Faith

Story of Tataka

The king of the celestials had to be purified once, and when this happened owing to the collective efforts of many sages, Indra was pleased to bless the place where he was rid of his curse. He said it would be a beautiful place with natural resources in plenty. The people in the area enjoyed prosperity for many years, until the demoness Tataka appeared there, making their lives miserable. Viswamitra narrated the story of Tataka to Rama, said Adur Asuri Madhavachari.

There was once a yaksha, named Suketu, who had no children. Craving for children, he performed a yaga. He was blessed by Brahma, who said Suketu would have a girl child, who would have the strength of 1,000 elephants, and that girl was Tataka. When Tataka attained marriageable age, she was given in marriage to Sunda. Sunda was killed by Agastya'a curse. Enraged, Tataka went with her son Mareecha to kill Agastya. The sage cursed Mareecha and said he would become a demon. He said Tataka would become ugly, and a cannibal. She would repulse people with her looks. From then on, Tataka became a ferocious demon and began to destroy the beautiful land that had once been prosperous because of the boon of Indra.

After narrating the story of Tataka, Viswamitra asked Rama to kill her. The Sastras forbid the killing of women by a warrior. How then could the sage ask Rama to kill Tataka? Viswamitra, knowing that Rama would hesitate to kill a woman, reminded Rama of the duties of a king. A king's duty is to uphold dharma and eliminate those who pose a threat to dharma. There was no room for mercy, just because the perpetrator of atrocities on innocent people happened to be a woman. Viswamitra gave Rama examples of women who had thus been killed. Indra had killed Manthara, the daughter of Virochana, and Lord Narayana had killed the wife of the sage Bhrigu. When the need of the hour was to save the innocent, it was the duty of the king to kill those who were evil. What is implied in the Tataka episode is that it is the Lord alone who can eliminate our ignorance. We will have to seek His help to kill the ignorance in us and to light the lamp of knowledge.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 9:47:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/religion/story-of-tataka/article2393532.ece

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