Friday, 25 January 2013

38. A spoke in the wheel.

      After the citizens left, Dasaratha consulted his ministers and decided that Rama should be crowned as as crown prince on the very next day.  Thereafter, king Dasaratha asked Sumantra to get Rama again and Sumantra promptly executed the command.  Rama fell prostrate before his father, who took him lovingly into his embrace.  Then they settled down comfortably and Dashartha told Rama "My dearest son, I have faithfully and dutifully fulfilled all the duties as a king.  Now I have become very old and I have no duty other than to anoint you for the crown.  Hence, do what I tell you. Now all the people want you to be the next king.  Hence, I intent to install you as the crown prince.  Dear  Rama!  Apart from the people's desire, I have some other special reason, too.  These days I am getting fearful and inauspicious dreams.  Here, thunderous comets are falling with great sound, during day time.
       "Astrologers inform me that fearful planets like Sun, Mars and Raahu are encroaching my birth star.  Whenever such inauspicious signs are produced, the king generally will either die or have a fearful accident.  Oh, Rama! Before some such a thing happens,  I want to get you anointed to the crown.  Today, the moon is entering the constellation known as Punarvasu which comes before Pushyami star.  The astrologers inform me that the coronation ceremony can be fixed for tomorrow, when the moon joins Pushyami star. Hence, get anointed for the crown on the day of Pushyami star.  My mind is urging me to expedite things.  I, therefore shall anoint you for the princely kingdom tomorrow.
      "Because of that, you along with your wife should observe fast for this night from now on, and sleep on a couch made of Kusha grass.  Generally, there are many obstacles for such a type of functions.  Hence, your friends should guard you vigilantly from all directions.  I do not know why, but I feel that your coronation function should occur while Bharata is away from the city.  There is no doubt that Bharata, your brother, goes according to his eldest brother (viz. you).  He is righteous, compassionate and keeps his senses under control.  He verily follows the path of good people.
      "Oh, Rama! It is well known that the minds of men  and women are inconstant.  Even most righteous people, endowed with ample goodness, sometimes unexpectedly act incorrectly on impulse." 
     With these words the king permitted his son to leave.   Rama on leaving his father went straight to his mother's place.  He found Sumitra, Lakshmana and Seetha there.  He told the Queen Kausalya "Oh, mother! Father ordered that I should rule the people.  He informed me that there will be anointing ceremony to me tomorrow.  Seetha too, along with me should observe fast this whole night."
      Then Rama bid good-night to his mother, step-mother and Lakshmana and  went to his house along with Seetha.
      After Rama left, king Dasaratha called Vasishta and requested him to make Rama and Seetha prepared for the ceremony the following day.  Sage Vasistha agreed and went to Rama's place and explained the prince what he and his consort were required to perform that night and the next morning until the anointing ceremony.
      Vasishta, while leaving Rama's house noticed that  the royal palace was filled with people who were high-spirited and extremely happy.  All the royal highways in the city of Ayodhya were filled with groups and groups of delighted people and was congested.
Then, on the royal road, the resonance created by the rush of the people moving hither and thither like waves combined with their rejoicing, resounded like the roar of an ocean.  On that day, in the city of Ayodhya, all the roads were cleaner and sprinkled with scented water.  There were rows of trees on both sides of the roads and flags were hoisted on the tree-tops and on the top of the houses.
      Then, the people of Ayodhya including children, women and the aged were waiting for the sunrise, raring to watch the anointing ceremony of Rama.
         Manthara, a housemaid who was residing with Kaikeyi since her birth, hearing all the noise outside, ascended the balcony of Kaikeyi's palace and noticed that the entire city of Ayodhya was absolutely agog.  She did not then know about the coronation of Rama the next morning.
      There is a legend floating around about Kaikeyi and Manthara.  The same is as under.

The daughter of the mighty Ashwapati, a long-term ally of Kosala, Kaikeyi married Dasharatha after the latter had assured her father that her son would succeed him as the King of Kosala.  Dasharatha was able to make this promise as his first wife, Kausalya, was childless and not likely to produce a son of her own.  Kaikeyi also remained barren for many years of marriage, as a result of which he married Sumitra, the princess of Magadha, another kingdom with strong political ties to Kosala.

