Inthe 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.
Word spread of the dangerous forest path. Travelers passing through the forest were advised to avoid the main route, if they valued their life. Nobody knew what exactly happened to those who took that road. So, the frightened travellers had to take a long route round the forest.
One day, Sage Agastya came down from the Vindhyas. The brave sage took the dreaded route through the forest. Ilvala was delighted to see a traveller passing through his territory. He invited the sage to rest in his cottage and have food. The sage readily agreed.
As usual, Vatapi assumed the form of a goat. Ilvala killed the goat, and served it as food to Agastya. The sage ate the food with relish and running his hand on his tummy said softly, “Vatapi, get digested.” Unaware that his game was up, Ilvala gave a shout, “Vatapi, come out.” Nothing happened. Alarmed, Ilvala shouted louder, “Vatapi, come out.” The sage smiled and said to his host, “How can your bother come out? Didn’t you hear me say, ‘Vatapi, get digested?’ He is digested. You won’t see your brother again.”
Ilvala was furious. He rushed to attack the sage. The sage opened his eyes wide and the next moment, Ilvala was reduced to ashes.
The forest route was once again safe for travellers, thanks to Sage Agastya.