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Rama, Lakshmana, and Seetha enter the hermitage of Sage Agastya. Sage Agastya is also in the wait to receive Rama for along time and now receives them with all honours, sagaciously perceiving Rama as Lord Vishnu, now in the incarnation of Rama to eliminate demonic evil on earth. Sage Agastya hands over the divine bow of Vishnu, two quivers with ever replenishing with arrows, and a golden sword in a golden sheath to Rama, saying that with the very same armoury Vishnu once eradicated evil on earth.
On entering the hermitage's threshold, and reaching Agastya's disciple, Lakshmana, the younger brother of Raghava spoke this sentence, verily... "A king named Dasharatha was there, his eldest son and a dynamic one, Rama... arrived to see the sage, with his wife Seetha... I am his brother named Lakshmana, younger one, loyal, dedicated and also adherent to my brother, if ever you have heard of us... We entered the awful forest at the orders of our father, and we all aspire to see the divine sage... let this be informed to the sage..." Said Lakshmana to the disciple of Agastya, who is in the threshold of hermitage.
On hearing that sentence of Lakshmana, that richly ascetic disciple saying 'thus only...' entered the Sanctum of Fire, to submit to the Sage Agastya.
Comment: This sanctum where the Altar of Fire is established will be well deep inside these hermitages. After passing through many places designated to particular deities, one arrives at the Altar of Fire, where homa, offerings of oblations into fire is conducted. These places of worship occurring before the hall of homa are listed in the coming paras.
He that disciple approached the irrefutable sage, Agastya, by his asceticism, with his palms adjoined said quickly about Rama's arrival. As said by Lakshmana, thus only, the chosen disciple of Agastya informed the sage, "Sons of King Dasharatha, Rama and also thus Lakshmana... entered the threshold of hermitage along with wife Seetha, cherishing to serve you, those enemy-destroyers... What next is to be done, in this regard, that you are apt to order..." Said disciple to the Sage.
The sage Agastya on hearing from his disciple that Rama arrived with Lakshmana... also with Vaidehi, the great propitious one, said this word to his disciple, "Providential is that today Rama...after a long time, verily came nearby to see me... Verily yearning is my heart to see him, and even by me lookout is there towards his arrival... begone, and welcomely send Rama, with his wife and with Lakshmana...
Comment: Sage Agastya is waiting for long to receive Rama to handover a great bow, quivers and sword. Agastya himself an eliminator of demons and Rama's mission is also the same. Therefore, on hearing that "Rama arrived..." his ears are said to have received 'karNaananda anubhava...' ear-pleasing happiness. Maheshvara Tirtha.
"They be entered afore me...why not entered them as yet?" Thus said by the sage virtue-knower and a great soul. The disciple hailed and said "Thus only..."to the sage, and then going out, that flurried disciple, said to Lakshmana...
"Where is that Rama? He may come to see the sage and enter the hermitage himself ..." Said that disciple to Lakshmana. Then going out to the exterior of that hermitage with that disciple, Lakshmana has shown Kakutstha and Seetha, the daughter of Janaka. To Rama, that disciple obediently said the sentence of Agastya, in its own words...
As per procedure that disciple entered that reception-worthy Rama, receiving him well, and then Rama entered the hermitage, with Seetha and Lakshmana. Verily overspread with serene deer is that hermitage, and looking over it Rama entered inside the hermitage and saw therein Brahma's sanctum, Fire's sanctum, also like that...
Comment: these sthana-s or sanctums are particular holy places in hermitages where that designated deity will be invoked for worship. These will be seventeen in general, as said in Vedic doctrine, 'yo vai sapta dasha...' 'Defined by seventeen letters.' On passing through all these places, the place of homa kunDa, Altar of Fire is arrived at. Hence, usually none will be allowed inside the hermitages, and are supposed to stay in aashrama padam, hermitage's threshold, a porch or portico minus its roofing.
Sanctums of Vishnu, Indra, Vivasvat [Sun-god,] Soma [Moon-god,] Bhaga [one among twelve Suns, dvaadasha aaditya-s], and also of Kubera, [Wealth-Management-god, are seen and passed by the three of them...] Sanctums of Dhaata, Vidhaata, [Vedic deities created by Brahma to help Svayambhuu Manu,] santucm of Vaayu, [Air-god,] and also like that sanctum of VaruNa, [Rain-god,] who wields noose in his hands and a noble-soul...
