Guha servants took Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana to the other bank of the Ganga and accompanied them up to the ashram of Bharadwaja and then returned to Sringaberipura. They narrated to Sumantra and Guha who were waiting for them what had happened. Sumantra then took leave of Guha and returned to Ayodhya.
The streets of Ayodhya were empty and wore a deserted appearance. No body was to be seen in the parts of the city which used to be full of crowds and bustle. Sumantra was unhappy at the sight. In one or two places citizens stood in groups glorifying Rama virtues. A few others were blaming Kaikeyi and Dasharatha. And all were worried how Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana would live in the forest.
Sumantra came to the palace. Overwhelming grief had aged Dasharatha considerably in five days. His hours seemed to be numbered. Kausalyadevi was sitting near him.
At the sight of Sumantra grief welled up in both of them. Dasharatha said, Sumantra, where have my children gone? Which forest have they chosen for dwelling? What food do they get? How will they protect themselves from severe cold, winds and sun? How will they fare if it rains? Here they moved about only in chariots, how will they walk on the ground full of stones and thorns?
Sumantra answered. Maharaja, they are not in such dire straits as you fear. After crossing river Ganga they went towards the hermitage of Bharadwaja. Citizens followed them to the outskirts of Ayodhya. On the way Sri Rama friend Guha treated them with great hospitality. They first went to the Ashram of Bharadwaja. He suggested that they should go to Chitrakuta and they did so.
They do not seem to be in great difficulties in the forest. Hadnt Sri Rama and Lakshmana go, as boys, to the forest with Sage Vishwamitra? Seeta, too, was quite happy. The beauty of nature delighted her. Besides, her husband Sri Rama is with her, isnt he? Do husband and wife need greater happiness than the company of each other? All the three are quite happy. Do not be worried. Sri Rama has sent his respects to you all. He sends Bharatha and Shatrughna his blessing. He has asked Bharatha to look after the welfare of the people. He said Fourteen years will soon be over;and we shall be back immediately, therefore do not worry.
Sumanthra words made Dasharatha and Kausalya more unhappy. They recalled Rama virtues again and again and wept. Dasharatha swooned. After a while he regained consciousness and said, Kausalya, I will not live long. There is a curse that I should die of grief caused by separation from my son. I will die accordingly because of separation from Rama. Kausalya said, Please do not say such ominous words. What curse can there be against you? Please say no such words.
Dasharatha said, Kausalya, you do not know. This happened long ago. I was not married. Hunting was a craze with me then. One night there was glorious moonlight. I was tempted to go hunting. I picked up my bow and arrows and went to the forest near Sarayu. I heard sounds from a distance as if some one was drinking the water of the river. It sounded very much like an elephant. In those days I was known as Shabdhavedhi. No matter how dark it was I could shoot an arrow at a target just by the sound emanating, and I never missed my aim. That is what happened that night, too. I sent an arrow in the direction of the sound.
The aim took. I heard a loud cry of agony. I was terrified. When I shot the arrow I thought it was some animal, but now it seemed to be the cry of a human being. I raced to where the cry emanated from. Poor man, the son of a rishi lay on the earth. My arrow had pierced his chest. Blood poured from the wound. He seemed to be on the verge of death. I folded my hands and said, Rishikumara, I have committed a terrible crime, in my ignorance. I beseech you, forgive me. Before you breath your last, command me to do anything, I will do it. Alas, my mastery proved my enemy, and I began to grieve.
The youth said, I am the son of a rishi couple. Both my parents are extremely old. They are blind. I have devoted my life to their service. They were thirsty and I came here to carry water to them. Your arrow struck me when I was filling the water in the vessel. I do not fear death. But I am anguished because there is no one to look after my old parents. Who but children can look after parents in their old age? Now I die an untimely death, what will happen to them?
I made a promise: Rishikumara, do not worry. The responsibility of looking after your parents is mine. I shall look after them as my own parents. With this promise the youth died untroubled.
I then took the water to his parents. They heard my steps and thought it was their son. They asked,Child, why are you so late? When I heard their words my heart leapt to my mouth. My voice trembled as I said, Rishiji, forgive me. I am not your son. I am a prince, Dasharathakumara. To day I have committed a heinous crime. I beg of you, forgive me. I then narrated what had happened. The moment they heard that their son was dead they fainted. I tended them and they regained consciousness. They began to wail heartrendingly. I felt my very intestines being wrenched. But there was nothing I could do. The rishi could not contain his wrath and his grief. He pronounced a curse: Dasharatha, you have subjected us to grief over the death of our son, at the time of our death. May you also die of grief caused by separation from your son.
