In the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, Taraka or Tadaka was a beautiful yaksha princess, the daughter, and the only child of the yaksha king Suketu. In Indian mythology, yakshas are described as a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, but sometimes mischievous and prone to sexuality, and are connected with water, trees, and forests, fertility, treasure, and wilderness. In early Indian art, while the yakshas are portrayed as terrifying warriors of portly and stout figures, their female counterparts, the yaksinis, are depicted as beautiful voluptuous young women.
According to a mythical story, once a childless yaksha, Suketu performed a yagna, a ritual performed before a sacred fire, as he was craving for children. Pleased with his penance, Lord Brahma, the god of creation, blessed him to have a beautiful daughter, who would have the strength of thousand elephants. In due course, a daughter was born to him who grew up to become a beautiful princess, wooed by Sunda, a Rakshasa, and married him. They had two sons, Subahu and Maricha.
In the meantime, Suketu and Sunda joined hands, and with their united strength, started to disturb and irritate the peaceful ritualistic performances of the sages. As it became too much to tolerate, Rishi Agastya cursed both Suketu and Sunda to death. This action on the part of the sage enraged Taraka, and along with her sons, she started to create havoc to wreak vengeance on the sage.
This time, Agastya transformed both the mother and her sons into hideous demonic creatures with a cruel, cannibalistic nature, and also cursed Taraka to lose all her physical beauty, become ugly with a ghastly and repulsive look.
The curse transformed the mother and her sons to become ferocious demons, and they began to destroy the beautiful land that had once been prosperous because of the boon of Indra, the king of the gods and started to live in a forest, near the confluence of the river Sarayu with the Ganges. Nobody ever dared to go even near the forest, let alone enter it and try to gather woods or hunt soft prays to earn a livelihood. However, Taraka and her sons did not stop to harass as many rishis as they could by destroying their Yagnas with rains of flesh and blood.
Finally, one day, when the great sage Vishwamitra was conducting a penance and yajna with his disciples, he found it impossible to perform the rituals of the yajna properly and attentively due to the constant menace of the trio. To make an end to it, Vishwamitra appeared before the court of King Dasaratha and sought his help by allowing Rama to go with him to do something about the demons. Initially, the king was hesitant as Rama was merely a boy. However, as advised by Sage Vashista, the royal trainer of weaponry, he obliged him by allowing Rama and Laksmana to accompany him to do the needful.
However, Vishwamitra knew that although Taraka is a rakshasi, Rama would be hesitant to kill her, as she is a woman. He, therefore, reminded him that a king's duty is to save the innocent, uphold Dharma, and eliminate those who pose a threat to Dharma, be it a man or a woman. Even Lord Narayana had killed the wife of the sage Bhrigu, and Indra had killed Manthara, the daughter of Virochana, for the sake of Dharma.
As they entered the forest, they were almost immediately attacked by Taraka. As she laughed and ironically taunted Rama as a mere boy, he pierced her heart with his arrows.