“The mighty Rama, who possessed extraordinary strength, consecrating in accordance with the mantras prescribed in the Vedas, taking that great arrow – which was capable of removing the fears of the entire world and the Ikshvaku dynasty, capable of taking away the glory of His enemies, and conducive to His own happiness – fixed it on His bow.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.13-14)
तमुत्तमेषुम् लोकानामिक्ष्वाकुभयनाशनम् |
द्विषतां कीर्तिहरणम् प्रहर्षकरमात्मनः ||
अभिमन्त्र्य ततो रामस्तं महेषुं महाबलः |
वेदप्रोक्तेन विधिना संदधे कार्मुके बली ||
tamuttameṣum lokānāmikṣvākubhayanāśanam |
dviṣatāṃ kīrtiharaṇam praharṣakaramātmanaḥ ||
abhimantrya tato rāmastaṃ maheṣuṃ mahābalaḥ |
vedaproktena vidhinā saṃdadhe kārmuke balī ||
It’s your birthday. A significant occasion on the annual calendar, at least until you reach adulthood and have to worry about dependents. You always look forward to this day since your parents rarely purchase anything meaningful for you; at least in your eyes.
A toy once a year. No getting spoiled. While the neighborhood children clean up on Christmas, with a giant wish-list guaranteed to be fulfilled, you are not afforded the same luxury. Whatever you receive on this particular day has to last the entire year. Make it count.
Imagine, then, that after opening the gift box inside you find a gun. A weapon to be used in combat. The initial reaction is shock. What in the world are you going to do with this? Is it even legal for someone so young to possess one of these? You have no desire whatsoever to go out into the wild and shoot at innocent animals. Maybe it could be used in self-defense at home, but that was never a primary interest to you. You would rather call the police in times of disturbance.
On the occasion of Dussehra, we celebrate the prince of Ayodhya, the sun of the solar dynasty, receiving a most powerful weapon as a gift. This was an arrow, but not ordinary in the least. It somehow had every element of the creation inside of it. Wind certainly helped, as it could course swiftly through the sky.
Fire, for sure. Reach the target and cause ultimate devastation. The comparison in the Ramayana is to a hissing snake. One of the ogres living in Lanka made a similar observation in a previous encounter with the recipient of this new arrow.
नैव देवा महात्मानो नात्र कार्या विचारणा।
शरा रामेण तूत्सृष्टा रुक्मपुङ्खाः पतत्रिणः।।
सर्पाः पञ्चानना भूत्वा भक्षयन्ति स्म राक्षसान्।
येन येन च गच्छन्ति राक्षसा भयकर्शिताः।
तेन तेन स्म पश्यन्ति राममेवाग्रतः स्थितम्।
इत्थं विनाशितं तेन जनस्थानं तवानघ।।
naiva devā mahātmāno nātra kāryā vicāraṇā।
śarā rāmeṇa tūtsṛṣṭā rukmapuṅkhāḥ patatriṇaḥ।।
sarpāḥ pañcānanā bhūtvā bhakṣayanti sma rākṣasān।
yena yena ca gacchanti rākṣasā bhayakarśitāḥ।
tena tena sma paśyanti rāmamevāgrataḥ sthitam।
itthaṃ vināśitaṃ tena janasthānaṃ tavānagha।।
“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)
The same Rama who had thwarted the fourteen thousand Rakshasas attacking simultaneously was now ready to deliver the final blow of justice to Ravana, the leader of the man-eaters in Lanka. The weapon of choice would be this arrow received as a gift from Brahma, the creator, with Agastya Rishi as the conduit.
Shri Rama is an avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who otherwise has nothing to do. The Supreme Lord rests in a peaceful state in the spiritual realm, breathing in and out, which in turn creates and destroys innumerable universes.
The population of souls, which are eternally existing, come and go from the various realms, given their specific temporary residences through the work of Brahma, the creator. There is the system of action and reaction, karma, which operates on the material nature, prakriti, with the changes delivered by time, kala.
Bhagavan, which is another name for the personal God, is an overseer, but He generally does not interfere. Not unless specifically requested, like so with the Rama avatara. This time the Supreme descended as a handsome warrior prince, ready to defend the innocent against attack.
While as a child there is the potential to receive gifts incompatible to your nature, the Supreme Lord can take any gift offered in love and devotion and make proper use. He is more than pleased, though He requires no assistance to carry out tasks.
यत् करोषि यद् अश्नासि
यज् जुहोषि ददासि यत्
यत् तपस्यसि कौन्तेय
तत् कुरुष्व मद्-अर्पणम्
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
Shri Rama placed the arrow given by Brahma and was ready to fire. The arrow wouldn’t work so easily. It had to be activated, using special mantras. Rama was expert in that field, externally receiving training from spiritual teachers.
Upon release, the arrow destroyed Ravana and his reign of terror. Brahma and Agastya received some of the credit; they shared in the triumph of the Almighty, who is never defeated. He is known as Ajita because the asura class is always measuring themselves against Him, and they always come up short.
Arrow as gift to receive,
From Brahma’s work to conceive.
When towards enemy to send,
Their reign of terror to end.
Shri Rama happily accepting,
Through mantras projecting.
So that world celebrating still,
Work of demigods to fulfill.