Wednesday, 31 July 2013

66.The Aftermath at Ayodhya after Rama left.

                  Now that Rama and co. are settled comfortably at the Chitrakuta mountain, let us go and see what that  all-purpose guy Sumantra is doing and what is happening at Ayodhya.
       That chap Guha was very much attached to Rama.  He therefore, sent some of his best men to follow Rama and co. discretely without their knowledge.  They did so until Mr. and Mrs.Rama and Lakshmana had come to the sage Bharadwaja, stayed with him in Prayaga and departed to Chitrakuta mountain. After learning this, Sumantra rode back to the city of Ayodhya. Sumantra reached Ayodhya on the evening time of the third day and noticed that the city was glum and joyless.
          Seeing Sumantra approaching, thousands of people ran towards him asking, "Where is Rama?" He replied them  "He sent me back when we reached the bank of Ganga."
         On hearing that the people were lamenting "Lost indeed are we, who do not see Rama here! Never again can we see our beloved and the most pious Rama on the occasions of bestowing gifts, sacrificial performances or marriages or in large meetings. The city of Ayodhya was protected by Rama, as by a father, with due regard to what was appropriate and congenial and what brought happiness to its people."
       While driving through bazaars, Sumantra heard the sounds of lamentation of women coming forth from windows, due to intense anguish on account of Rama's exile.
Going through the middle of the royal highway, Sumantra by covering his face reached the house of Dasharatha. Sumantra descended from the chariot, entered quickly the royal palace and traversed the seven inner apartments of the palace filled with a large number of people. Then, seeing  Sumantra from their large mansions, from seven-storied buildings and from royal palaces, the women who had been emaciated in not being able to see Rama, cried "Alas! Alas!".
Those women, extremely confounded with grief with their long and bright eyes filled with a stream of tears, looked at each other imperceptibly.  Sumantra also heard the feeble conversations of Dasharatha's wives absorbed in anguish on account of Rama's exile, from their respective inner apartments. "What will Sumantra reply to the lamenting Kausalya, as he has now returned here without Rama.  It is a wonder that in spite of her son having left Ayodhya, Kausalya continues to survive!"
         Hearing those very credible words of Dasharatha's wives, Sumantra entered the house that appeared to be set ablaze with grief.  Sumantra entered the eighth inner apartment and saw in that white house, King Dasharatha a miserable, sick and an exhausted man on account of the grief for his son.  He approached him, offered his salutation and conveyed Rama's message as he was asked to.  The king heard silently the message of Rama.   Afflicted by the utter grief for his son, he was totally bewildered, fainted and fell down on the ground.  Seeing the king unconscious on the ground, the inmates of the gynaeceum wept, raising their hands in distress.  Kausalya along with Sumitra lifted up their husband from the ground.  Kausalya told the unconscious king  "My darling! Why are you not speaking to this Rama's messenger, who has come from the forest and who has undergone difficult things?  After doing an evil act, you are now feeling shameful.  Rise up!  Let it be a meritorious act for you.  You cannot get any help, if you go on weeping like this.  Are you afraid that Kaikeyi would not like you inquiring Sumantra about the welfare of Rama? That Kaikeyi is not here. Speak fearlessly."
       Kausalya, speaking excitedly in tears and after giving vent to the contempt she felt for the monarch fell down on the floor.  Seeing Kausalya on the floor weeping, all the other wives already crying in loud voice and gazing their husband too lying unconscious, cried louder.  Hearing that crying sound raised in the gynaeceum, all the aged and young men and women on all sides gathered around weeping. 
       On regaining consciousness, the king looked at Sumantra, whose body was covered with dust, his face filled with tears and who was miserable and beckoned him to come near by nodding his head slightly.  When Sumantra came near him, the king said "Oh, Sumantra! Where is Rama taking refuge at the root of a tree?  What that Rama, who enjoyed very many pleasantries, can eat now?  Oh, Sumantra! How can Rama the prince, who was habituated to good beds, sleep with such discomfort on a floor like an orphan? Foot soldiers, Chariots and elephants used to follow whenever Rama was marching ahead.  How such a man can take shelter and stay in a forest bereft of people?  How Seetha, Rama and Lakshmana entered the forest filled with wild animals and black snakes? How those princes with Seetha, the delicate and the poor lady went on foot, after descending from the chariot?  You have seen my sons entering the forest, as though divinities of Aswini had entered the Mountain-range of Mandara.  You are indeed lucky.  After reaching the forest, what words did Rama speak?  Please tell me again without omitting anything. What did Lakshmana say?  What did Seetha say?  Tell me where Rama sat, slept and took food.  By hearing these things, I may survive, as Yayati survived in the company of saints."
Comment: King Yayati, when doomed to fall from heaven requested Indra to cast his lot with saints. He was accordingly sent down to a spot on the earth, where four ascetics- Astaka Pratardana Vasuman and the parva King Sibi had been practicing austerities, and had discourse with them- Mahabharata, Adi Parva.
End Comment.
            Sumantra, in a voice quivering and choked with tears told the king "Your Majesty! Rama, keeping up the prescribed course of conduct, making salutation with joined palms and bowing his head in reverence to you, spoke to me as follows 'Oh, charioteer! Convey my salutations to my father, the one with a remarkable intellect, a mighty soul and the one to be respectfully greeted.  Enquire about the health of all the people in the gynaeceum without any disparity and offer my appropriate salutations to them.  My mother Kausalya is to be told about my welfare, about my offering salutations to her and about my alertness. Tell these words also to her. Dear Ma! Be always righteous and be interested in offering worship and sacrifices at the prescribed timings in the House of Fire worship. Nurture the feet of the Lord Dasharatha, like that of a god. Oh, mother! Behave towards my other mothers, in your normal impeccable way by abandoning self-conceit and indignation.' He also told me to make the venerable Kaikeyi, agreeable to the king.  In respect of Bharata your son, follow a respectable behaviour as with a king.  Kings are indeed sovereign in substance.  Remember the rules relating to kings.  Bharata is to be enquired about his well-being and he is also to be informed as follows  'Follow good behaviour indeed judiciously towards all your mothers.  Being installed in the office of Prince Regent, attend to your father who still stays in the throne.  The king has crossed his age.  But do not depose him on that score.  By proceeding according to the orders of the king, you live as a prince.'
         "Shedding tears profusely, Rama told me to tell Bharata  'My mother, who is very much longing for her son, is to be looked after by you as if she is your mother'.  Oh, emperor! Rama's eyes were red due to weeping.  But Lakshmana was very angry and breathing a sigh, spoke to me as follows  'On which offence this prince was expelled from home?  The king took shelter under a wretched decree of Kaikeyi and performed an act not to be done, as though it is a proper deed, for which we are now tormented. Even if this was done for the good pleasure of the king or through the will of God, I do not see any justification for Rama's abandonment.  Rama's exile, an illegal decision undertaken whether due to levity of judgment or due to lack of reflection, will raise countless protests.  I do not consider the emperor as my father.  For me, Rama is the brother, lord, relative and my father. By banishing Rama who is the delight of all the people and who is a virtuous man and by opposing this world, how will you stay as a king?' Oh, King! The wise Seetha for her part with her mind like one possessed and forgetting her own existence, stood sighing and static. The illustrious Seetha having not seen any misfortune earlier could not even speak to me anything, weeping as she was with that uneasiness."
          After hearing  Sumantra, Dashartha asked him to tell the remaining happenings.  Sumantra then said "Your Majesty!  Wearing clothes of bark, those brave princes, matting their hair twisted together, crossed the River Ganga and proceeded towards Prayaga. Escorting Rama, Lakshmana proceeded ahead. With the hope that I shall be called again by Rama, I stayed there along with Guha for three days.
        "Your Majesty! Even trees in your domain have withered, without giving flowers due to Rama's separation. Rivers, pools and lakes were with hot water. Groves and gardens were with their leaves parched up.  Living beings are not moving.  Wild animals too are not roaming around. That forest became silent, predominated by grief towards Rama. Lotus-lakes, with lotus-leaves were hiding under the water pressing themselves closely together, with muddy waters, with parched lotus-flowers and in which fish and water fowls have completely disappeared.  Waterborne flowers and flowers living on dry lands now give very little fragrance and fruits do not have a luscious look or taste as before. The gardens here are empty of men and the birds have vanished. I am not seeing the gardens as charming as before. Nobody greeted me entering Ayodhya City. Having not seen Rama, the people are breathing their sigh of lamentation again and again.  Seeing the royal chariot returning here without Rama, all the people along the royal highway are shedding tears with grief.  Seeing the returned chariot without Rama, women from mansions, seven-storied buildings and royal palaces were crying.  Women, being more sorrowful, are looking at each other indistinctly with their long bright eyes overwhelmed with a flood of tears.  I do not see any distinction in their agony, whether they are non-friends, friends or neutral people. The city of Ayodhya with its joy-less people, with its elephants and horses looking miserable, with sighing exhaustion due to cries of pain, filled with sounds of moaning, cheerless and feeling anguish due to Rama's exile, appears to me, like Queen Kausalya without her son."
       Hearing Sumantra, the king in a voice choked with tears and very much woeful said in a feeble voice "Enjoined by Kaikeyi with her sinful birth and intention, I could not deliberate with people experienced in counsel or with elders beforehand.  This act has been done by me in haste due to infatuation for the sake of a woman, without consulting friends or ministers or with interpreters of sacred texts.  If at all I have done any favour to you, lead me fast to Rama.  My vital spirits are hastening me.  If there is the same unlimited authority of mine even now, let Rama be brought back to Ayodhya.  I cannot survive without Rama even for a moment. Or perhaps Rama, my very dearest son, gone a long way. Make me to ascend the chariot and quickly lead me to Rama.  Where is that Rama having pearl-like teeth and wearing a large bow?  If only I can see him well with Seetha, I can survive.  If I cannot see Rama having red eyes, mighty arms and with ear-rings made of gems, I shall proceed to the world of Death.  What is more distressing to me after getting into this condition, in not seeing  Rama who is a delight to Ikshvaku dynasty? O Rama! Oh, Younger Brother of Rama! Oh, unfortunate Seetha! You do not know that I am dying with grief, like one abandoned."
       King Dasharatha, his mind very much despaired with grief and plunged in an ocean of sorrow, very difficult to be crossed, said "Oh! Queen Kausalya! I am plunged in this ocean of grief.  Its area of sorrow is for Rama. Its waves and huge whirlpools are sighs of anguish.  It is agitated with water and foam as tears. Throwing away of arms is the swarm of fishes.  Its great sounds are cries of lamentation. The scattered hair is its duck-weed.  Kaikeyi is its submarine fire, which is the cause for the rush in my tears. The words of the hump-backed are its huge crocodiles.  Its shores are the boons asked by the cruel Kaikeyi.  Its long stretch is due to sending of Rama to far away place.  I cannot cross this ocean alive, without Rama. What a pity! Though I want to see Rama and Lakshmana now, I am not able to see them here. It is very bad."
        Lamenting thus, the king of great renown soon became unconscious and fell down on his couch.  Hearing his words lamenting as much as twice more pitiably for Rama and the king having fallen unconscious, Kausalya was alarmed once again.

