revealing identities to strangers! However in this context, the moment Soorpanaka asks Rama “Who are you?” here comes a long reply!

What did Rama reply her? We would have expected Rama to atleast tell his name and stop! However on the contrary he started with describing who King Dasharata was!!! 🙂 It looks like Rama himself loves to narrate the Ramayana so much! He starts, “Aaseeth dasharatho naama ratha kunjara vaarimaan…” In short, he starts by saying, “There was a great King by name Dasharata! He ruled Ayodhya for over 60,000 years but however he was childless for a long time! Then he conducted the “Puthra-Kaameshti Yaaga” and thus four of us were born to him. I’m the eldest of the four and my name is Rama! Here is Lakshmana, one of my brothers! Bharata and Shathrugna are in Ayodhya. At the age of 12, Sage Vishwaamithra came to Ayodhya and took me to Mithilapuri. There was a Shiva Dhanush and I had the opportunity to lift it in my hands and thus I married Sita who is nearby me! We lived together happily in Ayodhya for the next 12 years and after that Kaikeyi, King Dasharata’s second wife had a desire that her son Bharata should rule Ayodhya henceforth and thus we had to come on exile to the forest for fourteen years! We were visiting so many places for the past 12 years and now we’ve come to Panchavati to spend the last 2 years of our exile and after that we would be going back to Ayodhya and meet our family members who are eagerly awaiting our return! Once we return back, I’ll have to take charge of the Ayodhya Kingdom and I’ve to protect my people!” After narrating all these stories to a stranger, Rama asks, “Who are you?” 🙂

Soorpanaka was utterly surprised and thought to herself, “Oh wow! I’ve never heard anyone narrating such a long story just for one question!” 🙂 Valmiki Maharishi was so impressed with Rama’s honesty and straightforwardness during this particular episode! Here is a very important lesson for our modern day life –  If we are honest and straightforward, we can be ourselves! We needn’t fear for anyone! We needn’t hide anything from anybody and we can be transparent! It is only when we are not honest and straightforward, we tend to start lying to people and thus the transparency is gone! It should also be remembered that if one lie has to be upheld and “protected”, we need to utter a thousand other lies!

This is why we see numerous unethical happenings in our society today – Be it the politicians who run governments, CEO’s who run big corporates! Why do we see innumerable allegations against various people in public life? It is because they are not true to themselves and to what they do! They get carried away by their “Power” and “Position” to perform unethical actions and for that period of time it would be enjoyable! However, sometime later if some of their unethical actions get exposed in the public domain, they’re unable to accept the reality and accept their fault!

Hence the important lesson to be learnt from today’s episode is that, whatever maybe the situation or position that we come across in our personal/professional life, we should never sacrifice our honesty and straightforwardness! It can be seen from this episode that Lord Rama is an epitome of this impeccable character and we should try and follow this example in our day-to-day life!

Upon reading this, one might immediately pose a question, “Oh! You are talking about the “Threthaa Yuga” wherein Rama was honest and straightforward! Now it is “Kali Yuga”! Will it still be applicable today?” My answer to this question is very simple – Honesty and straightforwardness is the same for any “Yuga” or Age! There is no point in blaming the “Yuga”. Bhagawan creates all the four “Yugas”! We’ve to note that Bhagawan never creates anything that is bad for us! There are certain good aspects with respect to “Kali Yuga” too! It is upto us to grasp those good aspects and follow them, rather than blaming the “Yuga” or Bhagawan or any other person! We should always keep this in mind!

Thus, once Rama gives this long explanation it is Soorpanaka’s turn to introduce herselves. She now says, “I’m Soorpanaka – sister of the Raakshasa King Ravana! You must have heard of Vibhishana who is a “Dharmaathma”! I’m his sister!”

Rama now slowly asks Soorpanaka, “All this is fine. For what purpose did you come here?” Now Soorpanaka breaks the ice finally and replies, “Oh Rama! I just wanted to see all of you and thus I came here! However upon seeing you, I fell in love with you! Hence I wish to marry you and be your beloved wife for the rest of my life!”

