We all know that Dandakaranya is a forest around where Rama spent most of his time during his 14 years of exile. We come across the name Dandakaranya very often whenever we read or hear the story of Ramayana. Do we know that this name contains a story within itself?
Ikshvaku was the founder king of Surya Vansha in the beginning of Treta Yuga. He had 100 sons and the last one was dull and ignorant. The king named him Dandaka (Danda) meaning one deserving punishment. Dandaka means a stick with which punishment is rendered. It also means the king’s scepter which is a symbol of power and righteousness.
The king chose a place between Vindhya mountains and Riksha in the East Central India and made Danda the king who ruled from the capital named Madhumanta. He also made Sukracharya Danda’s guru.
Danda wanted to learn certain shastras from Sukracharya and so went to stay in Sukracharya’s hermitage. There he met Sukracharya’s daughter Arajya. When he saw her in a diaphanous costume which no man should see, he violated the code of conduct and misbehaved with her.
When Araja reported the matter to her father, he got angry and cursed that the king Danda and his kingdom would face death in seven days, the place would be devastated by fire and death would rule this sinner’s kingdom. Sukracharya left the place and as per his curse things happened. All the people in Danda’s kingdom including him faced death. The place became a dense forest where even sunlight could not enter.
Danda’s story reveals that in Treta Yuga righteousness was highly valued and the character of Danda proved that adharma was in its budding stage. The king Ikshvahu gave a chance to his son for redeeming himself but it was of no use. Danda’s sinful act landed in his destruction.
From that day, that forest was called Dandakaranya. The name is a combination of two words-Dandaka + aranya meaning the forest of punishment.
Those who inhabit this forest are called Dandaka.
Dandaka is also said to be the name of a plant.
In Treta Yuga, Dhandakaranya was the place for yogis and hermits to have their concentration programmes. Sages used to cross this forest to reach Vindhya mountains.
1. Rama and Lakshmana spent 13 years in and around Dandakaranya during their 14 years of exile.
2. Panachavadi is located in Dandakaranya. It is where Ravana abducted Sita.
3. It is also the place where Surpanaka’s nose was cut by Lakshmana.
4. Dandakaranya was part of Ravana’s regime and it was ruled by Khara who was killed by Rama.
5. Rama visited the ashram of Agastya Rishi in Dandakaranya and the Rishi gave Rama three powerful weapons.
6. In Dandakaranya Rama met Sabari whose selfless love for the Lord is appreciated in all the stories about Rama.
7. Dandakaranya was the living place of a demon called Danda. Many demons, hobgoblins and ghosts lived there.
Meanings of the word Danda
The word Danda means 6 things -punishment, person, kingdom, name of a demon, plant and inmates of Dandakaranya.
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