Friday, 26 July 2013

65. Rama settles down at Chitrakuta.

                  Sage Bharadwaja gave permission to move after he performed a religious rite for ensuring a safe journey for them.  He accompanied them for a distance, as a father would for his sons.  Before bidding adieu to the trio, Bharadwaja the great sage gave them the precise direction to the Chitrakuta mountain "After approaching the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, follow the river Yamuna in the direction of west. When you reach the River Yamuna belonging to olden times, you cross the River Yamuna (the daughter of the sun-god) by preparing a raft there.  After crossing the river Yamuna and approaching a large banyan tree named Syama (dark-green) having green leaves and surrounded by many other trees and visited by Siddhas, Seetha should, joining her palms, recite her auspicious prayers to the tree.  Having approached that tree, you can take some rest there, if you so desire.  After going only for two miles from there, you will see a beautiful forest blue in colour with bamboo trees touching upon Yamuna river and interspersed with Sallaka and jujube trees.  It is the way to Chitrakuta.  I visited that place many times.  It is beautiful, endowed with serenity and free from forest-fire."
               Rama then remarked "Lakshmana! We are fortunate that the sage has shown such a compassion towards us."  Then they followed the direction of the sage Bharatwaja and reached the River Yamuna belonging to olden times, running with rapid stream. Rama and Lakshmana prepared a big raft with pieces of timber fastened together, covered with a kind of grass and spread over with dry bamboo canes.  Thereafter, the valiant Lakshmana made for Seetha a comfortable sofa like seat with the chopped branches of reeds and of rose apple trees. Then Rama helped Seetha to mount the raft.  Rama kept her two robes and the jewellry, a shovel and a basket by the side of Seetha in the raft, along with the weapons.  Then the two brothers ferried across the river watchfully.  Having arrived at the middle of Yamuna river, Seetha offered salutation to the river and prayed "Oh, goddess of Yamuna! Adieu! I am crossing you!  May my husband complete his vow! When Rama safely returns again to the city of Ayodhya,  I shall propitiate you by offering a thousand cows and a hundred drinking vessels."  They then reached the southern side of the river.  Then they, marched through the river-forest and reached the banyan tree Syama.  Approaching that banyan tree, Seetha prayed "Oh, great tree! Obeisance to you! Let my husband complete his vow! Let me see again Kausalya and the illustrious Sumitra."  Thus speaking, Seetha circumambulated that tree with joined palms.  
          Seetha, who was walking in the middle of them was like an auspicious female elephant in the middle of two huge male elephants.   Seetha wanted to have them whenever she saw the one or the other tree or a bush or a creeper shining with flowers which she had not seen earlier. Lakshmana dutifully brought her many kinds of beautiful twigs of trees, full of flowers.  
          Seetha very much enjoyed to see the River Yamuna with wonderful sands and waters re-echoing to the cry of swans and cranes.  After some time, the two brothers killed many consecrated deer and ate them in the river-forest.  They strolled in the charming forest, enjoying the scream of a number of peacocks.  They also noticed that the forest was inhabited by elephants and monkeys.  On reaching an agreeable level ground at the bank of the river, they decided take a rest for the night.
             On the following dawn,  Rama gently woke up Lakshmana, who was sleeping, and said "Oh, Lakshmana! Hear the sound of wild animals, resounding beautifully.  It is time we resume our journey.  Let us start."   All of them got up and did all the morning chores, including, of course, bathing in the river.   Then they proceeded towards the path leading to Chitrakuta mountain. 
          On the way Rama was telling Seetha "Seetha! Behold Kimshuka trees with their diadem of flowers blossoming all over, as if they are blazing up, in this winter. Look at these Bhallataka (cashew nut) trees, abounding in flowers and bent down with fruits and leaves, all untouched by men.  We can certainly live here. Lakshmana! Behold in every tree the hanging honeycombs of the size of a water-trough. In this beautiful forest region, dense with a scattered mass of flowers, a Chataka bird is crying and a peacock is responding to it.  See this Chitrakuta mountain with a high and a mighty peak, wide spread with a multitude of elephants and made to resound by a congregation of birds.  Oh, brother! We shall sport in this forest of Chitrakuta, having a level-ground beautifully extensive with many trees and is pure."    
         Rama and Lakshmana along with Seetha traveling on foot, approached the mountain of Chitrakuta, which was pleasant and lovely.  Reaching that mountain, filled with various flocks of birds, with many roots and fruits, lovely and rich in streaming water, Rama said to Lakshmana "It appears to me that this beautiful Chitrakuta mountain yields an easy sustenance, for, it is charmingly filled with various kinds of trees and creepers with different kinds of roots and fruits. High souled sages are also staying on this mountain.  Let this become the dwelling for us, too.  Let us make this our resort."
          After deciding thus, Seetha,  Rama and Lakshmana with joined palms approached a hermitage and offered their salutation to the sage who happened to be the Sage Valmiki. The great sage Valmiki, who knew what is right, full of delight, treated them with honour, offered cordial welcome and requested them to sit.  Then Rama, in accordance with tradition, reported the ascetic all that concerned them and with the approval of the sage, told Lakshmana  "Lakshmana!  Bring strong and choicest timber and construct a dwelling.  My mind is fascinated in living here." 
            Lakshmana brought various kinds of trees and   constructed a leaf-hut, which was firmly built and thatched as well as beautiful to look at.  Rama then asked Lakshmana to bring the the meat of an anteolpe for performing a purification ceremony.
         Lakshmana promptly obeyed the instructions of his brother and told him "This black antelope, with its complete limbs, has been cooked completely by me. Worship the concerned deity, as you are more versatile in that act." 
         Rama,  after taking bath and with subdued mind, briefly chanted all the sacred scripts to be chanted at the end of a purificatinon ceremony.  Worshipping all classes of deities and getting himself purified,  Rama entered their dwelling.  There was a heartfelt joy in Rama, with his limitless splendour. Having taken bath in the river as prescribed, Rama offered oblations to Lord Rudra and Lord Vishnu after offereing tributes to Vaisvadeva. He performed benedictions relating to the purification of house and also a silent prayer as per prescribed rites. He finally offered excellent tributes to the deities, for removing sins.
Comment:  Vaishvadevabalim: A religious ceremony which is to be performed every morning and evening and especially before the mid-day meal, followed by offering of food to the gods especially the god of fire.
End Comment.
          Lakshmana erected altars in all the quarters of the hermitage as was fitting, Chaityas (places for worship of Lord Ganesha and others) and Ayatanas (places for worship of Vishnu and others).  Rama and Lakshmana along with Seetha, having auspicious characteristics, satisfied the spirits by crowns of flowers obtained in the forest, by fruits, roots and cooked meat, by water, by prayers as uttered in the sacred texts (Vedas), by sacred grass, by fuel and Kusa grass and then entered the auspicious leaf-hut.  All of them entered that hut, thatched with leaves of trees, looking beautiful, well constructed at a suitable site and protected from winds, as if entering an assembly hall called Sudharma (in heaven) by a group of celestials.  
           Seetha, Rama and Lakshmana who subdued their senses, very happily strolled in that excellent forest, filled with many classes and multitude of beasts and birds, trees having multi-colored crowns of flowers, and resonating with sounds of elephants in rut and of antelopes. Delighted and joyful to reach the lovely Chitrakuta mountain and the river Mayavati, provided with good descents and frequented by birds and beasts, Seetha, Rama and Lakshmana shed the agony caused by their exile from the City of Ayodhya.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