Do you now see Kausalya? Our sins cling to us. The sufferings we inflict, knowingly or not, on others, will descend on us one day or the other. I am a living example of the truth of this. I have now no wish to live. O Sri Rama, my darling child, where have you gone, forsaking me? even as he was lamenting he died.
Dasharatha death was a shock to every one. Kausalya and Sumithra fainted. The courtiers began to wail loudly. People came to know that Dasharatha passed away. They could not believe their ears. King Dasharatha is dead. The land is orphaned. Who will protect us? – so they thought. They were dumbfounded.
The citizens began to wail over the death of Dasharatha, standing in groups, and worry themselves about the future. Dasharatha is dead. Sri Rama and Lakshmana have departed to the forest. Bharatha and Shatrughna are not in Kosala. Our land is now without a protector. A kingdom without a king is like a boat without a boatsman. Who will protect us. Who will rule over us? Who will punish those who offend against justice? Justice and righteousness are worth nothing in a land without leaders. People will behave as they please. Ruffians and Ribald fellows will flourish. The rich man will bleed the poor man. The strong man will try to exterminate the weak man. In a land without a protector preceptors and elders will not be honoured. Women will not be respected. Reverence for God and tapaswis will decrease. Righteousness will slacken. Injustice will be all in all. But if an able,righteous and just man holds the reigns of administration such troubles will not arise. What will happen to us? What will be the fate of the Kingdom? – so they were worried.
Within the palace, Vashishta consoled himself as best as he could. He thought, Every one who is born must die. Every one has to die. But the death of King Dasharatha was untimely. This is our misfortune. But we cannot just sit with folded hands. The last rites of Dasharatha have to be performed. The kingdom has no master, we have to choose a king. Rama and Lakshmana have gone to the forest. No matter how much we plead, they will not return for fourteen years. So Bharatha and Shatrughna have to be brought back. Then only let us think of what to do.
First of all, he had the body of Dasharatha placed in a cauldron in oil, so that it might not decompose. He then summoned five royal messengers. He said to them, Go at once to Rajagriha,the capital of Kekaya. Give the King of Kekaya my blessings. Bharatha and Shatrughna are there.Request them to return to Ayodhya posthaste. Just tell them that I desire it; tell them nothing more.This must be done very quickly. So take with you the swiftest horses. Start at once. The messengers left at once. Galloping all the way they reached Rajagriha. They hastened to the royal court and met the king and bowed to him. They presented the gifts Sage Vashishta had sent. And then they met Bharatha.
When he saw the messengers Bharatha said, œGentle folk, how is my father? How are our mothers,Kausalya, Sumithra and Kaikeyi? How is my beloved brother Sri Rama? How is my dear sister-in-law? How is Lakshmana? Tell me about all of them. For some days now, I have been having bad dreams. This is ominous. It indicates either an impending misfortune or one that has already materialized. This has made me very apprehensive. So tell me everything.Are the people all well? Is the kingdom well off? There are no thefts, deception and injustice, are there?
The messengers said, Prince, the people are just and loyal. The kingdom is prosperous. Sri Rama,Seeta and Lakshmana are well. There is a task awaiting you. You must immediately hasten to Ayodhya. So Sage Vashishta has desired. Therefore please come to Ayodhya with us. Bharatha said, Vashishta is our priest. His word is a command to me. There must be some momentous work. That is why he has sent for me. I shall inform the King of Kekaya at once and start. He went to his grandfather king Ashwapathi, bowed to him and told him what the messengers had said. Kindly permit us to return to Ayodhya he said.
The king of Kekaya said, Bharatha, the messengers have come posthaste. So there must be a very important reason. Start at once. Give your parents my respects and present these gifts to them.Convey my blessings to Sri Rama. Bharatha immediately left for Ayodhya. There were beautiful scenes on the way but he was in no mood to enjoy. Some unseen fear troubled him. May good fortune smile on all “ he prayed to God with all his heart.
