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Talk By: Pramod Shringarpure
Rama was the very life of the men of Ayodhya. He was unparalleled in the qualities which makes a man great. He was a very brave young man and yet his bravery was combined with mercy. Even if someone spoke harshly to him, he would never reply in the same tone. If anyone did him any favor, even if it were a small task, he would always remember it with gratitude while his own good acts would be forgotten by him even if they were hundreds in number. Each man loved him as his own son.
Words can not describe the wealth of goodness that is Rama. He was well versed in the arts which a Kshatriya had to master and he was also very proficient in the knowledge of Vedas and all its Angas. In short, Rama was the home of all the virtuous qualities that can be enumerated and he was the beloved prince of the citizens of Ayodhya.
King Dasaratha had in his heart the great desire to make Rama the Yuvaraj. In prowess Rama was like Yama and Indra and in wisdom he was like the divine Guru Brihaspati . He was the best among men , a rare soul and he was the best suited to rule the kingdom. The People of Ayodhya approved the suggestion that Rama should be crowned as the heir . They were eager to see Rama, drenched with the waters of the abhisheka, with his face sheltered by the white umbrella, riding on the elephant.
He was the personification of all that is good and great. He would never swerve from the path of truth and dharma. The earth was eager to have Rama as her lord , endowed as he was with all the qualities needed for a ruler. When he heard the commands of his father, Rama spoke not a word but stood still. He prostrated once again before his father and ascended the chariot which had brought him to the court. The crowd also dispersed slowly, each man thinking only of the glad event which was to happen soon.
When the crowd had dispersed and when the king was alone in his chambers he thought of arranging the coronation of Rama the next day since it was the auspicious Pushya nashktra. Accordingly Ram was informed and he was asked to observe all the necessary rituals, guided by VasishTha Rishi.
After Rama had gone away, Dasaratha sent for VasishTha and spoke to him about the coronation which had to take place in the morning. The people were delirious with happiness and there was joy and nothing but joy in the hearts of everyone in Ayodhya.
On the same evening Manthara, the servant maid of Kaikeyi rushed to Kaikeyi and informed her of Rams coronation and warned her that it was a great danger for her. Kaikeyi paid no attention to the words of Manthara. Manthara stood fuming with anger. After a while composing herself, she said, "Madam, the king is contemplating your destruction. He is planning to crown Rama as Yuvaraj tomorrow .You will be destroyed, my queen, and I have come to you hoping to find a way to save you. Look he is now granting all good fortune to Kausalya and not to you. You do not know it but the king is really your enemy."
Some how Kaikeyi was convinced by Manthara and was poisoned to such an extent that she decides to go to Dasaratha for her two boons. Kaikeyi approached King Dasaratha and requested the King to sanction her two boons at any cost. She said, "You have made all preparations for Rama to be crowned as the Yuvaraj. Let the preparations remain as they are. Only, I want Bharata to be crowned instead of Rama. As for the other boon, wearing deerskin and tree -bark, Rama should spend fourteen years in the Dandaka forest."
King Dasaratha said, "I can live without Kausalya or Sumitra. I am prepared to give up even my kingdom . But I can never give up Rama. When my eyes light on Rams face, my heart becomes full of Joy, and when he is not with me I am the most unhappy of all beings. The world may live without the sun but I will not be able to live once I am parted from Rama. Kaikeyi , tell me ,how did this sinful thought come to your mind? You have been born just for the purpose of destruction. When I tell Rama to go to the forest, he will not speak a word in protest! How can I bear to see his face after I tell him this? You are a cruel woman and your mind thinks up only sinful thoughts. I must have sinned in my previous birth and that is the reason why I have to listen to you and your sinful wishes. The elders in the court will now approach me with the desire to take me to the hall where the coronation is to be performed. With the waters collected for the abhisheka let Rama perform the funeral rites for me who will die very soon."
Sumantara was asked to bring Rama again. Rama came with Laxmana to Kaikeyis quarters. Rama looked at his father. An unnatural silence pervaded the place. Rama stood for a long time looking at his father. Rama could not understand king Dasarathas silence. Kaikeyi explained everything to Rama, including the two boons sanctioned to her by king Dasaratha.
Rama looked at Kaikeyi and said, "But certainly, my mother, I will go at once to the forest dressed as you say. I will not let my father break his words. I am unhappy only about one fact: why does the king refuse to look at me with love as he always does ? Why has the king not told me this good news?"
Rama then said, "Devi, Kaikeyi, you did not credit me one thing. I would have obeyed you if you had asked me to do this. Because of your lack of faith in me and in my love for you, you have approached the king." Rama looked like a great Sannyaasi who had renounced the world.
Rama then went to mother Kausalya and said, "Mother, a great misfortune has befallen you, my Sita and my beloved brother Laxmana. It happened just now and you do not know about it yet. What I need is an asana made of darbha grass. The time has come when I should abandon all this and go to the Dandaka forest and remain there. I must withdraw my mind from all thoughts of kingly comforts and live in the forest for fourteen years."
