Lord Rama experiences the joy of association with realised sages when He visits their hermitages during exile in forest. The rishis are overwhelmed to be in Rama’s proximity. At the end of 10 years, Rama wishes to have darshan of Agastya, renowned for his multifaceted greatness and held on a par with the likes of sages such as Vishwamitra.
Rama’s visit to Agastya’s hermitage assumes a special significance since the sage gives Rama powerful weapons such as (Vishnu’s) bow, (Indra’s) quiver with inexhaustible arrows and the gem-studded divine sword so that He could win over the enemies, said Sri R. Krishnamurthy Sastrigal in a lecture.
Rama alludes to the singular manner by which Agastya put an end to the atrocious trickery of demons Ilvala and Vatapi who feasted on the sages. Since they could assume any form of their like, Ilvala, in the guise of an austere Brahmin, would pretend he was to perform the annual ceremony for the departed ancestors. He would invite the sages in a deferential manner to partake of the food during the ceremony. In the meanwhile, he would cook Vatapi who would have taken the form of a goat and serve as food for them during the occasion. The guests would eat unsuspectingly and express their contentment. Then he would call out to Vatapi to come out. The demon would tear their stomachs and come out. Then the two of them would feast on the dead sages.
The innocent rishis were unable to deal with the two wily demons and sought Agastya’s help. When they played the trick on Agastya, he outwitted them with his divine power to digest even a demon. Ilvala realised what had happened when Vatapi did not respond to his desperate calls. The sage opened his eyes in indignation to reduce Ilvala to ashes when the demon tried to attack him. Since then Agastya stayed in the forest and the entire area was free from the harassment of demons making it conducive for penance.
Agastya is said to have imparted to Rama the Aditya Hridaya mantra propitiating the grace of Suryanarayana for courage and success in His battle against Ravana.