64. Rama decides to stay at Chitrakuta.

           At dawn the next day, Rama told Lakshmana
"Oh, dear brother! This is the hour of sunrise. This is a good time to cross the swift-flowing Ganga River."
      Lakshmana conveyed the wishes of his brother to Guha and Sumantra. Guha ordered that a solidly constructed beautiful boat with necessary helmsmen in it should immediately be brought to the bank to carry his guests across. 
      The chief minister of the King Guha promptly executed the command of his master.  
      Rama and Lakshmana then equipped themselves with the necessary armoury, and then proceeded towards the river of Ganga with Seetha.   Sumantra with all humility, approached Rama what he (Rama) wants him (Sumantra) to do.  Rama told him to return immediately to Ayodhya and be attentive in serving the king.  He further added "Go now as your service to me has been completed.  We would no longer require the chariot, as we will be going on foot to the forest."
       Sumantra could not digest his peremptory dismissal and hence with distress spoke to Rama "None in the world has to suffer such a fate as yourself;  that you should have to dwell in the forest with your brother and your consort as if you were an ordinary man!
       "I think that there is no reward in leading a life of religious student or in studying religious scriptures or even in cultivating tenderness and straight forwardness, as, it seems that adversity does not give any credit to such things. 
       "Oh, heroic Rama! Living in the forest along with Seetha and your brother, you will obtain the same position as one who has conquered the three worlds.
       "Oh, Rama! We are actually ruined and disappointed in our hopes in you too. We shall have to fall under the sway of Kaikeyi, the sinful woman and reap the suffering."
      Sumantra then could not control his sorrow, wept for a long time, stricken with grief, seeing Rama, equal to his soul, going away.
        Rama waited for the faithful Sumantra to regain his control.  After some time his (Sumantra's)  tears got dried up and then Rama  sipped some Ganga water and got himself purified and said "I do not see any one who is as great a friend of the Ikshvakus as you are. Pray, act in such a way that king Dasharatha may not lament about me.
         "The king, whose mind is afflicted with grief, is aged as well. He is pressed down by a burden of passion.  Hence, I tell you this. 
         "What so ever act that the great emperor may enjoin you to do, with intent to oblige the desire of Kaikeyi, it is to be done promptly and unhesitatingly. 
         "Kings rule their kingdoms with this end in view that their will may not be frustrated in any undertaking. 
          "Oh, Sumantra! Carry out everything in such a way that the emperor neither finds it unpleasing nor gets tormented by grief. 
          "Only after performing respectful salutation to the old and venerable king, who has never known suffering and who has subdued his senses, you tell these words to him on my behalf. 
           "'Indeed neither I nor Lakshmana and Seetha grieve for having moved from Ayodhya or that we are going to dwell in a forest. 
           "'After completing fourteen years, you will once more see Lakshmana, myself and Seetha returned apace from the forest.'"
           "Oh!, Sumantra! This is what you should say to the king, my mother, all other queens including Kaikeyi.  Tell Kausalya again and again that I am keeping good health. Thereafter, convey salutations at her feet on behalf of Seetha as well as myself and Lakshmana. 
          "Tell our salutations to the emperor too.  Bring Bharata quickly.  After his arrival, Bharata may be installed in the position, as desired by the king. 
          "When you embrace Bharata when he was installed in the office of the Prince Regent, the agony caused by the repentance felt by you on our account should not overpower you.
        "Convey Bharata the following message from me
     'Treat without distinction all your mothers with the same regard as you show the king.
      'Show the same affection you have for Kaikeyi, to Sumitra, mother of Lakshmana, and Kausalya, my mother, too.
      'If you accept the princely kingdom just to please our father, it will be possible for you to enhance happiness in both the worlds viz. in this world and the next.' "
        Sumantra, who was being sent back by Rama in an imperative manner, was agonized with grief after hearing the discourse and affectionately told Rama "Please forgive me for what I am going to tell you.  At the outset I like to inform you that I am your most fervent devotee and as such I propose to speak to you fearlessly in a friendly tone without following courteousness or protocol.
       "How can I return without you to that city, which through separation from you, would have been reduced to the state of a mother stricken with grief due to the separation from her son.
       "By seeing my chariot on that day with Rama in it, the people were lamenting so much.  Now, if they see the chariot without Rama, the city of Ayodhya will be broken asunder.
       "On seeing this chariot without you, the city will be plunged in misery, like an army in which its commander is lost in a combat with the charioteer alone surviving.
       "Thinking of you, who though receding from Ayodhya is established foremost in their minds, the people of Ayodhya must have declined their food today.
       "The cry of distress raised by the citizens of Ayodhya will be increased a hundred-fold, when they see me without you.
       "Further, what am I to tell the queen Kausalya?  Am I to tell her that her son, Rama has been taken by me to the house of his maternal uncle, and hence not to grieve?
       "How can I tell anything that is untrue?  How can I tell that I abandoned the prince Rama in the forest?
       "Even these excellent horses obedient to me, which carried yourself, Seetha and Lakshmana, may refuse to pull the chariot bereft of you.
       "Oh, the faultless Rama! For these reasons, I cannot go back to Ayodhya.  Let me accompany you to the forest.
       "If you decline, I shall enter a fire with the  chariot and all, here itself.
       "Oh, Rama! With the help of the chariot, I shall ward off those animals in the forest, which create obstacles to your austerities.
       "The pleasure of driving your chariot has been obtained by me because of you and it is through you that I seek the happiness that comes in dwelling in a forest.
       "Be graceful.  I desire to become your close associate in the forest.  I wish to hear your loving assent with the words 'be my close associate!'
       "Oh, hero!  These horses too can render service to you and they can attain a supreme abode.
       "By all means, I am leaving for good, Ayodhya or even heaven.  Dwelling in the forest, with my head bent low, I shall render service to you.
       "As a doer of wicked deeds cannot enter Amaravati, the capital of Devendra, I, too cannot enter Ayodhya without you.
       "This is indeed my desire that after reaching the end of your exile, I may take you back to the city of Ayodhya in this very chariot.
       "So long as I am with you together in the forest, fourteen years will slip away momentarily.  Otherwise, they will multiply a hundred- fold.
       "Oh, prince,  You ought not to abandon me, your devoted servant, established in the path followed by the son of his master and always keeping within bounds."
       Rama, who was always compassionate to all his subordinates, consoled Sumantra "Oh, charioteer so fond of your master! I know your excellent devotion to me.  Hear carefully why I send you back to the city of Ayodhya.
       "Seeing you returning Ayodhya, Kaikeyi, my younger mother will be quite satisfied that I, Rama, have indeed gone to the forest. 
       "Having completely satisfied, about me having gone to the forest, Kaikeyi will no longer have any doubt or suspicion about the king's promise about sending me to the forest.
       "This is my first priority that my younger mother should get the kingdom for Bharata.
        "For my pleasure and the pleasure of the king, you go along with the chariot to Ayodhya and inform all the matters that you have been asked to tell each in the way you have been asked to do."
       Satisfied that Sumantra was reasonably mollified, Rama  said "Oh, Guha! This stay in the inhabited woods is not proper for me.  My stay should definitely be in a hermitage.
That apart, all the three of us have taken up a discipline to be followed by ascetics, and want to proceed further wearing matted hair.  Please, therefore order your men to get the latex of a banyan tree."
       Guha immediately gave suitable orders to his men. With that, Rama made matted hair for himself and for Lakshmana.
       Rama who had long arms wore the distinguished mark of an ascetic in the shape of matted hair. Then, Rama and Lakshmana clad in the bark of trees and wearing a round mass of matted locks on their heads looked like a couple of bright and shining ascetic sages.
       Having adopted the way of a hermit along with Lakshmana, Rama told Guha "Oh, Guha! Remain vigilant in defense, finance, internal security and public relations. Perhaps, you already know that these are very essential for a kingdom to be ruled effectively."
       Then Rama bade farewell to Guha and got into the waiting boat, with Seetha and Lakshmana.  After settling down in the boat he recited a sacred text (daiviim naavam etc.) fit for brahmanas and Kshatriyas alike and conducive to his own good.
