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King Dasharatha commences the putrakaameSTi ritual aiming to beget progeny, under the aegis of Sage Rishyasringa. The celestial beings gather to receive the oblations offered in the Horse Ritual conducted by King Dasharatha. They are perturbed at the atrocities of Ravana, and request Brahma to think for a way to eliminate Ravana. Vishnu arrives there and pacifies Brahma and other celestials with an assurance that he will incarnate as human to eliminate Ravana.
That intellectual sage and one proficient in Veda-s Rishyasringa contemplated for a while, and gaining indications as to which ritual is to be performed, then said the king.
"I will procedurally conduct the ritual contained in the preamble of adharva-veda with procedural hymns, called putra kaameSTi i.e., the ritual that bestows sons, for your benefit. Then that resplendent Sage Rishyasringa commenced that putrakaameSTi ritual, offering oblations into sacred fire with ritual acts meticulously contained in hymns.
Then the deities along with celestial beings, siddha-s, i.e., the souls that obtained salvation, and also other esteemed sages who by now are the residents of Heavens have duteously assembled in the firmament to receive their part of the oblations.
These celestial beings having attained salvation and living in their heavenly abodes do not re-enter these mortal worlds. They assemble in their cosmic zone, up above the Fire Altar of the Vedic ritual whenever a yajna is conducted on earth, to receive oblations.
Those deities who procedurally assembled there in that congregation then spoke to Brahma, the creator of worlds.
"Oh! God, the demon named Ravana is torturing all of us with his intrepidity, as you have blessed him, and we are unable to control him. You have given boon to him appreciating his ascesis and oh, god, with high regard to that boon of yours we are tolerating all the cruel acts of Ravana from then onwards
Hindu mythology has no devils, but has only raakshasa-s, who can hardly be called demons, either. Not all the raakshasa-s are evil-doers. Some of the raakshasa-s are the fallen angels who take birth as mortals. They have their Vedic education, and they perform Vedic rituals and penance etc., thereby they get the patronage of any one of the gods among the Hindu Trinity, viz., Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. On attaining the cherished boons, they suddenly revolt against their own patron deities and commence the atrocities only to conquer the Heavens, knowing well that they cannot be attained with a mortal body. In order to snub the upsurge of such violence or the unnatural ascension to Heaven, the deity who gave the boons seeks the help of any of the other two of the Trinity. Then one from the Trinity will take birth as mortal, as an incarnation of god on earth. Usually Vishnu incarnates himself to eradicate the evils created by the intrepid raakshasa-s.
Here the celestials bring in a preamble for Vishnu's incarnation as Rama and thus the topic of Ravana occurs in this chapter of Ramayana. Ravana need not be taken as an evil spirit, devil, hobgoblin or a monstrous being. He is said to be a Brahman well versed in all Vedas, musicologist, and a great king of Lanka, with unlimited riches, and very many of his clansmen with their vast dominions, and what not. Though Brahma and Shiva bless Ravana with boons, Ravana flouts all the norms in conquering Heavens in which course he did not hesitate to torture anyone who becomes his personal hurdle or hindrance. Hence it is inevitable for the Trinity to curb Ravana's atrocities, and Vishnu will now be requested by all the deities to incarnate himself on earth. As such, the expression of the word "DEMON" may not always be taken as an ugly and monstrous looking devil or Satan, as per the usual religious conceptualisation of evil.
In Hinduism evil is not a separate entity from humans, but available in the same personification and resides along with virtue, like the two sides of a coin. These raakshasa-s are also mortals, extraordinary beings with extraordinary powers like god incarnates. But, with wickedness in their will, monstrosity in mind and a conqueror's ambition in their heart, they are rendered themselves as demons.
"That malevolent Ravana is tormenting all the three worlds, hating the functionary deities of cosmos, and always desires to assail Indra, the king of all the functionary deities of universe.
There are eight functionary gods for cosmos in Hindu mythology that keep the cycle of natural law going. Each one is assigned with each of the eight sides of the universe along with a natural function. They are: 1] Indra, Heaven : East, 2] agni Fire-god : southeast, 3] yama Death-god : South, 4] naiR^iti Demon-god : southwest, 5] varuNa Rain-god : west, 6] vaayu Air-god : Northwest, 7] kubera god of wealth management : North, 8] iieshaana god of bliss : Northeast. The governance of all these deities is Indra's function, since he is the presiding deity of Heaven.