What was Rama’s reaction upon hearing this from Soorpanaka? Did Rama accept her proposal or did he reject it? What happened next? Let’s wait curiously for the next episode to find out! 🙂

Episode 145 – Soorpanaka comes across Rama – Valmiki Maharishi’s “Comical” comparison between Rama and Soorpanaka!!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed how Rama appreciated Lakshmana for his selfless and noble service and compares him to King Dasharata! It is to be noted again here that Rama sees his father King Dasharata in the form of Lakshmana! He says with tears in his eyes that his father has not passed away, but is walking and talking with him in the form of Lakshmana! From here we can understand how Bhagawan hails people who do selfless service! Moving on further, we also saw that Rama was waiting for the apt time to destroy the Raakshasaas and according to Rama’s “Sankalpa”, the next set of important events start unfolding one by one!

Thus, as per Rama’s Sankalpa, the first to arrive at the scene is Soorpanaka. She is none other than the Raakshasa King Raavana’s sister! She was just wandering around in that forest area in Panchavati and by chance, her eyes fall on Rama, who was at a distance from her! Valmiki Maharishi beautifully brings out this scene in the following sloka:

“Tan desham raakshasee kaashidh aajagaama yedirchayaa!”

Here Valmiki Maharishi says “Tan desham raakshasee”, meaning “Some demoness coming from an unknown place!” He continues, “Aajagaama yedirchayaa”, meaning, “She comes to that place, by chance where Rama, Lakshmana and Sita were residing.” However, the moment Soorpanaka’s eyes fall on Rama’s handsome face, she immediately falls in love with him! Hence, she changes her form, takes the form of a beautiful girl and comes towards Rama’s hamlet.

During the first few episodes, I had mentioned that Valmiki Maharishi had invoked the “Nava Rasas” in the entire Ramayana text. In this context, we can see that he has placed the “Haasya Rasa” (Comedy). Here is a place to laugh! Valmiki Maharishi tries to compare Rama with Soorpanaka! How similar were both! 🙂 He says,

“Saadhu soorpanakaa naama dashagreevascha rakshasaha!

Bhagini raamamaasaadhya dadarsha kritha shopamam!!

Sukumaaram mahaasathvam paarthiva vyanjanaanvitham!

Sumukham dhurmukhee raamam vruddha madhyam mahodadhi!!

Visaalaaksham viroopaakshi sukhesham thaamra moorthajaa!”

Thus, to begin with, Valmiki Maharishi introduces Soorpanaka into the scene and goes on to make a hilarious comparison between Rama and Soorpanaka! He uses the two opposite words “Sumukham” and “Dhurmukhee”, which directly mean “Handsome” and “Ugly/fearful” respectively! Rama’s face can be admired for days and nights together without a break, whereas, Soorpanaka’s face is so fearful that even if we see her for a minute, we would not get proper sleep for the next ten days! He continues to say, “Vruddha madhyam mahodadhi”, which means, Soorpanaka’s hips are the most prominently seen parts of her body! Whereas, Rama’s body is perfectly according to the “Purushothama Lakshanam” wherein the hip portion is never visible! We would have heard this term called “Saamudhrika Lakshanam” often. According to this “Saamudhrika Lakshanam”, a woman’s hips should be the most negligible part in her entire body! Nobody would know  such a woman in today’s life! 🙂 But however, this is how the rule is! It is said that Sita was perfect according to this “Saamudhrika Lakshanam” and Rama was perfect according to the “Purushothama Lakshanam”.

Now Valmiki Maharishi continues with the comparison and goes to the next point. He says, “Visaalaaksham Virupaakshi!” Rama’s eyes are so beautiful that we can keep admiring them for days! Soorpanaka’s eyes – We cannot even know where is she seeing! The eyes are small and have that wicked look in them! He continues further – “Sukhesham thaamra moorthajaa!” Here he compares Rama’s beautiful hair with that of Soorpanaka’s! Of course we’ve seen earlier too that Rama’s hair is so long, beautiful and bluish black in colour! Whereas, Soorpanaka’s hair is described as “Thaamra moordhajaa” meaning, brownish white in colour! Here we can see that Valmiki Maharishi makes fun of “Coloured hair”! I would not comment on it further since nowadays many of them spend so much of money in “Hair colouring”! 🙂

Moreover, the comical comparison concludes by saying that Rama’s way of talking is so soft and pleasing for the ears, whereas the voice of Soorpanaka is so harsh and unpleasing for the ears to listen to! Thus, Valmiki Maharishi makes a beautiful but comical comparison between Rama and Soorpanaka in various aspects!