       Having sipped the Ganga water as per scriptures and with extreme delight, Rama with Seetha made obeisance to that river. Lakshmana followed suit.  Rama sat on the boat and directed the boatmen to move on.
         That boat, furnished with a pilot and propelled by splendid and vigorous oarsmen, rapidly moved across the water.
        When it reached the middle of the Bhagirathi river, the irreproachable Seetha with joined palms, prayed "Oh, Ganga! Let Rama, the son of the emperor Dasharatha, honor his father's command under your protection!  Having dwelt in the forest for the full fourteen years, may he return once more to your bank with his brother, Lakshmana and myself!  Oh, blessed goddess Ganga! Returning safely, with all my desires fulfilled, I shall worship you with greater joy.
         "Oh goddess! flowing through three regions (namely heaven, earth and subterranean regions), you are vividly seen on this terrestrial plane as a consort of the ocean king.
       "Oh, charming goddess! I, Seetha, greet you and extol you too.  When Rama, my dear husband, safely returns and regains his kingdom, I shall give away one lakh of cows, soft clothing and food to brahmanas with intent to please you.
       "Oh, goddess! After reaching back the city of Ayodhya, I shall worship you with thousand pots of spirituous liquor and jellied meat with cooked rice well prepared for the solemn rite.
       "I shall worship all deities dwelling on your banks as also sacred spots and sanctuaries.
       "Oh, irreproachable goddess! May the sinless Rama  re-enter Ayodhya again from the forest, along with Lakshmana and myself."
        The boat safely reached the southern bank.  On getting down from the boat and while proceeding further along with Lakshmana and Seetha, Rama told Lakshmana "Security is an inevitable need in a forest, which is uninhabited and has unforeseen dangers. Therefore, you go in front.  Let Seetha follow you. I shall follow in the rear, protecting you and Seetha.  We must accord protection here to one another.
       "An act which has gone out of hand, whatsoever, cannot be remedied.  Seetha is going to experience the hardship of staying in a forest from now.
       "Today she will enter the forest, where density of people will be very thin, which is utterly devoid of fields and gardens, has a rugged surface and is full of stumbles."
       Obeying Rama's words, Lakshmana walked in front. Immediately after Seetha, Rama followed.
       Gazing at Rama constantly, the distressed Sumantra, his vision having failed due to the long distance and to his perturbed mind, shed tears profusely when he saw the triple reached the other bank of the river and getting down from the boat and proceeding deep into the forest.
        Rama and his party reached progressively the prosperous and the happy land of Vatsa, which contained rows of beautiful crops. Being getting hungry they hunted there four deer, namely Varaaha, Rishya, Prisata and Mahaaruru (the four principal species of deer) and taking quickly the portions that were pure. Then Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana reached a tree to take rest.
         Rama  worshiped the western twilight and then told his brother "Tonight will be the first night we are going to be without Sumantra.  You ought not repent over it.  Remaining free from lassitude, from tonight we both must keep awake during nights.  The safety and welfare of Seetha solely depend on us two.  Let us pass tonight here.  Let us lie down on the ground, covering it by straw, leaves and so on, procured by our own hands."
       Stretching himself on the bare ground, Rama, who was accustomed to a luxurious couch, commented "Assuredly the emperor is sleeping badly tonight, while Kaikeyi, having realized her ambitions, ought to feel satisfied.  Seeing Bharata returned, queen Kaikeyi, I hope, may not expel the life of the emperor for the sake of kingdom.  Reflecting on his mental derangement,  I deem that passion alone is greater than religious merit.  What man however deluded, what father on account of a woman, at his own will and pleasure, abandon a son like myself?  I guess, Kaikeyi's son Bharata will be happy along with his wife. Like an overlord, he is going to enjoy the prosperous kingdom of Kosala. Father is superannuated.  I am staying in the forest.  Bharata will become the prime head for the entire kingdom.  He who pursues sensuous pleasures neglecting his tangible interests and discipline soon comes to distress, in the same way as king Dasharatha has.  It seems that Kaikeyi came into our house to bring about an end to Dasharatha, to send me into exile and to secure kingship for Bharata.  Blinded by pride of good fortune, Kaikeyi may now even persecute Kausalya and Sumitra because of their relationship with me.
       "Queen Sumitra is likely to suffer more hardship because of her affinity to us.  I feel that it would be better that you go back to Ayodhya in the morning.   I will proceed to the Dandaka forest with Seetha, while you be the protector for Kausalya and your mother Sumitra, who have no defender.  Kaikeyi may resort to unjust means.  In some earlier birth, some woman or women must have been deprived of their sons by my mother.  At a time when Kausalya should be getting the benefits for her labors repaid by me, she has been deprived of my company.  I was nurtured by her for a long time and brought up with great pains.  Oh! Woe to me.  Let no woman ever give birth to such a son as myself, who has caused such a grief to his mother.
       "If necessary, I can subdue, with my arrows, single handed not only Ayodhya but also the entire earth.  But it is not a question of valour here.   I am terribly concerned of doing anything wrong, thereby ruining my prospects in the other world.  Hence, I did not allow myself to be crowned."  
        After saying this to his brother during the night in that lonely forest, Rama wailed piteously for a while and was blaming himself in so many other ways.  Then he became quite exhausted and was sitting quiet, looking blandly at nothing with his face full of tears.
       Seeing his dear brother in this pathetic, distressing and miserable state, Lakshmana said affectionately  to him "The city of Ayodhya, now that you have come away from it, I am sure, has certainly been divested of its splendor and resembles a night without the moon.  It is not proper, oh Rama, that you should grieve in this way.  You cause distress to Seetha and me, too.  Bereft of you, neither Seetha nor I will survive even for a moment, like a fish pulled out of water.
       "Oh, Rama! Without you, I do not wish to see either our father, Shatrughna or Sumitra.   Without you I will decline even the heaven."  
        The comforting words of Lakshmana seemed to have soothed the nerves of Rama to a very great extent.  Then Rama and Lakshmana, the lovers of piety, sought for the bed.
       Lying on the bed Lakshmana  was giving a sort of discourse.   Attentively hearing Lakshmana's words which were excellent and holistic and adopting for a fairly long period the course of conduct prescribed for hermits, Rama resolved to spend the entire fourteen years in exile with Lakshmana.
       Thence forward, those two powerful offsprings of the Raghu race viz. Rama and Lakshmana, never admitted fear or agitation during the rest of their stay in that vast and lonely forest like a couple of lions on the slopes of a mountain.
         Having spent the beautiful night under the big tree, Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha started from that place in the early morning.  During their journey in the deep forest, they saw many stretches of land and at some places, attractive scenery never seen before.  They proceeded in the direction of that region where river Yamuna was flowing forth towards river Ganga.
         Always a very keen observer, Rama noticed something and shouted in an excited voice  "Perceive,  Lakshmana, the smoke looking prominent as a sign of the glorious god of fire near Prayaga (the confluence of the holy Ganga and Yamuna rivers).  I think that sage Bharadwaja is staying nearby." 
        After looking keenly for a few moments he continued "We have certainly reached the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna.  Yes, the noise produced by clashing of waters is heard.
        "Pieces of timber split up by men who are dependent upon forest-products, as also the trees of various kinds are seen around the hermitage of Bharadwaja."
         Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha reached the abode of the sage Bhardwaja, near the confluence of rivers Ganga and Yamuna, at the time the Sun was falling to the west. Arriving at the hermitage, the two valiant princes, accompanied by Seetha, entered the hermitage and saw the sage who was austere and contemplative. Rama together with Lakshmana and Seetha greeted him with joined palms. Rama introduced himself to the sage "Oh venerable sage!  I am Rama; this is my brother Lakshmana.  We both are the sons of Dasharatha. Here is my wife Seetha,  daughter of Janaka who has accompanied me to the lonely forest suitable for religious austerities. While I was being sent to exile by my father, my younger and beloved brother Lakshmana (son of Sumitra) has also followed me to the forest.  Commanded by our father, we are entering a lonely forest to practise asceticism, living on roots and fruits." 
        Hearing this, the pious sage Bharadwaja offered Madhuparka* as well as water to wash his hands with. 

Comment: Madhuparka is a traditional offering which consists of a mixture of curds, butter, honey and the milk of the coconut as a welcome-drink.
End Comment.

