Swayambhu Manu preformed Tapasya to Lord Vishnu for thousand years and when the latter appeared, Manu desired that he would like to have Vishnu as his son. The Lord agreed and said that in fact as a part of the task of Preservation of ‘Dharma’ (Virtue), he would like to appear on Earth from time to time as and when Dharma was threatened and Evil Forces gathered momentum; he said: Paritranaaya Sadhunaam Vinaasaaya cha Dushkrutaam, Dharma samsthaapanaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yugey! (I shall no doubt take human birth to revive Dharma and punish Evil from time to time). As promised by Vishnu, Swayambhu was born in Raghukula as King Dasaratha and became the father of Shri Rama in Treta Yuga, as Vasudeva in Yadava Kula in DwaparaYuga and one thousand Divya Years hence as Brahmana Harigupta in Samhal Village in Kali Yuga. The two brothers Hirankaksha and Hiranyakashipu of the Satya Yuga were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna in Treta Yuga. Muni Pulastya’s son was Muni Vishvava and the latter’s wife was Kaikashi; Ravana and Kumbhakarna were born to Vishvava and Kaikeshi. Kaikeshi also gave birth to Surpanakha and later on to the virtuous devotee of Narayana, Vibhishana. Ravana brothers performed severe Tapasya and secured boons of invincibility from Devas, Danavas and Rakshasas and harassed Devad who fled from Swarga and prayed to Vishnu who assured that he would soon be born to King Dasaratha as Rama and demolish the entire race of Ravana; Vishnu also asked Devas to assume the births of ‘Vanaras’ and assist in this holy task. In the Surya Vamsa, Vaivasvata Muni begot King Ikshvaku and Dasaratha was born to Ikshvaku. Devi Koushalya was born to the King of Koushalya and was wedded to King Dasaratha at Ayodhya on the banks of River Sarayu.Dasaratha also married Sumitra and Kaikeyi.He became a powerful yet righteous King with Sage Vasishtha as the Raja Guru and performed the Putra-Kameshthi Yagna. From the ‘Agni Kunda’at the eventful Yagna, Maha Vishnu Him self gave Darshan to Dasaratha and assured that he would soon be born to him to save the Devoted and kill the Evil. He handed over a’Kheer Patra’ to the three Devis; Kaushalya and Kaikeyi took half each and gave half of their portions to Sumitra; thus the eldest boy was born to Kaushalya, Bharat was born to Kaikeyi and Lakshmana and Shatrughna were born to Sumitra. Sage Vasishtha named the eldest as ‘Shri Rama’ since that was the ‘Swataha Siddha’ name as he was the husband of Shri Devi and the equivalent of Vishnu’s Sahasranaamaas, providing salvation to the devotees and since his birth was in Chaitra month dear to Vishnu. As the boys grew up, Rama and Lakshmana was one pair and Bharata and Shatrughna was another. In the meantime, Bhagavati Lakshmi was materialized as King Janaka found her while digging Earth in Yagna by a plough top called ‘sita’ and thus named Sita and most endearingy brought up as his own daughter. Sage Vishvamitra derised that Rama and Lakshmana should protect one Yagna being organized by him on the banks of Ganga, sine there were always threats of Rakshasas to destroy Yagnas by pouring blood and such other foul material. Very reluctantly, Dasaratha allowed to let them go to protect the Yagna which apparently served many purposes as subtly planned by the Sage: one to let the World realize that Rama a mere teen-ager was of Vishnu ‘Amsa’ and introduced Rama to the Rakshasas that they should better beware; Vishwamitra could teach the nuances of Shastra-Astra Vidya to the brothers; to afford an exposure to Rama at Sita Swayamvaraamong the great Kings of the day including a warning to Ravanasura that the Avatar of Vishnu had arrived; and also to consummate the Sacred Wedding of Rama and Sita. As visualised the Sage, all these and many other events took place: the killing of Rakshasi Tadaki and the Rakshasa called Subahu as also the use of ‘Vayavyastra’ to sweep away demon Maricha to a far off place so that he would have to float again at a later date to assume the role of ‘Maya Golden Deer’ before Devi’s abduction by Ravanasura; the liberation of Devi Ahalya by giving her normal form from a stone due to Sage Gautami-her husband’s curse; the smash of Shiva Dhanush; the wedding of Rama and Sita apart, Lakshmana was married to Urmila, Bharat to Mandvi, and Shatrughna with Shrutikirti; the rupture of Parasurama’s ego by the shatter of Vaishnava Dhanush and his exit from the active life into the Ashram of Nara-Narayana.