Kaikeyi's personality is worth examining and provides a strong clue to her motivations which later led to her insisting on the exile of her stepson from Ayodhya.  As a young girl and the only sister to seven brothers, Kaikeyi grew up without a maternal influence in her childhood home.  Her father had banished her mother from Kekaya after realizing that his wife's nature was not conducive to a happy family life.  Amongst other things, due to a boon, Ashwapati was able to understand the language of birds.  However, this was accompanied by a caveat that if he ever revealed the content of a bird's speech to anyone, even his own mother, then he would forthwith lose his life.  One day, the King and his Queen were strolling around the palace gardens when Ashwapati happened to overhear the conversation of a pair of mated swans.  The conversation so amused him that he laughed heartily, kindling his wife's curiosity.  Despite being aware of the fact that he could not divulge the content of the conversation to her, without losing his life, Kaikeyi's mother insisted on knowing the cause of the King's mirth.  When Ashwapati realized that his wife cared little for his life or well-being, he had her banished to her parents' home.
      Kaikeyi never saw her mother again.  She was raised by her wet nurse, Manthara, who accompanied Kaikeyi to Ayodhya as a trusted maid, upon her marriage to Dasharatha.  Her father's treatment of her mother and the latter's subsequent exile led to Kaikeyi harboring a deep distrust of men in general and husbands in particular, and to considering their love as "fickle" and "passing" in nature.  In addition, she felt that she was very insecure in her position as a secondary consort to Dasharatha.  She realized that Dasharatha deeply respected his Queen and Empress, Kausalya, and had only married her in order to produce the much-needed heir.  To this end, Kaikeyi realized that her position in her husband's affections and esteem relied heavily on her ability to produce that heir.  When she remained barren, she became increasingly insecure and realized that she could never win in her struggle for supremacy over Kausalya, although Manthara proved to be a great solace in this regard.  The older woman schemed constantly to further her own position at the Court.  And since her position depended on Kaikeyi's status at Court, Manthara lost no opportunity to kindle the young Kaikeyi's insecurity and jealousy of Kaushalya, despite Dasharatha's obvious enchantment and love for all of his wives.  
       It is important to point out that other sources state that Kaikeyi was not insecure, that she loved her other Queen sisters, and was the backbone of the group.  She had saved the King Dasharatha in a  battle and demonstrated her warrior courage.
End Legend.
      On inquiry she learned about the great honour to be conferred upon Rama.  Burning with spite and anger, she shook her head vigorously and approached Kaikeyi who was lying cosily on a bed and told her "O, fool! Get up.  How can you sleep?  A dreadful situation is befalling you.  A flood of troubles submerges you.  Why are you so ignorant of this yourself?  Oh, Kaikeyi !  You pride yourself as the most beloved wife for the great king Dasharatha, but in reality that does not appear to be so.  You boast of your fortune.  Like the flow of a stream in summer, your fortune is unsteady".
      Kaikeyi  really did not understand why the old goat was so angry.   Kaikeyi asked kindly the hunch-backed Manthara  "O! Manthara! Are you okay?  You appear to be very sorrowful and more cantankerous today."
      After hearing Kaikeyi's sweet words, Manthara who was an expert in persuasion, spoke with anger.  She told Kaikeyi "Oh, queen! An unending great ruin has encircled you.  King Dasharatha is going to anoint Rama for the princely kingdom.  I am immersed in a bottomless pit of fear.  I am in distress and my mind is burning as if by fire.  I hastened here to inform you of the calamity and advise you to act wisely.  Kaikeyi!  If Rama becomes king, his son will become king after him.  Thus, Bharata's name itself will be removed from the list of royal clan.
      "Oh, Kaikeyi! Having born in a royal family and being an emperor's wife, how is it that you are so ignorant about the cruelty in kingly duties?  Your husband talks about righteousness, but does harm secretly.  He says sweet words but behaves cruelly.  Because you are so innocent and modest, you are not able to know that he is cheating you grossly.
      "Your husband approaches you and talks sweet words, which are useless.  Today he is passing the benefit to Kausalya only.  The evil minded Dasharatha sent Bharata to the house of his relatives and at dawn is going to install Rama on the throne without any hindrance.  O! childish one!  Like a mother, you wish for his well being.  But he is an enemy, and is called husband for a namesake.  But in reality he is like a poisonous serpent in your bosom.
      "King Dasharatha has acted towards you and your son today in the same way as an enemy or a serpent would behave.  O! stupid one! With his untruthful sweet words to you, who are ever deserving of ease and comfort, the evil minded king is installing Rama on the throne and is thus ruining you along with your son. You have to take an appropriate action immediately, so as to save yourself, your son and me too."
        Kaikeyi of charming countenance rose from her coach full of delight like the crescent moon in autumn.  With astonishment and joy she gave a graceful jewel to the hunch-backed Manthara and told her "Oh, Manthara! You informed a wonderful news to me. What else can I do for you, who informed such a good news?  I do not see any difference between Rama and Bharata.  That is why, I am happy that Rama is being anointed for the crown by the king. You do merit every favour.  I have not heard a more pleasant news than this.  Hence, you cannot ever again inform a more pleasing news than this.  I shall give you a good boon.  Ask for it!"
      Manthara angrily threw down the ornament and with distress shouted at Kaykeyi  "O! foolish one! Not knowing that you are in the midst of an ocean of trouble, what is it that you are so delighted about, in a matter to be grieved?  Though stricken with grief,  I mentally laugh at you in that you are rejoicing at the time when a great calamity is hitting you.