Rama then said, "I am the last person to question my fathers action and the motives behind them. My father has never spoken an untruth and this incident should not prevent him from gaining a place in heaven."
Rama looked at mother Kausalya, whose face was bathed in tears and said, "Mother, my father has been deceived by Kaikeyi. Mother ,I do not have to tell you about the dharma of a Pativrata. Rama continued, "Bharatha is a righteous man and a very noble youth. He will walk only in the path of dharma."
Kausalya said, "Since fate has conspired against me , I am not able to change your mind. May that dharma protect you which you have been following so assiduously with a firm mind and with religious dedication."
Rama, Laxmana and Sita decided to go to the Dandaka forest without any further delay. Before that, Rama wished to give away all his belongings to brahmins and to the dependents in the palace. For Rama following the path of dharma was the only purpose in life and there was no disturbance in his mind since he knew that he was doing the right thing.
King Dasaratha tells Sumantara to take Rama, the noblest of men and leave him in the forest which is uninhabited by men. He realizes that even when a man follows the path of dharma, the acts he had performed in his previous birth will not leave him alone.
Sumantara took his seat and the chariot began to move. Rama heard the wail of the kings wives in the harem and the faint voice of his father. It came to the mind of the king finally that Rama had really left him and gone away.
Dasaratha looked at Kaikeyi with burning eyes and said, "Kaikeyi you sinned against me and you have wished me ill. I do not consider you my wife any longer. I renounce you. Noble minded Bharatha has ever been devoted to his elders, and he has never swerved from the path of righteousness. If however, he should perchance be influenced by you ,and accept the throne won for him by you, he shall not perform the funeral rites for me. I will disown him too.
King Dashratha was carried to Kausalyas palace and was placed on a couch covered with silk.
Rama then visited Bharadvaj Rishi ashram. When Rama was ready to leave that ashram the Rishi blessed them by reciting special verses meant for those going on a journey and he went with them as a father will. They reached the beautiful mountain Chitrakuta. It was full of birds, flowers, fruits and waterfalls.
They came across the ashrama of Valmiki and they visited him. He welcomed them and said, "Rama I know why you have come to the forest. I am glad that you have decided to live here where the Rishis have made their homes"
Sumantara came back to Ayodhya. It took him three days to reach city. King Dasaratha looked at him and his eyes were questioning. Sumantara recounted to him everything about Rama in detail.
It was the sixth night after Rama had departed. Half the night had passed and the king was now wide awake. He was telling to Kausalya, "My queen, when a man does something, whether it is good or bad , he is sure to reap the harvest of his act."
Dasharatha had learned the art of archery. He could, by listening to the sound made by an animal, kill it with an arrow aimed from a distance. This is called Shabdavedi. King Dasharatha remembered the GHOR APRADH that he had committed - incident of killing Shravan Bal, an innocent son of blind parents, and their curse. Shravans father had cursed him saying," your death will also be similar to mine. you will die as a result of separation from your son.
For five nights the king had lived after Rama had left Ayodhya. On the sixth night he could not bear the pain any longer and died quietly.
Guru Vashishta sent a messenger to fetch Bharatha from Kekaya. On the night when the messenger reached the Rajgriha, the prince had a bad dream. Bharatha asked various questions to the messenger regarding the welfare of his father, mothers and brothers but the messenger were extremely careful in answering them.
Bharatha entered Ayodhya but was nonplused by its unusual appearance. he looked around and said, "Bad omens greet me when I enter the city".
Kaikeyi heard him coming and rushed to meet him and welcome him. Bharatha asked his mother, "where is my father ? I want to see his face which I have been missing all these days. Kaikeyi could not grasp the extent of the misfortune which had befallen her. She spoke in a flat and unemotional voice, "Your father, the righteous Dasaratha, the refuge and solace of everyone who was in trouble, the father of this country, has attained that state which all living beings should attain one day.
Bharatha was surprised at the news that Rama was not in Ayodhya, when his father died. Kaikeyi said, "Bharatha my child, Rama has left for the forest Dandaka dressed in tree bark and with him have gone Lakshmana and Sita." His mind was sorely troubled. He asked his mother, "Why ? Why Mother ?Why was he sent to the forest by my father ?"
Kaikeyi spoke, "No Bharatha ,Ram did not commit any sin. I did not like nor want Rama to be crowned as the yuvaraj. I made the king grant me that Rama should be banished and you should be crowned as Yuvaraj."
Bharatha was very angry with his mother Kaikeyi and said, "You banished Rama to the forest and you have been the death of your husband and to my lasting shame, I have to remember that I am your son, born of you. I will willingly kill you myself. I would have done so too, but then my revered brother Ram will not look at the me since he will attribute the sin of matricide to me. That is the only reason why I hesitate to draw my sword and kill you. Did you think, even for a moment, that I would accept the kingdom ? I would rather die than contemplate such a sinful act. I refuse to recognize you as my mother any more."