Thus Soorpanaka approaches Rama and moment she sees Rama in front of her, she wants to propose her love to him! Did she do that? What did Rama say for it? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode! 🙂

Episode 144 – Rama complements Lakshmana with all his love and affection – Importance of “Selfless Service”!!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Rama, Lakshmana and Sita reach Panchavati and Lakshmana is building a hamlet or a cottage for them to stay. Panchavati is a wonderful place even today, full of natural beauty around and on the banks of the great river Godavari. Lakshmana completes the construction of the hamlet and while Rama was inspecting it, he was extremely happy and moved to tears of joy!

It is at this point that Rama completely reveals his love and affection towards Lakshmana. We had already seen the instance of the “Paadhuka Pattabhisheka” wherein Rama expressed his love for Bharata. He is again going to repeat it for Bharata during the “Yuddha Kaanda” and we shall witness it at that point. But for now, Rama with all his love and affection showing in his eyes full of tears, hugs Lakshmana with him and says,

“Bhaavagnyena krithagnyena dharmagnyena cha lakshmana!

Tvayaa puthrena dharmaathmaa na samvruthaha pithaa mama!!”

Through the above sloka Rama says to Lakshmana, “Oh my dear Lakshmana! By giving you to me, our father has accomplished something great in his life! According to me, my father hasn’t passed away! He is living in the form of you! I see my father, King Dasharata in the form of Lakshmana who is standing in front of me! (“Bhaavagnyena krithagnyena dharmagnyena cha lakshmana!”) Oh Lakshmana! You’re doing such a wonderful service to Sita and me by sacrificing your personal life and personal pleasures of living in the palace! You’re doing a selfless service, which cannot even be imagined by anyone in this world! I’m so gifted to have you as my brother!”

Thus, Lakshmana was extremely happy with Rama’s wonderful compliment! If Bhagawan himself has to say that Lakshmana is like His father, we can imagine the significance of Lakshmana’s selfless service to the Lord!

This is a very important lesson for all of us to learn: Our service towards Bhagawan or Bhaagawathas (Spiritual Masters) should be in such a way that they feel immensely happy and satisfied and this would automatically lead us to attain Bhagawan’s lotus feet! This is why we find many Spiritual Gurus even today like Shirdi Sai Baba, Puttaparthi Sali Baba, Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) laying huge emphasis on performing selfless service towards mankind! As the old adage goes, “Service to mankind is service to Bhagawan!” we should embrace this advice from all our spiritual gurus, and follow that meticulously in our day-to-day lives. Thus, the important lesson that we can learn from this particular episode of the Ramayana is that, Valmiki Maharishi has indirectly laid stress on performing selfless service and that is the best way to reach Bhagawan!

Thus Rama, Sita and Lakshmana start their life at Panchavati in their new hamlet. It was a beautiful time period for all the three of them. As time progresses, Rama thinks to himself, “Where is this Surpanaka? Where are these Raakshasaas? Why aren’t they coming here? It seems as of now that nothing is moving and my mission is yet to be accomplished! We’re running short of time! Chapter after chapter is rolling by in the Ramayana story but nothing seems to move! 🙂 Only if Surpanaka comes, will my work get going! Else the Ramayana story would be over by today itself! No further episodes and no further trouble at all!” 🙂

As Rama was thinking this way, things start moving quickly! How did it all begin? How did it proceed? Let us wait till the next episode with all our curiosity to find out! 🙂

Episode 143 – Lakshmana’s total surrender at Lord Rama’s feet!! Why do we see politics in Temples and sacred Ashrams?

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Yesterday, we had stopped at a very interesting point wherein Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana reach Panchavati and Rama asks Lakshmana to prepare a nice hamlet for all of them to stay. However when Rama conveyed this, Lakshmana was all in tears and fell upon Rama’s feet, weeping bitterly!

