In the famous epic Mahabharata there are many stories of the experiences of the Pandavas when they were in exile in the forest. One such famous story is the story of Bakasura. As the Pandavas were travelling from place to place they reached a quiet village near the city of Ekachakra. There they accepted the hospitality of a poor Brahmin family. The Pandavas generally travelled incognito as their evil cousins the Kauravas were trying to kill them. Sage Veda Vyasa consoled them and asked them to be patient as eventually justice would prevail. It was he who had advised them to go to the city of Ekachakra after they escaped from the burning of the lac palace.
The Pandavas were disguised as Brahmins and lived on chanting prayers and begging for alms. Their mother always divided the food obtained into two portions. One portion was given to Bhima and the other portion was divided among the rest of them. As Bhima was born of the Wind God he had a mighty appetite and great strength. One day Bhima stayed behind with his mother while his brothers went out seeking alms. They heard their host and his wife crying and lamenting to each other. The Brahmin was crying that he would offer himself while the wife was reiterating that she would offer herself. Both of them refused to part with their children. The children, a boy and a girl were crying that they would give themselves up but not allow any harm to befall their parents. Hearing their sad cries Kunti and Bhima intervened and asked them about their problem. The Brahmin explained that there was a powerful Rakshasha named Bakasura who had seized the village many years ago. He used to emerge from his cave and indiscriminately kill everyone. The King unable to protect the people had also fled to the nearby city. The villagers had then gathered and begged the Rakshasha to spare them and in return they would satiate his hunger by delivering his food daily to him in a cart. Everyday one person from each family would take turns to drive the cart and sacrifice himself. The Rakshasha had agreed and since it was the turn now of their host family they were stricken with sorrow.
Kunti and Bhima then discussed the matter among themselves and informed their Brahmin host that Bhima would accompany the cart. She informed their host not to worry as her sons were exceptionally strong men and asked him not to divulge the information to others for fear that Duryodhana and his men would discover their whereabouts. When the other brothers returned and were informed of the decision they were worried about Bhima’s safety. But Kunti reminded them that they were indebted to their host and had to repay it by doing good and being of service to them. Being Kshatriyas therein lay their foremost duty. The brothers all agreed to their mother’s wish.
The next day the cart was laden with food and Bhima set about on his journey. He reached the cave and looking at the wonderful delicacies was filled with hunger. Calmly he washed his hands at a nearby stream and began eating the food. All these days he had barely had enough to eat and was overjoyed that at last he could enjoy a decent meal. As he finished eating he heard a distant rumble and realised that it was the Rakshasha approaching.
When Bakasura saw a human being calmly eating all the containers of food meant for him he was enraged and plucking a nearby tree he hurled it at Bhima. Bhima flicked it as if it were a mere twig and faced Bakasura. A mighty battle ensued between the two and after fighting ferociously Bhima vanquished Bakasura. He then dragged the body to the village to allay the fears of the villagers. Overjoyed they realised that they were free at last from the evil Bakasura. They all rejoiced and were curious about Bhima’s identity and realised that he was no ordinary person but someone who was really powerful who had come to their aid in their times of difficulty.
There are a number of stories in the scriptures offering moral instructions and values which have been cherished by generations and have inspired mankind to move forward in their Godward path in their journey towards self realisation and bliss.