The time when the sage Vishwamitra—the most powerful ascetic known for his anger—came was exactly the time when king Dasharatha was thinking in terms of finding suitable brides for Rama and Lakshmana. When he was consulting with the family preceptor Sage Vasishtha, Brahma Rishi Vishwamitra was ushered into the palace. As they settled down to talk, the king offered praises in glorious terms and asked what he may do for him.
The sage said he had taken up certain vows to conduct fire rituals for the welfare of humanity. There were some rakshasas—Maricha and Subahu—who were creating a lot of obstacles. They dropped unholy stuff like putrefying dead bodies and blood into the clean and sanctified sacrificial fire, thus disturbing the sacrifice.
“O king, the only way to stop these people is by cursing them. I do not want to do that as it will unnecessarily remove all the energy gained by very hard austerities and this time around, I do not want to drain that on these two,” said the sage.
And so, he finally dropped the bombshell on the doting Dasaratha. “Send your eldest born, Sri Rama, with me. He will destroy the two asuras no doubt,” the sage concluded. Dasaratha was shaken. “I will come with my armies,” he pleaded. “Rama is not even 16,” he tried to reason.
“These powerful rakshasas sent by Ravana are difficult to fight, even for me. Then how can my young son Rama be able to handle them? Moreover, without Rama, I cannot live even a moment,” he pleaded.
Not only did his appeals fall on deaf years, Vishwamitra’s expression of anger was rising as he was listening to these suggestions and repeated pleadings. He tried saying that he knows the great Rama and his strengthens. All his worries on this account were baseless and unfounded. Unable to convince the king, Vishwamitra made a sarcastic remark: “Keep your dear son with you. Is this the glorious way of the Ikshwaku family in fulfilling a promise made long ago?” the sage asked.
Even as his notorious anger began to shake the earth, winds blew hard, earthquakes began to occur and the gods shuddered. Sage Vasishtha, however, was well poised and he advised Dasaratha saying that Rama would indeed benefit by Vishwamitra’s grace and blessings. He would learn many things, get many new weapons and come back with great laurels, he assured.
Then the king was consoled and he sent word for Rama to come to the palace. Rama did not come alone. His younger brother Lakshmana, who followed him as if he were Rama’s breath, too joined him. The two boys prostrated before King Dasharatha and waited to be told as to why they were called to the assembly.
The author is Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi