Sage Vishwamitra asks for the Eldest prince, Sri Rama
Sage Vishwamitra had come to take Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana so as to save the place of Yajna from the attack of demons. Sage Vishwamitra was capable of protecting the Yajna spot with his own powers. However according to the rules of the sacrifice, once he is seated at the altar for the Yajna, he has to protect himself from anger and harness his energy and refrain from cursing anyone and cannot use weapons or arms against anyone. This was his Yajna restriction. Sage Vishwamitra addressed King Dasharath thus “For the sake of the welfare of mankind, I have undertaken the most auspicious Yajna at Siddha Ashrama. There are two Rakshasas (demons) who have been toiling hard to thwart the Yajna. These demons assume various horrific forms and try to disrupt the proceedings of the Yajna. The demons are called Maricha and Subahu. They are sons of a Yaksha woman turned demoness named Tadaka. Hearing this from the sage, Dasharath thought, “Oh, I have helped the Devatas so many times to get rid of the Asuras. This is not going to be a daunting task for me.” However King Dasharath did not express this thought openly to sage Vishwamitra. Just as Vishwamitra stood facing the king, his eyes fell on the four 12 year old princes. He immediately said “I want to take the eldest of your four sons with me.”
Sage Vishwamitra knows about Sri Rama more than His father, King Dasharath
The four princes with short tuft of hair at the back of their heads, stood innocently by the side of their father, King Dasharath. The king looked at the sage and then cast his eyes on the four princes by the side. He addressed the sage “Oh venerable Sage, these boys are just 12 years old and they are even incapable of holding the bow properly. How can they fight the ruthless demons?” To this the sage replied “I know your son Sri Rama as a Mahatma, an exalted being. You are worried about your son because you do not know Him. But I am fully cognizant of His nature. He is full of valor and valiance.” King Dasharath wondered “Rama is my son, he was born to me and I am his father. How come this sage claims to know more about Rama than I? One of the Azhvars has recounted this event in his rendition of the Ramayana. In his version of the Ramayana he writes: Sage Vishwamitra, on the occasion of asking Sri Rama from king Dasharath says “You do not know Sri Rama, only I know Him.” To this king Dasharath replies “Rama is my son”. To this Vishwamitra says “I am telling you that you do not know about Sri Rama owing to several reasons. Your desires, the way you live, your understanding, all this is on a different platform as compared to mine. You live with the Bow and arrow while I live picking up grass, leaves and flowers. You live above your throne while I live below the throne of Sri Rama. Your priority is Artha and Kama, while I am interested only in Dharma and Moksha. You believe that Sri Rama is your son, but I know that the whole universe is Sri Rama’s child. If you see Him as your son, you shall not have the right perspective but if you see that He is your father, only then can you get the right perspective. There is another sage in your court, your advisor-guru, Vashishtha. He and I have never seen eye to eye. Most of the things I proclaim to be a fact, he denies. Most of the things he proclaims as fact, I deny. But then go and ask about Sri Rama and let me see how he can deny my understanding about Sri Rama. Even that great Vashishtha shall agree wholly to my view alone, about Sri Rama. Also consult the other great sages of your court. Tell me if even one sage denies my claim about Sri Rama. You feel that you have given birth to Rama. These sages of your very court claim that you have given birth to Ultimate Brahman and no one else. It is that self-same Brahman that has chosen you, king Dasharath and queen Kausalya as its parents. I have told you about Sri Rama’s reality. Now stop worrying about Him and send Him with me to the forest.” ordered the sage.
King Dasharath is still hesitant to send Rama
King Dasharath was dumb-struck, he had no arguments to make. The king spoke after a few moments of silence. He said “My son, is Rajeeva Locana (राजीवलोचन large-eyed like the Lotus). He is much less than 16 years.” Why did the king not say that Sri Rama was a twelve-year old boy? The answer is that, in those days, princes would become eligible to enter a battlefield as soon as they turned sixteen and were considered adults on attaining that age. So to put forward his point on not sending Sri Rama, as well as maintaining a décor of obedience to sage Vishwamitra, he said that since Rama is not sixteen he is not eligible to accompany the great sage to the forest.
Property does not belong to me
Poets praise this event, especially the reply of Dasharath. King Dasharath’s mood was this “I am unable to send my Rama with you. O, sage. I think you have wrongly approached me and it appears to me that you are asking for the wrong Rama. I assume you must be looking for Parshurama.” There is another dimension in the statement of King Dasharath. The king used the words “My Rama”, while expressing his inability to send his son with the great sage. The word “My”, used in this context points to proprietorship. It means that “It is my property”. Naturally the one wanting, cannot stake claim on other’s property. In ancient India, donations were given by uttering the mantra of handing over belongings, to the other. At the time of donation, at the end of the Mantra, an additional mantra is recited “Idam na mama” (इदं न मम not mine), where the donated article is declared as not belonging to the one donating it. The olden people would never accept anyone else’s articles or things unless it is declared by the donor that he is relieving his ownership of the property.
Dasharath is certain of not sending Rama with Vishwamitra.
King Dasharath knew the Shastra very well and he wanted the sage to withdraw his claim on Sri Rama and was not ready to let go off his son at any cost, although Vishwamitra had revealed the entire Truth about the Lord. King Dasharath felt that since he had said “My son”, as was the culture, he expected the sage to withdraw without having Sri Rama. There is another mention about Rama as “Large Lotus eyed”, by King Dasharath to sage Vishwamitra. Where is the need to mention about the Lotus in a conversation regarding sending the Lord with the sage? It is important to understand that sage Vishwamitra wanted the Lord to be available for protecting the Yajna Arena from the attack of demons (राक्षस Rakshasas) who are “rajanichara” (रजनीचर the ones who operate after sunset). The Lord is compared to a Lotus. A Lotus withdraws its petals by dusk and then again blooms only after dawn. The king indirectly has made a mention that Sri Rama is a small and tender boy and goes to sleep by evening, given his tender age. This, the king wanted to convey to the sage without trying to be rude. King Dasharath also expressed his concern about using his twelve year son against ferocious demons during the night when the demons have their strength multiplied. Hence the king was certain that he would not send Rama with Vishwamitra.