      "I am lamenting over your foolish mind.  Does any intelligent woman feel happy over the prosperity of a stepson who is considered an enemy?   Does it not amount to praising a befalling death?  Rama has a fear about Bharata because Bharata has equal rights over the kingdom.  In thinking about this matter, I am getting anguished.  Do we not get disasters from those who are afraid of us?   
      "Lakshmana, wielding a great bow, joined Rama with all his heart.   Shatrughna is as faithful to Bharata as Lakshmana to Rama.  In line with even the proximity of birth, the claim to the throne of Bharata alone can be pressed; that of Lakshmana and Satrughna who are younger is out of question.
      "Rama is a learned man and a political statesman.  His actions are timely and appropriate.  When thinking of your son's calamity to be resulted from Rama, I get shiver with fear.  Kausalya is very fortunate.  Brahmans are going to anoint her son for the great princely kingdom tomorrow on the day of Pushyami star.
      "With folded arms, as a maid-servant, you have to serve that Kausalya who, having reached a great prosperity, in the height of joy, will dispose of her adversaries (in the person of Bharata and yourself).  Thus, if you become Kausalya's servant-maid along with us, your son Bharata will be Rama's attendant.  Rama's wives will get delighted.  Your daughter-in-law will be unhappy because of Bharata's waning position."
 Comment: The words 'Rama's wives' here do not indicate that Rama had multiple wives.  Manathara refers to a possible future where Rama being a King would marry other women.  It was a norm then for a king to have more than one wife.
End Comment.
      Hearing Manthara speak thus in many distasteful words, Kaikeyi began to extol Rama's virtues, saying  "Rama knows all righteousness.  Very learned elders trained him.  He has a proper gratitude.  He always speaks truth.  He has a clean conduct.  He is the eldest son of king Dasharatha and hence eligible for the kingdom.  The long living Rama will protect his brothers and servants like a father.  Why are you so pained on hearing about Rama's coronation?
      "After Rama's rule for one hundred years, Bharata the best among men will certainly replace Rama on his father's throne, which is that of his ancestors.  Oh, Manthara!  When we got an occasion for rejoicing as at present and when a festive occasion is to come off in future (too in the form of Bharata's installation, no matter even if it comes after a hundred years), why do you feel agonized like this as though burning (with jealousy)?  
      "For me, Rama is as lovable as Bharata and even more.  Is he not doing more service to me than to Kausalya?  If Rama has kingdom then Bharata has it as well.  Rama esteems his brothers just as his own self."
      Manthara, after hearing Kaikeyi's words, felt very sad and after a long and hot sigh, said "On one side, you are getting immersed in an ocean of sorrow filled with misery and danger.  But due to stupidity, you are not able to perceive the truth and you fail to assess your real position.
      "O, Kaikeyi!  If Rama becomes the king, his son will become the king after him in succession.  Thus, Bharata's name itself will be erased from the list of  royal clan.  O, Kaikeyi! All the sons of a king will not be crowned for a kingdom.  If all are installed, there will be a great lawlessness.  Therefore, kings install their eldest son, even though others may be full of virtues, as their successor to the throne.
      "Your son will be completely distant from comforts and even from the royal clan, like an orphan.  I came here to protect your interests.  But you have not understood me.  You think it fit to give me a present when your step-wife is getting more prosperous.
      "Rama, ascending the throne without hindrance, will either send away Bharata to some other country or have him killed.  This is certain.  You sent Bharata to his maternal uncle's house even in his childhood.  By being nearer, love is born even on inanimate objects.  By sending Bharata to a distant place, you made Dasharatha to have no affection towards him.  Out of sight is out of mind.  Shatrughna was drawn towards Bharata and went along with him.  Just as Lakshmana joined Rama, Shatrughna joined Bharata.
Comment: Sage Valmiki might be implying here that if Shatrughna were to be present then at Ayodhya, he would have tried for the prosperity of Bharata
End Comment.
      "We hear that a tree marked down for felling by foresters, when covered by thorny Ishhiika grass, is saved from this great danger of cutting.  So also, Dasharatha might have supported Bharata if he was staying near to him in Ayodhya.  Lakshmana protects Rama.  Rama protects Lakshmana.  Their brotherly affection is as famous as that of Aswini celestials.  Hence, Rama will not do a sinful act of killing Lakshmana.  However there is no doubt that he will do so in the case of Bharata.
      "Hence, I feel that it is better for your son to go to forest directly from his uncle's house.  This is good for you, too.  If Bharata gets his father's kingdom as per law, it will be beneficial to you and your side of relatives.  Your youthful son, used to comforts, is a natural enemy to Rama.  How can Bharata who failed to achieve his purpose live under the control of Rama, whose flourishing objective has been realised?
      "Rama is chasing and bringing down Bharata as a lion chases an elephant-king in the forest.  You ought to protect Bharata.  Previously, you treated Kausalya with disrespect due to the arrogance that you were more fortunate.  Will not such Kausalya, your rival wife, revenge for that animosity?  O, Kaikeyi! The day Rama becomes lord of this earth with its great oceans, mountains and towns, that day you and your Bharata will get a bad and pitiable position of ignominy.
      "When Rama gets power of the kingdom, Bharata will certainly get ruined.  Hence, think of a solution to get your son Bharata the kingdom and to send Rama, your enemy, to exile."

No comments:

Post a Comment