Even as the City of Ayodhya was going in euphoria with preparations of Shri Rama’s becoming the Yuva Raja (the Heir Apparent) of the Kingdom, Devi Kaikeyi declared her intention known that Rama should proceed for a fourteen year long spell of ‘Vana Vasa’ (forest life) and Bharata to become the Heir Apparent; this was in the light of a boon that Dasaratha gave to Kaikeyi as she saved him on a war front and she reserved to deman it at this juncture.Bharat was out of station at his maternal uncle’s place and did not know about the demand; Devi Sita insisted accompanying Rama and so did Lakshmana; Dasaratha was in a swoon, followed by death; the entire population of the Kingdom was crest-fallen; Bharata insisted on Rama’s return but on the latter’s refusal took Rama’s footwear kept on the Throne which was worshipped daily and he became a temporary Administrator on behalf of King Rama. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana the reached the mountain of Chitrakoot for a brief stay at the Ashram of Bharadwaja, further on to the Ashram of Atri Muni where the Muni’s wife Devi Anasuya enlightened the regulations of a ‘Pativrata’ anf finally entered the Dandakaranya where they stayed for long with Munis visiting their ‘Panchavati’ (a thatched cottage). One frightful day, demoness Surpanakha, the sister of Ravana and Kumbhakarna, arrived at the Parnashala and proposed to Rama.Lakshmana cut off her ears and nose and as retaliation two Rakshasas attacked Rama and Lakshmana and the latter killed the domons. Surpanakha approached Ravana who planned the arrtaction of the golden deer disguised as Maricha. Sita was tempted to secure the deer and Rama alone chased the Maya Mriga and killed the demon while the latter shouted loudly the name of Rama to mislead Sita and Lakshmana so that Lakshmana would leave Sita and Ravana could enter the scene. Lakshmana drew a line around Panchavati with Mantras and asked Sita not to go beyond the line. Ravana arrived as a Muni and asked for alms and Sita wanted him to enter the line but Ravana did not and insisted Sita to come out. As soon as she came out, Ravana appeared in his original form and abducted her by his Pushpak Viman. As Sita was sobbing loudly, the giant bird Jatayu, who was a friend of Dasaratha, made desperate attempts to stop Ravana’s Viman but the mighty Ravana slashed the bird’s wings as it fell down in a faint. As Rama and Lakshmana did not find Sita on their return, they frantically searched and the dying Jatayu conveyed that Sita was abducted by Ravana. Having performed obsequies to Jatayu, Rama and Lakshmana reached the Ashram of Devi Shabari a unique devotee of Shri Rama and treated the brothers with fruits and Rama gave her the boon of Vishnu Sayujya. Hanuman met Rama and Lakshmana and assured all kinds of assistance to Rama in finding Sita and eventually to destroy Ravana and his clan. He introduced the fugitive King of Kishkindha named Sugriva, raised confidence to Sugriva in killing his valiant brother Vaali who occupied his throne and after reoccupying his throne sent Hanuman to Lanka in search of Sita.The mighty Hanuman crossed the ocean and spotted Sita in Ashoka Vatika sobbing under an Ashoka tree.Hanuman convinced Sita as a devotee of Rama by showing Rama’s ring and assured her that very soon Rama and Lakshmana would reach Lanka with a huge Vanara Sena (Monkey brigade), kill Ravana and his entire followers and relieve her of bondage. Hanuman created havoc in the Ashoka vatika by killing all the security personnel, five Senapatis, seven sons of Ravana’s Ministers, and a son of Ravana. Indrajit the elder son of Ravana who also was a reputed warrior having defeated Indra and specialized in wars on the clouds thus securing the epithet of ‘Meghanadha’ encountered Hanuman who feigned Indrajit’s control; Hanuman was face to face with Ravana in the latter’s court and allowed himself to let his tail burn which was extended endlessly and destroyed a large part of Ravana’s City as a warning to him that soon Rama and Lakshmana would arrive at Lanka to destroy Ravana and his entire tribe. On return to Kishkintha, Hanuman conveyed Rama and others about Sita’s bondage. Rama, Lakshmana and the mammoth Vanara Sena under Sugriva’s leadership arrived on the sea coast to reach Lanka on the other side of the Ocean. Rama prayed to Samudra Deva (the Deity of the Ocean) to reduce the force of the violent tides and when Samudra Deva did not relent was even ready to punish the Deity. Samudra Deva the facilitated the construction of Rama Setu or the Bridge in the name of Rama across the Ocean; huge boulders were thrown into the Ocean with the name of Rama inscribed and the boulders floated enabling the construction of the Bridge.Meanwhile the younger brother of Ravana called Vibhishana, a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu approached Rama for refuge and soon became a confidant of Rama about matters related to Ravana and his associates. Having crossed the Rama Setu, the gigantic and mighty Monkey Brigade commenced furious battle with the gallant Rakshasas. Indrajit who was a highly renowned warrior fought and killed thousands of Vanaras and succeeded in tying Rama and Lakshmana with ‘Nagaastra’, when Garuda the Carrier of Vishnu appeared and the snakes withered away. Meanwhile Kumbhakarna, another brother of Ravana who had a giant figure fought recklessly killing tens of thousands of Rama Sena, but finally fell down to the torrential rain-like arrows of Shri Rama. Indrajit attacked Lakshmana and made the latter unconscious when Hanuman brought Sanjeevini Mountain with medicinal shrubs got Lakshmana revived; in the fierce battle that followed, Rama and Lakshmana destroyed Indrajit. In the meantime, Ravana desired to perform an ‘Abhicharatmika’ (Evil-oriented) Yagna out of desperation for Victory, but a few brave Vanaras got scent of it and destroyed the Yagna. Then Ravana rode into the battle with his entire army of massive strength comprising elephants, horses, chariots and infantry and massacred Vanaras. Indra sent his Divya Ratha (Divine Chariot) to Shri Rama with Matangi as the Charioteer and the Greatest Battle of Treta Yuga was fought for seven days and nights, even as all the Devas headed by Indra, besides Brahma and Rudra, watched the Grand Spectacle of Rama-Ravana Yuddha! Rama had systematically smashed Ravana’s ten heads, but the destroyed heads were sprouting again and again and Ravana was thundering world shaking shrieks to show Rama’s helplessness. Lord Shiva gave a boon to Ravana to let the smashed heads were revived again and again. Finally, Rama pulled up his most powerful ‘Brahmastra’ to destroy a stock of ‘Ambrosia’in his belly (as hinted by Vibhishana) and crushed his chest which pierced through Earth and crashed into Rasatala into the nether world. Instantly, Devas who were visioning the proceedings from the Skies went into ecstasy showering rain of scented flowers on Rama; Indra, Brahma and Rudra were relieved; Gandharvas and Kinneras sang tuneful of lyrics of the Lord; Apsaras danced with immense joy; Sanaka and Sanandana brothers who gave a curse to Jaya and Vijaya the Dwarapaalakas of Vaikuntha as they were obstructed entry to vision Vishnu were satisfied that out of three births the first human birth was completed; Maharshis and Siddhas recited Vedas and Scriptures as also hymns extolling Shri Rama. Rama then appointed Vibhishana as the King of Lanka and blessed him and his progeny to rule till the next Pralaya!