He further said, "I can not rest until I bring Rama back from the forest and make him accept the throne which is his"
Vasishsta Rishi then came to Bharatha and said, "Shed this grief, my son and perform the last rites for your father .
Manthara was entering the palace of Queen Kaikeyi. Shatrughna saw her, he was very angry and he wanted to beat her and punish her for her crooked plan. But Bharatha told him, "My dear brother, women should not be punished even if they deserve to be. They should be forgiven. I have not killed this Kaikeyi yet is because I am afraid of Rama. He is noble and will be displeased with me if he knows that I have killed a women and a mother at that. He will never talk to me or even look at me."
Vasishsta then said, "Bharatha , your father the king ,has left this land for you to rule .He was a righteous man and he acted thus because he did not want to be called an Adharmi. As for the reason your brother Rama left for the Dandaka forest with his wife and Lakshmana, it was the same. Ram did not want his father to be called untruthful.
The kingdom as well as myself are Ramas to do what he will. Please do not ask me to remind you of the rule of the line of the Ishvakus, that the eldest son has the right to the throne and none other. I will go to the forest and bring Rama back , if I do not succeed , I will remain with him and serve him like my brother Lakshmana is doing.
Bharatha called for his chariot and it was at the doorway in no time. He told Sumantara to take them to the forest with his retinue. The queens also went with him . Many of the people of Ayodhya also went with Bharatha. Bharatha came to Bharadvaj Rishi"s ashram. The Rishi welcomed all the guests and inquired after their welfare.
Bharatha then said, "I have come to the forest in search of Rama, to fall at his feet, to offer the kingdom to him and to take him back to Ayodhya where he should be crowned as emperor. Can you help me by telling me where the king of Kosala is?"
Rishi Bharadvaj entertained all the guests and the army accompanied by Bharatha. In the process of talking to the Rishi Bharatha condemned his mother Kaikeyi.
The Rishi said, " Do not condemn your mother, Bharatha . I can look in to the future and I can see that this exile of Rama is for the good of the world . It is going to benefit the rishis of the forest, the devas and all the divine hosts. Forbear from your censure of this women."
Bharatha took leave of the rishi and after collecting his army around him left for the ashram of Rama.
Rama ,Lakshmana and Sita were very happy in the ashraam on Mount Chitrakuta. Mother Nature was lavish in her bounty here, and Sita , who had always been fond of flowers and birds and deer, was very happy here. Every day ,something new would be discovered by them and they would talk about it and they succeeded in forgetting the fact that they were exiles and that they were denied the comforts of the city.
On that particular day when they were seated, they found a herd of elephants running around as though in panic. Rama looked at this strange scene and heard an unusual noise. He said, "Lakshmana , some king or prince has entered the forest. Lakshmana was disturbed and angry.
Rama was greatly distressed by the violent anger of Lakshmana. He tried to pacify him with his soft and gentle words. He said, "Lakshmana, if Bharatha is coming here, where is the need for us to take up arms against him?
Rama said, "I will tell you why Bharatha has come. Bharatha is very fond of his brothers . He must have heard about us living in the forest dressed in tree-bark . With pain in his heart with affection for us he has come to the forest to see us.
BHARATHA MEETS RAMA
Bharatha stood still for along moment. His limbs refused to bear him. He then rushed towards Rama . He could not see properly since tears were clouding his eyes. His sorrow was like the sea which had burst its boundary. My brother who should be seated in the court served by his myriad attendants and courtiers is now seated on the floor covered by darbha grass and attended by animals of the forest as his subjects.
Bharatha with his face drenched in tears, advanced towards Rama but fell down even before reaching his feet. Shatrughna who was with Bharatha all the while fell along with Bharatha at the feet of Rama. Ram raised them up and embracing them, shed tears.
Rama inquired about his father King Dasaratha When he heard from Bharatha that his father was no more in this world he fell down senseless..
Bharatha said, "Rama, I appeal to you to absolve me of this sin. Please be gracious enough to come back to Ayodhya and accept the kingdom which is yours by right."
Ram replied, "Righteous men should respect their mothers just as much as they do their fathers. When such is the case, when both my father and my mother told me to go to the forest, how could I act otherwise? YOU have been commanded to rule the kingdom and I have been commanded to live in the Dandaka forest for fourteen years. Walk in the path of DHARMA which you have been following all these years and do what our father asked us to do. I will do the same. You can make my father truthful only if you go back to Ayodhya and rule the country. The debt I owe to my parents is infinite. It is not possible to return the love of ones parents. Such a great man was Dasaratha, my father, and I will not disobey him. Your duty is to obey the command of our father and rule the kingdom."
Bharatha prostrated before Ramas sandals and said, "My beloved brother ,remember I will live wearing these coarse tree -bark and deerskin for the next fourteen years and will retain these matted locks until you remove yours. I will wait for you to come back and I will live outside the city of Ayodhya. My food will be fruits and roots. I will enthrone these sandals and they will rule the kingdom as your symbols. I will rule the kingdom as your representative."
July 10, 2003 04:12 PM