Rama and Lakshmana made short work of Tataka, Mareecha and Subahu, who had been troubling Vishwamitra from conducting austerities for the welfare of the world. Happy with the assistance rendered by the young princes, the rishi taught them the secrets of many missiles—how to deploy them and call them back too.
The content trio travelled to Mithila to see the bow-sacrifice of King Janaka. On the way the sage narrated tales of his own grandfather King Kushanabha, of Gadhi, the sage’s father, of his sister Kaushiki (flowing as the Kosi river in Bihar), the history of the river Ganga, the story of Sagara, former king of Ayodhya and how his 60,000 sons were burnt to ashes, three generations of kings performing austerities to bring the Ganga down, ending with the efforts of Bhageeratha, the story of the churning of the ocean by the devas and asuras, how Lord Shiva drank the poison, how goddess Lakshmi came out of the ocean, the birth of Lord Dhanvantari—the physician of the gods—and the victory of the devas.
Diti, wife of Kashyapa, the mother of asuras, undertook austerities to get a son who would conquer Indra. However, Indra got to know of this and used an opportune moment to prevent it from happening. The baby to be born to destroy Indra was mutilated into seven parts of seven each and due to a prayer of Diti to Indra, they took the form of 49 ‘maruts’ or different types of air—breeze, gale, storm, typhoon etc—that blew in 49 different belts around the universe.
Narrating these tales as they moved, it became night. The trio rested in the kingdom of Visala and were received with honour by King Sumati. On the way to Mithila the next day, Rama inquired about a deserted hermitage. The sage narrated to him the story of Rishi Gautama who lived there thousands of years ago. It was a sorrowful tale of how Indra, the king of gods, assumed the form of Rishi Gautama and entered into the hermitage in his absence.
He entreated the Rishi’s wife, Ahalya, to be with him and she consented knowing that he was her husband. By the time, Indra got ready to leave, the sage entered and pronounced a curse on him. He cursed his wife Ahalya too, to remain as a stone in atonement and austerity until one day when Rama would set foot in the Ashram. “When his foot touches this premises, you will be relieved of the curse.” It was a great moment of joy when the gods showered flowers. The sage who had gone to the mountains to pursue his austerities came to know of the arrival of Rama and returned to his hermitage to be reunited with his wife Ahalya.
The author is Sevak, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; firstname.lastname@example.org