Thereafter Devi Sita was directed to prove her ‘Pativratya’ (Purity) by entering into an ‘Agni Kunda’ since she stayed away for long time in Lanka before a huge gathering of spectators; even Devas, Brahma and Rudra witnessed the scene, let alone Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Yakshas, human beings etc. Agni Devata himself brought back from the Agni Kunda and declared Devi Sita as an ever Pure, Chaste, Blameless and a peerless epitome of Pativratya. Besides installing Vibhishana as the King, Indra and Devas too were bestowed with their lost glories denied to them for long due to the much-hated Ravana and his clan. The precious possessions of Swarga like Pushpaka Vimana of Kubera Deva were restored to the respective Devas.Accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana as well as Hanuman, Sugriva, Vibhishana, Vanara Yoddhas (Warriors) including Jambavanta, Nala, Neela, Subhaga, Sharabha, Sushena, and all the survivors among Vanara Sena crossed the Rama Setu, proceeded to the site of ‘Shiva Linga Pratishthana’ at Rameshwara and further on to Ayodhya to join the celebrations of Victory and Rajabhisheka.
On return an anxious Ayodhya awaited the ‘Maryada Purusha’, the Epic Hero and the Most Significant Avatara of Treta Yuga, proving once again that Lord Vishnu would assume human birth again and again as and when Dharma was in jeopardy and Adharma tended to take an upper hand in the Universe.
In Patala Khanda of Padma Purana, Bhagavan Sesha Nag briefly recalled the Events to Maharshi Vasyayan about the activities of Lord Shri Rama, the Epic Hero of Ramayana, after the killing the infamous Ravanasura at Lanka providing great relief to Indra and Devas, Rishis and the virtuous as also the entire humanity. While narrating the Events, Sesha Nag was in a trance as the spell of Shri Rama was so intense that the Illustrious Serpent, whose bed Bhagavan Vishnu- the incarnation Shri Rama- rested on. Lord Rama bestowed the Kingship of Lanka to Vibhishana, the younger brother of the slain Ravana and sat on Pushpaka Viman along with Devi Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, Sugriva and various other stalvarts who fought in the Battle with Ravana. Even as the Pushpaka Viman took off from Lanka to Ayodhya, there were showers of scented flowers and reverberating sounds of ‘Dundubhis’ (drums) from the skies by Devas and on the entire route on Earth there were loud recitals of Veda Mantras by Rishis and Brahmanas signifying the ‘Vijaya Yatra’ or the Victorious Return to Ayodhya. Raghunandan Rama showed to Sita some glimpses of Places like the Rama Setu by which Vanara Sena or the Monkey Brigade crossed the Ocean, Kishkindha where he met Sugriva and Hanuman, and the spots where he and Lakshmana searched for Sita. The Pushpak Viman approached Nandigram, where all these years of ‘Rama Vanavas’ King Bharat was ruling Ayodhya on behalf of Shri Rama by decorating the latter’s footwear on the Throne, Hanuman was asked to fly earlier and inform Bharata. As the Vimana touched the ground, there was a high moment of emotional meeting of Rama and Bharata. As advance notice was sent, the entire City of Ayodyha prepared itself with festivities and colourful receptions with joyous singing and ecstatic dances to welcome the Maryada Purusha Shri Rama, Maha Sadhvi Sita, the illustrious brothers Lakshmana and Bharata. With the Pushpak Viman descending down, the entire population of Ayodhyapuri went rapturous rendering high-pitched slogans viz.: Victory to Shri Rama, Victory to Devi Sita, Victory to Lakshmana and Victory to Raja Bharata. Dressed in their best attires befitting the euphoric moments of bliss, the ‘Puravasis’had no bounds of joy in welcoming the Hero and his Parivar emerging from the Viman. The high tides of humanity who suppressed their emotions during his absence of for fourteen long years were surcharged with passions and inexplicable hilarity. Shri Rama first entered Devi Kaikeya’s Chambers and after prostrating before her asked her if there were any other wishes of hers yet unfulfilled! She stooped her head down in shame and could not utter one word out of remorse and anguish. From there, Shri Rama accompanied by Sita and Lakshmana visited Devi Sumitra and Shatrughna and postrated to her too; she expressed overflowing grief and relief and profusely thanked Rama for his highest consideration for her son Lakshmana. Further on both Rama and Sita entered the Chamber of Devi Kaushalya who swooned first for some time and after recovery embraced the son and daughter-in-law and declared that Sadhvi Sita was the finest example of womanhood for ever! After all the euphoria subsided, Bharat called the Ministers, Astrologers and Maharshi Vasishtha to decide on the time and date of Shri Rama Pattabhishekam (Coronation). The Historic Celebration of ‘Rama Rajabhisheka’ was a landmark in Treta Yuga attended by Lord Brahma, Devas, Maharshis and the highly satisfied ‘Praja, and heralded the highly famed Rama Rajya. As Rama was seated as its Head on the Naksha (Atlas) of ‘Sapta Lokas’ of Prithvi, all the Devas, Daityas, Nagas, Yakshas, Asuras, and of course the entire humanity were performing their respective duties with devotion and care as per established regulations of Dharma (Virtue), Nyaya (Justice), Law and Order, and Social Security. Sadhus and Sages were happy as never before, none resorted to foul means of any kind, women folk had no difficulties and they too observed the regulations as Pativratas; Sacred Activities like Yagnas, Vratas, Punya Karyas, Tirtha Yatras, Daanas, Dhyanas, and Veda Pathanas were in full swing. In response to Rama’s appeals Daityas, Maha Sarpas and other Power Joints of the Rajya, none dared to follow the ways of the Evil. To Devas too Shri Ram made requests not to impose any ‘Adhi Daivika’ based problems such as natural disasters like Earth quakes, floods and droughts or excessive rains or ‘Akaala Maranas’ or premature deaths. The Praja in Rama Rajya were instrtucted to observe the ‘Varnaashrama Vidhana’, perform useful tasks like construction of wells, Sarovars, Temples, 2Choultries, Udyanavanas or Public Gardens, Pashu Palana or raising cattle, farming and such useful engagements rather than indulge in unhealthy and anti- social activities such as thieving, pilfering, causing hurt to others, amassing money and squandering for foul tasks, prostitution, betting, racing, drinking and yielding to immoral activities. As Shri Rama was an ideal Institution of ‘Sishta Rakshaka’ (Protector of Virtue and Justice) and ‘Dushta Sikshaka’ (Punisher of the Evil), the normal Praja (General Public) proved to be a darling King owing to his suave and benevolent treatment and as a severe chastiser and Task Master of wrong doings.
