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."

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