Rama was surprised upon this sudden burst of tears! He lifts Lakshmana and with his ever-beautiful smile, asks Lakshmana the reason for his sudden outpour! Lakshmana replies, “Oh Rama! I’m sorry, but I think you’ve decided to abandon me!” Rama was shocked beyond words and asks back, Abandon you? Oh Lakshmana! How can I ever think of such a thing even in my wildest dreams? How did you come to such a conclusion?”

Upon which, Lakshmana gives a very important reply – This is one of the finest illustrations of Lakshmana’s immense devotion and commitment to Rama.

Lakshmana says.. “Oh Rama! What did you say just now? You said,

“Ramathe yathra vaidehi tvamananchaiva lakshmana!

Thaadrisho drishathaam veshaha sanivrishta jalaashrayaha!!”

Oh Rama! You asked me to build a hamlet at a beautiful place, which would make Sita happy (“Ramathe yathra vaidehi”)! You asked me to build a hamlet at a beautiful place where you would be happy! Yes. That’s perfect! However, you added one more clause and asked me to choose a beautiful place, which would make this Lakshmana happy! The moment you tried to induce a happiness into me, I understood that you are going to abandon me soon! Oh Rama! Your happiness is my happiness! Sita Devi’s happiness is my happiness! This Lakshmana doesn’t need to have a happiness of his own! I shall automatically be happy if I see both of you happy!”

Such is the purest form of Bhakthi that Lakshmana exhibited! Upon hearing these words from his brother, Rama became completely speechless and he hugs Lakshmana with all his love and compassion! He was so moved and his beautiful eyes were “decorated” with tears of joy!

Here is a very important message for all of us: It’s a popular saying that “Svaboutkrithva Buddhi” is disastrous for spiritual growth! Let me explain this in a bit of a detail here – Many of us do “Kainkarya” (Service) at temples, churches, mosques, important ashrams, Mutts, etc. All of us should realize the important fact that purpose of doing the “Kainkarya” is for the happiness of Bhagawan, and not ours! This is the main reason why there is lot of politics inside the management of temples and other spiritual places!

Many of us would have had this thought at some point in our lives – Why do people who are closely associated to big temples, ashrams, Mutts’ of Spiritual Gurus always fight with each other? Why is there lot of politics going on in temples and Mutts? Aren’t they ardent devotees of the Lord? Yet why do they fight? The main reason is that, all those people who create politics over “Kainkarya” fail to realize that it is for the happiness of Bhagawan that they do, and not for the happiness of the self! The moment we realize that doing “Kainkarya” is for Bhagawan’s happiness, we would never even open our mouths and utter a single word! Afterall we are Bhagawan’s children and we are just doing some small service to make Him happy! We should realize this very important message!

For instance, we adorn ourselves with a garland of flowers – Does the flower feel happy? We apply sandalwood paste to ourselves to make our skin shinier! Does the sandalwood feel happy? The answers for the above questions are obviously a “No!” Similarly, we should realize the fact that doing service to the Lord enhances the happiness of the Lord and not ours! Of course, we can feel happy while seeing Bhagawan getting happy with our service! But selfish happiness is never to be experienced while doing service!

Thus, Lakshmana surrendered at Rama’s feet once more and as per the instruction, built a beautiful hamlet at a beautiful place! Rama and Sita take a look around the hamlet and are very impressed with Lakshmana’s work. He was happy that Lakshmana had taken into account all what he had said while building the hamlet and in addition to that, Lakshmana had ensured that he had built it beyond Rama’s expectations as well – Rama had asked Lakshmana to build a separate room wherein they can sit and interact with rishis, a separate room for resting, another room for preparing food, etc. However, Rama hadn’t asked for a separate place wherein Sita and himself could sit and talk comfortably! But Lakshmana had made sure that such a place was also built in the hamlet! Thus we should realize here that a true “Kainkarya” or Service is that wherein the Bhaktha offers beyond normal expectations!

Thus on seeing this, Rama was totally moved to tears on the expertise of Lakshmana! He hugs Lakshmana with all his love and compassion and appreciates him for his wonderful work! At this point, Rama gives a very important complement to Lakshmana, which is to be discussed in a bit of detail. Let us wait till the next episode to find it out! 🙂

Episode 142 – Jataayu Maharaja meets Lord Rama!!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana seek guidance from Sutheeksna Maharishi and walk towards Sage Agasthya’s ashram. Upon meeting Agasthya Maharishi, Rama obtains important “Manthras” and powerful “Ashtras” from him. Agasthya Maharishi was very happy to bless Rama with all these important things and thus according to his guidance, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana proceed to Panchavati to spend the rest of their tenure in the forest. It’s not much now – Just around two years of tenure left! Thus Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are walking towards Panchavati in the western direction from the ashram of Agasthya Maharishi.

