Rāma chases Mārīca as a golden deer
In the Hindu epic Rāmāyaṇa, Mārīca, or Mareecha (Sanskrit: मारीच , IAST: Mārīca, Indonesian: Marica, Malay: Martanja, Tamil: Mārīcan, Thai: มารีจ Mareet) is a rākṣasa (demon), who is killed by Rāma, the hero of the epic and an avatar of the god Viṣṇu. He is mentioned as an uncle of Rāvaṇa, the antagonist of the epic. His most notable exploit is his role in the kidnapping of Sītā, Śrī Rāma's wife.
Cursed to be a rākṣasa along with his mother Tataka and brother Subāhu, Mārīca initially led his life terrorizing sages. He was defeated by Rāma at the behest of the sage Vishvamitra. He tried again to kill Rāma, but had to run for his life again. Ultimately, Mārīca assumed the form of a golden deer and helped Rāvaṇa kidnap Sītā.
In his previous life, Mārīca was a servant of Jaya-Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vaikuṇṭha, the celestial abode of the god Viṣṇu. Once, displeased by his conduct, he was cursed by Viṣṇu to be born on earth as a Rākṣasa, but he be freed of the curse and return to Vaikuṇṭha, once he is killed by Rāma, Viṣṇu's Avatāra.
Mārīca was the son of the demon Sunda (son of Jamba or Jharjha) and Yakṣa female Tāḍakā, also known as Tārakā, Tadaka or Thataka. Tāḍakā was daughter of the Yakṣa-King Suketu, who had gained her as a blessing from the god Brahma. Mārīca also had a younger brother Subāhu. The siblings were very handsome and noble in character. They became skilled in sorcery. Once, Sunda attacked the āśrama (hermitage) of the sage Agastya in an intoxicated state. The angry Agastya burnt him by his meditative powers. When Tāḍakā came to know of Sunda's death, she and her sons attacked Agastya to wreak vengeance on the sage. The sage cursed Tāḍakā, Mārīca and Subahu, transforming them into wicked, hideous, demonic rakshasas. Tataka and her sons then went to Pātāla (underworld) to seek aid from Sumali, the patriarch of the rakshasas. Sumali took them to his grandson, Rāvaṇa, the Rākṣasa-King of Laṅkā. Rāvaṇa helped the trio capture the states of Malada and Karusha, situated on the banks of the river Sarayu near its confluence with the Ganges. The trio destroyed the states and turned them into a dense forest, which became known as the forest of Tataka. They terrorized the people, devouring anyone who dared to venture in that forest. The gods, demons and men, as well as even the sun and the clouds did not dare to enter the territory of Tataka and her sons. Mārīca and Subahu liked to harass the sages (rishis) in the region and destroy their yajña sacrifices. The brothers threw blood, flesh, bones on the sacrificial altar and destroyed the sanctity of the sacrifices of the sages.
Facing Rāma at Viśvāmitra's yajna
The great sage Vishvamitra was living in the area near the forest of Tataka and was doing penance and yajna with his disciples and was tormented by Tataka and her sons. Unable to tolerate the menace any longer, Viśvāmitra approached Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya for help. He requested Dasharatha to send his eldest son, Rama to protect his yajna. Though Dasharatha was initially reluctant to send his 13-year old boy, he finally sent Rāma and his younger brother Lakshmana with Viśvāmitra on the advice of the royal guru Vasiṣṭha. Viśvāmitra trained them in warfare and taught them various mantras.
When Viśvāmitra and the princes were passing through the forest of Tāḍakā, Tāḍakā attacked them. Rāma, aided by Lakṣmaṇa, slew her with his arrow. Viśvāmitra blessed Rāma, as the gods rejoiced the end of Tāḍakā. The sage gifted him with divine weapons as a reward. Viśvāmitra then began his six-day yajña, with the princes standing in guard.
While the first five days passed without incidence, on the sixth day the sacrificial fire suddenly falters, indicating trouble. Mārīca and his brother Subāhu, with a hoard of a rakshasas, appeared from tree tops like black clouds, roaring and making lot of noise. They tried to destroy the yajña fire showering blood and flesh. Rāma fired his Manavastra (human missible arrow) from his bow. The arrow stroke Mārīca's chest and threw him hundred leagues away in the ocean. In another version, Mārīca fled to the ocean just by hearing the sound of Rāma's bow. Subāhu and the other demons were killed by Rāma, using various other weapons. The yajña(sacrifice) was completed successfully. Under the guidance of Viśvāmitra, Rāma gets wed to Sita, the adopted daughter of Janaka and the princess of Mithila.
Encounter with Rāma in Daṇḍakāraṇya
Rama, Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā were exiled for a period of 14 years from the kingdom by Dasharatha at behest of Rāma's step mother Kaikeyi. The trio travelled south from Ayodhyā passed through the Daṇḍakāraṇya (Daṇḍaka forest) to the banks of the Godāvarī River where they built a hermitage at Pañcavatī.
Mārīca recalls the following incident when talking with Rāvaṇna, however it does not appear as a separate event in the chronlogical telling of the Rāmāyaṇa. Mārīca returned to Daṇḍakāraṇya and disguised himself as a beast with a flaming tongue and two sharp horns. He was accompanied by two rakshasas in form of animals. They feasted on human flesh and travelled to pilgrimage sites, terrorizing ascetics. They would kill ascetics and drink their blood. Once, Mārīca saw Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā. Remembering his last encounter, Mārīca attacked them in his ferocious beast form to seek vengeance with his demonic companions. Rāma shot three arrows at once, killing Mārīca's allies, but the third arrow narrowly missed Mārīca, who fled in fear.