Sanctum of Gayatri [presiding deity of gnosis,] sanctum of Vasus [eight of them, called aSTa vasu-s] sanctum of cobra's king, [aadi sheSa, the divine Thousand-headed serpent, that bears this globe on its head, and on which Vishnu reclines,] also the sanctum of GaruDa, [the Divine Eagle, and the vehicle of Vishnu, and the half brother of aadi sheSa...]
Sanctum of Kaartikeya, [chief of gods army, second son of Shiva,] sanctum of Dharma [Dharmaraaja, presiding deity of Virtue-Vice-Time of living beings, in-charge of naraka, the hell, and one of the deities of eight quarters of Universe, and His is south, and Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha while seeing and passing by these sanctums, then] came forward is the Sage Agastya, amidst his disciples...
Comment: In the list of sanctums said above, no place is said for Lord Shiva, on which earlier commentators discussed much. Of them Govindaraja stated, "Shiva has no worshipfulness [in VaiSNava way,] hence His sanctum is not there... atra p¨jya daivateÿu rudrasya anup˜d˜n˜t a-p¨jyatvam uktam | adhun˜ kaiscit p¨jya m˜nat˜ tu t˜masa þ˜stra anurodhaneti bodhyam|| Others contradict this saying that when Shiva's son, Kaartikeya is adorable, why not His Father? Rama Tilaka states 'agniratra rudraH...' The naming of Agni, Fire-god, as in 17th verse itself is Rudra, namely Shiva. ShiromaNi vyaakhya also puts in the same way 'tatra agni shabdena shambhuH ucyate...'
Rama on seeing him, the sage, brilliantly glowing before the sages that bold one Rama said this sentence to Lakshmana, the fortifier of fortune... "This godly sage is coming outside, Lakshmana... by his eminence I comprehend this one as a depository of penances..."
Thus saying that dextrous Rama, of Agastya, the radiant one like sun, falling on Agastya's feet, that descendent of Raghu touched them, Addressing himself that noble-hearted one Rama, stood making his palms adjoined, with Seetha of Videha kingdom, thus with Lakshmana...
In turn, receiving Kakutstha, offering seat and water, the sage also spoke inquiring into well-being of Rama, "Be seated...' thus said the sage... Worshipping fire [called agni homa i.e., vaishvadevam,] and in turn offering water and worshipping the guest, as per the observances of a hermit, he that sage Agastya gave food for them.
Comment: The hermit's observances include this agni homa, vaishvadeam, which is done by Vedic Brahmins; wherein they themselves lit the fire of stove, cook their own food to the chanting of hymns, under certain circumstances.
Sitting firstly, then that virtue-knower and eminent Sage Agastya said to Rama who by now sat, with his palms folded, for Rama is a proficient one in virtue... "Worshipping the fire, giving water and worshipping the guest, a hermit should receive a guest and feed him, should a hermit practises otherwise, oh, Kakutstha, like a false deponent... in other world [say, hell, he is destined to] eat his own flesh...
Comment: A guest is one who enables the host to go to heavens.
iSTo vaa yadi vaa dveSyo muurkhaH panDita eva vaa |
sampraapte vaishva deva ante so atithi svarga samkramah ||
Paraashara sutra... May he be dear one or despised, stupid or scholar, one who comes at the end of vaishvadeva, he leads the host to heavens. Paraashara suutra. Any false deponent giving a false witness not only goes to hell but also is destined to eat his own flesh there. Same is the case with the host, who does not perform his daily chores to entertain his guest.
"You are the king of all the world, practiser of virtue, great charioteer of probity, venerable and estimable one also, and you are chanced by me, oh, dear guest..." Saying thus, with fruits, tubers, flowers and others Raghava is well adored suitably, then Sage Agastya said to Rama... "This one is the great sacred bow decorated with gold and diamonds of Lord Vishnu, oh, manly-tiger, crafted by Vishvkarma, [the Divine Craftsman...] Amazing and equalling sun in their flash are these best arrows given by Brahma... and to me Indra gave these two quivers, which are ever replenished with arrows...
"Full with sharp arrows that blaze like fire which are in these divine quivers... and with golden sheath is this sword, decorated in gold... By this bow, oh, Rama, great demons are killed in war, and luminous prosperity is brought back by Vishnu in earlier times, to celestial dwellers... Tha bow, thee two quivers, arrows also the sword, oh, accorder of grace, for triumph over demons... receive them... like Thunderbolt received by the Wielder of Thunderbolt, [namely Indra...]
Thus saying, that great resplendent sage, all of those best weapons gave to Rama, and that godly sage again spoke to Rama...
Thus, this is the 12th chapter in Aranya Kanda of Valmiki
Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India.
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© 2001, Desiraju Hanumanta Rao