From The Valmiki Ramayana, Uttara kanda, Chapter two
Translated by Sri Hari Prasad Shastri
Questioned by the magnanimous Rama, the virtuous
Agastya, Prince of Sages, answered as follows:
In former times, during the Krita Yuga, there lived a son of Prajapati, Poulastya by name. He was equal to the Grandsire of the world Himself (Prajapati). One is unable to enumerate all the virtues he owed to his excellent character and it is sufficient to say that he was the son of Prajapati and, as such, was the favourite of the gods. He was beloved of the entire world on account of his charming qualities and great wisdom.
In order to pursue his ascetic practices, that foremost of Munis repaired to the hermitage of Trinabindu and took up his abode on the slopes of the great Mountain Meru. There, that virtuous soul, his senses fully controlled, gave himself up to the practice of austerity. Some maidens, whose fathers were Rishis, wandering in those solitudes, disturbed him. Accompanied by Apsaras (beautiful women), they came to divert themselves in that place and as it was possible to find fruits in every season and disport oneself in those woods, the young girls constantly went there to play. Attracted by the charms of Poulastya’s retreat, they sang, played their instruments and danced, thus in full innocence, distracting the hermit from the exercise of his penances.
On being disturbed, that mighty and exalted Sage cried out in indignation:
"She who falls under my gaze, will instantly conceive!"
Thereupon all those maidens, who heard the magnanimous Sage, terrified of the Brahmin’s curse, left that place; but the daughter of the Sage Trinabindu had not heard it. Entering the woods, wandering here and there without fear, she was unable to find the companions who had accompanied her.
At that moment the illustrious and mighty Rishi, born of Prajapati, was concentrating on the sacred scriptures, his soul purified by asceticism. Hearing the recitation of the Vedas, that youthful maiden approached, and beholding that treasury of asceticism, she instantly grew pale and manifested all the signs of pregnancy. Thereupon, discovering her condition, she became extremely bewildered and said:
"What has happened to me?"
Thereafter, realising the truth, she returned to her father’s hermitage.
On seeing her in that state, Trinabindu (her father) said:
"What means this strange condition in which you find yourself?"
Thereat, with joined palms, the unfortunate girl answered:"I do not know, dear father, what has brought me to this pass. Preceded by my companions, I had gone to visit the sacred hermitage of that great and pure souled Rishi Poulastya. Thereafter I was unable to find any of those who had accompanied me to the woods but, perceiving the alteration in my body, seized with fear, I returned here."
Then that Rishi Trinabindu, of radiant aspect, entered into meditation awhile and it was revealed to him that this was the work of the ascetic and, the curse of that great and pure souled Sage. Having been made clear to him, he, taking his daughter, went to where Poulastya was to be found and said to him:
"O Blessed One, accept this daughter of mine in all her native perfection as alms spontaneously offered. O Great Rishi, assuredly she will ever be completely obedient to you who are given to the practice of asceticism and to the mortification of the senses."
Hearing the words of the virtuous Trinabindu, that Twice-born One, who was willing to accept the young girl, said:
"It is well".
Having given his daughter to that king of Sages, Trinabindu returned to his hermitage, whilst the young wife remained with her consort, gratifying him with her virtue. Her character and conduct so charmed that powerful and exalted Sage that, in his delight, he addressed her, saying:
"O Lady of lovely limbs, I am well pleased with your outstanding virtues and will confer on you a son like unto myself who will perpetuate both our houses. He will be known by the name of Poulastya and, as you have listened to me reciting the Veda, He will also be called Vishravas.
Thus his heart filled with delight, did the ascetic speak to his divine consort and in a short time, she gave birth to a son, Vishravas, who was famed in the three worlds and full of glory and piety. Learned, looking on all with equal eye, happy in the fulfillment of his duty, like unto his sire inclined to asceticism, such was Vishravas. Loyal, virtuous, devoted to the duty of the Veda, pure, detached from all the pleasures of life, his duty was his constant aim.
Hearing of the life he was leading, the great Muni Bharadwaja gave his own daughter of radiant complexion to him and Vishravas accepted Bharadwaja’s daughter with traditional rites and began to consider how he might perpetuate his line and happiness. In extreme delight, that foremost of the ascetics, conversant with his duty, begot with his wife a wonderful child full of vigour, endowed with all the Brahmic qualities (such as self-control, purity, austerity etc.).
At the birth of this child, his paternal grandfather was filled with joy, and Poulastya, beholding him, bethought himself how he might make himself happy. "He shall become the ‘Guardian of Wealth' he said in his delight, which was shared by all the Sages, and he gave him a name, saying:
"Since the child resembles Vishravas, he shall be known as Vaishravana!"