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The greatness of Bharat
Bharatha travelled for five days and approached Ayodhya with Shatrughna. He was thrilled at the sight of Ayodhya. He was also surprised. There seemed to be no life in Ayodhya. There was the silence of death everywhere. People faces were lackluster. Doors of houses were shut. There were no drawings in coloured earth in front of the houses. There were no sounds of gongs and bells, no recitation from the Vedas in temples. There was no trading in shops. Troubled and surprised at this state of affairs Bharatha came to the palace. He bowed to Kaikeyi and asked, Mother, why is Ayodhya in this state? There is no brightness anywhere but there are only signs of grief. No one says anything. The silence of the graveyard has enveloped Ayodhya. Solemnity reigns in mansions and stately residences. I do not see the Maharaja, and I do not see Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana. Where are they? His mind was in utter turmoil.
Kaikeyi replied, My child, your father is in heaven. He had performed many good actions and sacrifices on earth and is now happy in heaven. Do not be worried. The news of their father death struck Bharatha and Shatrughna like a lightning. They swooned and collapsed. Kaikeyi and the other servants were in panic. They tended the two and they regained consciousness. Bharata wept loudly, saying, O cruel Fate, what have you done? You took away my father from us so soon. When the messengers said I was to return posthaste, I was happy imagining that Sri Rama would be crowned.But news of my father await us here. What an irony! so saying he sighed. Shatrughna also recalled how his father used to fondle him and treated him with immense affection, and sobbed.
After a while Bharatha said, Mother where is Sri Rama? And, where is Lakshamana? I dont see my sister- in-law also? Where have they all gone? At first Kaikeyi did not know how to answer him. But she collected herself and said, Child, they all went to the forest. Her reply was a bolt from the blue to Bharatha. He said, To the forest! But why! Why did they go the forest? Who sent them there? Kaikeyi said, My son, dont be in a hurry. Whatever has happened is for your good. Sri Rama went to the forest at my desire. He will not return for fourteen years. Henceforth you will be the king. You will be crowned. Be comforted. Perform the funeral of your father. After that you will be the king.
As he listened to his mother Bharatha felt as if hot charcoal was being heaped on him. He could not at first make out whether she was serious or light-hearted. But surely, that was not the time for lightheartedness. So she must be in earnest, he thought. At once he felt strong revulsion. He trembled with anger.
You sinner! I loathe you too much to call my mother. Fie, Fie, you drove Sri Rama, the eldest son of the family, to the forest! May I know whay sin he had committed? He is righteous, truthful and does only virtuous acts. How could you drive him to the forest? Is he not the eldest of us all? After our father death, is it not his right to be the king? Whoever told you that, if you despatched Sri Rama to the forest, I would consent to be crowned? Is it proper for the younger brother to covet what belongs to his elder brother as a matter of right? My only duty is to obey his commands, is it not? My duty is to serve him and assist in the administration of the land, is it not? Am I fit to sit on the throne? That is the privilege of Sri Rama, the eldest son of the family. He can treat the people pleasingly; he can rule righteously and devotedly. How the people love him! Such a noble man you have driven away to the forest! A dreadful hell awaits you. You have committed a most despicable act and disgraced our family itself.
Unfortunate Laskhmana and Seeta; they too have gone to the forest, havent they? What travails will Janaki a princess, suffer in the forest! Did you not feel grieved when she departed from the palace? Yours must be a heart of stone. Women ought to be tender-hearted. They should desire only the good of one and all. They ought not to discriminate, looking upon people as our people or other people. But you have transgressed all these principles. You are most hard-hearted. That is why you have sent them to the forest. You wish nobody well. Or else, you would not have condemned Rama to life in the forest. You killed Dasharatha. You have discriminated between me and Sri Rama. How much Kausalya and Sumithra must have grieved over this! Now I realize the cause of Dasharatha death. His heart burst because of your craftiness and your sin. Alas! The king could not spend his last days happily. Fie, you made him die of grief over separation from his son. You are a wicked woman. Happiness and joy reign in a house where the mistress is good-natured. But if she is like you, the house is like a graveyard.
If you think that I will jump at the chance to become the king you are mistaken. I do not want a kingdom without Sri Rama. I will also go to the forest. I will take Kausalya and Sumithra with me. All the people will accompany us. We shall all go to the forest. You can stay in this palace and do as you please. I do not wish to stay here. So saying Bharatha rose.
Just then Kausalya and Sumithra came there. At the sight of these queens Bharatha was overwhelmed with grief. He was agitated, not knowing how deeply they had been shaken by his mother evil act. He said to Kausalya,Mother, forgive me. I know absolutely nothing of all that went on here. I am deeply ashamed of my mother sinful deed. Her demand that I should be made king is most vile. I seek your forgiveness for my mother conduct.
