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Lesson 7

The coronation proposal / Manthara’s evil counsel / The coronation proposal

Ramayan – Lesson 7

Some days passed. Guests whom the wedding had brought there returned. Bharata mother brother, Yudhajit, the king of Kekaya, wished to take Bharata with him, and Dasharatha consented.Shatrughna, who was ever with Bharata like his shadow, accompanied him.

The old monarch Ashwapathi was happy to see his grandson Bharata, and Shatrughna, who had accompanied him. He treated them with utmost affection and desired that they should stay with him for some time. The two youths stayed there, spending their days in the happy service of their elders.

In Ayodhya Rama and Lakshmana devoted themselves to the service of Dasharatha. King Dasharatha loved all his sons. But Rama was particularly dear to him. This was because of Rama character. He was valiant but yet of gentle disposition. He never raised his voice. He was not jealous of any one, and vanity dare not go near him.

Sri Rama would practice archery every day. He toiled to improve his mastery over arrows and other weapons, of astras and shastras. A shastra is a weapon behind which there is only physical prowess. An astra has behind it the power of a mantra  a sacred verse. Sri Rama studied the four Vedas, the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvanaveda, diligently, conforming to the prescribed forms and rituals. He also studied deeply the Vedangas  Shiksha, Vyakarana,Nirukthi, Jyothisha, Kalpa and Chandassu. Whenever time permitted he would engage in dialogue with elders on matters relating to Dharma. He constantly sought to improve his knowledge.

Sri Rama was full of compassion for the poor. He was deferential towards elders. And in the face of gravest crisis he remained unperturbed. He had a prodigious memory. He was brilliant. He was also conversant with the affairs of the world. Neither joy nor sorrow could disturb his serenity.

Sri Rama was also well-versed in music, drama, literature and other fine arts like painting and dancing. There was no warrior who could face Rama in the battlefield. He was proficient in the formation of armies.

Sri Rama was as patient as the earth, as wise as Brihaspathi  the Guru of the gods, and as valiant as Devendra. Dasharatha gladness waxed as days passed.

However, with the passing of time, old age began to creep over Dasharatha. Besides, fearful omens were seen in Ayodhya. Dasharatha was perturbed. He felt that his days were numbered. And so he reflected in this manner:

These omens warn against an impending calamity. My days are over. I am growing weaker day by day. I can no longer shoulder the burden of administration as I used to. This responsibility I shall entrust to Rama. He is a treasure- house of virtues. He is always concerned about the welfare of the subjects, their interests and prosperity. The people, too, are full of affection for him and proud of him. They will approve if I tell them that I shall make him Yuvaraja, the heir apparent.

King Dasharatha called an assembly of his courtiers to announce his decision. The rulers of vassal kingdoms, kings of states in the east, the west, the north and the south, mlecha rulers, representatives of tribal people in hilly regions, ministers, generals of the army, several officers, and prominent citizens were all there. The assembly shone like the court of Devendra.

Dasharatha addressed the assembly and said, Honourable men of my court, I have called you to seek your opinion on a proposal I have. As you know, I have grown old. I cannot rule over the kingdom without strain as before. I have, therefore, thought of anointing my eldest son Sri Rama as the Yuvaraja and handing over the administration to him. Kindly tell me if this meets with your approval. Or else, suggest what I can do, and I shall follow your decision

The courtiers were delighted to learn that Dasharatha had decided to anoint Sri Rama. They applauded deafeningly. In a single voice they said, Your Majesty, we entirely approve your decision.You now need rest. So anoint Sri Rama and have rest.

They continued, Great Lord, Sri Rama is valiant, strong and able to rule. He has a sense of justice and he is knowledgeable and wise. He will look after the subjects as his own children. Therefore make Sri Rama the Yuvaraja and have no worries.

Dasharatha was pleased that his courtiers had endorsed his proposal. He said to the royal priest, Great Sage, Somehow I am apprehensive about the future. I have, therefore, decided to anoint Sri Rama without delay. We do not have much time. Tomorrow is an auspicious day; the star Pushya presides over this day in the month of Chairta. And so I have decided that Sri Rama will become the yuvaraja tomorrow. We do not have enough time to send word to Kekaya and king Janaka who are far from here. But assuredly they will rejoice when they hear this news. Great Sage, tell me what things you will need for the coronation, and I will arrange to have them ready.

Sage Vashista replied, We shall need different varieties of grains, herbs, garlands of white flowers,castor, ghee, honey and other articles, diamonds and precious stones, gold, pearl and articles of worship. We need arrows and weapons impelled by mantras. We also need the army with four divisions, an elephant with auspicious signs, a white chamara  a white fan, a flag, and a white umbrella. Besides we shall need hundreds of cows and kalashas- sacred vessels filled with holy waters.

