After Bharata's departure Raama was not quite happy in Chitrakoota. His lonely hut was so full of sad memories that he made up his mind to seek some other resting place in the Dandaka forest So they left Chitrakoota and proceeded to the hermitage of Atri, a rishi who knew the country, to seek his advice as to where they might establish themselves. They were most affectionately received and Seeta won the heart of Atri's wife, the saintly Anasooya. The following morning, the three took leave of their host and re-entered the forest, which was now denser than before; there were tigers and other wild animals. They proceeded slowly and cautiously.
Suddenly, a gigantic form distorted like a broken fragment of a hill rushed at them making a blood-curdling noise. It was a man-eating raakshasa and his roar was like thunder. He was very ugly and the tiger-skin he wore was covered with blood and flesh. He shouted at Rama: “Know that I am the great Viraadha . The flesh of rishis is my daily food. I shall have this lovely damsel for my wife” and grasped Sita who trembled with fear.
Rama's eyes grew red with anger. "It is time for you to die," he said and bent his bow and shot a sharp arrow at the monster. It pierced his body and emerged red with blood, glistening like fire, and fell on the earth beyond. But the raakshasa was not killed. Enraged by the pain, he placed Sita on the ground and, lifting his spear and opening his mouth wide rushed towards Rama and Lakshmana. The princes sent a shower of arrows at him. The arrows stuck so thick on his body that he bristled all over like a gigantic porcupine.
The raakshasa however laughed and shook his limbs, and down fell all the darts. He straightened him self and lifted his spear again. Rama and Lakshmana with two arrows broke the spear and rushed at him sword in hand. But he lifted them both up with his hands and put them on his shoulders and strode off into the forest. Sita saw them disappear in the darkness of the jungle and wept loud
Rama and Lakshmana, seated one on each shoulder, guessed that weapons could not kill him. They tore off his arms and threw them down. They then attacked him with their hands and feet. Still they could not kill him on account of Brahma's boon, but the agony of his wounds was so great that he howled with pain. The brothers threw down the exhausted monster and Rama planted his foot on his neck to prevent him from rising. The touch of Rama's feet cleared the mist in which the curse incurred in a previous birth had shrouded Viraadha’s understanding, and in the sudden light of recollection he joined his hands and said humbly, "Your feet have touched me, Lord, and my eyes are opened. I have realised who you are. I am under a curse, but you can save me. I am not a raakshasa by birth, but a Gandharva. The boon I received prevents my liberation. If you could somehow kill me, I shall recover my original form and go to heaven." Accordingly Raama and Lakshmana smashed him without weapons and buried him in a pit they dug in the earth. And the raakshasa returned to the world of Gandharvas. Then the Princes went back to the place where Sita stood terrified and told her all that happened.
They then proceeded to the aashrama of Sarabhanga. The old rishi said: " It is time for me to leave the body but my wish was to see you first. And so I have been waiting. Now my desire is fulfilled, I pass on to you all the merit of my penances."
When the rishis of that forest heard the news of Viraadha's death they came to Raama and surrounded him. "It is our good fortune, O King," they said, "that you have come to dwell in this region. Hereafter, we shall perform our penance untroubled by raakshasas. The rishis on the banks of Pampa and Mandaakini live in constant fear of their lives from these man-eating monsters.” Rama assured them: "I shall stay in the forest and destroy the raakshasas and free you from trouble. Have no fear." Rama's promise of help gave relief and joy to the rishis.
For ten years, Raama, Lakshmana and Seeta lived quietly among the rishis. In the great Dandaka forest, there were a number of aashramas where the rishis lived practising their austerities and living their austere lives. The princes spent a month in one aashrama, three months in a second and perhaps a year in a third as welcome and happy visitors.
The forest was very beautiful, with deer and bison, boars and elephants. The birds, the trees, the creepers, the blue waterlilies. Rama was very happy these ten years, the joy of association with great and holy men being added to his joy in the quiet companionship of Lakshmana and Seeta.
Rama met Sage Agastya who gave to him the bow made by Viswakarma for Vishnu and an inexhaustible quiver, as well as a sword. He blessed him saying, "Rama, destroy the raakshasas with these weapons which Vishnu gave me." Agastya advised the prince to spend the rest of his exile at Panchavati. Following Agastya's instruction, Rama proceded to Panchavati.
On the way they met a huge figure perched on a big tree. They took it to be a Raakshasa. "Who are you?" asked Raama in an angry tone. It was however a vulture which answered in a voice full of mildness and affection: "My child, I am Jatayu, your father's aged friend." Then he proceeded to tell his story.
Jataayu was the brother of Sampaati, the son of Aruna, the charioteer of Sun-god and brother of Garuda the great Eagle-vehicle of Vishnu. He said: "When you leave Sita alone and go hunting in the forest, I shall be looking after her safety." Rama was pleased and accepted the offer of the bird with gratitude. They then proceeded on their journey and reached the aashrama at Panchavati, where Rama and Sita lived happily, lovingly served by Lakshmana. Frequently, they remembered their family in Ayodhya and of Bharata who ruled like a king but lived like an ascetic in Nandigrama village and not in the palace.