Thereafter Vaishravana, retiring to pastoral solitudes, grew up to resemble the mighty Anala (Agni) who is invoked at the time of sacrifice and, while he sojourned in that retreat, the thought came to that magnanimous one, ‘I will pursue my supreme duty; the path of duty is the highest path’.
For a thousand years he gave himself up to asceticism in the great forest and practising severe austerities, performed heavy penances, whereupon the mighty Brahma, accompanied by the hosts of the gods and their leaders, came to the hermitage and said to him:
"I am highly gratified with thine accomplishments, O devoted son, now choose a boon! May prosperity attend thee; thou dost merit a favour , O Sage!"
Then Vaishravana answered the Grandsire of the world (Brahma), who stood near and said:
"O Blessed One, I desire to be the saviour and protector of the world!"
In the satisfaction of his soul, Brahma, who was accompanied by the Celestial Host, joyfully answered:
"So be it! It is my desire to create four Guardians of the Worlds. Now there shall be the region of the Yama, the region of Indra, the region of Varuna and the one sought by thee. Go, O Virtuous Ascetic, and reign over the dominion of wealth! With Shakra, Varuna the lord of the waters, and Yama (lord of death), thou shalt be the fourth. Receive as thy vehicle this chariot named Pushpaka, which is as bright as the sun, and be equal to the gods. Be happy. We shall now return from whence we came, having accomplished that which we had to do by conferring this double gift, O Dear Son!"
With these words, Brahma withdrew to the region of the gods and when the Celestial Hosts, with the Grandsire at their head, had gone to the heavenly region, Vaishravana, having become the Lord of Wealth, humbly addressed his sire with joined palms and said:
"O Blessed One, I have received a rare boon from the Grandsire of the World, but the divine Prajapati (Brahma) has not assigned me a dwelling place. Do thou therefore counsel me, O Blessed One, O Lord, as to where an agreeable retreat may be found where no suffering comes to any living being."
At these words of his son, Vaishravana, the foremost of the ascetics answered saying:
"Hear, O most virtuous of men! On the shores of the ocean, in the south there is a mountain named Trikuta. On its lofty summit, which as great as the capital of the mighty Indra, the Ravishing city of Lanka was constructed by Vishvakarma for the Rakshasas and it resembles Amravati (capital city of Indra, the king of heaven). Do thou dwell in Lanka and be happy! Do not hesitate! With its moats, golden walls, engines of war and the weapons with which it is filled, with its gold and emerald archways, that city is a marvel! The Rakshasas left it formerly in fear of Vishnu and it is deserted, all the demons having gone to the nethermost region. Now Lanka is empty and has no protector. Go and inhabit it , my Son, and be happy! No harm will visit thee there."
Hearing these words of his sire, the virtuous Vaishravana went to dwell in Lanka on the summit of the mountain, and soon, under his rule, it was filled with thousands of delighted Nairritas disporting themselves.
That righteous King of the Nairritas, the blessed Sage Vaishravana, dwelt in Lanka, that city surrounded by the sea and, from time to time, the saintly Lord of Wealth, in the Pushpaka Chariot, went to visit his father and mother. Hymned by the hosts of the gods and Gandharvas and entertained by the dances of the Apsaras (beautiful women), that Guardian of Wealth, radiating glory like unto the sun, went to visit his sire.
Origin of the Rakshasas andThis discourse of Agastya filled Rama with astonishment.
of the boons they received
of the boons they received
"How was it that the Rakshasas formerly dwelt in Lanka?"
Such was the question that Rama put to the ascetic, shaking his head and casting wondering glances upon him from time to time.
Ram said: "O Blessed One, the words ‘formerly Lanka belonged to the Eaters of Flesh’ from thy lips causes me extreme surprise. We have been told that the Rakshasas were the offspring of Poulastya and now, thou affirmest that they owe their origin to a different source. Were Ravana, Kumbhakarana, Prahasta, Vikata ad Ravani stronger than they? Who was their first king? What was the name of that one of terrific strength? For what fault did Vishnu drive them out? Tell me all in detail, O Irreproachable Sage and, as the sun chases away the shades, so dispel my curiosity!"
Hearing Rama’s fair and eloquent words, Agastya, amazed, answered:
"Formerly Prajapati created the waters, choosing that element as his source and, thereafter, on order to protect it, that lotus-born One (Prajapati) generated all creatures. Then those beings, tormented by hunger and thirst, humbly presented themselves before their author and enquired saying:
‘What shall we do?’
Whereupon Prajapati, smiling, gave this answer to them all:
‘Protect the waters carefully, O Sons of Manu!’
Then some said : ‘Rakshami’ (we will protect) and others said ‘Yakshami’ (we will sacrifice). Thus addressed by those afflicted by hunger and thirst, the Creator said:
‘Those among you who have said RAKSHAMI shall be Rakshasas and those among you who have said YAKSHAMI shall be Yakshas.’