        The sages then gave them various kinds of delicacies prepared from the wild roots and fruits and also arranged accommodation for them.  Honouring with words of welcome, the sage Bharadwaja told Rama that he had heard of the unjust banishment.  He then continued  "This holy place at the confluence of the two rivers is secluded and delightful.  You can stay here comfortably."
           Rama thanked the sage profusely, but declined the offer by saying "This place is in the proximity of a city.  The people of the city as well as the rural folks of the adjoining villages could find us easily at this place.   Many people would be very keen to see Seetha and myself, I presume, and will make their appearance at this hermitage, which would, naturally be a distraction for you and your disciples. For this reason,  I do not like to stay here.  We would like to stay at an hermitage in some lonely place, quite out of reach for common people."
          Bharadwaja, the great sage agreed and said "About ten Kroshe from here, dear son, lies a sacred mountain on which you may take-up your dwelling.  That region is inhabited by great sages and is quite charming to look at from all sides, infested by the black species of monkeys with long tails, haunted by apes and bears.  It is known by the name of Chitrakuta; it closely resembles Gandha maadana mountain.
 Comment: The author of commentary known by the name of 'Ramayana Siromani'construes the word ' Dasha' in the sense that it should be split up as ' Dasha cha, Dasha cha, Dasha cha(meaning three times then = thirty Kroshes) Since 1 krosh= 2 miles, 30 kroshes= 60 miles and thus approximate to the figure worked out by the said commentator.  According to the latest measurements, the distance is calculated as eighty miles. Making allowance for the difference in the standard of measurement obtaining in those days the figure arrived at by the learned commentator appears to be fairly correct. 
End Comment.
       "Anyone observing the peaks of Chitrakuta Mountain, cannot perform anything other than virtuous deeds and will never set his mind on a sin. On that mountain, many sages having spent hundreds of years in austerities as though in sport, ascended to heaven, duly attaining their final emancipation.
       "I am sure that you will find that mountain to be a very lonely and comfortable place for you to live in.  However, you are most welcome to stay here itself with me, for the entire period of your exile."
          Rama accepted that offer for that night only.  When the night was gleaming into a dawn, Rama approached the sage Bharadwaja, thanked him and said "We lodged in your hermitage for the night, Oh venerable sir!  Please permit us to proceed to  Chitrakuta."
        Bharadwaja told "Proceed to Chitrakuta, rich in honey, tubers and fruits.  I consider that Chitrakuta as the right place for you to stay.  You set off for that well-known, sacred and lovely mountain, Chitrakuta which is adorned with clusters of trees of every description, frequented by Kinnaras and Nagas, is rendered charming by the cries of peacocks and infested with lordly elephants and bountiful with tubers and fruits.  Since herds of elephants and troops of deer wander all around in the woodlands there, you will visibly notice them.  Roaming about with Seetha, you will be delighted to see rivers, cascades, peaks of mountains, fissures in rocks, caves and rivulets.  After reaching the auspicious and absolutely beautiful Chitrakuta Mountain, reverberant in all direction with the cooing of small white cranes and cuckoos as well as with many kinds of deer and elephants in rut, settle down there in a hermitage."

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

63. Rama meets his friend Guha.

          In the meanwhile Rama covered quite a distance before daybreak.  Having worshiped the blissful morning twilight, he neared the boundary of his or rather his father's kingdom.  Seeing villages, whose outskirts have been tilled and the woodlands laden with blossoms and hearing the words of men of the villages, Rama with his companions was proceeding at a leisurely pace in the chariot pulled by the  excellent horses, enjoying the beautiful scenery.
       The villagers were talking "Woe unto the king Dasharatha who fell into the clutches of concupiscence.  Alas!  Kaikeyi the cruel and the sinful one now is still engaged in a cruel game.  She got the prince Rama, the most pious man, the great intellectual and the compassionate who subdued all his senses exiled.  That hot-tempered Kaikeyi is behaving in a rude manner, transgressing all the bounds of propriety.  How Seetha, the venerable lady, the daughter of Janaka, who was delighted always in homely comforts can now experience the hardships in the forest?  What a surprise! The king Dasharatha, having no love for his son, now wants to abandon Rama, who is so beloved to the people and is absolutely faultless."
       Having crossed the auspicious waters of the river  Vedashruti, Rama then stretched forth, facing the quarters occupied by the Sage Agastya.  After traveling a pretty long time from there, Rama crossed the river Gomati, whose banks were adorned with cows.  Reaching the other bank of Gomati river, Rama crossed the river called Syandika which had resounded with the happy and playful cries of peacocks and swans.   Rama showed Seetha  the land of Kosala, the southern boundary of which was defined by Syandika river given long ago by the king Manu to Ikshvaku and which was bounded by many territories.
           When they reached the boundary of the Kosala territory Rama halted the chariot and standing with his face turned towards Ayodhya, with joined palms said "I bid farewell to you, Oh best of the cities, carefully protected by Dasharatha born in Kakutstha dynasty, as well as of the deities who protect you and dwell in you.  After getting relieved from exile in the forest and thus freed from the debt to the emperor, I shall see you again, duly getting united with my mother and father."
       Lifting his right arm and wearing a woeful look, his face covered with tears from his lovely reddish eyes, addressed the people of the countryside  He thanked and asked the people gathered there around the chariot to go and attend to their normal chores.
       Respectfully saluting their beloved prince and going round him clockwise (as a mark of reverence), those men stood rooted here and there, wailing frightfully.  While they were lamenting thus unceasingly,  Rama passed out of their sight, like the sun sinks out of view at nightfall.  Then Rama, in his chariot, crossed Kosala territory.
        Rama reached a happy and prosperous kingdom, abounding in lovely gardens and fit to be enjoyed by kings. There, Rama beheld the celestial and lovely river of Ganga with its three tributaries, carrying clear waters without green moss and frequented by sages. Beholding the river Ganga with its waves covering whirlpools, Rama  told Sumantra the charioteer "We shall halt here itself today.  Not far from the river stands this very large sacred fig tree with its many flowers and shoots.  We shall stay here itself.  I shall see from here the excellent river Ganga, which is auspicious and whose waters deserve to be respected by gods, men, Gandharvas, beasts, reptiles and birds."
        Sumantra then directed the horses to that sacred fig tree.  Rama got down from the chariot along with Seetha and Lakshmana.   Sumantra too dismounted from the chariot, unyoked the horses and then he seated himself near Rama at the foot of the tree. There, a king named Guha was Rama's friend dear to him as his own life.  He was Nishada by birth, a strong man and well known as a ruler of Nishadas.
       Hearing of Rama's arrival to his territory, he approached the prince, escorted by his ministers and relatives.  Seeing from a distance the king of Nishada coming, Rama along with Lakshmana went forth to meet Guha. Closely embracing Rama, Guha who felt disturbed, spoke to him, "This city too is as much as Ayodhya to you.  What can I do for you?   One does not get everyday such an honoured and lovely guest."
         Having brought pristine cooked rice of excellent quality and other dishes of various kinds, he then quickly offered Rama water to wash his hands and said "Welcome to you,  my lord!  All this land is yours.  We are your servants. You are the Lord.  Rule over our kingdom in your efficient way.  Here are various kinds of dishes, drinks and syrups as also excellent beds for you to sleep on and food for your horses."
            Rama smiled and replied "We stand honored by you, by your very visit to us on foot, as well as your show of affection and are pleased with you". 
         Pressing gently with his muscular arms, Rama continued  "My dear Guha! Thank heaven that I am seeing you in good health with your relatives.  Is all well with the kingdom, the allies and the treasure?  I know your affection by which all this is extensively well arranged by you.  But I am not in a position to accept it.  Know me as under a vow to be an ascetic, wearing the robes of bark and deerskin and by piety, I am determined to live in the forest by eating roots and fruits only.  I desire nothing but a little forage for the horses.  By being provided with this much at the present moment, I shall be duly satisfied by you.  These horses were cherished by the king Dasharatha, my father.  I shall feel honored if these horses are duly fed."
          Then Guha on that spot commanded his men to bring immediately water, forage etc. for the horses. 
        Having worshipped the evening twilight appearing in the west, Rama then took for food only water brought by Lakshmana himself.  Having washed the feet of Rama who was lying on the ground along with his consort,  Lakshmana then came and stood near a tree.  Guha too along with the charioteer conversed with Lakshmana who was wielding a bow and keeping an alert vigil over Rama.  Lakshmana continued his surveillance till dawn.
Sarga 50
       Distressed with anguish to see Rama and Seetha  lying on the ground, Guha said to Lakshmana, who kept awake, out of sheer love, affection and respect, for the protection of his brother Rama "Here is a comfortable bed made for you, my friend!  Relax comfortably on it.  We are quite used to hardships, whereas you are habituated to comforts.  We shall keep awake this night, for the protection of Rama.  For, none is dearer to me than Rama in this world.  I speak the truth and swear to you by truth.  I hope to acquire abundant acclaim and supreme merit in this world as also full reward of wealth, by the sole grace of Rama.  As such, I along with my kindred shall protect my dear friend Rama who is reposing with Seetha, in every way, with bow in my hand. Nothing is unknown in this forest to me, where I wander continually.  We will be able to withstand even a vast army, comprising of four parts elephants, chariots, cavalry, and infantry."
          Lakshmana thanked and replied "My dear Guha! Being protected by you, who keep your duty alone in view, all of us are fearless in this land.  When Rama, the son of Dasharatha is lying on the ground with Seetha,  how is it possible for me to sleep or to enjoy the pleasures of life? See that Rama, who cannot be vanquished in combat even by the gods and demons combined, is now sleeping profoundly on the grass along with Seetha.  When Rama has been sent to exile, the king will not live long and the earth will become surely widowed forthwith.  Having cried out in a high-pitched tone, the women having exhausted, would have fallen silent and I am sure that a profound stillness reigns in the palace.  I do not expect Kausalya, Dasharatha and my mother to remain alive for this night.  By looking forward to meet Shatrughna, my mother might stay alive.  But it will be painful if Kausalya who has given birth to such an heroic son, dies.  That city of Ayodhya, filled with devoted people, hitherto a source of joy and which brought pleasure to the world,  when seized with agony over the king's death, will perish.  How, in the absence of his magnanimous and the first born son, will the vital airs in the body of the generous king be maintained?  After the death of the king, Kausalya will die.  My mother also will die thereafter. Having failed to install Rama in the kingdom, which was the most cherished wish of his heart, my father will leave this world.  Those who are fortunate will consecrate our deceased father and the king in the course of all funeral rites, when the hour has struck. Will Dasharatha remain alive?  After returning from exile, can we see the king Dasharatha of noble vows again? Can we safely return to Ayodhya, after the completion of the period of exile in the forest along with Rama who is faithful to his promises?" 
        While Lakshmana was thus lamenting, stood on ground, afflicted with anguish as he was, that night rolled away.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