As a petty minded Washerman in the Rama Rajya scandalised Sadhvi Sita once that after all she stayed in Ravana’s Lanka for long enough and was not above suspicion concerning her character, Maryada Purusha Shri Rama abandoned her so as to set an example to his Praja. This was the time when Rama intensified the strictness of his administration in the Kingdom. Sesha Nag narrated to Vatsyayana that Agastya Maha Muni visited Rama once and in the course of exchange of views, Rama desired to know from Agastya about Ravana’s background, who was the Villian-in-Chief of Ramayana forcing Rama to wage a battle with the Demon for kidnapping Devi Sita. Agastya Muni informed Shri Rama that Lord Brahma’s son was Pulastya and the latter’s son was Vishwavaka with two wives viz. Mandakini and Kaikasi. Mandakini begot Kubera who by virtue of his Tapsya became the Chief of Yakshas and a Pushpak Viman. Ravan, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana were the sons of Kaikasi. Kubera performed sincere and strict Tapasya and achieved the position of a ‘Loka Palaka’and possessed a Vimana too; he was coming and going to meet his parents by the Vimana. Kaikasi was jealous of Mandakini and so were Ravana and Kumbhakarna against Kubera. This prompted Ravana brothers to peform Tapasya, although Vibhishana did the meditation for noble reasons. Lord Brahma was pleased with Ravana’s Tapasya and blessed him to become the King of a large Kingdom and made him superior to Devas; as a result Devas fled from Swarga. Ravana occupied Lanka too and forcibly took away Kubera’s Viman. Although Ravana and Kumbhakarna were Brahmanas, they took to the habits of Rakshasas, while they suffered Vibhishana who was virtuous and devoted. But as the evil actions of Ravana and Kumbhakarna were reaching a point of no return, Devas and Indra reached Brahma for help and along with Rudra they all approached Lord Vishnu. The latter declared (by way of an Akaasha vaani or the Voice of Skies) that soon a high merited King of Ayodhya of Surya Vamsa of the clan of ‘Ikshvaaku’named Dasaratha would beget four sons from three wives viz. Rama to the eldest wife Kousalya, Lakshmana and Shatrughna to Sumitra and Bharata to Kaikeyi. The declaration also stated that Rama and Lakshmana would completely destroy Ravana and Kumbhakarna as well as their offsping and instal Vibhishana as the King of Lanka in a completely new set up following Dharma and Justice.The Akashavaani further said that several Devatas would be born as ‘Vaanaras’ or monkeys and bears.This was the retrospect of the demolition of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and others of the Clan.
Having learnt of the family background of Ravana and others from Maharshi Agastya, Rama felt extremely remorseful that he had perpetrated ‘Brahma hatya’since Ravana was from Brahmana vamsa which was the like the unique tree bearing the various branches of Vedas and Shastras. Agastya told Rama that he was the incarnation of Vishnu who was the Kartha (Originator), Palak (Preserver) and Samharak (Destroyer) and Devi Sita was Maha Vidya Herself and the extreme evil exercised by Ravana gave relief to the world and as such what Rama did was laudable but not regretful. However if there was the least feeling of regret, he might as well perform Aswamedha Yagna as the famous King Manu, Sagara, Marut and Nahusha’s son Yayati had in the past and attained ‘Parama Pada’.Thus the inspiration to perform the Yagna came forth from Agastya Muni.
As a first step, a suitable, sturdy and steady horse was selected with excellent features. Then under the supervision of Vasishtha Muni, the Kingdom’s Chief Rishi, Shri Rama tilled a four yojana wide and long bhumi on Sarayu River banks with a golden plough; selected a suitable Yagna Vedika (Platform) with the required number of Mandapas and Agni Kundas decorated with jewels; invited Maharshis and Tapasvis of high standing like Narada, Asita, Parvat, Kapila, Jaatukarnya, Angira, Aashtishena, Atri, Goutami, Haarita,Yagnavalkya, and Sarvat; constructed suitable Ashramas for the Invitee Rishis and disciples; Conferences were held to decide on the format, procedure and daily programing; prescribed do’s and don’ts of physical, moral and spiritual content; ‘niyamas and nigrahas’ (norms and restrictions) etc. Lakhsmana brought the Yagnashwa at the appointed time, formal Pujas were performed by Brahmanas and ‘Suvasini’ Women; the Surya Vamsa flag of Victory was hoisted on the horse; a gold sheet was hung around the horse-neck with an Inscription saying that the horse belonged to Shri Rama and whosoever stopped it would be severely punished; Shatrughna was made over-all in charge of the huge armed Sena (Army), elephants, horses, chariots and carts leading the Yagnashwa; Pushkala the son of Bharata was made in charge of the rear side of the ‘Ashwa’; Bhakta Hanuman headed the entourage and at the most propitious Muhurta the Yagna Horse was released, along with the recitals of Veda Mantras and ‘Mangala Vadyas’amid big shouts of Victory to Shri Rama Chandra. The Procession with the Yagnashva in the lead moved on with instruction from Shri Rama that the course of the Ashwa should not be conducted as the horse would move freely. The first halt was at the Avicchtra Nagari where there was a noted Temple of Devi Kamakshi who appeared before King Samuda performing Tapasya and gave the boon of invincibility; she also asked the King to offer his entire Kingdom and riches to Shatrughna as he would pass through the Nagari along with the horse of Ashvamedha Yagna to be conducted Shri Rama of Surya Vamsha and the killer of Ravanasura. Accordingly, Shatrughna was given all kinds of honours by King Samuda. After a three day halt, the King made his son a ‘Samanta Raja’of Ayodhya and moved on along with Shatrughna and Pushkala.
