Sri Rama and Lakshmana along with Sage Vishwamitra take leave from the sages of Siddhashrama and go on a boat across the Ganga. As they were midstream, there was a huge noise caused by the clashing of waves. Rama asked the sage what the sound was and he said that it was the confluence of the river Sarayu which started from Manasarovar, circled Ayodhya and joined the Ganga.
The meeting point of two great rivers is called Prayag and is considered very holy. The two brothers paid their obeisance to the confluence of Ganga and Sarayu. They sighted a thick forest with cries of ferocious animals. The inquisitive brothers again asked the rishi to tell them about the story of the forest. He said that earlier in this forest there were two prosperous kingdoms set up by the gods—called Malada and Karusha.
When Indra killed an asura called Vritra who was a Brahmana, he was overcome with sin and extreme hunger. The rishis conducted a purifying ritual for Indra and washed him with pots of holy Ganga water. His sins and hunger, along with the water was deposited in this forest. As Indira was relieved of all his impurities, he blessed the two tracts of land that took on the brunt of his sins and said that they would become two prosperous kingdoms called Malada and Karusha.
However, after a lapse of time, a yakshini called Tataka, who was capable of taking any form, came there. She was the wife of Sunda and had a son called Maricha. While Maricha was troubling people in the two kingdoms, Tataka was also troubling the people. The sage gave permission to Sri Rama to be done with this fearsome woman who was obstructing the path in the kingdom for over 12 miles of forest land.
Rama questioned Vishwamitra about how Tataka got so much strength. The guru narrated the history of Tataka. There was a powerful yaksha in the past called Suketu who was very good natured, but did not have children. He prayed intensely to Lord Brahma who granted him the boon of a daughter who would have the strength of a thousand elephants. He did not give the boon for a son as he knew that he would cause great destruction.
Tataka’s husband Sunda was killed by the Sage Agastya and so Tataka and her son planned to kill him. The sage cursed the two when he saw them approaching him—Mareecha would become a rakshasa and Tataka would lose her beautiful form and become a misshapen man-eater. The two have ever since been ravaging the forest with their brute might. For the welfare of the good human beings who are engaged in divine work and the voiceless animals, O Rama finish off this ogress called Tataka, Vishwamitra suggested.
The author is Sevak, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; email@example.com