Dasharatha instructed his ministers to collect all the articles Vashista had listed. He sent Sumantra to fetch Rama. Sumantra was the chief minister. He was senior in age and one of those trusted by Dasharatha. He fetched Rama. Sri Rama made obeisance to his father, touching his feet. Dasharatha blessed his son and said, Sri Rama, I am getting old. I am no longer equal to the task of administering this kingdom. I wish, therefore to retire. Sri Rama, your fine qualities have pleased me immensely. You are always immersed in thoughts about the welfare of the people. I have, therefore,decided to anoint you as yuvaraja.

We do not have much choice of auspicious days and so I have thought of celebrating the crowning tomorrow itself. Ramachandra, as their king, look after the people well. I have discharged my debt to the gods, the rishis and my ancestors. You too, should repay these three debts. The gods have vouchsafed such bounties of Nature as plenty of crops, plenty of rains, and sunshine. Repay the debt of the gods by performing sacrifices. Through a tradition of studies the rishis have preserved the Vedas, composed great works and disseminated knowledge. Discharge their debt by studying them and helping in the dissemination and propagation of knowledge. Love your ancestors who have given the body and developed it, for the body enables you to earn punya – religious merit. Repay their debt by having excellent children and moulding them into good people. Go now, my son, return to the palace. You and your wife Seetha should fast today and worship God devoutly. Get up early tomorrow in the morning and complete the religious rites. Prepare for the coronation.

His father words made Sri Rama happy. He rejoiced to hear that he was to be crowned the next day. Respectfully he bowed to his father and returned to the palace. He bowed to his mother and gave her the news.

Kausalya was overjoyed. She could hardly speak for her heart overflowed with happiness. She said, My child, may good attend on you. Rule the kingdom well. And, always think of the welfare of the people. I will, mother said Sri Rama, bowed to her again, and went to Seeta apartments. He told her, too, the news. She was thrilled. Both began the worship of God devoutly.

The citizens started decorating the city. Tall poles were erected before temples and other religious institutions and in important roads and squares. Banners of different colours fluttered from these poles. Flag posts were also put up before assembly halls, mansions and trade centers. The highways were decorated with flowers and lights. They all waited for the morrow.

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Manthara’s evil counsel

Kaikeyi was the third wife of Dasharatha. She had a confidante, Manthara by name. Kaikeyi had brought this trusted servant from her father palace at Kekaya.

Manthara was a very ugly looking woman. Besides, she was a hunchback. The very sight of her frightened children. She was also a tale-bearer. She would carry tales and slander against those whom she disliked, and harass them. Therefore nobody liked her. But Kaikeyi was very partial to her because she had come from her father palace.

Manthara saw the courtiers emerging from the assembly hall after the decision to crown Sri Rama was taken. Joy was writ on their face. She asked one of the followers of a courtier, What is all this excitement about? He answered,Sri Rama is to be crowned tomorrow; can there be happier news than this? But Manthara was not pleased. On the other hand, she felt as if the sky had collapsed around her. She decided to prevent the coronation somehow, and hastened to Kaikeyi. She told her that Rama was about to be crowned.

The news delighted Kaikeyi. She had limitless affection for Rama. In fact she loved Rama a shade more than she loved Bharata. She rejoiced to hear that her beloved son was to become the king.She gifted a garland of pearls to Manthara for the joyful news she had brought.

Manthara was already angry; the happiness of Kaikeyi made her furious. She threw away the garland Kaikeyi had presented. Kaikeyi asked her in anger, Manthara, what is this? Why did you throw away the garland I gave you out of joy? Manthara answered. Alas Kaikeyi, you are still ignorant. You rejoice when Rama, the son of your husband another wife, is to be installed on the throne! What am I to say? What do you gain if he becomes the king? So she taunted her.

Kaikeyi was angry. She said, Manthara, dont be mad. What matters it, if Rama is the son of another wife of Dasharatha? He loves me more than my own son. That he is about to become the king makes me very happy. Manthara said, Kaikeyi, you are dull-witted and that is why you speak in this fashion. Once Sri Rama becomes the king, what will be the fate of your own son, Bharatha? He has to be a servant in Sri Rama palace. And you will be a nobody here. You will have to be a slave of Sri Rama mother. Do you realize this? Therefore, listen to me. Prevent this coronation somehow.