As the Yagnashwa moved on nearing the Ashram of Sage Chyavana and Devi Sukanya, Pradhan Mantri Sumati who was in the entourage of Shatrughna explained their episode: The son of Sage Bhrigu named Chyavan was engaged in very rigorous Tapasya when King Sharyati was performing ‘snaan’ in the River Narmada and Tarpana to Devas and Pitras; the Princess Sukanya along with her companions was moving about in a forest on the banks of Narmada. Out of fun, Sukanya nearing a bush pierced with a piece of wood into perhaps a couple of glittering worms, but got alarmed when blood spilt out and there were trebles of Earth and lightenings. She ran and informed her father who was resting on the river banks about the incident. The King went up to the bush and found to his horror that Sunanya did not pierce the lighting worms but the eyes of a Sage engrossed in Tapasya, causing him to blindness.The King apologised profusely and offered his teen age daughter to the sick and aged Sage in wedding as a compensation. The daughter Sukanya served the Sage with sincerity and once the two Asvini Kumar Brothers who were passing by were impressed with her ‘Pativartya’(seva to husband) and gave her the boons of eye sight to her husband as also youth and charm. In gratitude, the Sage Chyavan, by virtue of his Tapasya, gave the boon to Ashwini Kumars to secure sips of ‘Somarasa’ (the Celestial Drink) denied to them hitherto as also fulfledged Devatva with eligibility for enjoying ‘havis’ or the fruit of Yagnas. Lord Indra was furious at these boons to Asvini Kumars and raised his hand to punish them all but the Sage Chyavan in turn held Indra’s hand tight and Indra had no option to gtant the boons to Ashvini Kumars! While Mantri Sumati narrated the Story of the Sacred Couple of Sage Chyavan and Devi Sukanya, the ‘Sacrifice Horse’, Shatrughna and the entire entourage reached the Ashram, worshipped them and requested them to visit the Place of the Rama Yagna, as Hanuman carried the Chyavana couple to Rama Chandra and the Place of the Maha Yagna in progress.
As the Yagnashva moved ahead, Pradhana Mantri Sumati told Sharughna that they were about to reach Neelachala and the Sacred Temple of Bhagavan Purushottama with four arms on the Mountain top. They reached Ratnaathata Nagar where King Vimal who became extremely excited and organised refreshments to the entire entourage. He also made a symbolic dedication of is Kingdom to Shri Rama and gave away valuable gifts to Shatrughna and others. King Vimal narrated an unsual story about the incidents which happened in the past about the Neelachala Mountain. He quoted a Brahmana visiting the Neelachala Mountain and found outside the Purushottama Temple there were a few Tirtha Yatris who possessed four hands armed with Gada, Chakra, Saranga and a lotus. Similarly a Kirata (Hunter) saw spectacls of a few children with ‘Chaturbhjas’armed likewise with glittering robes! When the children were asked by the Kirata, they said that a few morsels of Maha Prasada which fell on the ground were eaten, they came out with the Chaturbhujas!
From Neelachala, the Yagnashva halted at Chakranga Nagar ruled by King Subahu, where Prince Daman felt that the manner the Ashwamegha was publicised all over the World smacked of pride and ego and ordered his Senapati to keep his army ready to fight. On behalf of Shatrughna, Raja Pratapagna shouted that the Yagnaashva disappeared and Prince Daman replied that he had kept the horse and if possible might get it back after a fight! A battle ensued and Raja Pratapagna was defeated by Daman. Shatrughna wondered as to who was this imp of a Raja Kumar called Daman who did considerable damage to elephants, horses and chariots and felled on ground the capable Raja Pratappagna wounded with blood! Price Pushkala the son of Bharata was so angry that he swore to control or kill Daman. A fierce battle took place and finally Pushkala defeated Daman Kumar whose body was profusely bleeding and his horse took back to the Court of King Subahu. The King, his brother Suketu who was a master of Gada Yudhha (Battle of Maces) and Subahu’s son Chitranga an expert of Battle Designs had all appeared together and designed a ‘Krouncha Vyuha’; the entire strength of the sea-like army of Subahu was mobilised and put Shatrughna on red alert. The most powerful warriors of Subahu were kept at the tactical head position and sides of the ‘Krouncha Pakshi’s war design. Subahu was in desperate and distressed condition as his son was bleeding with wounds on death bed; revenge was the watchword of Subahu’s entire army. Shatrughna knew the seriousness of the situation as a minor scuffle restricted to Daman and Pushkala had snow-balled into a full-fledged battle with military offensives and complicated battle designs. He addressed the Shri Rama Sena and exhorted its warriors that the situation was such that had to be faced with alertness, valour and brain power to be able to break the Krouncha Vyuha. Raja Lakshminidhi the son of King Janaka took a vow that he would face Suketu and destroy the Vyuha designed by the latter in no time. There was a one-to-one battle as both were equally worked up and it continued for long time with ups and downs. The warriors then took to ‘Gada-Yuddha’ (mace-war) and it prolonged for long time; finally, Lakshminidhi was able to overpower Suketu and there were shouts of relief resounded while both the parties appreciated with each other. In the battle that continued, Pushkala killed Chitranga. Subahu was extremely upset with the killings of his brother and son and became most desperate to kill thousands of warriors, elephants, horses and foot-soldiers and finally challenged Shatrughna. Hanuman who was providing cover to Shatrughna as he was in the defensive position and received showers of arrows of King Subahu which hurt Hanuman. The highly enraged Hanuman kicked King Subahu on his chest by his powerful feet and grounded him. It was in a stage of stupor, the King witnessed a vision when Brahma and Devatas were eulogizing Shri Rama as an Avatar of Vishnu. Having realised his folly, he made desperate shouts to Daman, Suketu and Vichitra saying that Shri Rama was none else but Bhagavan Vishnu and the battle should end forthwith. There after he apologised to Shatrughna for what all had happened, performed ‘Atmarpana’ (Surrender) and returned the Yagnashva with honour.