62. Rama cleverly eluded the citizens.

           Rama selected a suitable place on the banks of Tamasa river for their stay during the night and then told Lakshmana  "Lakshmana!  We have been sent to the forest.  Today is the first night of our residence in the forest.  You ought not to feel anxious.  May all be well with you!   Now, the city of Ayodhya, the capital of our father's renowned kingdom with its men and women will lament about us.  There is no doubt that the affection of the citizens of Ayodhya for the king is not less than for you and myself, as also to Bharata and Satrughna, for many of our virtues.  I feel repented for my father and my illustrious mother.  I pray that they should not  become blind, by weeping incessantly.  Bharata, the virtuous man, will surely console our father and mother by his kind words.  Lakshmana!  Thinking of Bharata's kindness again and again, my grief for our father and mother seems to lessen.  You have done well by accompanying me, as otherwise, a help would have to be sought for by me for protecting Seetha.  I shall live on water alone tonight. Though there are various kinds of wild fruits and roots, this is what I would like to have tonight."  Then, Rama told Sumantra  "Oh, My dear man!  Attend to the horses."
       Sumantra tied up the horses, supplied them with abundant grass.  He then noticed that the sun was completely set. After worshiping the beautiful evening,  Sumantra along with Lakshmana made for Rama a bed out of the leaves of a tree on the bank of Tamasa river.  Rama along with his wife laid down on it.  Seeing that his brother sleeping along with his wife, Lakshmana by way of chatting narrated Rama's various virtues to Sumantra.  This kept Lakshmana keeping awake on the bank of the Tamasa river.  At a good distance from the Tamasa river, whose banks were crowded with herds of cows,  Rama passed that night there with the citizens.  Getting up from the bed well before dawn and seeing those citizens fast asleep, Rama told his brother  "Observe, Lakshmana, the citizens full of longing for us, unmindful even of their homes, sleeping together at the roots of trees!  From the way these citizens are coercing us to return to Ayodhya, it seems they will even lay down their lives, but in no case would give up their resolve.   Before they get up in the morning, let us quickly mount the chariot and take a route which has no fear from any quarter.  The residents of the city should indeed be made free of their suffering brought about to themselves, by the sons of their rulers.  The citizens should on no account be burdened with any hardship because of us."
        Lakshmana agreed in toto.  Then, Rama told the charioteer "My dear chap!  Keep the chariot ready at your earliest.   We shall proceed to the forest.  Let us go quickly from here."
      Then, Sumantra quickly fastened the chariot to the excellent horses and informed Rama so.
      Rama with his wife and brother got into the chariot with all necessities like bow, armor, quiver, spade, basket, and so on and crossed the swift flowing Tamasa river, thickly set with whirlpools.  Having duly crossed the stream, they reached a great road free from obstacles and safe even for those who are apprehensive of danger.  Then Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana got down from the chariot.  In order to elude the citizens, Rama told Sumantra "You turn the chariot and go northward.  Proceed for a while quickly and bring back the chariot again.   Do it in such a way that the citizens will not be able to locate me."
       The charioteer agreed and made a round of the chariot as he was suggested.  Then, Rama and Lakshmana  along  with Seetha ascended the chariot.  The charioteer urged the horses along the route by which they reached a grove suited to the practice of austerities.  However, Sumantra placed that chariot by facing it to the north, for he saw omens auspicious for journey in that quarter.  After finishing their morning chores, Rama along with his wife and brother, mounted the chariot and proceeded to the forest.
      As the night gave way to dawn, those citizens relinquished by Raghava were perplexed with grief and became motionless.  Made miserable with tears born of anguish and agony, they made a thorough search around the place, but there was no Rama no Seetha or no Lakshmana.
       Their faces distorted with utter sorrow, deprived as they were of the sagacious Rama and therefore nonplussed, the citizens broke into piteous exclamations like
       "Cursed be to that slumber, rendered us unconscious, by which we could not behold today our Lord Rama.   How can he leave for exile, abandoning us, his devoted citizens?"
         "Let us have recourse to death here itself, or definitely set out for a grand journey to the north with a resolve to die.  For what purpose can life be good for us, separated as we are from Rama? Or there are a number of big dry logs of wood here.  Lighting a funeral fire out of them, let us all enter the fire."  
       "What shall we say to our fellow citizens? 'The great armed Rama has been conveyed to the forest by us!' How can we say so?  Seeing us returning without Rama, that city of Ayodhya, already desolate, will with its women, children and the aged, become even deeply cheerless.  Having left the city thus with that hero, the conqueror of one's own self, how can we look on that city again without him?"
      Uplifting their arms , those men stricken with anguish, like cows bereft of their calves, lamented in various ways as above.  Then, proceeding to some distance along the tracks for a while, they were overwhelmed with great despair again due to sudden disappearance of the tracks. 
      Therafter, all of them with aggrieved hearts went to the city of Ayodhya, which was comprising of virtuous people with distress, by the same path on which they had come. Beholding the city, they shed tears through their eyes stricken as they were in grief, their minds distressed through cheerlessness.   The good-natured citizens, due to the disappearance of the tracks of the chariot, returned to Ayodhya, explaining to those who remained awaiting their return with Rama "How is it? What shall we do? We are afflicted by providence."
       Entering their houses with uneasiness, the citizens could not distinguish between their own people and others, even though being looked at, stricken as they were with grief, their joy having altogether extinguished.
      The lives of those citizens, who had returned dejected and cheerless in this way after accompanying Rama were greatly hurt, having their eyes filled with tears afflicted with grief, longing to give up their lives and appeared as though they were dead.  Reaching each his own house, all of them surrounded by their children and wives, shed tears copiously.  None was either delightful or merry.  Merchants no longer exhibited their wares, nor their merchandise looked attractive.  Those in charge of home did not attend to cooking.  None was delighted even, for instance on finding out a lost fortune or on getting riches in abundance. No mother did rejoice even on giving birth a son for the first time.
      Oppressed with sorrow and weeping, women in every house heaped reproaches on their husbands who returned home without Rama, with words as sharp as a needle, like
       "If you do not see Rama, what is purpose of your  dwellings, wife or wealth or sons or pleasures even? Lakshmana alone is a good man in this world, who was accompanying Rama, along with Seetha, duly rendering service to him in the forest.  Fortunate too are the rivers, lotus ponds and lakes for bathing in whose sacred waters Rama entered into.  Forests with beautiful row of trees, tracks of land abounding in water, rivers and mountains with alluring peaks will bring splendor to Rama.  Any mountain or forest which Rama will visit,  will not fail to respect him like a beloved guest who has arrived.  Plants with many-colored flowers as their chaplets,  bearing copious clusters of blossoms full of bees exhibit themselves to Rama.  Even in out of season, mountains in compassion will present principal flowers and fruits to Rama, on his arrival.  Mountains will show various wonderful waterfalls again and again, duly streaming forth uncontaminated waters.  Trees on the apex of mountains will enrapture Rama.  Where there is Rama, there is neither fear nor humiliation.  That Rama the son of Dasharatha, the hero and the mighty armed will come to our view not far from us.  Let us run after him.  The shelter of the feet of the lord is in itself a joy.  Rama indeed is the protector of all of us, he the refuge and our supreme asylum.  We shall serve Seetha, while you attend on Rama." 
      "Rama will secure the needs and interests of yours in the forest, while Seetha will do the same thing with regard to us womenfolk.  Who will like to live in this city of Ayodhya  if it is to be ruled by Kaikeyi.  It will not be in consonance with righteousness, with no protector and indeed with no use for our lives, much less for our sons and riches.  Whom else Kaikeyi will not abandon?  That Kaikeyi, by whom her son and her husband were forsaken for the sake of power brought disgrace to her family.  We swear even by our sons that while Kaikeyi is surviving and as long as we live, we will never inhabit this kingdom as Kaikeyi's servants!  Who can live happily on having obtained as one's ruler, that impious woman of wicked conduct, who banished the son of the king without any pity?  The whole of this kingdom, without any leader, having no support and visited by calamities, will meet with ruin because of Kaikeyi's fault.  For, Rama having gone into exile, the monarch will not survive and when Dasharatha is dead, utter regrets will remain thereafter.  It is certain!  So, drink poison duly stirred up, since your merits are exhausted and you are marked out by ill fortune.  Otherwise, follow Rama to the forest or go to a place where the name of Kaikeyi could not reach your ears.  Rama has been sent to exile along with Seetha and Lakshmana deceitfully.  We have been handed over now to Bharata, like the beasts in the hands of a slaughterer.  Rama, whose face is like the full moon, of dark brown complexion, whose collar-bone is invisible (because of its being covered with flesh), a conqueror of foes, whose arms descend to his knees, whose eyes resemble lotuses, who takes initiative in speaking and expresses with sweetness, truthful of speech and possessed of extra ordinary strength, is benevolent to all, delightfully charming as the moon, that tiger among men, as mighty as an elephant in rut, that great car-warrior, will surely adorn the woods, while roaming through them."
      Those wives of citizens in the city of Ayodhya, lamenting as aforesaid, began weeping, as though fear has cropped up for a forth-coming death.  The sun sank below the horizon and the night fell, while the women in the houses were weeping in that manner about Rama.  The city of Ayodhya, in which the kindling of fires had ceased and the chanting of Vedas and narration of sacred stories died out, looked as though it was coated with darkness at that time. The city of Ayodhya, in which the business of the trading class had come to a stand-still, in which joy had been faded out, which had become dim as though stars had disappeared in the sky. The women whose minds became sick on account of Rama, as one would feel on one's own son or brother having been sent into exile, cried miserably expressing their grief in various ways.  To them, Rama was dearer than their very sons!  That city of Ayodhya, in which singing, rejoicing, dancing and instrumental music had been completely set at rest, when joy had departed forever and whose shops had been closed, looked at that time like a great ocean whose waters had dried up.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

