strength each day. Please find a way to rid us of him.
'lam a messenger of Vishnu who has come to congratulate Emperor Dasaratha on the success of' his sacrifice. In this bowl is magical food. When the emperor feeds it to his queens, they will bear him four sons
according to his wish.' The wonderful figure gave the bowl to the emperor and melted back into the fire.
Dasaratha hurried off to his queens in their private apartments. He gave half the bowl's contents to Queen Kausalya, his first wife, a third of what remained to Kaikeyi, the youngest, and the rest to Sumitra, his middle wife. In the course of time all three wives became pregnant and their beauty grew, as if they carried inside them the sun and the stars.
Being so commanded the gods created monkey-sons in the image of themselves. Indra the king of heaven had Vali, who became the monkey-king. Vali's brother was Sugriva, born to Surya the Sun god. Others were born to each of the gods, and the strongest and wisest of them all was the glorious Hanuman, son of Vayu the Wind god, whose body was as strong as a thunderbolt and as swift as the wind. So came into being within a short time a race of giant monkeys who lived in the jungles eating only fruit but whose strength and power had no limit. Roaming about the forests they played havoc, uprooting trees and catching hold of maddened elephants at will. Ten million of them gathered around their two leaders, Vali and Sugriva, like a mass of clouds around two mountain peaks, ready to serve Lord Rama when he would call on them.
In Hinduism, Brahma and the devas are thought to create. the myriad life-forms of the universe, among them human beings. The devas have the power to grant blessings to their worshippers. For devout Hindus these devas are not mythical figures; they are the powers behind the elements of the natural world such as wind, rain and the carill itself. However, powerful though the devas are, behind them lies Vishnu:
'When people desire to worship the devas, I make their faith steady so they can devote themselves to their chosen deity. Endowed with firm faith, they obtain their desires, but these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.'
TRIAL OF COURAGE
I hope all goes well in your kingdom,' said the sage, 'and that you are faithfully carrying out your duties as emperor.' Dasaratha happily brought his visitor inside and together they entered the court.
'Your arrival is like rain on a parched land or sunrise after a long night. Today my life is complete. Please tell me how I may serve you. Whatever you ask will be done.' Encouraged by Dasaratha's generous words, the sage then responded:
Oh, tiger among kings! I have undertaken an important sacrifice at my ashram, but w enever I get near the end two demons of the night sent by the demon-king Ravana Pollute my altar with flesh and blood, spoiling everything. Ravana is the sworn enemy of all sages and is terrorizing the whole universe. These helpers of his are extremely powerful. Please give me your eldest son, Rama, for just ten days. Although he is young he has divine powers and he is the only one who can destroy demons. In return I shall teach him the secrets of many powerful weapons possessed only by me.'
'My beloved Rama is only sixteen and has not finished his education. He is no match for such treacherous demons. Even I cannot face the might of Ravana. Nevertheless, take me instead. I will personally stand guard over your sacrifice with my army. I am prepared to risk my life to help you, but not the life of my boy.'
These words fell on the sage's ears like oil on fire, and he began to tremble with rage so that the very ground shook beneath his feet. Vasistha, the emperor's personal adviser, quickly stepped forward.
s fell from the heavens and celestial drums sounded.
Before long they had left the city of Ayodhya far behind. Vishvamitra led the way, following the course of the River Sarayu. They walked quickly, the princes carrying their bows and quivers full of arrows. After some time they came to a sheltered spot where they halted at the water's edge.
Before going any further I want to initiate you both with mantras to protect you from hunger and thirst and give you unlimited strength,' said Vishvamitra. `Armed with these mantras you will be invincible even when you are asleep.
He told them to sip water from the river and repeat after him the mantras called Bala and Atibala, which they soon learned by heart. When he had received his mantra, Rama began to glow like the autumn sun.
They stayed there for the night, sleeping on the bare ground. The royal princes had never slept anywhere but in the safety and comfort or their beds, but soothed by Vishvamitra's words they drifted peacefully to sleep beneath the glittering stars.
Aware of the strangers approach. They honoured the great Vishvamitra with respectful words and made the travellers comfortable for the night in simple dwellings. Hearing of their purpose to rid the region of the terrors of Ravana's demons they wished them god-speed, and the following morning helped them across the swill-flowing waters of the Ganges.