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Lesson 8

To the forest / Guha extends hospitality / Towards Chitrakoot / To the forest

Ramayan – Lesson 8

Seeta was waiting for Rama in her apartments. The news that her husband would be crowned had sent her into raptures. She knew nothing about the latest development. When Rama returned from Kaikeyi palace, she was surprised. She asked herself, Why is my husband not wearing new clothes and the auspicious kankana? Why is there no luster in his face? And she asked so. He said,Dearest Seeta, I have to give you an unpleasant news. I am leaving for the forest today. And, I shall be in the forest for fourteen years. Seeta could not believe her ears. For the forest? But why? she questioned. Yes, Seeta,. That is my father command. Mother Kaikeyi asked for two boons that Bharatha should become the king, and that I should go to the forest. Is it not my duty to obey my father? So I have to go to the forest.

Seeta, be alert in the palace. You will have to look after my parents; that will be your responsibility.Bharatha will be the king. He should be given due respect. Lakshmana will be here to assist you. Fourteen years will fly speedily, do not be troubled.

Seeta now realized that Rama was in earnest. For a moment she was wretched. But she recovered quickly. Her husband had decided to carry out the wishes of elders. What had she to do with the decision? Her duty was only to walk with her husband along whatever path he chose. Having taken this decision she said to Rama, My Lord, I see what you mean. I do not have the temerity to sit in judgment over your decision. But how will you go all alone to the forest? If you go to the forest,should I, your wife, I who have an equal share in your joys and sorrows, live happily in the palace? No, that is impossible. I shall accompany you to the forest.

Seeta words amazed Rama. Seeta was a princess, and a princess tenderly brought up. She had always been in a palace. She did not know what hardship was. How could she follow him to the forest? Very gently he said to her, Seeta, life in the forest does not suit women. There are no roads there, and one has to walk on stones and thorns. One has to keep travelling, be it day or night, sunshine or rain. Besides, you will have no companions. The forest is beset with wild animals. There is no dwelling in the forest. Therefore, life there will not suit you. So you stay in the palace.

Seeta replied, Just now you said that you are obeying your father. I have not the slightest objection. But a wife has her duty, too, hasnt she? And that duty is to follow her husband like his shadow. Wherever you are, a thorny path becomes soft for me. What need I fear wild animals when you are with me? The shade of tree, a dilapidated structure, that will be our house. Let that not worry you. What matters whether it is day or night in the forest. It all one and the same isnt it? Eating when one is hungry, sleeping wherever one finds a shelter when one is sleepy, and feasting the eyes on the trees and plants and playing with peacocks and rabbits and deer – what more does one want? I see no hardship in this. But if you leave me in the palace and go to the forest, I cannot live. And so I shall follow you.

Rama saw that Seeta would not change her mind. He said to Lakshmana, Lakshamana, counsel your sister-in- law. But Lakshmana answered, Dear brother, when I myself am coming to the forest with you, how can I ask sister-in-law to stay back? Rama was astonished. He said, What! Are you coming to the forest with me? Do not do so Lakshmana.If you accompany me, who will look after our parents? Only I have been ordered to go to the forest. Why should you suffer? You shall not come to the forest.

Lakshamana replied, Brother, do not come in my way. How can I live away from you? Havent we grown up from infancy together? Did we not together accompany Sage Vishwamitra? We have always lived as if we two are one, havent we? Therefore, it is not right that you should go to the forest alone. Sister-in-law and I will come with you. I shall remove the stones and thorns in your way. I shall put up huts of leaves and grass. I shall hunt the animals. I shall keep awake when you sleep. I shall get food and drink ready for you. Thus I shall serve you always. Brother, you ought not to restrain me. Bharatha and Shatrughna will look after our parents. Therefore, you need have no worry on that count. What could Rama say? His silence was approval. So all three prepared for journey.

So it was now decided that Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana were to go to the forest. Sri Rama gave away his money and jewels to the poor. He then went with Seeta and Lakshmana to see his father.

There were milling crowds on both sides of the road. Just that morning, there had been joy in the very air in expectation of Rama coronation. But now there was grief everywhere. People could not come to terms with the fact that their beloved prince Rama was leaving the palace and going away to the forest. They were saying to one another loudly, Sri Rama is righteous, and a friend of the helpless. Such a man has to go to the forest now. This means that there is no room for righteous here. Why then should we stay here? A land which has no place for truth and righteousness is worse than the forest. Subjects can expect no justice there. So let us, too, go to the forest and live with Rama.

