“Being under the influence of illusion, I underestimated Rama and took Him to be a mere child. Thus I ran towards Vishvamitra’s sacrificial altar. With that, Rama released an acute arrow capable of destroying His enemies. Upon hitting me, that arrow forcefully threw me away to an ocean one hundred yojanas [eight hundred miles] away.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.18-19)
अवजानन्नहं मोहाद्बालोऽयमिति राघवम्।
विश्वामित्रस्य तां वेदिमभ्यधावं कृतत्वरः।।
तेन मुक्तस्ततो बाणः शितश्शत्रुनिबर्हणः।
तेनाहं त्वाहतः क्षिप्तस्समुद्रे शतयोजने।।
avajānannahaṃ mohādbālo’yamiti rāghavam।
viśvāmitrasya tāṃ vedimabhyadhāvaṃ kṛtatvaraḥ।।
tena muktastato bāṇaḥ śitaśśatrunibarhaṇaḥ।
tenāhaṃ tvāhataḥ kṣiptassamudre śatayojane।।
The Sanskrit word is nishachara. Rangers of the night. Attacking when visibility is limited. Not that they were afraid of the targets. The aggressors did not expect much opposition. They chose the specific time of day because of the surprise factor and also the close proximity to fruition of an important observance on the other side.
These were the tapo-vanas. Forest areas conducive to sacrifice, penance, and austerity. Try looking for some peace and quiet today. It is not easy to find. If living within small quarters in an urban area, there is constant noise. From the people walking in the apartment upstairs. From the children downstairs playing video games with the sound turned up. The constant blaring of sirens on the streets outside.
Even if you live in a large establishment, there is the issue of the other people living under the same roof. Similar sources of noise as mentioned above, but this time they are members of your own family. If you manage to get away to a log cabin somewhere in a distant area, you could still be distracted by televisions and smartphones.
The wise munis would retreat to the vanas in order to establish a routine of dedicated practice in dharma, at the highest levels. They did not expect disturbances. These were highly respected people, who would certainly accept visitors every now and then. The visitors were thought to be friendly and respectful, looking for the highest wisdom in exchange for humility and sincere inquiries into higher topics.
The nishacharas were also man-eaters. Cannibals, known as Rakshasas in Sanskrit, they had lethal intent, to carry out the greatest damage and then feast on their victims in the aftermath. Maricha was one of the leaders in this group, and he recalled an incident where things didn’t go according to plan.
He was prepared to attack the yajna of Vishvamitra, who was one of these sages with residence in the forest. The yajna was everything to these munis. It was a dedicated worship ceremony that carried several benefits simultaneously.
There was the obvious reward offered as a reciprocal benefit from the devas. The demigods in heaven literally feed off the oblations poured into the sacrificial fire. When the devas are pleased, they bestow plenty of sunshine and rain onto the world, which is vital to sustaining life.
Yajna is also beneficial in the change in consciousness that results to the person performing it. More into spiritual life; less interest in the temporary. Yajna is synonymous with Vishnu, who is the personal God. There is only one Almighty, but depending on a person’s association or lack thereof with spiritual leaders, they may not have a complete picture of the Divine.
During this particular attack, Maricha saw a youth standing near the sacrificial fire. This was Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, specifically requested as a bodyguard by Vishvamitra. This was for the protection of all the sages in the forest. Rama is an avatara of Vishnu, so the yajna was essentially in His honor. Rama was not about to let the night-rangers spoil that right under His nose.
Maricha’s attack was welcomed with an arrow that carried tremendous potency. Rama’s weapon thrust Maricha backwards almost eight hundred miles. The Rakshasa survived, for the moment, but he always remembered the incident. He tried to warn Ravana, the leader of the ogres in Lanka, against mounting a similar strike against Rama, that he was essentially playing with fire.
Ravana was too consumed by lust to heed good advice. He had to have Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, no matter what rules had to be broken in the process. While the sages had been harassed for so long in the dark of night, there would be proper retribution in the future. Rama would personally deliver it, as He is always the protector of the saints.
Of rangers in the night beware,
Who of yajna timing aware.
So that at right time to attack,
But this time blow sending back.
Because arrow from Rama released,
Bringing to sages needed relief.
The same lesson again to teach,
When Ravana’s Lanka to reach.
Categories: maricha describing rama