The story goes

In the forest to the south of the Vindhyas, lived two wicked demon brothers, Vatapi and Ilvala. They had magical powers.

They would wait for travellers passing through the forest. Ilvala would receive a tired and hungry traveller and would invite him to rest in his cottage and have food. The grateful traveller would accept the invitation.

Meanwhile, Vatapi would assume the form of a goat. Ilvala would kill the goat and serve it as food to the guest. Once the unsuspecting guest had his fill, Ilvala would give a shout, “Vatapi, come out.”

Immediately Vatapi would rip open the stomach of the guest and come out. Then the brothers would divide between themselves whatever belongings their victim was carrying.

Is it only folklore?

  • 1
    There was a story of Vatapi and Ilwala in Ramayana, but I don't know whether it is in BORI's version:-) Mar 8, 2020 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


The story of Vatapi is written in Vanaparva.

Vaisampayana said, "After this the royal son of Kunti who was ever distinguished for his profuse gifts unto Brahmanas, proceeded to the asylum of Agastya and took up his abode in Durjaya. It was here that that foremost of speakers, king Yudhishthira asked Lomasa as to why Agastya had slain Vatapi there. And the king also enquired after the extent of that man-destroying Daitya's prowess, and the reason also of the illustrious Agastya's wrath being excited against that Asura. "Thus questioned, Lomasa said, 'O son of Kuru race, there was in the city called Manimati, in days of yore, a Daitya named Ilwala, whose younger brother was Vatapi. One day that son of Diti addressed the Brahmana endued with ascetic merit, saying, 'O holy one, grant me a son equal unto Indra.' The Brahmana, however, did not grant the Asura a son like Indra. And at this, the Asura was inflamed with wrath against the Brahmana. And from that day, O king, the Asura Ilwala became a destroyer of Brahmanas. And endued with power of illusion the angry Asura transformed his brother into a ram. And Vatapi also capable of assuming any form at will, would immediately assume the shape of a ram. And the flesh of that ram, after being properly dressed, was offered to Brahmanas as food. And after they had eaten of it, they were slain. For whomsoever Ilwala summoned with his voice, he would come back to Ilwala even if he had gone to the abode of Yama, in re-embodied form endued with life, and show himself to Ilwala. And so having transformed the Asura Vatapi into a ram and properly cooked his flesh and feeding Brahmanas therewith, he would summon Vatapi. And the mighty Asura Vatapi, that foe of Brahmanas, endued with great strength and power of illusion, hearing, O king, those sounds uttered with a loud voice by Ilwala, and ripping open the flanks of the Brahmana would come laughingly out, O lord of earth! And it was thus, O monarch, that the wicked-hearted Daitya Ilwala, having fed Brahmanas, frequently took away their lives.


The narrative was mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana (Aranyakanda, Section 11). This is what Rama said to Lakshmana when they were approaching Sage Agastya's ashrama in Dandakaranya.

The righteous Agastya it is who, wishing for the welfare of the worlds, destroying by virtue of his austerities a Daitya resembling Death, hath rendered this quarter habitable. Once on a time here dwelt together two mighty Asuras, brothers given to slaughtering Brāhmanas—the wily Vātāpi and Ilwala. Wearing the form of a Brāhmana, and speaking Sanskrit, the cruel one used to invite Vipras to a Srāddha. And, cooking his brother wearing the shape of a sheep, he used to feed the twice-born ones according to the rites prescribed for Srāddhas. Then when the Vipras had fed, Ilwala said,— "O Vātāpi, come out, uttering a loud sound." Hearing his brother's words, Vātāpi, bleating like a sheep, came out, riving their bodies. In this way, thousands of Brāhmanas gathered together, were destroyed by flesh-eating ones wearing shapes at will. (And it came to pass that once upon a time) the Maharshi Agastya, having been invited to a Srāddha, fed on the mighty Asura. Thereupon uttering—'Finished' and offering water to wash hands with, Ilwala said unto his brother, 'Come out'! And, as that brother of Vātāpi, given to slaughtering Vipras was speaking thus, that foremost of ascetics, the intelligent Agastya, said with a laugh, 'Where is the power of coming out, of the Rākshasa, thy brother wearing the shape of a sheep, who hath gone to Yama's abode?' Hearing his words, from wrath the ranger of the night prepared to assail the ascetic, and he rushed against that foremost of the twice-born ones. And, being consumed by that ascetic of flaming energy with his eyes resembling fire, the Rākshasa met his end.- Ramayana 3.11.54-66 (verse numbers are provided according to the Gita Press English edition)

References -

Valmiki Ramayana translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt

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