"That invincible one is further self-conceited by the boons you have accorded, and he is overbearingly torturing the sages, celestial beings like yaksha-s, gandharva-s, asura-s, and like that even the Brahmans.
The sura and a-sura nomenclature is the one that is commonly found in Vedic literature. sura is a celestial being and asura is its antonym, usually referred as a demon. Here it is not so because there are many asura-s who made their abode in heaven, like Rahu, Ketu, and others who attain salvation in this mortal life. Even Ravana came from Heaven, and returns there only at the end of the war with Rama. Thus a-sura-s are not earthly demons but celestial beings of a kind like other demi-gods, namely yaksha, gandharva, kinnara, kimpurusha etc.
"The Sun-god will not verily parch Ravana, the Air-god will not puff at his sides, and on seeing Ravana, the lord of the undulating waves, namly the ocean will not pulsate either.
And ocean hides those undulating waves from Ravana for the waves are his wives whom Ravana may abduct as in the case of Seetha.
"Thereby, there is a great panic for all of us from that demon with an awesome look, hence oh, god, it will be apt of you to give a thought for his elimination.
When all the deities spoke to Brahma thus, he thought for a while and then said "Aha! The idea to kill that evil-minded Ravana is discerned.
"Ravana said while seeking boon that, 'I shall not be killed by gandharva-s, yaksha-s, or by gods, or by other demons...' and I also said 'so be it..." That demon did not express about humans then with his disrespect to them, and evidently his death does not occur otherwise." So said Brahma to gods. On hearing Brahmathe explaining himself , then all those gods and great sages became adequately happy.
In the meanwhile the great resplendent Vishnu, the Lord of the Universe, arrived there mounted on his Eagle-vehicle Garuda, handling conch-shell, disc, and mace in his three of four hands, clad in yellow-ochre robes, wearing golden bracelets, and while best gods eulogised him, and his arrival there is like the arrival of sun mounted on black cloud to accord the gratuitous gift called the rain.
Vishnu is a four handed deity. He handles a Divine Lotus suggesting that he is the creator sR^iSTi karta. An ever-cycling disc called sudarshana chakra is handled symbolising his ever-lasting dynamism. He is the maintainer of that continuous dynamism of already created Universe sthithi karta. A mace called kaumodakii for bludgeoning enemies as he is the eradicator of evil samhaara karta, and a conch-shell called paanchajanya which produces the sound of Om, listening to which salvation, mukti, is achieved by the true devotee. The sound of the same conch shell gives out an unbearable sound in respect of enemies. He is entered here without a lotus in hand. That means there is no need for a creation afresh. The other items he is handling are enough to deal with Ravana. If the Lotus is not handled that hand is taken as a blessing hand, abhaya hasta. And now he is giving that a + bhaya no fear, an assurance, to all gods.
The expression that Vishnu has come on his eagle-vehicle has a cross-reference to the previous chapter's garuDa yajna vedi , Eagle-shaped Altar of Fire that is laid by priests of Dasharatha. It will be laid so with assumption that Garuda, also called suparNa, the Divine Eagle will fly in to transport oblations. The Vedic ritual is also called su parNa, the golden winged, or great winged vehicle to conduct oblations. And the eagle-vehicle of Vishnu is the quickest carrier of oblations to the deities specified in Vedic hymn. Here this Garuda has already carried the oblations offered by King Dasharatha to the chanting of Vedic hymns by Sage Rishyasringa to Vishnu. So Vishnu is now coming mounted on the same meritorious carrier, namely Garuda. Secondly the simile of Sun's coming mounted on a black cloud has some thing to do with yajna. A silver cloud is no value in giving rains. The rain has got an inseparable combination with Vedic ritual. Since the ritual of Dasharatha is going to fructify the rainfall is due on earth. Hence, the sun on collecting all the merits called the rituals of Dasharatha, in the form waters is coming riding on a black cloud to shower rains. Hence Vishnu and Sun both are ready now shower their graces. Vishnu will shower grace by eradicating the evil called Ravana, and the sun by showering the gratuitous and cooling rains.