Mother, emphatically I say this, I do not covet the throne. No one but my eldest brother has a right to the throne of Kosala. I know not how my mother imagined that I would gladly consent to become the king. Not even in my wildest dreams have I sought the throne. I am innocent.
Mother, if I have ever desired that our eldest brother Sri Ramachandra should go to the forest, may I be deprived of all the knowledge I have received from my Gurus. May I suffer the ruination that one who kills a cow suffers! May mine be the sin of the evil master who makes his servants toil and refuses to pay them their salary! May mine be the sin of a ruler who fails to look after his people like his own children! May I be reduced to the wretched state of a king who collects taxes from his subjects regularly but provides them no facilities! May mine be the miserable plight of a coward who, instead of fighting on the battlefield, runs away! May mine be the woeful condition of a man who is a traitor to his friend and deceives him!
Mother, if I am a party to my brother banishment to the forest and if I selfishly seek the throne,may I suffer the punishment that befalls a traitor to society who poisons a pool and kills people! May I suffer as one who refuses water to a thirsty man suffers! May mine be the plight of a man who draws all the milk without leaving even a little for the calf! May I receive the punishment that is given to a man who starves his wife and children while he himself enjoys a feast! Let mine be the sin of a man who is rich but renders no service to society! Let the dire punishments meted out to drunkards, libertines and gamblers befall me, too! May I be condemned to the hell to which a sinner who fails to serve elders, parents and his mentors is sent! May the sin that envelops robbers and thieves descend on me! May the degradation that befalls one who ill-treats dumb creatures befall me too! May mine be the fate of a vile fellow who is a cheat, who is cruel and a backbiter! Let the stern punishment meted out to one who, instead of trying to end a quarrel, incites the participants to quarrel! Even as he spoke, Bharatha was overcome by grief and collapsed.
As Kausalya and Sumithra listened to Bharatha tears streamed down their cheeks. They ran up to him, embraced him and gently stroking his head tended him. Bharatha regained consciousness. Kausalya wiped his tears and said,My child, dont I know your mind? Dont I know that there is not even the slightest hint of evil in it? Child, be not so deeply moved. Try to forget the bitter incident that has taken place.
Just then Manthara came there. She had hoped that Bharatha would give her a rich present when he learnt that he would be made the king. But the moment they saw her Bharatha and Shatrughna were filled with rage from top to toe. Shatrughna drew his sword and stepped up to her saying, I will kill this hunchback. Bharatha restrained him. He said, Brother, I. too, wish to kill this woman. But if Sri Rama comes to know that we killed this hunchback he will not speak to us for ever. So we have to fear Sri Rama displeasure and spare her. Kausalya consoled Bharatha and Shatrughna in many ways.
In a short while royal priest Vashishta came there. He said, Bharatha, I can understand your anguish. But this is not the time to give way to grief. First of all, you have to attend to the funeral of your father. Let us attend to other things later.
Sighing Bharatha said, Respected Sire, what troubles me is this. If elders conduct themselves in this manner, what is to happen to the state? If my own mother indulges in malicious acts, what is the fate of the people? He sighed again and prepared to perform the funeral rites of his father.
The body of King Dasharatha was taken out of the cauldron. Bharatha felt overmastering grief when he saw the body of his father. He was in agonies, reflecting on what had happened in Ayodhya in his absence. The king body was carried in a procession in a palanquin. Huge crowds thronged the roads. There was a veritable sea of people for a last glimpse of their king. Bharatha, Shatrughna, ministers and ritwika participated in the procession. After the body had been placed on the bier Bharatha touched it with fire, with all due rituals. Masters of Sama veda Sang hymns from the Sama Veda.
As the people watched the body of Dasharatha burning they were stupefied. Women and children were distressed and offered the dead king the homage of tears. When the bier had been reduced to ashes they all returned home with heavy hearts.
The obsequies went on for ten days. Bharatha gave in charity most generously. But his grief was unabated. Every day he remembered his father and shed tears.
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The reunion of Shri Rama and Bharat
When the prescribed auspicious rites of the fourteenth day were over, Bharatha convened a meeting of his ministers and counsellors. As he entered they all stood up and showed respect. Vashishta then said, Prince, the kingdom is without a head now. Sri Rama has gone to the forest. He will not return to Ayodhya for another fourteen years. Who will rule the land until then? Therefore, ascend the throne. Rule righteously and make us all happy.
