Five Lessons From Rama’s Encounter With Tataka

[Rama and Lakshmana fighting Tataka]“Rama showed His tremendous knowledge of fighting by killing the demon Tataka. The muni then gave to Him knowledge of secret mantras to be used in fighting.” (Janaki Mangala, 36)

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Belonging to the Yaksha species, though benign at first Tataka turned into a powerful female Rakshasa through a curse from Agastya Rishi. A similar curse was applied to her son, Maricha. Tataka then proceeded to lay waste to a certain region of the forest. The inhabitants lived in fear of her, who could assume any shape at will.

Her history was narrated by Vishvamitra to Rama and Lakshmana, two sons to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. They were raised to be great warriors, fearless in their defense of the innocent. Rama was the eldest son, and He was the leader to the three younger brothers. As He is also an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the episode of His encounter with Tataka is significant.

1. In this world you can find really bad people

Today, you don’t have to look that hard. The leader of the nation can be the worst among men. A lawyer by profession, they lie so much that they believe themselves. They have no scruples. Whatever serves the temporary, personal interest becomes dharma, or righteous. The private citizen who obeys the law suddenly becomes guilty; their adherence to the law is scandal-worthy.

Of course such conditions for the present were predicted a long time ago by shastra. The timeline of the creation is divided into four periods. Right now we are in the fourth and last period, known as Kali. The idea is that if compared to a table, virtue stands with all four legs intact in the beginning. With each successive period, one leg is removed.

From the episode with Tataka, we see that even in the second period, Treta Yuga, there were some really bad characters in the world. Tataka was like a female cannibal, who used deception to attack. She had no concept of right and wrong; whatever she wanted to do, she did. The general purity of the age did not save the living beings who had the misfortune of being in her path.

2. A woman can have great strength

Newsflash: men and women are different. This is obvious to any sober minded person, but in the age where any person can become an expert on a particular subject, sometimes even the most basic truths are reversed. One of the fundamental differences is strength. Men are generally physically stronger than women. That is the way of nature.

From Tataka we see that even a female can be very powerful. When first told the story by Vishvamitra, this was one of the first questions Rama had. How was a Yakshi so powerful that she instilled fear in everyone? The material nature can be manipulated in any direction. The general tendencies can be broken through special circumstances. Tataka was a female, but her physical strength was extraordinary.

3. The rules sometimes conflict

You shouldn’t hit a woman. This rule only makes sense. Women are generally weaker than men. Women should be protected, just like children. Being in the superior position doesn’t mean that you assert your dominance for no reason.

As Vishvamitra explained to Rama at the beginning, it is the duty of a king to protect the citizens, even if it means breaking etiquette from time to time. Rama and Lakshmana were with Vishvamitra to both protect him and learn from him. Rama is God, so there is nothing for Him to learn, but He accepted Vishvamitra as a spiritual guide to set the proper example for others to follow. Tataka was a menace to society, and Rama was told about her precisely so that He would vanquish her in battle.

4. Trust in the guru is everything

The Supreme Lord is compassion personified. You will not find a kinder person. If you need proof, just look to the heart. God is always there as the Supersoul. He is as much in the heart of the devoted, pious person as He is in the female man-eater.

Despite being told by Vishvamitra to not show leniency to Tataka, Rama initially planned on simply hurting her. He didn’t want to kill her. When the fighting started, Rama and Lakshmana lopped off her arms, nose and ears. Normally that would incapacitate a fighter, but Tataka was not ordinary. She used black magic to fight, appearing and disappearing at will.

[Rama and Lakshmana fighting Tataka]Vishvamitra reminded Rama to not be lenient on account of her gender. Again setting the best example for everyone to follow, only when there was full trust in the guru did Rama succeed. He slayed her with arrows penetrating her body, bringing great relief to the celestials watching from above.

5. The guru gives so much

Being pleased with Rama, the celestials asked Vishvamitra to pass down to Rama special weapons. Vishvamitra obliged, and Rama received so many amazing weapons to be used in combat. Vishvamitra also revealed to Rama special mantras to be chanted to make the weapons work. The arrows would become more powerful than even today’s nuclear weapons.

The bona fide guru is Rama’s representative on earth. When they are pleased, they can give the world to the disciple. In the present age of ignorance, quarrel and hypocrisy, the mercy of the guru comes in the form of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting this mantra while maintaining pure habits, with attachment to the guru’s feet and respect for their instruction to always remain conscious of God, brings the boon of life never to be surpassed: the liberation of surrender to the Divine.

In Closing:

Rama, informed of Tataka was He,

Female Yakshi terrorizing was she.

To forest-dwelling sages in peace,

In killing spree tearing piece by piece.

Lord hesitant since female body possessing,

Proceeded after guru issue addressing.

To teach Him no one properly can,

Lord setting best example for man.

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