As the Yagnashva moved on for a few days, suddenly there emerged a frightful darkness since close friends of the deceased Ravanasura, two Rakshasas of Patalaloka named Vidyunmali and Ugradamshtra wanted to avenge Ravana’s death and luckily for them an opportunity came on its own with the launch of the Yagna and to trap the Rama Sena by hiding the Yagnashwa. The Rakshasa Brothers succeeded in hiding the horse. Bharat Kumar Pushkal made a deadly declaration that if he did not return with theYagashwa, then he should be deemed a fictitious devotee of Shri Rama. Hanuman too took a similar vow. Other warriors too took vows and Shatrugna was not far behind. Meanwhile the Rakshasa Brothers shouted: where is Rama; we want to kill him and take revenge! Vidyunmali straightaway targetted Pushkala and threw a ‘Shakti’ on his chest, while Pushkala rained arrows on the Rakshasa and the latter’s chest was pierced through as lot of blood flowed out from his heart and Vidyunmali fell on the ground unconscious. Reacting to this sharply, Ugradamshtra threw a red-hot Trishul from the Demon’s viman on Pushkal’s heart and the latter fell unconscious inside his chariot. Hanuman witnessed that Bharat Kumar Pushkal was in risk and instantly expanded his body to pull down the Rakshasa occupants of the Viman, especially Ugradamshtra and hurled a hot Trishul on the Rakshasa, who in turn used his Maya to bring in a complete cover of darkness in which it was difficult to perceive who was a companion and who was an opponent. Witnessing these fast developments, Shatrughna took the name of Shri Rama and slashed the Cover of Maya that Ugradamshtra brought in by one arrow and with another quick arrow of Sammohanastra on the battle field. By yet another arrow, he brought down the Viman from where Ugradamshtra was fighting. The demon used ‘Paashupatastra’ againt Shatrughna and the latter had no option but to utilise ‘Narayanastra’ to balance the former. Meanwhile a recovered Vidyunmali was about to toss a Trishul on Shatrughna but a smart Shatrughna hacked the hand of Vidyunmali with an arrow and simultaneously flinged another arrow to pitch down the demon’s head. Soon after in quick action, Shatrughan also hurled a ‘kripan’ (Small knife) on Ugradamshtra and killed that demon brother too.
As the Yagnyashva ambled along towards the banks of River Narmada, Prime Minister Sumati suggested to Shatrughna a quick visit to the Ashram of Muni Aranyaka. When the Muni was informed by Sumati that an Ashwamedha Yagna was being performed, the Sage replied that those foolish persons who were wasting their time and energy in performing Yagnas and Vratas during the short life span should be advised to best utilise their time to Shri Rama ‘Smarana’ (Memory) as Shri Rama was itself an Yagna, a Vrata, a Puja, a Maha Mantra, Veda and Shastra. Then Suman introduced Shatrughna, Bharat Kumar, Hanuman and others and the Sage was thrilled to see them all and re-emphasised that there was no other Deity like Shri Rama and no there bhajan better than his. Shatrughna then arranged Muni Aranyaka’s visit to Ayodhya and the Muni after meeting Shri Rama in person felt so satisfied that he did not wish for anything else in life and by the grace of Shri Rama left for Vishnu loka!
The Yagnashva reached the beautiful and properous Devapura at Vindhyas where even building walls were made of precious stones and the King Veeramani was an extraordinary devotee of Bhagavan Shiva. The elder Prince Rukmanga arrested the Yagnashwa and brought it to the Capital but since he came to know that the horse belonged to Shri Rama in connection with a Yagna, the King was hesitant to approve the action. Nor Shiva, who was prayed to by the King; the latter said that since the the action was already taken, it would not be in tune with Kshatriya Dharma to take a retreat step. By way of assurance, Shiva too resolved to fight with Lord Rama, since Shiva as a devotee of Sri Rama had as much responsibility to the King who also was a great devotee of Shiva. Thus a vicious circle got into motion. Meanwhile, Brahmarshi Narada alerted all concerned ie. Shatrughan, Shri Rama, the King Veeramani and the typical ‘Kalaha Priya’ readied the armies of both Sharughna and the King. Raja Veeamamari called his Senatpati and got an excellent army ready and Sharughna advised Rama’s army to get readied too.The opening duel was of Rukmanga and Pushkal. Rukmanga recited a Mantra and the chariot of Pushkala commenced ‘Bhubhraman’ (circling fastly).With difficulty the Rath was stopped but the enraged Pushkala recited a return Mantra which made Rukmanga’s chariot fly right up to the Surya mandal where it got burnt and fell down but Rukmanga was thrown out unconscious. King Veeramani was alarmed with fury approaching Pushkala and as a chain reaction Hanuman sought to reach Pushkala for rescue but Pushkala became over confident and prevented Hanuman and asked the latter to help Shatrughna instead. There was a one-to-one battle between Pushkala and Veeramani and by using a mighty arrow in the name of Shri Rama made Veeramani unconscious. Surprisingly, Bhagavan Shiva himself entered the battle field at this juncture as King Veeramani the unique devotee of Shiva fell unconscious! Shiva instructed Veerabhadra to help Veeramani and Nandi to control Hanuman. Thus Veerabhadra killed Pushkala, Shiva Himself made Shatrughna unconscious; at the same time appreciated Hanuman’s valour. Hanuman addressed Bhagavan Shiva saying that quite often, Shiva was confirming his devotion to Vishnu and his Avatar Shri Rama, but it was surprising that this time he was fighting against Shri Rama! Hanuman replied that King Veeramani was a great devotee of his and it was a ‘Maryada’ or Courtesy to defend a devotee just as Rama too would defend his devotees likewise! Basically both were two entities of the Paramatma! Then Hanuman asked Bhagavan Shankara for granting boons to let all the persons who died in this battle be resuscitated. Shri Rama made his presence at the battle field when Shiva prostrated; Shatrughna, Hanuman and all the rest were highly surprised and the persons who were declared dead in the battle came back alive and all were happpy. Shri Rama then explained to one and all that the Dharma of Deities was to safeguard the interests of their Bhaktas and what Shiva did in defending King Veeramani and his side was the best that he had done; that his heart was full of Shiva and vice-versa and those thought other wise would be dispatched to Kumbhapaka Naraka! Those who were Shiva’s devotees were Shri Rama’s beloved Bhaktas and those who were Shiva followers were Vishnu’s devotees too.