At first Kaikeyi would not listen to Manthara. But Manthara was an evil woman. Once she wished to do something, she would do it by hook or crook. She injected poison into the mind of Kaikeyi in many ways and vitiated it. Kaikeyi now began to hate Sri Rama. She now wanted to prevent the coronation of Rama somehow and wanted her son Bharatha placed on the throne. But how could she do it. She turned to Manthara for guidance. Manthara, what you have said is true. If Rama becomes the king I gain nothing. My son, Bharatha, must ascend the throne. But how can we bring this about?

Manthara was ready with a plan. Long before this, a rakshasa, Shambara by name, had waged a war against the gods. The gods could not defeat him. So Devendra requested Dasharatha to help them.Kaikeyi accompanied Dasharratha to the battlefield. During the fight, the arrows of the rakshasas felled Dasharatha and he swooned. Kaikeyi rose to the occasion, bravely took over the reins of the chariot, drove it away from the battlefield and tended Dasharatha. Thus she saved him and Dasharatha was full of admiration.

He said, Kaikeyi, you have saved my life. I will grant you two boons. Ask what you will. She answered, Great King, I need no boons. If ever I need them, I will seek them of you.

Manthara reminded Kaikeyi of this incident and said,Kaikeyi, now is the time to seek the boons. First, Rama should be sent to the forest for fourteen years. Fourteen years is a long period, and Rama may fall a prey to some wild animal there. Or, the people may forget him. Therefore, insist that Dasharatha should send Rama to the forest for fourteen years. Secondly, demand that your son Bharatha should be made the king. This will bring Ayodhya entirely under your control.

Kaikeyi was delighted with Manthara suggestion. She made up her mind that, come what may, she would have the two boons.

By then Dasharatha had completed the session of the royal court, and so came to Kaikeyi palace.He was bursting with eagerness to tell her about the approaching coronation of Rama and delight her. But when he entered he found that Kaikeyi was very angry. Dasharatha was surprised. He wheedled her saying, My queen, why has your face lost its luster? You seem to be angry. Why? If you desire anything you have only to tell me; I will carry out your wish, have no doubt. Kaikeyi replied, Maharaja,I seek a favour of you. If you swear that you will grant it, I shall tell what it is.

Dasharatha said, Kaikeyi, why this doubt? Do you not take my word for it? Have I ever failed to carry out your wish? Yet, to please you I will take a oath. I swear on Sri Rama who is so dear to me;I shall do whatever you desire. Poor Dasharatha did not know what he was doing. He did not have the slightest inkling that, even as he swore by Sri Rama he was going to do immense harm to that very Rama.

That was precisely what Kaikeyi wished for too. She now spoke her words of poison: Maharaja, you have sworn of Rama; so do not break your word. Maharaja, I now desire the two boons you had promised long ago. You are now making preparations for Rama coronation, are you not? Stop them, and immediately crown my son Bharatha. This is the first boon I crave.The second is this:

Rama should wear plant-firbre clothes, wrap himself in animal skin, wear matted hair, and live in the forest for fourteen years.

Dasharatha was stunned when he heard these words. He knew not whether Kaikeyi was joking or serious; he sat down bewildered. Then, recovering a little, he said,Kaikeyi, is this a joke? I was staggered and tried to smile. Kaikeyi replied, Maharaja, I am earnest. Make my son the king, and send Rama to the forest. Dasharatha was now in a towering fury. He said, You wretched sinner,this is gross injustice. How has Rama harmed you? He treats you like his own mother. Why, he even honours you more than his mother. And you wish to do such terrible harm! You sinner, you will never prosper.

Arent Rama and Bharatha the same to you? Why should one of them sit on the throne and the other be condemned to wander in the forest? You say that Rama should dwell in the forest; how could your lips utter such words?

Know you not how dear Rama is to the people? Will they be passive if they learn that Rama is to be sent to the forest? Will they not denounce you and me most disrespectfully? O sinner, why did such evil thoughts occur to you?

Kaikeyi, I implore you, be not obstinate in this matter. I beseech you, be generous€. Even as he spoke he lost consciousness.

Dasharatha miserable plight did not move Kaikeyi in the least. Instead she was enraged. She said,Maharaja, what meaningless talk is this? You swore on Rama that you would grant whatever I sought, and now you are all tears! This is shameless. I seek two boons- Rama should be sent to the forest, and Bharatha should reign in Ayodhya. You have no choice; you are bound to grant me these two boons€.

Kaikeyi words almost drove Dasharatha mad. He wept and raved and bewailed his lot. He lamented,Kaikeyi, I did not perceive the dreadful poison behind your loveliness. I was a fool to believe that whatever is beautiful is bound to be good. Should I banish poor Rama to the forest just for your sake? O, I wish that I had died before I was reduced to this state.€ He collapsed and began to roll on the ground in his wretchedness; and again and again he lost consciousness. Night descended on Ayodhya.

