Chapter 8 — Dasharata’s Reply to Vishwamitra

Valmiki added:—

On hearing Vishwamitra’s words, Dasharata, the tiger among kings, remained speechless for a moment, and then implored him from the lowliness of his spirit. “Rama, my lotus-eyed boy, is only fifteen years of age. I do not see he is a match for the rakshasas.”

“Here is a full akshauhini legion of my soldiers, of whom, O my lord, I am the sole commander. Surrounded by them I will offer battle to the rakshasa cannibals. Here are my brave generals who are well disciplined in warfare. I will be their leader in the height of war with my bow in hand. Accompanied with these, I can offer fight to the enemies of the gods, and to the great Indra himself, in the same manner as the lion withstands wild elephants.”

“Rama is only a boy with no knowledge of the strength of our forces. His experience has scarcely stretched beyond the inner apartments to the battlefield. He is not well trained in arms, nor is he skilled in warfare. He does not know to fight an enemy arrayed in the order of battle. He only knows how to walk about in the gardens of this city amidst trees and pleasant groves. He only knows how to play with his brother princes in the flowery parks set apart for his play within the precincts of the palace.”

10 “Recently, O brahmin, by a sad reverse of my fortune, he has become as lean and pale as the withering lotus under the dews. 11 He has no taste for his food, nor can he walk from one room to another, but remains ever silent and slow brooding over his inner grief and melancholy. 12 O chief of sages, in my great anxiety about him, I, together with my family and dependants, have been deprived of the gist of our bodies and become like the empty clouds of autumn. 13 How can my boy, so young as he is and in such an unnatural state of mind, be fit to fight at all, much less with those marauders who rove about at night?”

14 “O high-minded sage, it is one’s affection for his son that affords him far greater pleasure than his possession of a kingdom, or his connection with beautiful women, or even his relish for the juice of nectar. 15 It is from paternal affection that good people perform the hardest duties and austerities of religion, and anything which is painful in the three worlds. 16 Men are even prepared under certain circumstances to sacrifice their own lives, riches and wives, but they can never sacrifice their children. This is the nature of all living beings.”

17 “The rakshasas are very cruel in their actions and fight deceitful warfare. The idea that Rama should fight them is very painful to me. 18 I have a desire to live. I cannot dare to live for a moment separated from Rama. Therefore, you should not take him away.”

19 “O descendant of Kausika, I have passed nine thousand rains in my lifetime before these four children were born to me after much austerity. 20 The lotus-eyed Rama is the eldest of these without whom the three others can hardly bear to live. 21 You are going to deliver this Rama against the rakshasas, but when I am deprived of that son, know me certainly for dead. 22 Of my four sons he is the one in whom rests my greatest love. Therefore do not take away Rama, my eldest and most virtuous son, from me.”

23 “If your intention, O sage, is to destroy the force of night wanderers, take me there accompanied by the elephants, horse, chariots and foot soldiers of my army. 24 Describe to me clearly what these rakshasas are, how strong they are, whose sons they be and what are their sizes and figures. 25 Tell me the way in which the rakshasas are to be destroyed by Rama or by my children or by me. Tell me when they are known to be treacherous in warfare. 26 O great sage, tell me all this so that I can calculate the possibility of making a stand in the open field against the fiercely disposed rakshasas, when they are certainly so very powerful.”

27 “The rakshasa named Ravana is heard to be very powerful. He is brother of Kubera himself, and he is the son of the sage Visravas. 28 If it is he, the evil-minded Ravana, who stands in the way of your rites, we are unable to contend with that pest. 29 Power and prosperity in all their flourish come within the reach of the living at times, but they disappear at others. 30 These days we are no match for such foes as Ravana and some others. Such is the decree of destiny.”

31 “Therefore, O you who are acquainted with law, do this favor for my son. Unlucky as I am, it is you who are the arbiter of my fate. 32 The gods, asuras, gandharvas, yakshas, huge beasts, birds and serpents are unable to fight with Ravana. What are we human beings in arms to him? 33 That rakshasa has the prowess of the most powerful. We cannot afford to fight with him, or even with his children. 34 This is a peculiar age in which good people are made powerless. Moreover, I am disabled by old age and lack that spirit, even though I am from the race of the Raghus.”

35 “O brahmin, tell me if it is Lavan the son of Madhu (the notorious asura) who disturbs the sacrificial rites. In that case also, I will not part with my son. 36 If it be the two sons of Sunda and Upasunda who disturb your sacrifice, terrible as they are like the sons of the sun, in that case also I will not give my son to you.”

37 “But after all, O brahmin, should you snatch him from me, then I am also dead and gone with him. I do not see any other chance of a lasting success of your devotion.”

38 Saying these gentle words, the descendant of Raghu was drowned in the sea of suspense with regard to the demand of the sage. Being unable to arrive at a conclusion, the great king was carried away by the current of his thoughts as one by the high waves of the sea.