Bharatha stood up at once and said, Great Sage, Your words both surprise me and make me happy.I am grateful to you for your affection. But in our way of life, the eldest son is the head of the family. The eldest son is to succeed the father. Sri Rama is the eldest of us all. He must be the king.It makes no difference whether he is in Ayodhya or the forest. The kingdom is his. Who am I to rule over his kingdom? I shall immediately go to the forest in search of him. I shall fall at his feet and bring him to Ayodhya. The courtiers were overwhelmed to hear these words. They applauded thunderously. Every one was happy that Bharatha was so righteous.
Bharatha summoned the concerned officers and said,I shall go to the forest with my retinue and the army, and bring Sri Rama back to Ayodhya with the honours due to a sovereign. Therefore, attend to the road leading to the forest. Workmen started working at once. They repaired the uneven road.They cut down trees and laid a good road. They dug wells on the way. They removed the thorny plants and bushes. They put up canopies for shade. They built bridges across rivers. They laid excellent roads.
Bharatha set out to the forest with a huge retinue. With the retinue travelled elephants, horses and chariots. There were citizens accompanying him. Every one was eager to see Sri Rama. They came to the banks of Ganga. There Bharatha offered oblations to his ancestors. They put up tents and spent the night there.
On his way to forest Sri Rama had spent the first night in the same place. Guha was the ruler of the region. He learnt that Bharatha was camping there. He said to himself,Why has Bharatha come here? I only hope that he will not trouble Sri Rama. He came to Bharatha and introduced himself.
Bharatha said, Guha, I am Sri Rama younger brother. I have come in search of my elder brother. I wish to restore his kingdom to him. Do you know where he is now? These words were greatly comforting to Guha. He was also delighted at Bharatha nobility. He said, Prince, rest here tonight. Early tomorrow morning I shall arrange for guides to assist you. Bharatha said, Guha, the night before he entered the forest, Sri Rama spent the night here with you, did he not? Where did he sleep? Guha conducted him to the spot and said, Prince, Sri Rama and Seeta slept here. They did not accept the food I offered. They only drank the water of Ganga. They did not sleep on the mattress of swan down I made ready, but slept on the grass. Lakshmana kept awake keeping vigil.
Bharatha eyes were filled with tears. He thought, O Fate, did Sri Rama who should have been the king have to sleep on the grass? Did he have to deny himself a sumptuous meal and satisfy his hunger with mere water? Did not the sharp points of the grass pierce his body? How could Sri Rama and Seeta even sleep? Sri Rama should have awakened to the music of sweet musical instruments, does he have to wake up to the terrible roar of fierce animals? Oh no, this is not proper. I cannot sleep on soft beds hereafter. The grass will be my bed. Fruits will be my food. I shall wear garments of plant fibre. Lakshmana is more fortunate than I. He has the good fortune of serving our elder brother.
Next morning he rose early. Guha ordered his men to have five hundred ships ready. The ships had big bells and huge flags. The winds were favourable. Bharatha and his relatives boarded the ships.Some soldiers used rafts to cross the river. Mahouts led their elephants across the river. Some swam across. They all reached Prayag and got off the vessels. Bharatha asked his soldiers to rest,and himself proceeded to Sage Bharadwaja ashram. Before setting out he removed his headwear and also wore adhoti. He covered his chest with another dhoti. He left his ministers and others at a distance and went alone to the hermitage, following his Guru Vashishta.
Sage Bharadwaja welcomed Sage Vashishta and Bharatha. Bharatha made obeisance to the sage and said,Great Sage, I have come in search of Sri Rama. I have to meet him in order to restore his kingdom to him. If you know where he is, please tell me. Sage Bharadwaja said, Bharatha, you are magnanimous. You are rejecting the throne which you have got without your asking. May your fame spread far and wide. Sri Rama is in Chitrakuta. All of you stay here tonight and continue your journey tomorrow. And the sage arranged for a sumptuous feast for Bharatha retinue.
Day dawned. Sage Bharadwaja said, Bharatha, at a distance of two and a half yojanas from here rise the Chitrakuta mountain. The region is full of hills and rivers and forests and is beautiful. To the north of the mountain flows Mandakini. The plants by the side of the river are enchanting with flowers. Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana live there in a hut. Go and meet them. May good attend your steps! and blessed him. Bharatha travelled towards Chitrakuta with his retinue.