The next day dawned. The citizens, ignorant of what was going on in the palace, rose early and offered special worship in temples. Splendidly dressed they wended their way to the palace.

But within the palace, Dasharatha was piteously bewailing his lot and beseeching Kaikeyi: I beg of you, withdraw your demand€. But her heart was hardened. His wretched plight did not move her in the least. Instead, the denial of the boons provoked her even more. She said,Maharaja, if you are hesitating to inform Rama of my wishes, I shall do it€. She called a servant and asked her to fetch Rama at once.

As soon as Rama was told that Kaikeyi had summoned him, he left his palace for Kaikeyi palace.While on the way when he came to a temple, or square or sacred place or to a school, he made a – pradakshina  passed around it in a clockwise direction. He accepted smilingly, the arati or other marks of rejoicing offered by the people and reached Kaikeyi palace.

But he was stunned by the sight which met his eyes in Kaikeyi palace. He was wretched. On one side he saw his father lying on the ground unconscious. On the other side stood Kaikeyi glaring at him. He bowed to her and said, Aunt, why is father so woebegone? He sees me and yet does not speak to me, why? Have I unwittingly been guilty of a trespass? Kaikeyi replied, Rama, I sought two boons and your father promised on oath to grant them. But now he is vacillating. Because of this he will suffer the infamy of breaking a solemn promise. But if you carry out my wishes the infamy will be averted. Will you carry out my wishes or wont you, tell me.

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Rama listened to Kaikeyi; her tone surprised him. Why is my aunt so curt, he wondered. Then slowly he said,Aunt, you say that father has made a solemn promise, that the end of the matter. I shall carry out your wishes, be what they will. I can never disobey my father. I can never bring disgrace on him. Tell me at least now; tell me what you require me to do.

Kaikeyi replied, Rama, instead of you Bharatha should ascend the throne, and you should dwell in the forest for fourteen years. These are the boons I sought of your father.

Any one else in Rama place would have swooned at these words, or else, would have been utterly wretched over his plight. But not Rama, for he was a sthithaprajna- a man of unshakable calm and wisdom, and a righteous man. When he was told that he had to retire to the forest and Bharatha was to be the king, he was not in the least affected. Instead, smilingly he said, Aunt, is this all? Why should father be distressed over this? He himself could have told me this. What matters whether I am the king or Bharatha becomes the king? I see not the slightest difference. I shall rejoice if Bharatha becomes the king. And I wish him all the best. Aunt, be not worried in the least. I shall wear garments of plant fibre and retire to the forest.

Dasharatha heard what Rama said, and he felt as if if death had gripped him. He was sick of life. Hatred of Kaikeyi welled up in him. He exclaimed, You sinner, you sinner, and fainted again.

Rama went on, Aunt, be not perturbed. I shall carry out the promise father made. It is the duty of children to carry out the words of the parents. I am prepared to live without my beloved Seeta or my constant companion, Lakshmana. But I shall not disobey my father. And what you desire is a command to me. Have I ever transgressed your wishes? Look aunt, I will straightaway leave for the forest. Comfort father. Let preparations start for Bharatha coronation. He touched Kaikeyi feet and left.

Dasharatha heard every word Rama had spoken. Grief overwhelmed him. He was miserable as he saw that Rama, who should have ascended the throne that morning, had gladly agreed to go to the forest. Injustice and evil acts flourished where there should have been rejoicing and pleasurable excitement; the old king heart was about to burst. O why am I still alive, to witness all this? he wailed. Addressing Kaikeyi he said, You sinner, all this is your doing. Does not even this sight grieve you? and once again he lost consciousness. But all this did not cause the slightest remorse or awaken the slightest pity in her.

Rama took leave of Kaikeyi and came out. By then his impending departure for the forest had spread. Citizens and friends raced to the palace, stupefied. Grief and anger swayed them. They crowded around him. They cried aloud,Rama, you are our future king. You shall not go to the forest.

Rama consoled them all. He said to them, Friends, I am grateful to you for the affection you have displayed towards me. But I have to carry out the promise made by my father. This is my duty. And, I have to carry out the wishes of my aunt. Therefore, be not agitated. Be calm. Gently he extricated himself from them and went to Kausalya palace. Lakshmana who was waiting for him at the entrance of the palace followed him.

Kausalya knew nothing of what had happened. She was engaged in worship, praying for the prosperity of her son. She was delighted when Rama arrived in her palace. She made him sit and said, Rama, my child, this is the day of your coronation. You should rule wisely and well. So the loving mother advised her son.