Sri Rama reached Dasharatha palace. The king asked them to go to his presence. The moment he saw Rama grief overwhelmed him. He embraced Rama. Rama said, Maharaja, I will stay in the forest for fourteen years and return. Seeta and Lakshmana are accompanying me. Bless us; your blessing will be our shield. Dasharatha said, Rama, it was my blunder. When I granted two boons, I did not consider who was worthy and who was not. I now know how a calamitous it is to grant boons to unworthy. You have to suffer for my blunder. I am a great sinner. Please forgive me.

Sri Rama said, Maharaja, you are full of self reproach. This is not proper. If fate has willed that I should go to the forest no one can avert it. Therefore, blame no one. I do not regret it in the least that I have to go to the forest. Seeta and Laksmana, so very dear to me, will be with me, wont they? Having wandered in the forest with Sage Vishwamitra, I am fascinated with life there.Therefore,

without the slightest anxiety, bless us with a smile and permit us to depart.

Dasharatha said, My child, complete your stay in the forest and return. You are truthful and righteous. No one can change your mind. May you encounter no trouble in the forest. May the gods always protect you.

Sumanthra had been watching all these in silence. He now addressed Kaikeyi, Mother, this episode does not reflect credit on any one. If you selfishly seek to harm others, that will be a catastrophe for every one. I beg of you, do not be obdurate. But Kaikeyi was not in a state of mind to listen to anyone.

Dasharatha could no longer suffer her cruelty. He said, Rama, I can no longer stay in this kingdom. I shall come to the forest with you, and my retinue will follow. Let us go to the forest with all that we need – provisions, other articles, the army and the cattle. We shall there build another kingdom and dwell there. Let Kaikeyi be here with her son, in this forsaken and forlorn place. Rama said, Maharaja, I am taking only Seeta and Lakshmana to the forest with me. None of you should come with me. Why should you break your word? Why should you deny a boon you have granted? Why do you earn infamy? All of you should stay in Ayodhya. Crown Bharatha king. He is righteous and just. He can discriminate between right and wrong. He will rule justly. You should all stand by him. After this, Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana put on garments of plant fibre.

Dasharatha said, Seeta shall not wear plant fibre dress. He summoned the minister for the treasury and said, Give Seeta garments and jewels to suffice for fourteen years. Seeta wore new clothes and ornaments as Dasharatha desired.

Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana ascended the chariot and travelled towards the forest. The chief minister Sumanthra himself was the charioteer. The citizens could not bear the grief of separation from Rama. They followed him. No matter how fast the chariot moved, they managed to follow it. They appealed to Rama: Sri Rama, do not forsake us. We care not for Ayodhya without you. We will come with you and live in the forest. Sri Rama then asked Sumanthra to stop the chariot. When the chariot stopped, he got out of it and said to them, Citizens, what you are doing is not proper. The aged king Dasharatha is in Ayodhya. Kausalya and Sumithra are in great grief. You ought to return and console them. Bharatha will be a righteous ruler. You should co-operate with him. I shall be back as soon as the fourteen years pass. So he gave his word and sent them back.

Dark clouds of sorrow hung over Ayodhya now devoid of the presence of Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana. Everywhere grief-stricken citizens sobbed. No one ate or slept in the city that day. Sorrow-stricken, they kept saying, What a righteous man he was whom we sent away. What is the fate of Ayodhya where such unrighteous act has been perpetrated? Will Ayodhya have abundance?Will the gods protect us? Shall we have timely rains and timely crops? Will creatures have food?

The palace was like a graveyard. Dasharatha grief beggared words. He would recall the sterling qualities of Sri Rama and shed tears. And then, he would strike his head against something hard, repenting his blunder. A third time he would remember Kaikeyi despicable act and rain curses on her. He would blame it all on his acts in the previous birth and swoon over and over again.

Kausalya was still dazed with grief. Memories of Rama childhood play and sport let loose streams of tears from her eyes. Her grief was doubled because it was another wife of her husband who had driven Rama to the forest. Roots and fruits will be all the food that my tender son gets. Seeta is so tender, how can she bear all the tribulations? Why did these people have to suffer? What evil actions had I committed in my last birth? so she bewailed her lot. Sumitra, too, was stupefied by separation from he son Lakshamana. But she tried to find courage and console Kausalya.

