During the Tretha Yug, when Rama was ruling over Ayodhya, there was a discussion about the nine grains known as ‘Navadaniyams’. The Navadaniyams fought with each other, had a big argument and came to Rama for judgment. Rama, didn’t want to take a decision on his own and hence asked sage Gouthama to find out which grain was the best. Whichever grain is strong is the best said Gouthama. Hearing this the grains started fighting amongst themselves again and left the assembly in a huff. Only the rice and ragi remained.
The grain of rice said that it was superior as humankind consumed it. “People also made rice and served it to the lord. For all auspicious occasions, rice is used,” he said.
Hearing this the grain of ragi responded. “You are so weak. When your grains mature, you bow down unable to bear your own weight. But I on the other hand even after maturing stand tall and straight. Even during a drought I do not change color. But if there are no rains you do not survive. People powder me and give me as health food to their children. Ragi is filled in pots and placed in the temple towers for use during drought. I am planted during any season and I multiply quickly. Last but not the least I do not get spoilt.”
Hearing both their arguments, Sage Gouthama said that ragi was the best. But the grain of rice was adamant and refused to accept this partial judgment. Immediately Lord Rama ordered that the rice and ragi to be jailed for six months. They were put in pots and jailed.
After six months, both of them were brought to the assembly and the pots were opened. The pot which had the rice had accumulated a lot of fungus and worms had infested. But the Ragi pot was fresh as ever. Rama said that sage Gouthama’s judgment was right and this was also endorsed by sage Kapila.
It is said that after this incident Ragi came to be known as Raghavadaniyam, meaning Rama’s grain. And this was later known as Ragi.