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! 🙂