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Guha extends hospitality

Sri Rama, having consoled the citizens and sent them back, continued his journey. The three of them came to the banks of Thamasa. They decided to spend the night there. Lakshmana prepared a bed of leaves for his brother and his sister-in-law. But none of them had a wink of sleep that night. They spent the night chatting. They rose early next morning and continued their journey.

As they crossed the border of Kosala, Rama told Seeta the story of his kingdom. They bathed in holy rivers like Vedavathi and Gomathi which flowed on the borders of Kosala. Wherever they turned they saw lush green crops. Herds of cattle grazed. As they reached the limits of Kosala kingdom, Sri Rama turned towards Ayodhya, folded his hands in prayer and said, Mother, the protecting Goddess of Ayodhya, look after our land. Let no calamity befall this land. May the people enjoy good health.May Bharatha rule righteously. May we all be reunited happily when we have completed the fourteen years of life in the forest.

They then approached the banks of the Ganga. The water in the river touched the very banks. The swirling waters raced, as waves with white foam rose and huge waves rolled. The Ganga is holy to the entire world, and cleanses one of one sins. On the banks stood a number of ashrams. Gandharvas, kinnaras and celestial nymphs were sporting in the river. Birds and animals drank the cool water and refreshed themselves. Birds like swans and peacocks played on the banks and doubled the loveliness of the river.

Raghava of the famed Raghuvamsha was thrilled at the sight of the Ganga. He remembered the story of the descent of the Ganga, narrated by Vishwamitra. With Seeta, Lakshmana and Sumanthra, he bowed in reverence to the river. He told Seeta the story of Ganga and then said,Lakshmana, let us spend the night on the holy banks of Ganga. Put up a tent here. That was what Lakshmana desired, too. Gladly he started putting up a tent.

The place Sri Rama spent that night was called Shringaberapura. The ruler was Guha, a huntsman.He was very powerful. He was Sri Rama intimate friend since his boyhood days. He learnt that Rama had arrived in his kingdom. At once he hastened with his ministers to where Rama had camped. Sri Rama welcomed him affectionately. The two embraced. Guha was deeply grieved when he heard why Sri Rama had left Ayodhya. He said, Sri Rama, stay here with us. Regard Shringaberapura as your own. All three of you, come to my palace. I shall treat you as my royal guests. Do not suffer in the forest unnecessarily.

Sri Rama replied, You are magnanimous, Guha. I am grateful to you for your invitation. But I cannot enter your kingdom now. For fourteen years the forest will be our home; fruits and roots will be our food. I have given my word to my father that I will live in the forest, and I will keep it. Guha spent the night with them. He was very unhappy that Rama had to live in the forest.

Day dawned. They had to cross the river Ganga and continue their journey. Guha had a beautiful boat brought for them. Sri Rama said to Sumantra, Sire, we shall take leave of you. Please see that our father does not worry himself too much. Give our respects to all our elders. Sri Rama, Seeta,Lakshmana and some servants of Guha then travelled towards the south in the boat and crossed the river. Sri Rama and Lakshmana then arranged their hair and wore matted hair. In their garments of plant fibre and with matted hair they looked like rishis. They then entered the forest with Seeta.

As they entered Sri Rama said, Lakshmana, this is a terrifying forest. We do not know what animals dwell here, and which of them is cruel. So we have to be alert. You lead the way; let Seeta follow you, and I will be behind her. Let us two protect her from harm. They proceeded in this fashion.

As they walked on, night descended on them. They spread some grass on the ground and lay down,but could not sleep. Sri Rama thoughts were with Kosala kingdom.What are the people of Ayodhya likely to be doing now? Is it possible that Dasharatha grief will have subsided a little? Who will console our mothers? Lakshmana said,Brother, cant you even now give up worrying about the land which drove you away? Let us nowattend to our welfare.I shall always attend on you, and hunt animals. We are the monarchs in the forest. So the night went by.

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Towards Chitrakoot

Next morning they continued their journey. They crossed a vast forest and travelled towards Prayaga. On the way Sri Rama said, Seeta, what fate is this! How much you have to suffer! You were born a princess, and were brought up tenderly, and married me because I was a prince. But now you have to wander in the forest. You who used to lie down on a mattress of swan down have now to sleep under a tree. You who used to be served with the finest delicacies have now roots and fruits for food. O Thorns have made holes in your tender foot! And he sighed.