Vishnu having met Brahma stood there contemplating, and then all of the gods on bowing down and offering prayers addressed Vishnu.
"Oh! Vishnu, desiring prosperity in all the worlds we nominate you to become the son of the ruler and lord of Ayodhya, namely Dasharatha, who is a virtuous one, renowned one and one whose resplendence equals that of the sages, and oh, Vishnu, through the wives of such a king Dasharatha, who are in similitude with the hrii, the virtue, shrii, the affluence, and kiirti, the glory, you have a fourfold transformation and take birth as their son.
These three hrii, shrii, kiirti are the daughters of Daksha Prajapati in their earlier births. The hrii is hR^illekha , virtuous disposition - which Queen Kausalya has, and who begot Rama. The shrii is shriikaara , the affluence of everything, which Queen Sumitra has, by which alone she magnificently and unhesitatingly advises her son Lakshmana to go along with Rama to woods. And the third, kiirti, the glory, and the glory of Kaika is well known. The position of this epic minus Kaika can be imagined, thereby her glory, may it be negative, that may be imagined.
"Oh! Vishnu, on your taking birth as human through the wives of Dasharatha you eliminate Ravana in war, who has become exacerbating and thorny to all worlds, and who is otherwise not eliminable for gods.
"He that preposterous demon Ravana with his invigorated doggedness is torturing gods along with eminent saints, gandharva-s, and siddha-s. He that furious one with his insolence is knocking down sages from their celestial abodes, and like that he is knocking down the gandharva-s and apsara celestials too from the heavenly gardens Nandana, where they will be taking delight. We the celestial beings like siddha-s, gandharva-s, yaksha-s along with sages have actually come for his elimination, and thereby we seek shelter in you.
"Oh, enemy tormentor, oh, Vishnu, you are the ultimate recourse for all us in eliminating enemies of divinity, hence you make up your mind to take birth in human world." The gods appealed to Vishnu that way.
When the god of gods Vishnu, the supreme one among deities, one who is revered by all worlds is eulogised this way, then he spoke to all of those celestials that abide in the righteousness and that are in the assemblage, keeping the Forefather Brahma at their helm.
"Get rid off the fear, let safety be upon you, on eliminating that cruel and evil-minded Ravana who became dreadful to deities and sages, along with his sons, grandsons, friends, cousins and relatives, ministers and forces too in war for your welfare, I will then reside in human world ruling this earth for eleven thousand years." Thus Vishnu assured the gods.
On giving boon to all gods in that way the kind-hearted god Vishnu started to think about the instituting base for his birth in human world. And then that lotus-petal-eyed one agreeing to manifest himself in fourfold way is predisposed towards Dasharatha to be his father.
There is a great lot of discussion whether Vishnu made himself fourfold as Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata an Shatrughna, or he himself incarnated along with his main ingredients like conch shell, disc, mace as those three brothers. This verse says that he 'made himself, or agreed to make himself as fourfold.' Even then, there are discussions that Rama is a 'full incarnation' puurNa avataara as the Supreme is indivisible - on one account. And his brothers cannot be reckoned as his incarnation – as they become parts of the whole but not the 'whole' itself he did not divide himself – on the other account. And the tradition believes that Vishnu did not divide himself but incarnated in one piece, where his brothers are his paraphernalia. There is no unanimity on this, as yet.
Then all the groups of gods, sages, gandharva-s, with rudraa-s, and apsarasa-s, extolled Vishnu with prayers of divine exposition.
Vishnu in early times killed a ghastly demon called Madhu and his brother Kaitabha, hence He is also called Madhusuudana. This is one the thousand names of Vishnu.
"Oh! Vishnu, he that fiery one is uprising furiously with his heightened arrogance, and he is a fright to sages and a thorn in the side of hermits, and he is the hater of Indra, hence we pray you to redeem that Ravana. On eliminating that furiously vainglorious Ravana with all his forces and with all his kinsmen neutralise the pandemonium created by him in all the worlds, and for a long time to come you get rid of your febrility, and you please return to your heavenly abode, namely your blameless and faultless Vaikuntha.
Thus, this is the 15th chapter in Bala Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana, the First Epic poem of India.
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© 1999, Desiraju Hanumanta Rao [Revised: April 04]