61. Devoted citizens requests Rama to return.

       Those citizens who were very highly devoted to their godlike prince Rama of unfailing bravery, despite being utterly exhausted ran behind the chariot with Rama, who was on his way to the forest for exile.  Rama who was the greatest celebrity of Ayaodhya and who was richly endowed with every virtue, resembling the full moon, had naturally become the darling of not only the people of  Ayodhya but also of the entire kingdom.  Fondly gazing on the people as though drinking with his eyes, Rama affectionately told them "The respect, love and affection you have shown me may, for my satisfaction be bestowed in equal measure on my very dear brother Bharata, too.  He will certainly do whatever are most beneficial to you.  Bharata who is very matured in knowledge despite young in age, who is gentle and endowed with virility and virtue, will become your worthy master who can dispel all your fears and protect you from every evil.   Bharata who is endowed with all the royal virtues is being earmarked as the prince.  Further, king's command is to be carried out by me as well as all of you.  If you desire to please me, see that the king does not suffer agony when I am gone to the forest in exile."
         The more Rama showed himself to be faithful to his duty, the more the people wished to have him as their master.  Rama accompanied by the son of Sumitra, drew the people like a strong magnet.  The people following them were weeping piteously, and ran after them as if tied and pulled with cords.  Those brahmanas (who were a part of the followers), who were triply revered for their learning, their age and their spirituality, cried out with their heads shaking "Oh Noble Steeds, of speedy breed! You who are carrying Rama, do stop, turn and come back!  Do not proceed any further!  Be friendly to your master (since by taking Rama against our wishes, you will be doing a disservice to him).  Indeed all things, which are endowed with ears, more so horses, stand appraised of our entreaty.  Therefore, you return.  That hero of the purest soul, of virtuous and auspicious firm resolve, that master, deserves to be brought back to the city and not to be taken to the forest."
         Hearing those brahmanas uttering those painful words, Rama got down from the chariot and started walking to the forest with Seetha and Lakshmana.  Rama with Seetha and Lakshmana, taking close strides, proceeded on foot towards the forest.  Rama who was affectionate in his disposition and had compassion in his eyes, could not abandon those brahmanas walking on foot, far behind the chariot. Perceiving Rama still going towards the forest, those brahmanas perplexed in mind and greatly distressed, cried  "The whole of this brahmana community is following you, devoted (as you are) to the brahmanas.  See, they are bearing the sacred fires on their shoulders.  Look at these canopies (obtained by us while observing Vajpeya sacrifice*) accompanying our backs like clouds at the end of the rainy season.
*-It is laid down in the Vedas that he who performs a Vajpeya sacrifice must be supplied with a white canopy.

         "With these canopies of ours, we shall give shade to you, who has got no canopy and is being scorched with rays (of the sun.  Oh, Dear child! The intellect of ours, who was forever engaged in perusing the study of Vedic texts has now been made to follow the course of exile to the forest. We will carry the Vedas in our hearts as our excellent treasure and our wives too will remain at home, protected by their character.  We shall not revoke our decision.  Our mind is fully determined to go along with you to the forest.  If you do not pay attention to piety, what being will remain devoted to the path of virtue?  Oh, prince of resolute conduct! We entreat you by our heads having gray hairs like the white color of the swans, that are soiled with dust as a result of their falling on the ground (in the course of our prostration to you) (pray) turn back.  Sacrifices have been commenced by many of those Brahmanas who have come here.  Their completion, depends on your return.  Beings both animate and inanimate, are indeed devoted to you. Show affection to those devotees, who entreat you to return. The trees held by their roots, unable to accompany you, seen to be weeping, hump-backed by the force of wind. Birds too, which sit motionless and are unable to go out in search of food and which remain fixed at one spot on trees, are supplicating you to return, compassionate as you are to all created beings."
      Those brahmanas crying thus with a view to persuade Rama to return, noticed that they had reached the river Tamasa which retarded the progress of Rama.  Thereafter, Sumantra, at the nod of Rama released the horses, tired as they were, from the chariot and quickly making them roll, allowed them to graze not very far from the bank of Tamasa once they had drunk water and had their body washed in the river.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