Seeta said, Sri Ramachandra, your words surprise me. How permanent are our thrones and positions? He who is a king today may be a beggar tomorrow. How far can we control our lives? Do not feel sorry for me. Wherever the husband dwells is a palace to the wife. I am happy here. Do not be troubled. Neither joy nor sorrow is enduring. With these words Seeta comforted Sri Rama.

Prayaga is the holy place where the Yamuna and Ganga meet. They walked on, seeing many kingdoms on the way and feasting upon lovely natural scenery. As evening approached they saw the smoke of an ashram. Sri Rama said, Lakshmana, look; that must be the ashram of Sage Bharadwaja. His ashram is located in Prayag. Here is the confluence of the sacred Yamuna and Ganga. You hear that deafening sound? That is the sound of the two rivers meeting. Let us spend the night in sage ashram.

The three entered ashram. They went up to Sage Bharadwaja and paid their respects. They introduced themselves to him. He blessed them. He offered them fruits and invited them to stay there that night. He then said, Sri Rama, stay on in this ashram. After all, this is a forest, and you will be untroubled here. Sri Rama replied,Great Sage, I am grateful to you for your generosity. But this ashram is near Ayodhya. If people come to know that we are here, they will start visiting this place. And that will disturb the serenity of the ashram. So we have decided to stay in a distant ashram. If there is an ashram, be pleased to tell us.

The sage reflected for a moment and said, There is a mountain some ten haridari from here. It is known as Chitrakuta. There are several ashrams there. There are hills and rivers in that region.Towards the north of the mountain flows the Mandakini. The region is rich in flora, too. Bears and monkeys move about freely. It is a beautiful mountain. The tapas of many rishis has sanctified the place. You can dwell there. The region abounds in elephants, peacocks and deer. Rivers flow in that mountainous region; There are springs and waterfalls. All in all, it is an enchanting place. The sage description made Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana enthusiastic. They said to one another, We will live in Chirtakuta.

The next day, the three bent their steps towards Chitrakuta. They had to cross the Yamuna. They made a raft. They made soft seats of cuscus grass, the branches of nerala, and hay. They crossed the Yamuna and reached the southern bank of the river. There was a huge banion tree there. They bowed to it reverentially and continued their journey. There were flower-bearing plants on the way. Sand of different colours beautified the ground. Swans were sporting there. The three walked on,enjoying the beauty of Nature. They reached Chitrakuta.

Chitrakuta was as lovely as Sage Bharadwaja had described it. Peacocks gave out cries of joy.Vareigated flowers wafted sweet scent. The surrounding mountain ranges, rivulets, cascades heightened the beauty of the forest. It was as lovely as Nandanavana – the celestial garden. As they gazed in amazement on the splendour of the scene before them, Sri Rama, Seeta or Lakshmana could not say a word. They went to the ashram of Sage Valmiki in Chitrakuta. They bowed to him and received his blessings. Then they came to a level plot of ground. Sri Rama said to Lakshmana, Lakshmana, Sage Bharadwaja has directed us to an excellent spot. Let us settle here. Put up aparnakuti a hut of leaves. So Lakshmana brought some logs of wood and constructed a lovely cottage of leaves. He planted flower-bearing plants and arranged climbers and creepers. They worshipped the hut and entered it. Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana settled there.

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Examination on Lesson – 8

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

Q1. Who did not wear the plant fiber dress while going to the forest ?

Ans: a)Shri Rama b)Sita Devi c) Laxmana d) Dasaratha

Q2. Which Minister of King Dasaratha came to leave Shri Rama till the forest ?

Ans: a)Sumantra b)Manthra c)Ashoka d)Siddhartha

Q3 Which King in the forest offered his palace for Shri Rama to stay ?

Ans: a)King Dasaratha b)King Janaka c) King Vishala d)King Guha

Q4. Where did Shri Rama finally decide to stay in the forest ?

Ans: a)King Guha’s palace b)Sage Valmiki’s hermitage c) Chitrakuta d)Sage Bharadwaj’s hermitage

Correct Answers below

Examination – 8

Q. 1 Ans (b),

Q.2 Ans (a),

Q.3 Ans (d),

Q. 4 Ans (c),

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