They crossed many rivers, forests and hills and came to a vast forest. There were many elephants there. There were deer and bears. Seeing them Bharatha said to Sage Vashishta, Revered sir, this seems to be the ashram mentioned by Sage Bharadwaja. Look, there is the Mandakini. This is the Chitrakuta mountain. The region at the foot of the mountain is beautiful. Flowers are dropping from the trees continuously. There you see kinnaras moving about. Just as there are crocodiles in water there are cruel animals in the forest. Deer are frightened at the sight of us all and leap away.Peacocks are hastening towards the hill. This is a lovely spot; it is heavenly. Let the soldiers go forward now and scour the forest. Let them search until they catch sight of Sri Rama and Lakshmana.
The soldiers went about the forest. At a distance they saw smoke rising. They returned to Bharatha and reported. Bharatha said, Very well, I shall go with a few soldiers; the rest stay here. Then he went with Sumanthra and some prominent persons in the direction mentioned by the soldiers. The rest stayed back.
At the time Sri Rama was roaming about with Seeta and Lakshmana enjoying the beauty of Nature.He was in a happy mood. He said to Seeta, Seeta, look at these lovely scenes. Birds of different kinds fly about here. The mountain peaks rise as if they will pierce the sky. Some parts of this scenery sparkle like silver. Others are red like blood. Some parts are like blazing fire and yet others like mercury.
Here are tigers and leaopards. Bears move in large numbers. But this is a holy place.And,therefore,cruel animals and gentle ones live together. The cow and the tiger drink water from the same pool standing side by side. All this is the beneficent effect of the tapas of the rishis. This illustrates that in the company of good, every one becomes good.
Just then they noticed that the animals were running helter skelter in fear. Sri Rama said,Lakshmana, why are so many animals racing in fear? See if hunters are chasing them.Lakshmana climbed up a tall tree and surveyed the surroundings. He Saw Bharatha and his soldiers. At once he climbed down and said, Brother, Bharatha is coming with his soldiers. It looks as if this mother and this son are not satisfied with banishing you to the forest. He is now marching against you with a big army. He wants to defeat us on the battlefield. Let him come; we two will thrash him.
Sri Rama said, Laskhmana, do not be rash. Do not speak without adequate reflection. You should not judge people on the basis of mere conjecture. Why should we infer that Bharatha is coming to attack us? He is very righteous. I know his mind. Probably he is coming to take us back to Ayodhya. In all probability our coming to the forest has hurt him deeply. That is why he has come here. This is beyond doubt. Let us receive him. Let us welcome him affectionately. So saying he entered the hut.
Just then Bharatha, too, entered the hut. He saw Sri Rama and Seeta sitting on the kusha grass. Joy, happiness, grief, weeping “ all overwhelmed him simultaneously. He trembled. The blood-vessels on his neck swelled. His eyes grew dim. He hastened in order to touch Sri Rama feet. But, overwhelmed by his tumultuous emotions, he fell and swooned. Sri Rama raced to him and raised him. Bharatha regained consciousness. Weeping loudly he touched Sri Rama feet and saluted him. Sri Rama drew him towards himself and embraced him. All who were there deeply moved. Tears filled every eye.
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Shri Rama teaches Statecraft
Addressing Bharatha Sri Rama enquired, Bharatha, what is this? Why did you come to the forest? How is father? You are looking after him properly, arent you?
His voice choking, Bharatha said, Brother, where is our father? He could not bear the separation from you and passed away. It seems to his last breath, the king was thinking of you. He died when none of us, his children, was with him. What a fate!
As soon as they heard the news of Dasharatha death Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana swooned.Bharatha and the others were frightened and tended them and then they regained consciousness. They recalled many endearing qualities of Dasharatha and wept profusely. Bharatha joined them in their grief. Sumanthra consoled them all. Then Sri Rama and Lakshmana offered oblations to their father.
Then Sri Rama somehow mastered his grief and said to Bharatha, Brother, it is a calamity that father met with an untimely death. But no one can go against the decree of fate. Now that father is no longer there, your responsibilities have grown. You must rule the land so as to enhance the fame of the Ikshwaku dynasty. You must look after the subjects in such a way that our father in heaven is pleased. He then held Bharatha hand and made him sit near himself and enlightened him about statecraft.
