Millions of years ago in the age called Treta-yuga, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krsna descended as a king: Lord Rama, or Ramacandra. Lord Ramacandra’s adventures His lilas were written down by the adikavi (“first poet”) Valmiki Muni. Valmiki literally means “he who comes from an anthill.” By meditating on Lord Rama’s transcendental lila, Valmiki became so steadfastly absorbed in the yoga of spiritual trance that huge jungle ants were able to build a hill all about him. After many years he emerged from the anthill to scribe the 24,000-verse Sanskrit scripture Ramayana, the world’s oldest book.
The purpose of Lord Rama’s advent is to attract us conditioned souls to the timeless, transcendental path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service.
According to Valmiki’s Ramayana, Sri Rama, on the order of His father, King Dasaratha, left His home town of Ayodhya (in present-day Uttar Pradesh State) and embraced forest life. “As the full moon enters a cloud bank,” Rama, Sita, and Laksmana wandered south through the woods to the mountain Chitrakuta. From there they wended their way into Madhya Bharata (central India), hiking through the valleys of the holy Vindhya Hills and crossing the sacred Narmada River. Then they came to the vast Dandaka Forest, the abode of hermits. As Lord Sri Rama passed through Dandaka Forest, Srila Prabhupada recalls in The Nectar of Devotion, many sages achieved perfection in yoga just by seeing Him. With their dormant love of Godhead awakened, these fortunate rsis were later (in Dvapara-yuga) reborn as gopis (cowherd girls) in the lila of Lord Sri Krsna, the original Supreme Personality of Godhead. (Srila Prabhupada and Srila Rupa Gosvami have drawn this information from the Padma Purana.)
The divine threesome camped here and there, bearing bravely the hardships of jungle life and finally arriving at the ashram of Agastya Muni, atop what is now called Rama Giri. As a king, a member of the ksatriya class, Lord Rama offered His respects to the brahmana Agastya Muni with sweet words. The Lord feels so grateful to His devotees that He bows before them, just as Lord Sri Krsna once bowed down to wash the feet of the poor brahmana Sudama.
The incomparable Agastya Muni was tri-kala-jna: He could see the three features of time past, present, and future. Hence he was well aware that Sri Rama was none other than the almighty Visnu Himself and that in the very near future He would fight a great war with the enemies of dharma, the demons (asuras).
Many sages of the Dandaka Forest had already suffered grievous harassment at the hands of atheistic asuras, and many had fallen victim to their evil schemes. Yet try as they might, none of these asuras could trap the wily Agastya. Through his unbreakable penance and high intelligence, the sage had even outwitted the evil duo Ilvala and Vatapi. Ilvala, taking the form of a Sanskrit-speaking brahmana, would invite different sages to share a meal. Then Vatapi would assume the form of the meal. After dinner Ilvala would smile and say, “Come out, Vatapi,” and Vatapi would suddenly burst forth, splitting the poor rsi’s belly.
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