While the three were walking along, the king of eagles – Jataayu Maharaja sees Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana coming towards him. He feels so happy to see Rama and thus wants to meet and convey his respects to him. Thus, Jataayu Maharaja comes forward towards Rama and takes the human form to worship him. Rama receives him with equal respect and Jataayu Maharaja introduces himself to Rama. He says, “Oh Rama! I’m Jataayu, the king of the eagle bird community! I’m one of the best friends of your father, the great King Dasharata! You can reside in this beautiful place called Panchavati. Until the time you are here, I shall be of every possible service to you!”

Upon hearing this, Rama is extremely happy and acknowledges Jataayu Maharaja’s kind words. Jataayu Maharaja continues to narrate his historical background a little bit. Valmiki Maharishi gives a detailed account through the following slokas.

“Vinathaathu sukhee bhouthree thathruuscha sulasaaschasaa!

Kadhruun naaga sahasrandhu vidhagnyee dharanee dharaan!!

Dvou puthrou vinathaayaasthu varuno arunayevacha!

Tasmaan jaatho aham arunaan sampaathischa mahaagrajaha!!”

Thus, while introducing himself to Lord Rama, Jataayu Maharaja briefs his past history. I shall narrate it in brief – There was a woman by name Kadru. Garuda, Aadisesha, Jataayu and Aruna were all born at the same time period. Aruna had two sons – Sampaathi and Jataayu. Once upon a time, Sampaathi and Jataayu had a competition within each other as to who would fly and reach the sun first. Thus both of the eagles started flying towards the sun and as they approach closer, Sampaathi was scared that Jataayu’s wings would be damaged because of the sun’s heat. Hence, Sampaathi out of mercy towards his younger brother, covered him with his wings. But while doing this, unfortunately Sampaathi’s wings were damaged severely because of the heat from the sun. Atlast, Jataayu had to bring Sampaathi to safety back to the earth!

Thus, Jataayu Mahaaraaja narrates all this to Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana and assures them that he would be of immense help till the time they stayed at Panchavati. Jataayu Maharaja warns them that this area is often attacked by the Raakshasaas (Demons) and advised them to be vigilant and careful.

Rama acknowledges Jataayu Maharaja’s words and blesses him. Thus, Jataayu Maharaja was extremely happy to meet Rama and be in the vicinity of Him. Thus, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana proceed further and finally reach Panchavati. Now Rama calls Lakshmana and says, “Oh Lakshmana! Find a good and a suitable place around this area to build a small hamlet for all of us! Find a place wherein you would be happy! Find a place wherein Sita and I would be happy as well!”

Upon hearing this, Lakshmana immediately falls on Rama’s feet and starts to weep bitterly! Rama was surprised as to why is Lakshmana weeping! I’m sure that we are also curious as to why Lakshmana started to cry suddenly! Let’s wait till the next episode with this curiosity to find out the reason! 🙂

 

 

Episode 141 – Agasthya Maharishi blesses Rama with invincible “Manthras” & “Asthras”!!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Sita reminds Rama of the promise that he had given to all the Maharishis. It should be remembered by the readers that Rama had pledged to the Maharishis in the Dhandakaaranya forest that he would destroy all the “Raakshasaas” (Demons) and restore peace and Dharma in the area. Once Sita reminds Rama, he assures her that he hasn’t forgotten the promise but it was just that he was waiting for the right time to fulfill it!

With this episode, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita have completed around ten and a half years of their life in the forest! They’ve visited all the Maharishis in the “Ashrama Mandalam” as shown by Sutheekshna Maharishi and after this big round, the three of them once again knock at Sutheekshna Maharishi’s ashram! Sage Sutheekshna again welcomes them and Rama pays his due respects to him and requests him, “Oh great Sage! As per your instruction, I’ve visited the entire ‘Ashrama Mandalam’ and now I would like to visit the great Agasthya Maharishi and seek his blessings! I request you to guide me on this!”