On this two brothers sprang up, named Heti and Praheti, the equals of Madhu and Kaitabha, who were Rakshasas, oppressors of their foes. The righteous Praheti withdrew to the solitudes to practice asceticism, but Heti did all in his power to find a wife. Immeasurably intelligent and of great wisdom, he expoused the sister of Kala, a young girl named Bhaya (fear), who was exceedingly terrifying. She begot a son by the name of Vidyutkesha.
The son of Heti, Vidyutkesha, was possessed of the splendour of the sun and grew like a lotus in a lake and that ranger of the night, having reached the bloom of youth, his sire resolved that he should wed. In the interests of his son he sought out the daughter of Sandhya, who was his equal in beauty, and sandhya, reflecting ‘A daughter must inevitably be given to some stranger’ gave her daughter Salatantaka to Vidyutkesha in marriage, O Rama!
Vidyutkesha, that ranger of the night, having received the daughter of Sandhya, began to divert himself with her. After a time, O Rama, Salatantaka was filled with child, as a cloud is charged with water from the ocean.
Repairing to the Mandara Mountain, the Rakshasi (Salatantaka) brought forth a child who was as beautiful as a cloud, even as Ganga had been delivered of an infant by the god of fire. Having given birth to that child, who was named Sukesha, she again desired to disport herself with Vidyutkesha and, forsaking her son, she rejoined her consort. Then the infant who had just been born and was as radiant as the autumnal sun, whose voice resembled the rumbling of a cloud, placing his fist in his mouth cried for a long time, and Shiva, who was following the path of the Wind, mounted on His bull and accompanied by Parvati, heard the sound of weeping and with Parvati beheld the son of the Rakshasi who was crying. Allowing himself to be moved by compassion by His consort, Bhava (Shiva), the destroyer of Tripura, made him equal to his mother in age and bestowed immortality upon him. Thereafter the unchanging and imperishable Mahadeva (Shiva) bestowed an aerial car upon him that traversed space, in order to gratify Parvati, and she, on her side, also conferred a boon on him, saying:
‘The Rakshasas shall conceive instantly and give birth as they conceive. Their children shall at once attain the age of their mothers.’
Thereafter the highly intelligent Sukesha, proud of the favours he had received, having obtained this great fortune from the Lord Hara (Shiva), began to range everywhere, displaying himself in his aerial car and resembling Purandara when he obtained heaven.
A Gandharva named Gramani, who was as effulgent as fire, had a daughter named Devavati. In full bloom of her youth, famed in the three worlds for her beauty, she was equal to a second Sri (goddess of wealth). That virtuous Gandharva, beholding Sukesha to be thus endowed, gave her (Devavati) to Sukesha.
Approaching her beloved consort, who had attained a sovereign state by virtue of the boons he had received, as a mendicant on whom wealth has been conferred, Devavati was highly delighted. United to that woman, the ranger of the night appeared as majestic as a great elephant. In time Sukesha became a father. O Rama, and begot three sons, (the equals of the Three Sacrificial Fires), named Malyavan, Sumali and Mali, the foremost of heroes, rivals of the Three-eyed God (Shiva). Such were the sons of the Sovereign of the Rakshasas. In repose, they resembled the three worlds. In action, they were like unto the three Sacrificial Fires, as powerful as the Three Vedas and as formidable as the three humours of the body (wind, bile and phlegm).
These three sons of Sukesha, shining like three fires, throve like diseases that have been neglected, and learning of the boons their sire had received, which had led him to increase sovereignty and which he owed to his asceticism, the three brothers repaired to Mount Meru in order to practice penance.
Adopting a rigid and formidable course of austerity, those Rakshasas gave themselves up to fearful mortifications, sowing terror among all beings. On account of their penances, faith, virtue and equanimity, scarce to be witnessed on earth, they agitated the three worlds with the gods, Asuras and men.
Then the four-faced deity (Brahma), in his marvelous chariot, came to pay homage to the sons of Sukesha and said:
‘It is I who am the conferrer of boons!’
Whereupon they, recognising him to be Brahma, the dispenser of favours, with joined palms, shaking like trees, answered him, saying:
‘If our penance has found favour with thee, O Lord, then grant us the boons of remaining invincible, of destroying our enemies, of living long, of becoming powerful and of being devoted to one another.’
‘Let it be so!’ replied the god (Brahma) who was a lover of Brahmins, to the sons of Sukesha and He returned to Brahmaloka.Thereupon those rangers of the night, O Rama, who had become supremely arrogant on account of the boons they had received, began to harass the gods and Asuras, and the celestials with the companies of the Rishis and Charanas, being thus persecuted and having no protector with whom they could take refuge, resembled beings in hell.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to Brahmasri Sreeman Hari Prasad Shastry ji for the collection)