Rama said, Mother, I have to tell you something which is unwelcome. Therefore, mother, listen calmly. I am not being crowned today. I am going to the forest for fourteen years. The moment she heard these words, Kausalya fell like a tree axed at the root. Rama was terrified. He tended her and she regained consciousness. She opened her eyes. She said, Rama, my child, is this true? What fate is mine! All these days I prayed to God for you and your prosperity. And now, I have to see you go to the forest? Why has this distress descended on us? My son, my child Rama, do not do this. I,your mother, tell you; you should not go to the forest.

Rama answered, Mother, this is father command. It is my mother Kaikeyi wish. I must carry it out. If I do not go to the forest, what is my father boon to Kaikeyi worth? Will not the entire world scoff at him? Does any member of the Ikshwaku dynasty ever break his promise? Oh no, I cannot break promise. And so I shall go to the forest, and return after fourteen years. Bless me mother. So saying he bowed to her.

No words can describe Kausalya grief. Again and again she swooned; she derided her own fortune; she denounced Kaikeyi despicable nature; she praised Rama virtues and lamented her fate loudly. Rama said to her,Mother, take courage. This is not the hour for anger. Father is prostrated with grief. You must comfort him.

Lakshmana had been listening to the conversation between the two of them in silence. Now he could no longer contain himself. He was furious. He said, Brother, it is not right that you should honour the word of an evil woman and go to the forest. Is it not out of selfishness that Kaikeyi desires you to go to the forest? She has an evil design  she wants her son to be crowned. You ought not to defer such a wish.

Rama replied, Lakshmana, it is not for us talk about Kaikeyi design. We have to respect our father words. We ought not to break a promise. Did not Parashurama bow to his father command and kill his own mother? Did not the sons of Sagara dig and dig and create an ocean? Our father word is a command to us. Shed your wrath. Look after Father and Mother. Do not be angry with Kaikeyi. Do not brand her as an evil woman. Poor aunt, she has done nothing wrong. Have you ever so far heard her say a bad word? Has she not loved you and me as she loves Bahratha? You ask me why, then, she spoke the way she did today, dont you? This is what is known as God will.Those words she has uttered today are not really her words. It is fate that has made her utter these words. We know not what purpose lies behind what has happened. Therefore it is not for us to sit in judgement over the words of elders. Shed your anger and make preparations for my departure. He then once again bowed to Kausalya and said, Mother, I shall spend fourteen years in the forest and come back to you.

Kausalya blessed her son; May the weapons vouchsafed to you by Sage Vishwamitra protect you. May all plants and birds and beasts and hermitages and rivers and mountains and all things in the forest protect you. May not cruel animals like the lion and tiger harm you. May agni  the fire god,and vayu – the God of winds protect you. Rama once again touched her feet and returned to his palace.

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Examination on Lesson – 7

Choose answers to all the questions . All the best !!

Q1. Why did King Dasaratha decide to coronate Shri Rama to the throne ?

Ans: a)Because King Dasaratha was becoming too old to rule b)Because the people wanted it c)Because Shri Ram wanted it d)Because Sage Vasistha said so

Q2. Who was the evil Manthara ?

Ans: a)Maid to Kausalya Devi b)Maid to Kaikeyi Devi c)Maid to King Dasaratha d)Maid to Sumitra Devi

Q3 What were the two boons asked by Kaikeyi Devi of King Dasaratha ?

Ans: a)A precious necklace and a Golden Chariot b)A new palace and a lot of jewelry c0Golden ornaments and a new palace garden d)Throne for her son Bharat and 14 years in forest for Shri Rama

Q4. Why did Kaikeyi Devi ask for this two boons ?

Ans: a)Because she was a wicked woman b)Because she did not like Shri Ram c) Because she was jealous of Kausalya Devi d)Because she fell prey to the evil advice of her maid Manthara

Q5. Why did Shri Ram accept Kaikeyi Devi’s demand to go to forest?

Ans: a) Because he thought it was his duty to obey his father’s promise to her b) Because he did not want the Kingdom c)Because he wanted to avoid fighting d) Because he likes fores

Q6. Why did Sita Devi decide to follow Shri Rama ?

Ans: a)Because she was afraid to stay alone at Ayodhya b) Because Kausalya Devi ordered her to go c)Because she believed it her duty to share her husband’s joys and sorrows d)Because Kaikeyi Devi wished her to go

Correct Answers below

Examination – 7

Q.1 Ans (a),

Q.2 Ans – (b),

Q.3 Ans (d),

Q. 4 Ans (d),

Q.5 Ans (a),

Q-6, Ans (c)

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