Chapter 6 — Vishwamitra Arrives at the Royal Court

Valmiki speaking:—

The king was thrown into sorrow and suspense at these words of Vasishta, the prince of sages, but kept his silence for sometime and waited. Meanwhile, the queens of the palace kept close watch on Rama’s movements with anxious carefulness.

At this very time, the famous and great sage Vishwamitra came to visit the king of men at Ayodhya. The intelligent and wise sage had his sacrificial rites disturbed by rakshasa demons who were deceitfully powerful and giddy with their strength. The sage came to visit the king in order to obtain protection for his sacrifice, because he was unable to complete it in peace by himself. The illustrious Vishwamitra, the gem of austere worship, had come to the city of Ayodhya for the destruction of the rakshasas.

Desirous of seeing the king, Vishwamitra told the guards at the gate to report to the king that Kausika [i.e. Vishwamitra], son of Gadhi, had arrived. On hearing these words, the guards were struck with fear in their minds and ran as they were bid to the palace of the king. Coming to the royal abode, the door-keepers informed the chief-warder that Vishwamitra, the royal sage, had arrived. 10 The staff-bearer immediately presented himself before the king who was seated among his princes and chiefs in the court house. The staff-bearer reported, 11 “Please, your majesty. Waiting at the door is a mighty person of majestic appearance, bright as the morning sun, with pendant locks of hair like sunbeams. 12 The brilliance of his body has brightened the place from the topmost flag down to the ground, and made the horses, men and armory shine with a golden color.”

13 As soon as the warder appeared before the king, and with hurried words announced the arrival of the sage Vishwamitra, 14 the best of kings, surrounded by all the ministers and chiefs, rose at once from his throne of gold. 15 Attended by Vasishta and Vamadeva and his staff of princes and chiefs by whom he was held in honor and regard, the king immediately walked 16 to where the great sage was waiting, and saw Vishwamitra, the chief of sages, standing at the gate.

17 Vishwamitra’s priestly prowess joined with his military valor made him appear as if the sun had descended on earth for some reason. 18 He was hoary with old age, rough skinned by the practice of austerities, and covered down to his shoulders by bright red braids of hair that resembled evening clouds over the mountain of his brow. 19 He was mild looking and engaging in appearance, but at the same time as brilliant as the orb of the sun. He was neither assuming nor repulsive, but possessed of an ineffable gravity and majesty in his person. 20 He was attractive yet formidable in appearance, clear yet vast in mind, deep and full in knowledge, and shining with inner light. 21 His lifetime had no limit, his mind had no bounds, and age had not impaired his understanding.

He held an ascetic’s pot in one hand, his only faithful companion in life. 22 The compassion of his mind, added to the sweet complacency of his speech and looks, pleased people as if they were actually served nectar drops or sprinkled with ambrosial dew. 23 His body decorated by the sacred thread and his prominent white eyebrows made him appear as a wonder to the eyes of his beholders.

24 On seeing the sage, the lord of earth lowly bowed from a distance, bowing so low that the gems hanging from his crown decorated the ground. 25 In his turn, the sage immediately greeted the lord of the earth with sweet and kind words, like the sun greeting the lord of the gods. 26 Afterwards the assembled brahmins of the court, headed by Vasishta, honored him with their welcomes.

27 The king said, “O holy sage, we are as highly favored by your unexpected appearance and your glorious sight as a bed of lotuses at the sight of the luminous sun. 28 O sage, I feel unending happiness at your appearance which knows no bounds. 29 This day we must be placed at the front rank of the fortunate, as we have become the object of your arrival.” 30 With these and similar conversations that went on among the princes and sages, they proceeded to the court-hall where they took their respective seats.

31 The king, awed by seeing the best of sages (Vishwamitra) with his cheerful face and so very prosperous in his asceticism, felt some hesitation to offer the honorary gift reward himself. 32 But the sage accepted the arghya water offered him by the king, and hailed the king as the king walked around the sage, according to the rules of scripture. 33 Thus honored by the king, he with a cheerful countenance asked the lord of men about the good health of himself and family, and the fullness of his finances. 34 Then coming in contact with Vasishta, the great sage saluted him with a smile, as he deserved, and asked him about his health and of those in his hermitage.

35 After their interview and exchanges of due courtesies had lasted for a while to the satisfaction of all in the royal assembly, 36 they both took their respective seats. Everyone in the court respectfully greeted the sage of exalted prowess. 37 After Vishwamitra was seated, they made various offerings of padya [water to wash the feet], arghya and cattle to him.

38 Having honored Vishwamitra in due form, the lord of men addressed him in submissive terms with the gladdest mind, his palms pressed open against each other. 39 He said, “Sage, your coming here makes me as grateful as one who obtains nectar, as rainfall after a drought, and as the blind gains sight. 40 Again it is as delightful to me as a childless man who gets a son by his beloved wife, or as gaining possession of a treasure in a dream. 41 Your arrival is no less pleasing to me than meeting with the object of one’s wishes, the arrival of a friend, and the recovery of something that was given for lost. 42 It gives me joy like that derived from the sight of a deceased friend suddenly returning by the way of the sky. It is thus, O holy brahmin, that I welcome your visit to me. 43 Who is there who would not be glad to live in heaven? O sage, I feel so happy at your arrival, and this I tell you truly.”

44 “What is your best pleasure? What I may do for you, O scholar who is the best of the virtuous, and the most properly deserving of my services? 45 Formerly, you had been famed under the title of royal sage, but since, made glorious by dint of your asceticism, you have been promoted to the rank of a Brahma rishi. Therefore, you are truly the object of my worship.”

46 “I am so glad at your sight that my inner soul is soothed, just like bathing in the Ganges River cheers the mind. 47 Free as you are from fears and desires, from wrath and passions and from the feelings of pleasure, pain and disease, it is very wonderful, O holy brahmin, that you should have need of me for anything. 48 I consider myself as situated at a holy sanctuary, and absolved from all my sins, or as merged in the lunar sphere, O best of the learned in the truths of the Vedas.”

49 “I understand your appearance as that of Brahma himself before me, and I confess myself, O sage, to be purified and favored by your arrival. 50 Indeed, I am so gratified at your arrival that I deem myself fortunate in this birth, and that I have not lived in vain but led a truly good life. 51 Since I saw you here and made my respectful obeisance to you, my heart cannot contain itself but overflows with joy like the sea at the sight of the moon. 52 Whatever may be the purpose of your visit, O greatest of sages, know it as already granted, for your commands are always to be obeyed by me.”

53 “You need not hesitate to communicate your request to me, O descendant of Kausika. If you ask, there is nothing I will keep from you. 54 You need not doubt my performance. I solemnly state that I will execute your request to the last item, as I take you to be the light of a superior divinity.”

55 Upon hearing these sweet words from the king, pleasing to the ears and delivered with humility worthy of one knowing himself, the far famed and meritorious chief of the sages felt highly gratified in himself.