60. The afflictions of the Royalties.

              The grieving father, king Dasharatha was gazing at the chariot carrying his beloved son Rama until the dust raised by the wheels of it could be seen.  As long as the king was seeing, or longing to see his beloved son, so long did the dust in the earth appear to be rising for the purpose of seeing his son.  When Dasharatha, at last realised that the chariot had gone completely beyond human sight and the dust raised by Rama's chariot seen by him was just his imagination, the unfortunate king afflicted by utter dejection, fell insensible on the ground.  When Dasharatha fell down,  Kausalya his prime wife took her place on his right side to lift him up and Kaikeyi, his charming queen took her place on his left side.  Seeing Kaikeyi beside him, the outraged king shouted weakly with annoyance at her "Oh, You the wicked wench Kaikeyi!  Do NOT touch ME.  I do not wish to see you.  You are no longer my wife; not even a distant or remote relative.  I discard you, by whom righteousness has been discarded and who is solely interested in avarice and greed.  All the contracts which I entered into by taking your hand and performing holy rites around the sacred fire,  are now renounced in this world and the next."
       Meanwhile Kausalya the principal queen overwhelmed with grief, lifted up the king and dusted all the dust covered all over him and handed him over to his loyal servants.  All of them then started walking towards the palace.  The virtuous monarch, thinking deeply of his son Rama, was so desolated as one who has slain a brahmin intentionally or as touching the fire by hand.  Turning back again and again towards the track of the chariot, the countenance of the king in grief lost its radiance like the sun losing its radiance when swallowed by Raahu.
        Guessing that his son would have reached the end of the city, he said  "He who slept in comfort on coverings sprinkled with the essence of sandalwood and refreshed by fans waved over by him by the most charming and very kind women, Rama the best of my sons, will from now on has to take refuge at the foot of a tree somewhere, lying down on its trunk or rest on a stone.  From today the inhabitants of the forest will behold that long armed lord of the world, Rama, rising from the ground and wandering around like an orphan.  The daughter of Janaka, who was always accustomed to comforts, will wander exhausted in the forest through the thorny undergrowth.  Seetha who was not earlier accustomed to woodlands, from now on will live in apprehension, hearing the roaring sound of wild beasts.  Oh, Kaikeyi! Let your desire be fulfilled!  Dwell in the kingdom as a widow.  I do not indeed wish to survive any longer without Rama".  
         Thus lamenting, the king surrounded by his people, entered his palace like entering a disastrous house by one who has taken the funeral bath.  Seeing the entire city with its road-junctions and mansions deserted, its shops and temples closed, with its people exhausted with fatigue and plunged in affliction, its highways not very crowded, the king entered his palace wailing and thinking of Rama alone. Bereft of Rama, Seetha and Lakshmana, the palace looked like a big pool rendered unperturbed due to the emptying of snakes in it by Garuda*.
*Garuda (chief of feathered race, enemy of the serpent race) was a mythical bird vehicle of Bhagwan Vishnu. 
            The lamenting monarch in trembling accents and in soft, pitiful, indistinct and not clearly intelligible words ordered "Take me quickly to the apartment of Kausalya, the mother of Rama.  Nowhere else my heart will find solace." 
       The attendants, accordingly took the king to Kausalya's house and there he was gently laid on a coach.  Even though   he was physically comfortable in Kausalya's apartment, his mind was disturbed and heart agitated.  Bereft of his two sons and his daughter-in-law, the king saw that house devoid of all the charm as a sky without a moon.  Looking up and lifting up his arm, the powerful monarch cried in a loud voice, "Oh, Rama! You have left us both, your mother and me. Alas! Those very fortunate men, who will survive the term of fourteen years, seeing Rama come back and embrace him, will be greatly blessed and thereby will be very happy indeed."
      The onset of night following dusk resembled the hour of death to him.  Dasharatha told Kausalya towards midnight "Oh, Kausalya!  My sight has gone along with Rama and not returned.  Even now, I am not able to see you clearly. Touch me with your hand."  Perceiving her husband in such a pitiable plight  Kausalya became very sad and sitting beside him, and with a distressed look said
      "Now that she got what she wanted,  Kaikeyi of crooked ways, will surely wander about freely like a female serpent that was let loose.  Having fulfilled her desire of expelling Rama to the forest,  Kaikeyi the charming woman will frighten me by clamping down upon me, like a dangerous serpent in the house.  Even giving my son to her as a slave would have been better.  By that, Rama would have at least stayed in the house by doing the work entrusted by her and roaming about in the city, asking for alms.  Having willfully thrown Rama out of his position, Kaikeyi has acted in the same way as one who tends the sacred fire throws a part of the sacrifice to ogres on a new or full moon night.  Together with his wife, accompanied by Lakshmana and walking like the king of elephants, and holding a bow in his hand, the mighty armed hero surely would have entered the forest.  In the forest, what fate will befall them who had never seen such a suffering before and who have been sent by you to a forest life as per the wishes of Kaikeyi?  Devoid of riches, those youthful beings, in exile at the age when they should be enjoying diversions of every kind, how are they to live in misery, having only the roots and fruits for their nourishment?  When that auspicious hour will come to me that will bring an end to my sorrows and I shall see Rama with his wife and brother returning here?  When will Ayodhya regain its pristine glory, with people thrilling with rapture and be adorned with rows of towering banners the moment it hears of the two heroic princes (Rama and Lakshmana) being present?  When will the city rejoice like an ocean swelling jubilantly on a full moon night to perceive the two princes who are tigers among men come back from the forest?  When will the mighty armed hero (Rama) enter the city of Ayodhya placing Seetha in the front in the chariot as a bull would follow a cow?  When will thousands of men shower the parched grains of paddy on the royal highway over my two sons (Rama and Lakshmana) entering the city?  When shall I see the two princes adorned with splendid ear-rings and armed with excellent bows and swords, entering Ayodhya like a pair of mountains crowned with peaks?  When will those two princes with Seetha merrily go round the city clockwise, giving away flowers and fruits to virgins and brahmanas?  When will the pious Rama, grown ripe in intellect and shining like a god in point of age, return to me, cherishing the world like the timely rain (whenever required)?  In some past life, I probably was very meanminded and ipso facto I cut off the teats of cows while their calves were longing to suck them.  Oh, tiger among heroes!  Fond of my child like a cow, I, as such was forcibly deprived of my child by Kaikeyi in the same way as a cow having a calf of tender age may be deprived of her calf by a lion.  I cannot indeed wish to survive without my only son who is adorned with all virtues and is well-versed in all scriptures.  I do not think that I can hold on to my life here any longer if I could not perceive my beloved son (Rama) who is mightily armed and Lakshmana of great strength.  This fire born of grief caused by the separation from my son, is torturing me in the same way as the illustrious sun, possessed of the greatest splendor, scorches this earth with its rays in summer."
               Sumitra, who also was there in the apartment said affectionately "My dear Kausalya!  You are fretting needlessly.  That son of yours, Rama, is endowed with all the virtues and is the foremost among men.  What is the use in your lamenting in this way or in weeping piteously?  You know that our sons are mightily strong.   Rama has demonstrated that his father is perfectly truthful by renouncing his throne.  He stood firmly in righteousness, which is always practiced perfectly by disciples and which gives fruits even after death.  That Rama, the most excellent man, does not deserve to be lamented.  Lakshmana, not less virtuous than his brother, always renders the best form of service to Rama.  His conduct is beneficial to Rama.  Seetha, who was habituated to comforts, in spite of knowing fully the pain and difficulties of living in a forest, is accompanying your  son.  What has not been achieved by your capable son, who is rich in virtues and is engrossed in the vow of truthfulness, and the banner of whose fame flutters though out the world?  Having known the purity and magnanimity of Rama, the sun assuredly will not torment Rama's body with his rays.  Auspicious and delightful breeze of moderate heat and cold, blowing from woods at all times, will render service to Rama.  Gently touching with its cool rays when he is reposing at night and embracing him like a father, the moon will refresh Rama.  Formerly, when Rama killed Subahu the son of Sambarasura, the chief of demons, Brahma being delighted, gave celestial weapons to Rama, thereby he became more powerful than before.  Rama, relying on the strength of his own arms, will dwell fearlessly in the forest as if in his own palace.  The splendor endowed with Rama, the valor that is in him and the beneficent strength that resides in him will lead one to believe that when he completes the term of his exile in the forest, he will speedily regain his kingdom.  Rama is the illuminator of even the sun, fire of fire, the ruler of rules, the splendor of splendours, the foremost glory of glories, the forbearance of forbearances, the god of gods and the foremost being of all the beings.  Indeed, what handicaps could be there for him in the forest or in Ayodhya?  Rama the best among men will be installed on the throne soon along with  the princess of Videha kingdom, Seetha who resembles  the Mother Earth (the consort of lord Vishnu) and Lakshmi (the goddess of fortune and another consort of Vishnu).  Seeing Rama departing, all the people in Ayodhya smitten as they were with grief shed tears born of agony. The goddess of fortune as Seetha followed the invincible hero when he departed for the forest, clad in a garment of the sacred Kusa grass.  Indeed, what can be difficult for him to obtain?  What can be difficult to obtain for, to whose front indeed walks Lakshmana, the best among the holders of bow wielding arrows, sword and missiles?  Oh, Kausalya! I tell you that you ARE GOING TO see Rama coming back, on having completed the term of his exile in the forest.  Abandon grief and infatuation. You will see your son, like the rising moon, saluting respectfully your feet, by bowing his head.  Seeing Rama shining with great splendor appearing before you again, will succeed his father, you will be shedding tears of joy.  Do not have uneasiness or grief.  Rama has no ill luck. You will be able to see soon your son along with Seetha, accompanied by Lakshmana.  While people are to be consoled by you at this moment, why are you fostering grief in your heart?  You, whose son is Rama, ought not to grieve, for none is better established in the right path in the world than Rama.  Seeing your son saluting you with his friends, you will at once begin to shed tears, like a line of clouds in a rainy season.  Your son the bestower of boons, will soon return to Ayodhya, and touch your feet with his gentle but muscular hands.  When your son salutes you respectfully in adoration, you will sprinkle tears of joy in the same way as a line of clouds pour rain on the mountain."
            Sumitra the queen, skilled in her employment of words, faultless and charming, thus consoled Rama's mother with soothing words.  Hearing those words of Sumitra, the mother of Lakshmana, the agony of Kausalya, Rama's mother and the wife of Dasharatha started to recede in the same way as an autumnal cloud with a little water in it disappears quickly.