Viswamitra and the two princes spent the night on the bank of the river Sarayu. Before retiring Viswamitra initiated the princes in two secret mantras Bala and Atibala, which had the virtue of guarding them from fatigue and harm. They slept on the verdant bank that night and rising at dawn proceeded on their journey. They reached Kamashrama in Anga Desa. After presenting the princes to the rishis there, Viswamitra recounted to them the history of the ashrama.
"This," be said, "is the place where the Lord Siva was long engaged in austerities. It was here that the foolish god of love Manmatha aimed his arrow at Siva and was turned to ashes by his wrath. Hence this place is known as Kamashrama."
They were the guests of the rishis that night, and the following morning, after performing the usual rites, the sage and his pupils set out on their journey and reached the Ganga. They crossed the river on a raft got ready for them by the rishis.
In midstream, the princes heard a noise and asked Viswamitra what it could be. He explained to them that it was the sound of the Sarayu flowing into the Gangs. The princes paid silent homage to the confluence of the two holy rivers.
A river or a hill, a tree or a cloud, indeed any object of beauty may raise one to contemplation of the Supreme Being and silent worship of Him. In particular, sacred rivers, temples or images, which have for generations been the objects of devotion and worship, possess this power in a special degree, in virtue of the sacred thoughts they have witnessed and absorbed as garments retain perfumes.
Having crossed the Ganga, Viswamitra and the princes made their difficult way through a dense forest made dreadful by the reverberating roar of wild beasts.
"This," Viswamitra said, "is the Dandaka forest. What is now a terrible forest was once a well-peopled country. Once upon a time, Indra was contaminated by sin, having killed Vritra, and had therefore to exile himself from the world of the Devas. The Devas set to themselves the task of cleansing Indra. They brought waters from the sacred rivers and bathed him to the accompaniment of mantras. The waters which cleansed Indra flowed into the ground and enriched the earth and the land be came tremendously fertile."
All dead things, rotting corpse or stinking garbage, when returned to the earth are transformed into things of beauty such as fruits and flowers and the wholesome things that nourish life. Such is the alchemy of Mother Earth.
Viswamitra continued: "For long people lived here happily till Tataka (wife of Sunda, a Yaksha) and her son Maricha wrought havoc and changed this into the dreadful wilderness it now is. They are still in this forest. And none dare enter it for fear of Tataka. She is equal in strength to a score of elephants. I have brought you here to rid the forest of this great enemy. There is no doubt that this monster, who is a source of trouble to the rishis, will be destroyed by you."
Rama, who listened to this, asked the sage: "You say she is a Yaksha. I have never heard that Yakshas are particularly strong. What is more, how does a woman happen to possess so much strength?"
Viswamitra replied: "You are asking a very pertinent question. Her strength comes from a boon granted by Brahma. There lived a Yaksha by name Suketu. Having no progeny he performed tapas and won a boon from Brahma thus: 'You will have a beautiful daughter of great strength of body, but you will have no son.' Suketu's daughter, Tataka, beautiful and strong, was married to Sunda, a Yaksha, and their child is Maricha. Sunda at one time incurred Sage Agastya's curse and died. Provoked by this, Tataka and Maricha pounced on Agastya who cursed them to be monsters living on the carcases of men. So Tataka is now an ugly monster. Thenceforward, she and Maricha have been harassing the dwellers in this region of Agastya. Do not hesitate to destroy her on the ground that it is against Kshatriya dharma to kill a woman. Her atrocities are intolerable. To punish the wicked, whether male or female, is the duty of kings. It is right to kill her, as to kill a wild animal for the sake of human safety. This is a duty cast on rulers. Many women have been punished with death for their crimes. Hence do not hesitate."
Rama said to Viswamitra: "Our father's behest is that we should obey you without question. Bidden by you and for the general welfare, we shall kill Tataka."
So saying, he strung his bow and twanged it till the forest echoed to its shrill note and the wild animals scattered in all directions in terror. It reached Tataka in her fastness, filling her with amazement at the audacious intruder who dared enter her domain. Raging with anger, she ran in the direction whence the sound came and sprang on Rama. The battle began.
The prince at first thought of cutting off the limbs of the monster and sparing her life. But Tataka attacked fiercely and, rising in the sky, she rained stones on Rama and Lakshmana. The two princes defended themselves against the attack. The fight continued and Viswamitra cautioned Rama against delay in dealing the death-blow to the monster.
"She deserves no sympathy," he said. "The sun is about to set and remember that at night Rakshasas grow stronger. Do not delay to slay her."
Thus advised, Rama decided on killing Tataka and pierced her chest with a deadly arrow and the huge, ugly monster fell down, lifeless.
The Devas cheered, and Viswamitra, filled with joy, embraced Rama and blessed him.
With Tataka's end, the forest was freed from the curse and became beautiful to see. The princes spent the night there and next morning they proceeded to Viswamitra's ashrama.
At dawn the next day, Viswamitra called Rama to his side and blessing him said: "I am very happy indeed. What is it that I can do in return for all that you have done? I shall teach you the use of all the astras."