Upon hearing this, Sage Sutheekshna is extremely happy and replies, “Oh Rama! I was also thinking of sending you to worship Agasthya Maharishi once you come back! Now I shall show you the way – From this location, you need to travel a distance of around four yojanas towards the west! You’ll reach the ashram of Sage Agasthya’s brother. You can worship him and with his guidance you need to again walk for a distance of one yojana towards the west. At that point you would find the ashram of Sage Agasthya Maharishi and thus you can worship him!”

“Sutheekshnascha aashrama padham punareva aajagaamaha!

Shathamaashramam aagamya munibhihi paripoojithaha!!

Yojanaan aashramaan tathra yaahichathvaari vai tathaa!

Dakshinena mahaan shreemaan agasthya bhraathuraashramaha!!”

Thus, through the above slokas, Valmiki Maharishi gives a note on the way to reach the ashram of Sage Agasthya’s brother, and from which Rama, Lakshmana and Sita finally reach Agasthya Maharishi’s ashram. The three of them were delighted to meet the great Agasthya Maharishi and they pay their respects to him! Agasthya Maharishi happily welcomes them into his ashram. It is during this time that Rama obtained innumerable “Manthras” and “Asthraas” (Missiles) that were extremely powerful! Agasthya Maharishi blesses Rama that with the help of all these important “Manthras” and “Asthraas” he would be totally invincible and no force can defeat him ever in this world!

After this was done, Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana bid farewell to Agasthya Maharishi and finally requests him to suggest a good place for them to spend the rest of their years in this forest. It should be noted here that by the time Rama bids farewell to Agasthya Maharishi, almost twelve out of the fourteen years of the exile period is completed! Thus, the remaining period was just a little under two years.

Thus, Agasthya Maharishi guides Rama to a place called “Panchavati”, which is a beautiful and a picturesque place and suggests that Rama should stay here till the exile period is over, before he goes back to Ayodhya!

“Tatho abhraveeth muni shreshtaha shruthvaa raamasya bhaashitham!

Jaapthvaa muhurtham dharmaathmaa tatho vaacha cachashrutham!!

Ithothvi yojane thaathva bahumoona phalotathaha!

Desho bahumrughaha shreemaan panchavtya abhivishruthaha!!”

Thus, Agashtya Maharishi guides Rama, Lakshmana and Sita to reside at a place called Panchavati. We can worship this exact place even today, near the town of Nashik in the Central Indian State of Maharashtra. I had already spoken about the geographical location of the “Dhandakaaranya” forest, and the readers must be familiar with this town called Nashik. This place called Panchavati is situated on the banks of the river Godaavari and even to this date, we can worship the small hamlet where Rama, Lakshmana and Sita resided!

Thus Rama, Lakshmana and Sita commence their journey towards the western direction to reach Panchavati. On their way to Panchavati, Rama meets a very important person. Whom did Rama meet? What did that person say? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode! 🙂

Episode 140 – Sita “jokingly” reminds Rama of His promise!!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that as Rama visits each of the ashrams of Maharishis in the Dhandakaaranya forest, all the rishis request Rama to protect them from the evil activities of the Raakshasaas (Demons) in that area. They explain to Rama about how these Raakshasaas have harmed and killed numerous innocent people in this forest area and they request Rama to destroy them and protect them from their atrocities. Accordingly Rama gives his word to the Maharishis that he would soon put an end to all the demons in this beautiful forest and restore peace.

However, as years rolled by, Rama seemingly never took any action to fulfill his promise! Sita was watching and observing Rama for all this time and at one point of time she thinks to herself, “Oh! I think Rama is so much carried away with my love and affection that he has forgotten his promise to the Maharishis! I think it’s time now that I remind him about it!” Thinking thus, one fine day, Sita slowly asks Rama, “Oh Rama! Why do you always hold this big bow in your hand? Why don’t you keep it down for some time?”

Rama was taken aback by this sudden question from his beloved wife! He was surprised as to who is she to ask me to keep my bow down! Thus Rama asks Sita, “Why do you say so?” Upon which, Sita says, “Oh Rama! I’ll now narrate few small stories, which I’ve heard from my father during my childhood days, to substantiate the validity of my question!”