Death: Role as the golden deer in kidnapping of Sītā
One day, Sūrpaṇakhā, the rākṣasa sister of Rāvaṇa, guised herself as a beautiful maiden and pronounced marriage to Rāma. Rāma refused her proposal and directed her to Lakṣmaṇa in jest. Lakṣmaṇa joked that she marry his master Rāma. An angry Sūrpaṇakhā returned to Rāma and attacked Sītā. But Lakṣmaṇa took out his sword and cut out Shurpanakha's ears and nose. The humiliated Sūrpaṇakhā approached Khara to fulfil her vendetta. However, Khara, his general Duḥśāsana and his army of 14,000 were killed by Rāma when they attacked him. Sūrpaṇakhā and a demon named Akampana who escaped the carnage reach Laṅkā with the news and proposed that Rāvaṇa steal Sītā, Rāma's beautiful wife.
Rāvaṇa started brooding and thinking of the next course of action. He then flew in his aerial chariot across the sea to meet his uncle, Mārīca. Mārīca lived in a secluded hermitage on the ocean coast. Rāvaṇa informed Mārīca of the death of Khara, Dushana and their army as well as of the insult of Sūrpaṇakhā. He told Mārīca to turn into a golden deer with silver spots and graze in the vicinity of Rāma's āśrama. On seeing the deer, Sītā would surely tell Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa to catch it. When the brothers left Sītā alone, Rāvaṇa would abduct her. Rāma, saddened by the grief of Sītā's separation, would be easily killed by Rāvaṇa. Mārīca, who had a first-hand experience of Rāma's strength, was horrified by the idea. The wise Mārīca attempted to dissuade Rāvaṇa by recalling the righteousness and valour of Rāma and warning that this idea will only lead to the doom of Rāvaṇa, Laṅkā and the rākṣasa race. He narrated his first encounter with Rāma, when he underestimated Rāma and dismissed him as a boy and how he was thrown hundreds of leagues away by Rāma's single arrow. He followed that with his second encounter with Rāma in Daṇḍakāraṇya.
However, Rāvaṇa ignored Mārīca's words and asked how he dared praise Rāma and question the prowess of Rāvaṇa, his king. Rāvaṇa announced that he would abduct Sītā with or without Mārīca's help to get revenge for the death of rākṣasas. He reiterated his plan and told Mārīca to be the golden deer. If successful, he and Mārīca would return to Laṅkā and Rāvaṇa will grant half his kingdom to Mārīca. Rāvaṇa threatened that while his plan might lead to Mārīca's death by Rāma, but Mārīca's refusal would mean an instant death at his hands. Finally Mārīca agreed, but not before prophesying his death as well as the end of Rāvaṇa, Laṅkā and rakshasas and warning Rāvaṇa that he will suffer the results of dismissing Mārīca's words which were for his own good. Another version states that Mārīca felt that death by the divine Rāma would be better than by Rāvaṇa. Rāvaṇa was pleased by Mārīca's consent and embraced him.
Mārīca and Rāvaṇa then flew to Pañcavatī in Rāvaṇa’s chariot and stopped close to the āśrama of Rāma. Mārīca then assumed the form of a beautiful golden deer, which had silver spots and glowed due to all the gems like sapphire, moonstone, black splint and amethyst on its body. Mārīca began grazing in vicinity of Rāma's āśrama so that Sītā would catch a glimpse of him. As soon as the animal-eating rakshasa Mārīca entered the forest in the form of deer, the other animals smelt something was wrong and ran away in fear. Mārīca found Sītā collecting flowers and went in front of her. The golden lustre of the deer which was jumping around the hermitage lured Sītā, who was awestruck and called Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa to see the spectacular deer.
On seeing the wondrous deer, Lakṣmaṇa sensed foul play and suggested that the deer was an illusionary form of Mārīca, who preyed on kings who came in the forest for hunting. Sītā persuaded Rāma to get her the deer, dead or alive. If caught, she said it be bred as a pet and be taken back to Ayodhya; otherwise, its golden hide could be used for decoration. Rāma said that this deer would die at his hands that day to comply as per Sītā's wish or if it was a magical rakshasa like Mārīca - who killed kings and harmed sages - as Lakṣmaṇa says, then too it was his duty to kill the beast. Rāma decided to go after the deer and slay it and asked Lakṣmaṇa to take care of Sītā in the meantime.
Mārīca ran, followed by Rāma. Mārīca led Rāma far away from hermitage, which made Rāma very angry. After a long chase, the tired deer stopped under a shady grassland. Rāma seized the opportunity and shot it down with his golden arrow. The dying Mārīca was returning into his real form. He cried out "Oh Sītā! Oh Lakṣmaṇa!", mimicking Rāma's voice. Sītā fell prey to the ruse and asked Lakṣmaṇa to go and search for Rāma. When Lakṣmaṇa insisted that no one could harm Rāma, Sītā - still very much worried - implored and then ordered Lakṣmaṇa to go. Lakṣmaṇa reluctantly left to look for Rāma. With Lakṣmaṇa gone, Rāvaṇa appeared as a mendicant and kidnapped Sītā as she stepped forward to give him alms. The Rāmāyaṇa then narrates the tale of how Rāma defeats Rāvaṇa in Laṅkā and regains Sītā.
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