Sesha Nag described to Sage Vatsayan that as the Sacrificial Horse reached the precincts of Valmiki Ashram, Shi Rama’s sons Lava and Kusha -who were unaware that Rama was their father as Devi Sita staying in Valmiki Ashram under the care of the Sage’s care did not inform the twin boys of the relationship as they were born in the Ashram after Rama abandoned Sita-reacted sharply against the inscription on the Golden Plate hung around the Yagnashva; they tied the horse and brought it inside the Ashram. The soldiers accompanying the horse ignored the two boys who tied the horse out of child play and started untying the horse and instantly, the hands of the soldiers were severed as they ran to Shatrughna to inform the incident. Understandably, Shatrughna grew angry but felt that the boys who did this might not be ordinary but might have perhaps been Devatas at the behest of Indra! Thus he ordered his Senapati Kaalajit to quickly alert the Army for a full-fledged battle.In the battle that ensued between the Senapati and Lava Kumara, the Senatapti was killed and there was allround ‘hahakar’(frieghtened shouts) from the Army. Shatrughna asked Pushkal to take a big Army and proceed against the boy Lava. Pushkal said to Lava that he would be gifted a chariot so that both might fight on equal terms; as a reply, Lava destroyed Pushkal’s chariot instantly and asked Pushkal now grounded was heckled by Lava on ‘equal terms’! In the battle that followed Pushkal rained arrows on Lava and in response despatched a cobra like poisonous arrow aimed at Pushkal’s chest and the latter fell flat on the ground. Hanuman who was nearby took the body of Pushkala to Shatrughna who instructed Hanuman to kill Lava mercilessly. The highly charged Hanuman hurled huge trees and boulders and Lava cut them to pieces as a sport. By the severity and swiftness with which poisonous arrows were flinged at Hanuman, the latter could not control himself even as the gigantic body that he assumed fell flat on the ground! The highly puzzled Shatrughna wondered as to who these two boys were who felled the Most Valiant Hanuman himself! As he drove the Golden Chariot towards the boys, he felt that their resemblance with Shri Ram was so striking that he asked them as to who they were and what their parentage was. The boys gave a stiff reply that it was not essential to know such details since their horse was captured by them and let him try if he could retrieve it. In the course of the battle, Shatrughna was stunned and stumbled as he had to quickly change his bows that were broken and the chariots that were destroyed and was finally knock down with unconsciousness. As Shatrughna was hit, Raja Surath and others surrounded and resorted to ‘Adharma Yuddha’ or unjust battle and caused Lava to hurt into unconsciousness. As the news of Lava’s state was informed, Devi Sita was informed and Kusha hurried to the warfront and instantly faced Shatrughna who by now got revived and nodoubt knew that Kusha and Lava were twins and the sons of Shri Rama, but the most furious Kush had was on attack with the ‘Narayana Astra’ hurled on Shatrughna but this powerful arrow was turned ineffective. In reply, Shatrughna took a vow in the name of Shri Rama and rleased an arrow but the desperate Kusha took the vow on his Mother Devi Sita and retaliated. Shatrughna fell unconscious again.Sugreeva took over the position of Commander in Chief and fought with Kusha as also with Lava who recovered again by then. Sugreeva too fell down and Lava and Kusha tied both Sugreeva and Hanuman and carried them to Devi Sita who was aghast to witness the Maha Viras in that condition. The boys relented to her instruction to release them but as per Kshatriya Dharma they would have to return to the Battle Field. On releasing both Hanuman and Sugreeva, Devi Sita came to know that Shatrughna was lying unconscious. Devi Sita then remembered Shri Rama and addressed Surya Deva that if she were to be a true Pativrata, Shatrughna should be revived and not only that who ever lost their lives in the Battle should be also revived! Indeed her wish was fullfilled and all was well. As per Sita’s instruction, Lava and Kusha released the Yagyashva and the entire entourage headed by Shatrugna returned to Ayodhya after the successful Victory tour of Yagyashva and all the defeated Kings who clashed with Rama Sena were paraded before Shri Rama. But Shri Rama was more curious to learn more about the valour of Lava and Kusha. He was keen on Devi Sita’s return to Ayodhya and despatched Lakshmana to bring her back, but she refused to return. She agreed however to send Lava and Kusha after Sage Valmiki trained the boys to sing a ballad before Shri Rama and others. The boy’s sang the entire Ramayana since the birth of Shri Rama and brothers, including Sita’s abandon; Lakshmana leaving her to her fate; her rescue by Maharshi Valmiki her ‘Agnatavasa’ delivery of the twin brothers; the Sage’s excellent training of the boys in warfare and Kshatriya Dharmas, knowledge of Adminstration and of Kingship; Shri Rama’s popularity with Sages, citizens, and each and every being as Maryada Purusha; Sage Vishwamitra’ s insistence to safeguard his Yagna and the killing of Demoness Tataki and Subahu; Sita’s Swayamvara; Kaikeyee’s desire to Bharata’s becoming the Heir Apparent and Ram’s Vanavasi; killing of notorious Rakshasas, Sita’s ‘Apaharana’ (kidnap) by Ravana; Rama’s befriending with Sugreeva and Hanuman; Hanuman’s trip to Lanka to trace Sita; the crossing of the Ocean; the killing of Ravana and the entire clan, Vibheeshana becoming the Lanka King; the Rama Rajya; Rama abandoning Devi Sita on the basis of a Secret Report of a washerman’s allegation about Devi Sita’s character notwithstanding Sita’s pregnancy; and Rama performing Ashvamedha Yagna. Shri Rama was overwhelmed with emotions at the ballad sung by the the twins, his pride to have secured such illustrious twins and the remorse to have abandoned Sadhvi Sita. Already, Sage Valmiki arrived to attend the Ashvamedha Yagna as a respected Guest of Honour at Ayodhya. He narrated how Devi Sita was fortunately seen by him in the forest that Lakshmana abandoned her; her transfer to hisAshram and her