Indra with Sarabhanga (Valmiki Ramayana – Aranyakanda)

Kaikeyi had Sri Rama exiled to the forest for 14 years. Sita and Lakshmana went with him. Rama refused to stay with his friend, Guha, the Nishada king and went further into the forest. He refused to turn back, irrespective of whoever asked him to come back home, his brother, his own mother or even his step-mother Kaikeyi. Once in the forest he moved from the hermitage of one Rishi to another.

The Aranyakanda of  the Valmiki Ramayana begins with Rama’s visit to the Sarabhanga Asrama, after Rama and Lakshmana had killed Viradha. 

There Sri Rama saw Indra, brilliant as the sun and the fire, surrounded by the other devas, wearing shining ornaments and clothes that gathered no dust,  in a chariot in the sky, drawn by fast horses, not touching the earth. Rama noticed that Indra was talking to Sarabhanga, and recognised Indra by his youthful appearance (devas always looked 25 or 30) and all the other paraphernalia around him. He asked Lakshmana to stay with Vaidehi (Sita) and went to take a closer look. Indra told Sarabhanga that he would meet Rama only later, after the war with Ravana , and hurried off into the sky in his chariot.

Rama, Sita and Lakshmana took a seat near the sage who was doing Agnihotram (worshipping with fire), and asked him about Indra.  Sarabhanga said, “Indra came here to take me to Brahmaloka, but I wanted to see you first. Oh Rama! follow this Mandakini River and it will lead you to Sutikshana’s Asrama. He will look after you.”

Rama’s journey from hermitage to hermitage, was part of Indra’s plan to eliminate the powerful Rakshasas. Under the mighty Ravana, the Rakshasas of Sri Lanka, had taken control of Janasthana (part of modern Maharashtra) and were making forays even to the forests around Kosala (north of the Gangetic Plain).

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