Long, long ago, our country was Full of forests, and the cities and villages were few. It was a great risk for people to travel from one place to another, as they had to pass through thick forests which were inhabited by cruel giants and animals.
In the forests of South India there lived two big giants Vaataapi and Ilwala who were brothers. They were both cannibals and killed human beings whenever they got an opportunity. Their method of killing the men was unique, Ilwala disguised himself as a pious Brahmin and approached the travellers, who passed by, with a humble request that they should come over to his house to take rest and be his guest for a day. The innocent travellers readily accepted his invitation, for, travel in a jungle was a difficult one and food was difficult to get. Ilwala led them courteously to his house arid requesting them to take a bath and rest. He retired into the kitchen to cook food. He killed his own brother Vaataapi and cutting him to pieces cooked tasty dishes with his flesh. When the meal was ready, he ap preached the guests, inviting them in and served the meals.
The guests who did not know what the dishes were, enjoyed the food. As they finished and were about to get up, llwala stood before them and called out, "Vaataapi, Vaataapi, come, come out." Hearing this call, Vaataapi in the form of meat in the stomachs of the guests became alive and tearing the guests into pieces he emerged out of them. Thereafter the brothers enjoyed the sumptuous meal consisting of the flesh of the guests.
Thus it happened always, and the innocent, unsuspecting guests fell into their snares. The terrible secret somehow leaked out, and the sages living in the forests approached Agasthya Maharshi requesting him to end the demoniac ways of the giants. Agasthya replied: "Hari om, Hari om."
Maharshi Agasthya was a great sage with extraordinary powers. He could command the oceans and the mountains, even. "Hari om, Hari om."
Once the Vindhya mountains across the country dividing North India from South India grew very proud and started growing
higher with the intention of obstructing the path of the sun and the stars in the sky. When the danger was imminent, the gods approached the Maharshi with the request to subdue the pride of the mountains. Agasthya was then living, ever chanting "Hari om, Hari om," in the forests of North India. He walked towards the South, "Hari om, Hari om," and reached the Vindhyas. As he came nearer, "Hari om", the Vindhyas bowed before him respectfully. Agasthya said, "0 Vindhyas, I have to go to South India. "Hari om." So remain prostrate like this so that I can have a passage over you- to reach the South—"Hari om, Hari om.""
The Vindhyas remained prostrate until he crossed over. When he passed over they hoped that they could get up and grow towards the sky again. But as soon as he crossed the mountains, Agasthya said, "0 mountain king, "Hari om, Hari om," remain prostrate until I finish my work in the South and return." As Agasthya was a sage with power to curse and bless, the king of the mountains could not say 'No' to him and remained lying down. Agasthya settled in the South, "Hari om, Hari om, Hari om." and never returned. Thus the mountains remained prostrate and could grow no more.
At another time the king of oceans committed a wrong. Agasthya wanted to punish him. So he held the waters of the entire ocean in his palm, "Hari om, Hari om,~ and drank it all in one gulp. The king of the oceans appeared before him trembling and apologized for his misconduct. Then Agasthya pardoned him and released the ocean waters from his stomach—"Hari om, Hari om, Hari om."
The sages in the forest knew that Agasthya alone could vanquish the terrible giants Vaataapi and llwala. Agasthya readily agreed, and "Hari om, Hari om," started to the place where the giants lived, llwala who was always on the lockout for victims, espied the Maharshi and came towards him disguised as a Brahmin in the usual way. He respectfully requested the Maharshi to be his guest and sanctify his house.
Agasthya, "Hari om, Hari om," readily agreed. Both went to the house of llwala. As soon as they reached the house, Ilwala joined his palms in mock humility and said, "Mahatma, please take your bath and be doing your japa: "Hari om, Hari om." In the meanwhile I will prepare the meal." Thus leaving the Maharshi in the front room. he went in and prepared the usual meal with Vaataapi's flesh. As noon time neared, he approached the Maharshi and humbly requested him to come into the dining room to partake of the meals. Agasthya saying “Hari om, Hari om” went in. The food was served with great care.
Agasthya enjoyed the meal very much, as the dishes were tasty and he very well knew what he was eating. As soon as the meat dishes were over, passing his left hand over his stomach again and again, he muttered slowly, "Hari om, Hari om—be digested, Vaatapi, Hari om be digested." Ilwala could not hear what the Maharshi was saying, as it was said in a very low tone. He was completely absorbed in the thoughts of the delicious meal he and his brother would have together, for the Maharshi looked quite hefty. His meat was bound to be very delicious. Immersed in his thoughts he was only waiting for the Maharshi to finish the other dishes. As Agasthya finished eating and was washing his hand, "Hari om, Hari om," Ilwalla stood before him and called out aloud, "Vaataapi, 0 Vaataapi, come, come out." A few moments passed but nothing happened. Ilwala was puzzled at the delay in the appearance of Vaataapi. Agasthya looked at llwala, "Hari om. Hari Om," and smiled.
"Which Vaataapi are you referring to? Your brother has been already digested”
Ilwala was terribly frightened. He knew by now that in front of him was an extraordinary sage with divine powers whom he could -do nothing to harm. Surely the sage could reduce him to ashes with one look from his eyes. Trembling he fell at the feet of the Maharshi and begged, "Mahatma, please leave me with life. I will not commit such a thing again." Agasthya took pity on him and said, "Alright, this time I will leave you. Go away from this forest, and live elsewhere. Even there you won't be safe from me if you repeat this again. Stop all killing. If I hear of a single case of killing by you, know that will be the end of you."
Ilwala solemnly swore not to kill anyone again. He left the forest as he was told to and went away to live elsewhere.
Moral of The Tale:
Ilwala, the very word means "absence of good qualities—of restless mind." Vaataapi means "one who drinks of all life” meaning "death." Travellers crossing through the jungle of life when invited by "restless mind" to have a free feast of the "spirit of death" it is better that as spiritual seekers, we avoid it. Else we may meet with our end of the spiritual career then and there..... But Agasthya, a Man-of-wisdom (Gyani) cannot be destroyed by the tricks of the "restless mind," Ilwala. He can "digest" away Vaataapi and warn the Ilwala to behave well for the rest of his life time!