Rama was amused by these words from Sita! He thinks to himself, “Oh my goodness! Thank God that I had married her at the age of six itself! Within just six years of age, if she has learnt so much and is able to narrate this many stories, if I would have married her at a later age of maybe 12-13, she herself would have composed another Ramayana!” 🙂

Thus, Rama laughs within himself as Sita starts narrating the first story! I’ll explain just this story in brief – It seems that there was a Rishi (Saint) who was doing deep penance. There was a hunter who passed by this rishi who wanted to go on a “Sacred Yaathra” (Spiritual journey). This hunter had a big sword in his hand. Since he cannot take this sword along with him for this spiritual journey, he requested this rishi to take care of his sword till he comes back! However, the rishi initially denied his request, but since the hunter persuaded him repeatedly, he accepted it. Thus, the sword was lying in one corner of his ashram as he was continuing his penance! Five minutes passed by! The rishi had a fear within him that what if someone steals the sword! Hence, he took the sword and placed it beside him and restarted his penance! 🙂 However, the rishi wasn’t very convinced! What if someone takes the sword away again? He again takes it and keeps it on his lap! 🙂 Again the rishi wasn’t convinced! What if someone takes the sword away from his lap? Hence, he holds the sword in his hand as he does the penance! 🙂 Normally if the sword is in the hands of a person, it is always alive! It would motivate the person to attack something or somebody! Thus, this rishi too, starts to attack and kill passerby animals and people! 🙂

Thus, Sita says this story to Rama and validates her question now! She asks, “Oh Rama! Just like how this rishi started misusing the sword by killing passerby people, if you are having this bow always in your hands, some day you would also start misusing it! 🙂 Hence, why don’t you keep it down?” Sita is thus wantedly and jokingly provoking Rama to remind him of his duty!

Rama quickly realizes Sita’s words and thinks to himself – “Oh hoo!! This Sita is trying to remind me that I’ve not done anything with this bow so far!” 🙂 He replies to Sita thus,

“Apraham jeevitham jagyaam thaam vaa seethe cha lakshmanaam!

Lalifprathignyaam samshruthya braahmanebhyo visheshathaha!!”

Rama says to Sita, “Oh Sita! Please remember that I would never leave you alone! I’ll never leave Lakshmana too! More than anything else, I shall never leave my promise! I shall definitely fulfil the promise that I’ve given for the Maharishis! Just that, I’m waiting for the right time for it!”

It’s only upon hearing this answer from Rama, did Sita calm down! Thus, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita are waiting for the right opportunity to fulfil the promise given to the Maharishis! We shall also wait till the next episode to find out how did Rama fulfil the promise! 🙂

Episode 139 – Rama vows to free Dhandakaaranya from the Raakshasaas!!!

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Till this point we’ve witnessed that Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana are walking deep inside the Dhandakaaranya forest towards the south-south western direction. They are now at Sutheekshna Maharishi’s ashram wherein they were guided to visit various ashrams of various great Maharishis situated around this particular area. Thus, Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana spend around ten years, visiting each of these ashrams and paying due respects to the great Maharishis who resided in and around this area.

“Pravishtasthu vanam ghoram bahu pushpa phaladhrumam!

Dadarsha aashramamekaanthe ksheera maala parishkrutham!!

Aakhyaatham sharabhangena gauthamena mahaathmanaa!

Imam aashramamaagamya mritha sangaa maheeyasaha!!”

Thus, Valmiki Maharishi explains with the above slokas that Rama spends quality time with each and every Maharishi in Dhandakaaranya, seeking their blessings and advice! Thus while visiting each of the ashrams, all the Maharishi’s bow down to Lord Rama and worship him! All of them put a request to Rama in one voice – “Oh Rama! We are delighted to receive you at our ashrams! However, we are greatly disturbed by the evil activities of the Raakshasaas (Demons) in this are for a while now! Hence we request you to destroy them and free us from the clutches of the Raakshasaas, as early as possible! Oh Rama! Please realize that we are to be protected by you! Thus we request you to take care of us and enable us to continue our regular penance!”