So saying, Viswamitra gave Ramachandra the divine astras which he had obtained through his tapas. Viswamitra taught Rama the use, control and recall of the various divine weapons and Rama in his turn imparted the knowledge to Lakshmana.
As they continued the journey, Rama pointed to a big hill with a lovely forest on its slopes and asked: "Is that the place whereto we have to go? And who are the evil ones who hinder your yaga? And what should I do to destroy them?"
Ramachandra was eager to fight and win the blessings of the sage.
"That is the place we are going to," replied Viswamitra. "There the Lord Narayana performed tapas and it was there that he was born as Vamana. It goes by the name of Siddhashrama. Mahabali, son of Virochana and grandson of Prahlada the good Asura, was such a powerful ruler that of him even the Devas were afraid. Mahabali had by his deeds acquired the power of Indra himself. Kashyapa and his spouse Aditi, of whom all the gods were offsprings, prayed to Vishnu and begged Him to be born as their son and protect Indra and the Devas from Mahabali. In answer to the prayers, Vishnu was born of Aditi as Vamana. Vamana in the form of a young student went to the yaga that was being performed by Mahabali and whereto all were welcome, to ask for and receive anything they wanted. When Vamana presented himself as a suitor, Mahabali's guru, Sukra, the preceptor of all the Asuras, knew who he really was and warned Mahabali against promising to grant the young Brahmana his request since indeed he was the Lord Hari in disguise, come to undo him. Mahabali did not pay heed to this. It was his wont never to turn down a request. Besides, he was at heart a devotee of the Lord, and felt that he would indeed be blessed if the Lord should deign to accept a gift from him. With a smile, Mahabali bade him ask for what he pleased without hesitation. 'All have is at your disposal, money, jewels, the wide earth and all it inherits.' Vamana answered that wealth was of no use to him, and all he begged for was three paces of ground, as paced by him. The monarch smiled as he looked at the diminutive brahmachari's legs and said, 'So be it; pace and take it.' The little Bachelor suddenly grew in size into Trivikrama and with one step measured the earth and with another the entire heavens. And there being no room left for the third step that had been granted, he set his foot on Mahabali's devoted head. In the eyes of God, the head of a bhakta is as wide as the earth or the heavens. And Mahabali, whose head was blessed by the touch of Narayana's foot, became one of the seven immortals of the world."
After narrating the story of Mahabali, Viswamitra added: "This is where at first Narayana and later Kashyapa performed tapas, resulting in the incarnation of God as Vamana. In this holy place I live. And here the Rakshasas come and obstruct our worship and our austerities. Your coming here is to end this evil."
"So be it," said Rama.
The arrival of Viswamitra and the two princes was a signal for rejoicing at the ashrama. The rishis offered water and fruits according to custom. Rama told Viswamitra that he might begin the preparations for his yaga immediately and Viswamitra took the vows that very night.
Getting up very early the next morning, the princes went to Viswamitra and asked when the Rakshasas were expected so that they might hold themselves in readiness to receive them.
Viswamitra was under a vow of silence, and could not answer, but the rishis, his jouniors, told the princes that they should be ceaselessly vigilant for six nights and days to safeguard the sacrifice.
The princes, fully armed, kept vigil for six days and nights. On the morning of the sixth day Rama told Lakshmana: "Brother, now is the time for the enemies to come. Let us be wary."
Even as he was saying this, flames shot up from the sacrificial fire, for Agni, the God of Fire, knew that the Rakshasas had arrived. As the rites were being performed, there was heard from the sky a great roar.
Rama looked up and saw Maricha and Subahu and their followers preparing to shower unclean things on the sacrificial fire The army of Rakshasas covered the sky like a great black cloud.
Rama said, "Look Lakshmana," and let go the Manavastra at Maricha. As was intended, it did not kill Maricha, but wrapping him up in resistless force hurled him a full hundred yojanas near the sea.
With the Agneyastra Rama killed Subahu; and then the two princes utterly destroyed the entire army of Rakshasas.
The sky was bright again.
Viswamitra was supremely happy at the completion of his yaga. "I am grateful to King Dasaratha," he said. "You have fulfilled the promise, princes. I admire your fortitude. This ashrama has through you become again a scene of success, Siddhashrama." (Siddha means success).
The next day, Rama and Lakshmana, after their morning prayers, went to Viswamitra and asked for further orders.
The purpose of Rama's birth was not unknown to Sage Viswamitra. And he knew too the powers of the weapons he had given to Rama. Still the actual fact when experienced is something more than expectation. Sage Viswamitra was happy beyond words, and his face glowed like a flame. He then thought of the service that he still had to do for Rama. This was the prince's marriage with Sita.
The rishis assembled there said to Rama: "We intend proceeding to the kingdom of Videha, where in the capital city of Mithila, Janaka, the illustrious philosopher king, intends to perform a great sacrifice. All of us are going there and it will be good if you and the prince, your brother, accompany us. It is meet and proper that the Prince of Ayodhya should see the marvellous bow in the court of Janaka."
So it was decided, and Rama and Lakshmana went with Viswamitra to Janaka's city.