When thus the sage without a peer
Had closed that story strange to hear.
Ráma again the saint addressed
To set one lingering doubt at rest:
'O holy man, 'tis said by all
That spirits' strength is weak and small:
How can she match, of power so slight,
A thousand elephants in might?'
And Vis'vámitra thus replied
To Raghu's son the glorified:
'Listen, and I will tell thee how
She gained the strength that arms her now.
A mighty spirit lived of yore;
Suketu was the name he bore.
Childless was he, and free from crime
In rites austere he passed his time.
The mighty Sire was pleased to show
His favour, and a child bestow.
Tádaká named, most fair to see.
A pearl among the maids was she.
And matched, for such was Brahmá's dower,
A thousand elephants in power.
Nor would the Eternal Sire, although
The spirit longed, a son bestow.
That maid in beauty's youthful pride
Was given to Sunda for a bride.
Her son, Máricha was his name,
A giant, through a curse, became.
She, widowed, dared with him molest
Agastya, 1 of all saints the best.
Inflamed with hunger's wildest rage,
Roaring she rushed upon the sage.
When the great hermit saw her near,
On speeding in her fierce career,
He thus pronounced Márícha's doom:
'A giant's form and shape assume.'
And then, by mighty anger swayed,
On Tádaká this curse he laid:
'Thy present form and semblance quit,
And wear a shape thy mood to fit;
Changed form and feature by my ban.
A fearful thing that feeds on man.'
She, by his awful curse possessed,
And mad with rage that fills her breast,
Has on this land her fury dealt
Where once the saint Agastya dwelt.
Go, Ráma, smite this monster dead,
The wicked plague, of power so dread,
And further by this deed of thine,
The good of Bráhmans and of kine,
Thy hand alone can overthrow,
In all the worlds, this impious foe.
Nor let compassion lead thy mind
To shrink from blood of womankind;
A monarch's son must ever count
The people's welfare paramount.
And whether pain or joy he deal
Dare all things for his subjects' weal;
Yea, if the deed bring praise or guilt,
If life be saved or blood be spilt:
Such, through all time, should be the care
Of those a kingdom's weight who bear.
Slay, Ráma, slay this impious fiend,
For by no law her life is screened.
So Manthará, as bards have told,
Virochan's child, was slain of old
By Indra, when in furious hate
She longed the earth to devastate.
So Kávya's mother, Bhrigu's wife,
Who loved her husband as her life,
When Indra's throne she sought to gain,
By Vishnu's hand of yore was slain.
By these and high-souled kings beside,
Struck down, have lawless women died.'
40:1 'This is one of those indefinable mythic personages who are found in the ancient traditions of many nations, and in whom cosmogonical or astronomical notions are generally figured. Thus it is related of Agastya that the Vindhyan mountains prostrated themselves before him; and yet the same Agastya is believed to be regent of the star Canopus,' --GORRESIO.
He will appear as the friend and helper of Ráma farther on in the poem.