Bharatha, You are conducting yourself with great respect towards the family priest, arent you? Are you treating everyone in the kingdom with cordiality? Appoint as your ministers only those who are valiant, educated and worthy, and who can look into the mind of others. A ruler should never take decisions all by himself. He should consult the ministers. Views can be exchanged, and the views of all concerned can be ascertained. It will then be possible to arrive at a decision acceptable to all. But the fact of the consultations should be kept a secret.
Bharatha, treat knowledgeable people with respect. A thousand fools serve no purpose. Instead, a single efficient, brave and brilliant minister with statesmanship can carry on administration much better. Entrust higher ranking officers with more important tasks. Allot ordinary types of jobs to middle level officers. Give relatively junior and lower rung officers smaller jobs. Choose honest ministers. They should not be corrupt. They should not be given to nepotism. Even if you yourself harass the people, your ministers should denounce it. They ought not to be your sycophants.
Bharatha, treat your subjects with affection. Watch them, and see if they are righteous and keep to the path of truth. Punish mercilessly a physician who fleeces the patient without curing the decease,the master who abuses a servant without gratitude and those who mint money from the misery of the poor. Appoint spies to unmask traitors. Choose a competent commander-in-chief. He should be most loyal. He should be intensely patriotic. Never slight the army. It is the soldiers who guard the borders of the kingdom. The soldiers who stake their lives for the sake of the country should command universal respect. Ensure that your soldiers and servants are paid their salaries without delay. Do not cut their salaries or delay payment. Never let those who rely on us suffer.
The administration of the kingdom will not be strenuous to you, because the people of Ayodhya know their responsibility as subjects. There are numerous temples in Ayodhya. There are shelters from the sun for travellers and pilgrims. There are a number of ponds. Everyone owns land.Cultivation is prosperous. The people have of plenty of cattle. Agriculturists and cowherds are dear to you, arent they? Remember, the prosperity of the land depends on them. Similarly, trade and commerce bring prosperity of the kingdom. Be alert so that the economy of the kingdom is never affected.
Do people of different castes and sects live in harmony? Are public festivals and ceremonies being celebrated? These community celebrations create mutual trust and affection; they promote the feeling that all the people belong to a single family.
Bharatha, in your kingdom thieves are receiving appropriate punishment, arent they? Make certain that, when there is a dispute between a rich man and a poor man, your ministers do not side with the rich man for the sake of money. No one should suffer injustice in the land. Judges should try cases and judge impartially. A kingdom in which people groan under injustice can never prosper.
Bharatha, a king may go wrong in fourteen ways. He may be an atheist “ non-believer in the existence of God, which makes him arrogant and disrespectful towards others; he may be a liar; he may lose his temper for no reason at all; he may not be sufficiently careful and circumspect in his work; he may be an idler; he may fail to establish relations with good people; he may grow sensual; he may become slothful; he may take decisions by himself, without consulting his ministers; he may discuss matters of state with foolish persons; he may procrastinate and not implement decisions; he may betray what ought to be kept secret in the interest of the kingdom; he may not do what is auspicious; and finally, he may declare war against all his enemies at the same time. These fourteen are drawbacks in a ruler; keep them at arm length.
Do not feast all by yourself. Share the feat with others. A king needs both physical prowess and mental acumen. A king so equipped can master the entire world. He can govern his people properly. Bharatha, this is how you should govern. Our ancestors ruled in this manner. The fame of the dynasty should shine forth as long as the sun and the moon endure, because of you. So saying Sri Rama affectionately patted the back of Bharatha.
Bharatha could no longer contain himself. With tears streaming from his eyes, in a choking voice he said,brother, I am a sinner. Why do you preach the king code to me? I am not the king. I am not worthy of being a king. Come to Ayodhya with me. Rule over us, as our king. Ayodhya is now a kingdom without a king. The entire population of the kingdom is awaiting your return.
Meanwhile, Kausalya and others as well as the soldiers and citizens grew more and more eager to see Sri Rama and they all came there. The citizens prostrated before Sri Rama. Sri Rama made obeisance to his mothers and to his Guru Vashishta. They embraced each other, experiencing joy and grief at the same time; and this was a rare spectacle.
