Rama, Lakshmana and Sage Vishwamitra moved to Mithila to take a look at the great bow kept by King Janaka, the father of Sita. In the palace of the king was the priest Shatananda, the son of Ahalya and Gautama. He asked Vishwamitra if his mother, engaged in austerities, was able to have a glimpse of Rama. He also inquired if his mother was able to offer Rama fruits from the forest.
This inquiry may be a small thing to us today, but it shows the culture of those times, of how much concern is expressed about the right kind of hospitality that needs to be given to visitors, especially when Rama himself was coming.
Hearing a volley of questions from Shatananda, Sage Vishwamitra said that there was no omission whatsoever. Ahalya’s curse was removed when Rama entered the ashram where she was meditating and intuitively knowing of their arrival. Her husband Gautama, engaged in austerities in the mountains, also joined her.
Shatananda is overwhelmed at the presence of Rama and the great sage, and begins to narrate the story of Vishwamitra. He was a king for a long time who was beloved of his people and good in war too. Tracing his lineage, he said the creator Lord Brahma had a son—King Kusha. His son was Kushanabha who had a son called Gadhi and that Gadhi’s son was the great sage, Vishwamitra. Maintaining a huge army of one akshauhini, he trotted the globe administering the earth.
During his travels, he arrived at the ashrama of the Sage Vasishtha. The ashrama was a beautiful place with lovely trees, plants, flowers, rich in fruits, many wild and domestic animals, all living in harmony. There were the celestial beings called the Siddhas and Charanas, too. Many rishis and ascetics too lived there. The hermitage looked like Brahmaloka or the residential abode of Lord Brahma.
Sage Vasishtha gave a very warm welcome to the king, offering him a seat, and fruits and roots of the forest to eat. Vishwamitra also inquired about the welfare of the residents of the hermitage and Vasishtha inquired about the well-being and prosperity of his kingdom and subjects.
The narration of this meeting gives us a very important insight into life. When two people meet and everything can go on so beautifully, yet a nasty turn of events can turn all the friendship and camaraderie into a serious war. Vasishtha invited the king to have his attendant army accept the hospitality of the hermitage. The king said that what was offered to him was enough and he would take leave. Vasishta asked once more and this time he agreed.
The author is Sevak, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; firstname.lastname@example.org