King Dasaratha received Viswamitra as Indra would welcome Brahma and touching his feet, the King said: "I am indeed blessed among men. Your coming can only be due to the merit of my ancestors. Like the morning sun that dispels the darkness of night, your face brings joy to my sight. My heart is full. Born a king, you have become through tapas a Brahma Rishi. And you yourself have come seeking my dwelling. Is there anything in my power that I can do for you? If so, command and I shall obey."
Viswamitra was rejoiced to hear these words of Dasaratha, and his face brightened. He said: "O King, your words are worthy of you. Born in the Ikshvaku line, with Vasishtha for your Guru, what else could you say? You have said 'yes' before I asked. This fills my heart with joy." And he straightway explained the purpose of his visit.
Viswamitra said: "I am engaged in performing a sacrifice. As it nears completion, two powerful Rakshasas, Maricha and Subahu, defile it. They shower unclean blood and flesh on the sacred fire. Like other rishis we could curse and destroy them. But that would be a waste of all our tapas.
"Our troubles will end if you send with me Rama, the eldest of your warlike sons. Under my care, he will grow in princely stature. He will surely defeat these Rakshasas and his name will gather lustre. Entrust Rama to my care only for a few days. Do not refuse my request. Fulfil the promise you gave me unsought. Of Rama's safety you need have no anxiety. You will earn undying fame in the three worlds. Vasishtha and your ministers will agree with what I say."
Dasaratha trembled with fear and anxiety. He had a hard choice to make; either to give his well-beloved son to be killed by the Rakshasas or himself incurs the terrible anger of Viswamitra.
For a few moments, Dasaratha stood speechless, for he was stunned and bewildered. But recovering from the shock, he begged the sage not to press his demand, and said: "Rama is not yet fully sixteen years of age. How can he fight with Rakshasas? Of what use is it to send him with you? What does he know of the wiles of Rakshasas? It is not right that I should send a mere lad to fight them, I am here, and my army is ready to march. How can a lad protect you and your yaga? Tell me all about your foes. I shall go with you at the head of my army and do your bidding and serve your need. Do tell me about these desecrators."
Viswamitra described Maricha and Subahu and Ravana their master. And he demanded again that Rama should be sent along with him.
Dasaratha persisted in refusal. "Parting from Rama will be death to me," he said. "I shall go with you, I and my army. Why, it seems to me the task proposed is pretty hard even for me. How then can my son cope with it? Indeed, I cannot send him. If you please, I am ready with my army."
Dasaratha's attempt to go back on his hasty word, enraged Viswamitra. The King's pleas and reasons were like oil poured on the fire of his anger.
"This conduct is unworthy of your lineage", the sage said. 'Tell me if this is your final word. I shall go back the way I came. Long may you live with your kith and kin, having swerved from the path of Truth!"
The earth quaked and the gods were afraid of the possible consequences of the sage's wrath.
Vasishtha now turned to the King and spoke gently: "It ill becomes you, King, to refuse having promised once. Born in the Ikshvaku line, you cannot do it. Having once said, 'I will do', you have no option but to do it. Failing, you will lose the merit of all your great gifts and deeds. Send Rama with the sage, and send Lakshmana too. You need have no fear for their safety, When they are protected by Viswamitra, no Rakshasa can hurt them. As the drink of the gods, shielded by the wheel of fire, so will Rama be by Viswamitra. You have no idea of Viswamitra's power; he is tapas in human form. Bravest of the brave and wisest of the wise, he is master of every weapon. In the three worlds there is not, and there will never be, any to equal him in martial or spiritual prowess. When he was king he obtained from the gods mastery of all weapons. He beholds the past, the present and the future. Then why does he want the princes, you may wonder. He can well take care himself of his yaga; but it is for the good of your sons that he has come here and appears to seek your help. Do not hesitate. Send your sons with him."
Listening to the wise Vasishtha, Dasaratha saw things clearly and made up his mind to send Rama and Lakshmana.
The two princes were then brought to the presence of the sage. The King, the Queen-Mothers and Vasishtha blessed them and sent them with Viswamitra.
A pleasant breeze wafted and flowers were strewn by the denizens of the heavens. Auspicious sounds were heard. Bow in hand, the two lads strode proudly on either side of the Sage.
Valmiki and Kamban revel in this picture of the two handsome princes marching out to their first adventure under the guardianship of a great rishi who had also been a renowned warrior a teacher who could create a new world; and beside him, head erect, two princely pupils born to end the Rakshasa race.
With swords of victory hanging from their waists, bows and quivers mounted on strong shoulders, they moved, each like a three-headed cobra with uplifted hood.