They all sat down. They made enquiries about one another. Just then Sri Rama eyes fell on Bharatha garments. He was not wearing royal robe. He was wearing garments of plant fibre. He had matted hairs like tapaswis. He had covered his chest with animal skin. Surprised, Sri Rama asked, Bharatha, what is this? Why this drastic change in your apparel? Bharatha replied, Brother, as I told you father is dead. Because of my mother evil design you have come to the forest.Lakshmana, too, has come with you. What right have I to rule over Ayodhya? I have come to hand over the kingdom to you. Sri Rama said,Bharatha I am all admiration for your selflessness. But I cannot now come to Ayodhya. I have given my word to both my father and my mother that I will live in the forest for fourteen years. I will keep my word. One thing more. You are very harsh on our mother Kaikeyi. That is wrong; you should not do so. Those assembled there praised highly Sri Rama integrity in saying that he would carry out his promise and Bharatha selflessness in rejecting the throne which had come to him without his seeking it. Pitch darkness descended and they all rested as they chatted.
Next morning after the usual rites they sat down together. Bharatha then said, Brother, it is only after talking it over with my mother that I am restoring the kingdom to you. Be pleased to rule over us. You and you alone are worthy of being the king. I am not.
Sri Rama said, brother, I have already told you that I must spend fourteen years in the forest. That is my duty. I have come here in order to fulfil my father promise. I have come here to do my duty. You must perform your duty by governing the land.
The death of our father is truly a very sad thing. But every one must die one day or the other. Take courage. Go back to Ayodhya and rule righteously.
Bharatha pressed hard but Sri Rama would not yield. Bharatha then said, Brother, I am helpless. I am unhappy that you are not returning to Ayodhya. But one thing is certain. I will not ascend the throne. Give me your sandals. I shall govern under their auspices. You must come back exactly on the day the period of fourteen years expires from the day of your departure; or else I will jump to fire and die.
Sri Rama gave Bharatha his sandals. He also promised to be back as soon as fourteen years period expired. Bharatha once again made obeisance to Sri Rama and, carrying the sandals on his head, returned to Ayodhya with his retinue.
After reaching Ayodhya, Bharatha summoned his ministers and priests and said, Respected persons, these are the sandals of my elder brother. Extend royal honours to them. With guidance from all of you, I will try to govern under the auspices of these sandals. I do not wish to live in an Ayodhya, where there is no Sri Rama. Therefore I will live in Nandigrama until Sri Rama returns. I shall await my brother return. The eyes of the listeners were filled with tears. They agreed to his plans. Bharatha lived like a tapaswi in Nandigrama and ruled most efficiently.
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Examination on Lesson – 9
Choose answers to all the questions . All the best !!
Q1. Why was there a curse on King Dasaratha that he should die of grief caused by separation of his son?
Ans: a)Because he had killed a holy cow b) Because he had been cursed by a Rishi so, for killing his son accidentally c) Because he had committed many unvirtuous deeds in his life d) Because he did not take care of the subjects of his Kingdom
Q2. What was the reaction of the Bharat when he returned to Ayodhya ?
Ans: a) He was very happy that he will become the King of Ayodhya b) He thought that Kaikeyi Devi had acted correctly c) He thought that he should reward Manthara for her counsel to Kaikeyi Devi d) He was very unhappy with his mother and thought that Shri Rama had been wronged
Q3 Why did Bharat go to the forests with a huge army ?
Ans: a) To bring back Shri Rama to Ayodhya b) To go and stay with him in the forest c) To attack him in the forest d) To make sure that Shri Rama does not return to Ayodhya
Q4. According to Shri Rama, who should command universal respect ?
Ans: a)The King b) The Priest c) The Ministers d)The soldier who stake their lives for the sake of the country
Q5. According to Shri Rama, which type of people should be appointed at high posts ?
Ans: a) People who are Sycophants b) People who are corrupt c) People who are valiant, brave, knowledgeable d) People who are given to nepotism
Q6. According to Shri Rama, why spies should be appointed ?
Ans: a) To unmask traitors b)To spy on subjects c)To spy on Ministers d) To spy on the Army
Q7. How did Bharat decide to govern the Kingdom ?
Ans: a) As king of Ayodhya from the forest b) In the name of Shri Rama,c)under the auspicious of his sandals on the throne d) through Shatrunghna
Q8. Where did Bharat decide to stay ?
Ans: a) In Nandigram b) In Ayodhya c) In Chitrakoot d)In the forest
Correct Answers below
Examination – 9 –
Q.1 Ans (b),
Q.2 Ans (d),
Q.3 Ans (a),
Q.4 Ans (d)
Q. 5 Ans (c),
Q.6 Ans (a),
Q.7 Ans (c),
Q. 8 Ans (a)