Saturday, 24 August 2013

71. Bharata did the last rites for his father.

            The following morning sage Vasishta, came to Bharata and said "Dear Bharata! My blessings to you. You have lamented long enough. Perform in an excellent way, the last rites of your father."  Bharata, not less righteous than his brother Rama, fell prostate and with the blessings of 
Vasishta proceeded with all the arrangements for the obsequies. The body of the king Dasharatha in the the vessel where it had been immersed in oil, looked as if asleep with the face the colour of gold. Bharata gently lifted the body and placed it in a magnificent couch, adorned with every kind of precious stone. Then Bharata looked at his father and in a great grief, lamented "O, Dad! Having sent to exile the virtuous Rama and Lakshmana, while I was away from home, what did you intend to do? Oh, king! Oh, father! Who is supposed to see the welfare and security of your city of Ayodhya, while you have departed for heaven and Rama to a forest?  Bereft of you and deprived of its lord, this earth does not look charming. To me, this city looks like a night without the moon".  The great sage Vasishta told him kindly "Oh, my dear Bharata! Without hesitation or repining, carry out the funeral rites of the king that should be done." Bharata nodded and in deference to Vasishta's command, commanded the appointed priests to start the funeral rites.
          The fires for the king were prepared outside the chamber and kindled in accordance with the rituals by the priests and the sacrificial attendants.  The attendants were choked with tears in their throats and disconsolate in their mind, made the dead king to mount on a palanquin and carried it away to the place at the bank of the Saraya river where the cremation was to take place. Many people went along the path, scattering silver, gold and various kinds of clothes in front of the king.  In the same manner, some others brought sandal wood, sweet aloes, different fragrant essences, with heaps of Sarala, Padmaka and Devadaru woods and many other kinds of fragrant substances, went there and threw them into the funeral pile.  Thereafter the appointed priests caused the king's body to lie down there in the midst of the funeral pyre. Then, those priests engaged for the benefit of the king poured oblations into the fire and recited sacred texts (relevant to the funeral rites). Those among the priests who could recite the hymns of Samaveda, chanted them according to the rules. Then, the royal ladies, encircled by elders mounted palanquins or other vehicles, as deserving and departed from the city to that place. Then, the appointed priests as well as Kausalya and other women who were tormented with grief, circumambulated in anti clockwise direction that king who was lying on the funeral pile.  At that time the crying sounds of thousands of women, pitiably weeping with agony, were heard like the sounds of female curlew birds. Thereafter, the lamenting ladies deprived of their grit wept again and again and descended from their vehicles at the bank of Sarayu River. Along with Bharata, the royal women, the ministers and family priests offered their oblations with water and returned to the city with their eyes filled in tears and spent ten days with great difficulty by sleeping on bare floor.
            After the tenth day of the death of Dasharatha, Bharata performed Shraddha* rites on the arrival of the twelfth day.
* Shraddha rites are in the honor and for the benefit of dead relatives observed with great strictness at various fixed periods and on the occasion of rejoicing as well as mourning by the surviving relatives. These are performed by the daily offering of water and on the stated occasion by the offering of Pindas or balls of rice and meal to three paternal forefathers i.e. Father, grandfather, and great grandfather.  It is an act of reverential homage to a deceased person performed by relatives, most desirably by a son of the deceased.
           On the occasion of Shraddha rites, Bharata gave precious stones, money, a lot of cooked rice, very valuable clothes and various other kinds of presents to Brahmans.  In that ceremony performed in honor of the dead king, Bharata gave multitudes of white goats, hundreds of cows, servants and servant maids, vehicles and very big houses to Brahmans. 
           Then, at dawn on the thirteenth day, Bharata who came for clearing up bones and ashes, when reached the foot of his father's funeral pile to collect the bones and ashes for their immersion in the Sarayu River, cried in great agony "O, father! My brother Rama to whose care I was entrusted by you, having gone on exile to the forest, I have now become abandoned wholly alone, by you."
          Seeing that spot of collection of bones, which became reddish brown in colour because of ashes, with bones consumed by fire and his father's body having extinguished, Bharata was depressed and began to cry loudly. Miserable as he was to see the spot, Bharata fell weeping on the ground, as a flag staff fastened by any mechanical contrivance would drop down while being raised in honor of Indra the god of celestials.  All his ministers hastily approached Bharata just like the sages once rushed to the fallen Yayati at the time of his death. 
           Shatrughna was also overwhelmed with grief and fell unconscious on the ground. Remembering the many gestures of his loving father from time to time, Shatrughna was lamenting like one who has lost his wits, bewildered as he was. He cried "We are immersed in a violent and appalling ocean of sorrow invoked by Mandhara, in which Kaikeyi in the form of a crocodile swam in its current the irrevocable boons granted to her by my father. Oh, father! Where have you gone leaving us. You used to fulfill the wishes of all of us, in the matter of eatables, drinks, clothes and jewels. Who else will do it now for us. It is a great wonder that earth which is deprived of you, the high soled and righteous king, is not riven. Father having gone to heaven and Rama having taken refuge in a forest, what is the significance of life for me? Bereft of my brother and father, I can not return to the deserted city of Ayodhya, where Ikshvaku used to reign.  I shall retire to a hermitage."
          Hearing the lamentations of the brothers and beholding their plight, all their companions were disturbed very much, once again. Both Shatrughna and Bharata were wearied with grief and began to roll on the ground, like two bulls whose horns have been broken. Then, Vasishta, the family priest, raised up Bharata from the ground and spoke "Oh, Bharata! This is the thirteenth day of the death of your father. Why are you hanging down here, when the ceremony of collecting the bones is still unfinished?  The three pairs of opposites (namely hunger and thirst, joy and sorrow, birth and death) occur to all living beings without any exception. They being inevitable, you ought not to behave like this."
           Sumantra, who knew the Truth, raising up Shatrughna and pacifying him, told him about the origin and dissolution of all beings. The two illustrious tigers among men (Bharata and Satrughna) who had got up, appeared like two banners severally raised in honor of Indra (the god of celestials) soiled through rain and the sun. The ministers hurried up to the princes, who were wiping their tears and who were talking pitiably with their eyes reddened (due to excessive weeping) to expedite the other rites pertaining to the thirteenth day.

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