Rāmāyaṇa - Bāla-kāṇḍa - Part 4 - The Four Brothers are Born; Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa Accompany Viśvāmitra

When Viṣṇu was about to take birth as the sons of Daśaratha, Brahmā addressed the devas – “You should create powerful beings to assist Viṣṇu. Beget vānaras who are as capable as you, through the wombs of apsarās, gandharvīs, kinnarīs, vānarīs, and the women of yakṣas and pannagas.”[1] The devas did as instructed. Upon their birth, vānaras were ruled by the brothers Vālī and Sugrīva, the sons of Indra and Sūrya respectively.


After the Aśvamedha, upon the departure of the guests including Śānta and Ṛṣyaśṛṅga, Daśaratha returned to the city. As time rolled on, Rāma the embodiment of half of Viṣṇu’s power was born to Kausalyā. Following this, Bharata, the embodiment of a quarter of Viṣṇu’s power was born to Kaikeyī; Lakṣmaṇa and Śatrughna, who were also endowed with portions of Viṣṇu’s power were born to Sumitrā. After the eleventh day, the nāmakarmā – naming ceremony – was performed for the new-borns. Sage Vasiṣṭha lovingly named the children. As they grew up, the four brothers mastered the Vedas and were renowned for their valour; they were endowed with the best of traits. Among them, Rāma was especially loved by all. Lakṣmaṇa, from early childhood, was passionately attached to him and was like Rāma’s very breath. Lakṣmaṇa would not sleep or eat delicious food without his beloved brother and whenever Rāma went out hunting on horseback, Lakṣmaṇa followed him, alert, with his bow and arrow ready. Similarly, Śatrughna was dearer than his own life to Bharata. Daśaratha was extremely delighted to have such lovely sons.

As time passed by, Daśaratha started contemplating and began discussing with upādhyāyas and relatives about the marriage of his sons. On one such occasion, when he was in the company of his ministers deliberating about their marriage, the illustrious sage Viśvāmitra arrived at his court. Supremely thrilled, Daśaratha received the sage and enquired after his welfare. The king told the sage, “Your arrival is like attaining amṛta – please let me know the purpose of your visit. Have no doubt that I will fulfil it without fail.”

Viśvāmitra said, “I have pledged to perform a yāga but Mārīca and Subāhu, two rākṣasas, who can take the form they desire, have proved to be unsurmountable obstacles. Every time when the yāga is about culminate, they bespatter the vedi with vast quantities of flesh and blood, defeating the very purpose of my vow. I am averse to giving way to anger, because while engaged in the rite, one may not pronounce a curse. Therefore, O king, please send with me your eldest son Rāma, who has sprouting side-locks. Guided by me, he can certainly vanquish the rākṣasas! You must not allow yourself to be weakened by your parental love, O king! I am convinced of Rāma’s prowess and his arrival is as good as having the rākṣasas dead. If Vasiṣṭha and your ministers agree, please send your son for ten days with me!” The words of the sage tore Daśaratha’s heart apart and, in his agony, the king fainted and fell off his throne.

Regaining consciousness, he said, “My dear Rāma is hardly sixteen years of age and I don’t see him fit to fight the rākṣasa. I have an akṣauhiṇī of armed forces and I will lead the fight with the rākṣasas. I cannot live for a moment without Rāma. If you must have Rāma, please let me accompany him with my four-fold army. I begot him as my eldest son when I was sixty thousand years old[2] and he is the dearest of my sons.”

Viśvāmitra said, “The rākṣasa Rāvaṇa, who has been granted a boon by Brahmā wreaks havoc in the three worlds. When he does not care to come in person himself, the two immensely strong rākṣasas Mārīca and Subāhu pose troubles to yajñas.”

Listening to these words, Daśaratha declared, “I won’t be able to face the evil one in battle, nor can I do so with my army and my sons. When devas, gandharvas, and yakṣas are unable to face him, why speak of men? The sons of Sunda and Upasunda are like death in battle. I will not send my son!”

Enraged at Daśaratha’s reply, Viśvāmitra said, “Having first promised to give what I wanted, you now wish to go back on your words! This is unbecoming of the Raghus. I shall go back as I came!”

Vasiṣṭha then intervened, told Daśaratha about the greatness of Viśvāmitra and advised the king not to harbour any doubts about sending Rāma with the sage. Now convinced, with a glad face, Daśaratha sent for his sons Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa. The father hugged Rāma and smelled him on the crown of his head and sent him with Viśvāmitra. Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa reverentially bowed down to their parents and left with Viśvāmitra.


As the brothers followed the sage, with their quivers full of arrows and bows in the hands, they looked like three-headed serpents – their very presence lit up the ten directions. They wore gloves made of lizard skin and carried swords. On the way, Viśvāmitra wished to teach Rāma two unparalleled mantras, known as Balā and Atibalā. When mastered, the mantras would ensure that the knower was free of fatigue and fever and the rākṣasas would not harm him even when he was asleep or caught off guard. Rāma, purified himself with water and received the two vidyās from the sage. The three spent the night on the banks of river Sarayū.

At daybreak, the sage addressed Rāma, who was asleep on his bed of leaves – “O Rāma! Kausalyā is indeed blessed to have given birth to you. It is almost morning. O tiger among men, get up! The divine, daily rites need to be performed!”[3] Upon hearing those soft and earnest words of the sage, the brothers woke up, had their baths, and performed the divine japa (of Gāyatrī). After walking a certain distance, the brothers spotted the confluence of the divine river Gaṅgā with Sarayū and saw an āśrama filled with ṛṣis who performed intense tapas. Viśvāmitra explained that it was the āśrama of Kandarpa, who was also called Kāma by the learned and had enjoyed corporeal existence in the past. “In the past, Śiva performed intense tapas here. Once, after he got married, when Śiva was travelling with the maruts, the perverse Kāma tried to distract him. Śiva let out an angry huṃkāra and Kāma was reduced to ashes because of the lord’s fierce eye. Thereafter, Kāma came to be called Anaṅga (‘bodiless’) and the place where he lost his body is called Aṅga-deśa.” The brothers, along with sage Viśvāmitra spent the night at Kāma’s āśrama.


To be continued...

[The critically constituted text and the critical edition published by the Oriental Institute, Vadodara is the primary source. In addition, the Kannada rendering of the epic by Mahāmahopādhyāya Sri. N. Ranganatha Sharma and the English translation by Sri. N. Raghunathan have been referred.]

[1] In some editions, Brahmā also says that he has already created Jāmbavān through his yawn; additionally, some editions also say – Kubera gave birth to Gandhamādana, Viśvakarmā to Nala, and Agni to Nīla.

[2] This may be understood as sixty years old – the long wait to beget children would have appeared like sixty thousand years to the father.

[3] kausalyā suprajā rāma pūrvā sandhyā pravartate| uttiṣṭha naraśārdūla kartavyaṃ daivamānhikam||

The above verse occurs at this juncture in the original text and has been the inspiration for all later suprabhātas




Visionary sage and the author of the fifth Veda, the Rāmāyaṇa



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