continuous grief, the birth of Lava and Kusha, his upbringing with considerable training in Dhanur Veda, Fine Arts, and what all was required by an ideal Kshatriya and a King including the nuances of Administration, Yoga and Siddhis and an exemplary human being worthy of the sons of a Maryada Purusha. Valmiki further stated that he visited Varuna Deva, Agni Deva and other Lokapalakas who had unanimously referred to Devi Sita’s purity and piety as a Maha Pativrata Sadhvi born into this world; a ready proof of her ‘Shuddhata’ and highest devotion to Shri Rama was the coming back alive of lakhs of dead persons at the various battles en route the travel of the Yagnashva, since she wished so! Having heard what all Maharshi Valmiki stated in Public and in the midst of the most recognised and pious Sages-in-Chief soon after the Great Singing of Ramayana by Lava and Kusha, Shri Rama asked Lakshman to visit Valmiki Ashram and invite Devi Sita to Ayodhya, in the context of the Victory Celebrations as also the Sacred and Historic Termination of Ashvamedha Yagna. As Lakshmana reached the Ashram and requested Devi Sita, she asked him as to how could she return to Ayodhya having been humiliated and discarded with baseless allegations.Lakshman narrated most convincingly as to what all happened at Ayodhya, how the Twins sang Ramayana and the spontaneous reactions and glorious comments about Devi Sita from the Maharshis, Devas and Loka Palakas (as reported by Sage Valmiki). He prostrated before her and requested her to visit Ayodhya.The Ashvamedha Yagna concluded with the display of the pride of Surya Vamsha, the unreserved gaiety of the Praja of Rama Rajya, the relentless recitals of Veda Mantras by the Maharshis, the blessings of Brahma and Maha Deva; the showers of flowers from the heavens by Indra, Loka Palakas, Pancha Bhutas and Devas; the joyous singing of Gandarvas and the celestial dances of Apsaras. Most interestingly, even by the touch of Shri Rama the Yagnashva (Sacrificial Horse) turned into a human being redeemed after the touch, since Sage Durvasa cursed the person in the past and when sincerely apologised gave the boon of Rama’s sacred touch.
Sesha Nag assured Sage Vatsayana that whoever heard or read the proceedings of Shri Rama’s Ashvamedha Yagna would get rid off Maha Patakas, secure prosperity, excellent health, and contentment in life; even a chandala or athiest would attain ‘Parama Pada’!
Sita’s ‘Paramdhana’ and termination of Ramavatara: After the successful completion of Ashvamedha Yagna, Shri Rama continued his normal routine of observing celibacy and administration. Shatrughna killed Lavanaura and ruled Madhurapuri; Bharat administered both the banks of River Sindhu and controlled Gandharvas; Lakshman conquered Madra desha, installed his sons as the Kings and returned to Rama for providing service to him. Shri Rama did Ashvamedha Yanga, after installing a Golden Pratima of Sita; in fact he performed several Yagnas in the same manner. Sage Valmiki exhorted Rama about Sita’s spotlessness and piousness time and again and Shri Rama finally opined that indeed he was fully aware of her chastity and purity but since the allegation came from the Praja (Public), Sita should prove her innocence before the people. Sita then declared in a huge Sabha that if she performed puja to any body else excepting Shri Ram in her mind, thought, tongue or action then my mother Bhu Devi might take her into her mother’s fold. Immediately, there was an Earth-quake and Sita entered into a huge cleavage.Bhu Devi herself lifted Sita into her belly and the great Garuda, the Carrier of Lord Vishnu, lifted her from Rasatala to Vishnu loka as seated on a Golden Throne. After Sita’s disappearance, Shri Rama ruled for eleven thousand years. One day, an old Tapasvi came to see Shri Ram and told him that none should enter his Chamber while he was giving an important message from Lord Brahma in secrecy. Shri Rama called Lakshmana and instructed that none should be allowed to enter as long as he was conversing with the Tapasvi and otherwise that person should be punishable with death. Lakshman himself stood at the door and ensured that none would disturb. The Tapasvi conveyed that since the death of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and other demons Rama was to live for eleven thousand years and that it was time for Rama to leave Earth and return to Vaikuntha. While this secret conversation was going on, Durvasa Maharshi arrived and wished to meet Shri Rama, but Lakshmana declined entry stating that a representative of Brahma was in an important conversation and that he could not see Shri Rama then. Durvasa grew angry and threatened Lakshmana with a severe curse if he did not permit entry. As there was no other alternative between Rama’s instruction and Durvasa’s threat of curse, Lakshman entered River Sarayu, taking his original Swarupa of Ananta Naga with thousand hoods. After the meeting with Kaala Deva in the form of the old Tapasvi, Rama realised that Lakshman also having gone, it was time for him also to terminate his ‘Avatar’; he established Kusha in Kushavati Kingdom and Lava in Dwaravati as their Kings. Taking a hint from Shri Rama, Vibishana, Sugriva, Jambavan, Hanuman, Neela, Nala, Sushena and Nishada Raja Guha arrived. Shatrughna performed the coronatation of his sons at Ayodhya. The rest of them said that they would not like to stay back on Earth in the abscence of Rama even for a moment. But Rama asked Vibhishana to continue in power at Lanka for long time and instructed Hanuman to continue on Earth forever to sustain the message of Shi Rama. The rest of them accompanied Shri Rama into the Sacred Sarayu River. Bharat, Shatrughna, and all the citizens of Ayodhya along with their wives, Mantris, Servants, Vedikas, Brahmanas, the nearby animals, birds, and all other Beings who accompanied Shri Rama never looked back. As Shri Rama went deep into the River, Lord Brahma, Devas, Rishis and all Celestial Beings extolled Raghunatha even as He took the Huge Form of Maha Vishnu with his four hands along with Bharata as Shankha, Shatrughna as Chakra, as also Gada with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi beside Him.