Upon hearing this from the great saints, Rama was moved and he replies back, “Oh Maharishis! I’m so ashamed with myself that till today I’ve failed in my duty to protect you from the clutches of these evil Raakshasaas! Anyway, now I’ll take immediate steps to destroy them and protect all of you!”

“Ethannimithham vachanam dhandakaayithi vishrutham!

Nahime rochathe veera gamanam dhandakaandathi!!

Kaaranam tathra vakshyaami vadamthaa suuyathaam mama!

Puraakila mahaabaaho tapasvi sathyavaan suchihi!!”

Saying thus, the great saints seek protection under Rama’s invincibility and in turn, Rama assures them relief from the cruel Raakshasaas very soon!

Hearing this from Rama, all the Maharishis were happy that atlast the time has come for the “Adharma” to be destroyed and the “Dharma” to be restored! They were contented with Rama’s reply and waited for the divine happening.

Now, what did Rama do? Did he fulfil the promise given to the Maharishis immediately? What was the next course of action that Rama undertook? Let’s wait till the next episode to witness a very interesting event! 🙂

Episode 138 – Rama at Sutheekshna Maharishi’s Ashram – An interesting geographical specification!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana visited Sarabhanga Maharishi in his ashram in the Dhandakaaranya forest. Before Rama enters the ashram, we also witnessed that Indra, the leader of the Devas had come down to meet Sarabhanga Maharishi. Since Rama was in a human form, he didn’t want to meet celestial beings and thus wasn’t interested to meet Indra. Once Indra leaves, Rama goes inside to meet Sarabhanga Maharishi, upon whose guidance, the three of them are going to continue their journey towards the western direction. Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes this journey towards Sutheekshna Maharishi’s ashram, however he restricts it to just one sloka.

“Imaam mandaahinim raama prathistrothaam anugraja!”

Here, Valmiki Maharishi interestingly says, “Prathistrothaam Anugraja!” “Prathistrothas” means “Going in the direction opposite to the flow of river Mandaahini”. Thus, Valmiki Maharishi says to Rama, “If you go along this river Mandaahini, in the direction opposite to it’s flow, you’ll reach Sutheekshna Maharishi’s ashram!” Now, if we’ve to trace this location to the modern day Indian Geography, it’s very interesting to note that the river Mandaahini flows from the west to east. Now according to the above sloka, if we have to go in the opposite direction of it’s flow, we’ve to ideally proceed towards the western direction. However, after a certain distance, the river turns and flows in the opposite (western) direction for a while. This might be confusing to follow closely. However, if we now look closely at the sloka, Valmiki Maharishi doesn’t exactly say that we should go towards the western direction. He says that we should go to the place where the river changes its direction towards the west! Thus, the exact location of Sutheekshna Maharishi’s ashram is where the river Mandaahini changes it’s course towards the western direction and from this place, we’ve travel a distance of four “Yojanas”, (Yojana is a kind of measure that is used very frequently in the Ramayana text. I shall explain this measure in detail in a later episode when a different context comes!)

Thus, Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana walk according to the instructions and reach Sutheekshna Maharishi’s ashram.

“Tathasthvaam sharanaarthaancha sharanyam samupasthithaaha!

Paripaalayano raama vardhyamaanaam nishaacharaihi!!”

Thus, Rama pays his respects to Sutheekshna Maharishi and interacts with him for some time. During the course of the interaction Rama asks Sutheekshna Maharishi if there is a good place for him to stay with his wife and brother. Sutheekshna Maharishi replies, “Oh Rama! Around this place there are numerous wild animals that would harm you! If you would like to stay here, you need to hunt down and kill them regularly!” Rama was not very convinced with the idea of staying in this place since he wasn’t interested in killing innocent animals just for the sake of living here. Hence, Rama asks for an alternative solution and upon which, Sutheekshna Maharishi with his power of penance, shows a huge “Ashrama Mandalam” (A group of various ashrams of various Maharishis) around this place, and asks Rama to spend time at each of these ashrams till his tenure of fourteen years is completed!

Thus, Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana starts to go to each of the ashrams around this area and spends around ten years like this! We shall also witness in the next and the subsequent episodes, the important ashrams visited by Rama and the events that unfolded! Lets’ stay tuned! 🙂