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! 🙂