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Ramanya Chapter Sixteen

Rama went to Queen Kausalya's dwelling. Many visitors were assembled there, eagerly awaiting the coronation. In the innermost apartment, the Queen, clad in white silk, was before the sacrificial fire invoking blessings on her, son.


As soon as Raama entered, she embraced him and showed him, who she thought, was to become the Yuvaraaja, to a specially raised seat.


"Mother, this seat is now too high for me," said Raama. "I am a hermit and should sit on grass spread on the floor. I have brought you news, which may sadden you. Listen, and give me your blessings."


And he told her briefly what had happened: "The King wishes to give the crown to Bharata. His command is that I should spend fourteen years in the Dandaka forest. I must leave today, mother, and I come for your blessings before I go."


When Kausalya heard this, she fell on the ground like a plantain tree suddenly cut down. Lakshmana and Raama gently raised her.


She clung to Raama and cried: "is my heart made of stone or iron that I still live?"


Lakshmana could not bear the sight of the Queen's grief. Angrily he spoke: "This old King has pronounced on Raama a doom that is reserved for the most wicked evil-doers. What sin or crime has Raama committed? Not even his worst enemy could find any fault in Raama. The doting old man has lost his senses over his young wife and is not fit to be king any more.


"How can a king listen to a woman and violate dharma? Even your enemies, O Raama, when they look at you begin to love you, but this dotard of a father sends you to the forest. Look here, brother, let us together throw out this King and take charge of the kingdom ourselves. Who dare oppose us? I shall make an end of any one who dares. Only give me leave and I shall do this single-handed.


"A young brother to become King and you to go to the forest! The world would laugh at this absurdity. Don't consent to this. I at any rate won't stand this. I shall put down all opposition and see that you rule the kingdom without let or hindrance. Never doubt but I have strength to do it. Instead of the sun rising, a great darkness has descended upon the land this morning, for when we were expecting your coronation the King sentences you to banishment! In the face of such injustice there is no use being nice and polite. I cannot stand this. I must do my duty. Mother, now You will see the strength of my arm and so you, brother."


Lakshmana's words were some solace to Kausalya, but yet this strange talk of ousting the King and seizing the throne frightened her.


She said: "Raama, consider well what Lakshmana says Don't go to the forest. If you go away, how can I stay here all-alone among enemies? I too shall go with you."


Raama had listened in silence to Lakshmana's outburst, for it wise to let the pent up passion find outlet in words. Then, turning to Kausalya he said: "Mother, let there be no talk of anyone going with me to the forest. It is your duty to stay here serving the King and sharing the sorrow that has come to him in his old age. How can the crowned Queen of an Emperor wander with me like a widow in the forest? This cannot be. I shall return after my term of forest life.


"It is my duty to fulfil my father's word. It is all the same to me, it is just or unjust, spontaneous or extorted by force or fraud. If I fail in this primary duty, I can gain no satisfaction or good name through any amount of wealth or power. Lakshamana, your proposals are quite wrong. I know your great strength and I have no doubt that you can vanquish and destroy all opponents and secure for me the kingdom. I know also your affection for me.


But the way in which you propose to use it is not worthy of the dynasty to which we belong. Our highest duty is to fulfil our father's word. If we fail in that, no other achievement can make up for it.


Raama tried to console both his mother and his brother, but Lakshmana's anger could not be easily put down. Perhaps it could been, if he himself-not Raama-were the sufferer. But it was Raama who was the victim of this cruel injustice. And so Lakshamana writhed in anger like a wounded cobra. Raama took him apart, made him sit down and tried to calm him:


"Lakshmana, are you not my other self, my very soul in another body? Listen to me. You are courageous and strong. Control Your anger and grief on my account. Don't allow these evil spirits to possess you. Holding fast to dharma, let us convert our Present disgrace into a great joy. Let us forget all about the coronation, and think worthily as becomes our race.


"Consider our father's condition. Our hearts should go out to him in sympathy, for he is stricken with a great sorrow. Whatever be the reason, he gave a promise and if he should break it, he would be committing a shameful sin, which would besmirch and blot, out all his great and glorious deeds. He is heart-broken at the wrong he feels he has done me; but I do not feel it a wrong at all, for a king must keep his word and a son must obey his father. You should show that you too are free from any sense of injury. Only so can we bring him mental relief.


"He gave us the life that we hold and we should give him peace of mind. He is afraid about the other world. We should free him from this fear. So far, we have never given him cause for sorrow or dissatisfaction. Now we have become the cause of a great fear in his mind about what is to happen to him in the other world. We can easily relieve him. Instead of doing this, are we to add to his troubles? For this reason my mind has altogether turned away from the coronation and is intent on the journey to the forest.


"My sole desire now is to go to the forest and see that Bharata is crowned. This would please me best. If I delay, Kaikeyi will grow suspicious. Hence I should go to the forest this very day and bring peace to her mind. Rid of the fear of the sin of breaking a promise and assured of my willing and cheerful acceptance of his command, our father will be happy.


"And we should not be angry with Kaikeyi either. Has she not been kind to us all these years? That she should suddenly conceive this idea is surely the working of fate. We should not blame her for it. One proposes something and fate decides otherwise. In this, Kaikeyi is but a passive instrument in the hand of fate.


"Our little mother will have to bear the grievous burden of the world's blame, but our love for her should remain the same as ever. If, before this, there had been evil in her thought, her conduct would have shown it. There is no doubt that some higher force has made her say suddenly and harshly, 'Raama, go to the forest.' Otherwise how could a high-minded woman who so far looked upon us as her own children now behave so brazenly before her husband? Who can oppose destiny? Even steadfast sages have swerved suddenly from their tapas. How can poor Kaikeyi hope to resist fate?


"Let us resolve firmly to change this sorrow into joy. That would be a proof of our nobility and courage, Lakshamana. With the blessings of my mothers and elders, I shall go to the forest.


Bring here the water, the water from the Ganga for the coronation. I shall use it for ablution before departing for the forest. No, no, that water belongs to the State and is intended for the coronation. How can we touch it? We shall go to holy Ganga ourselves and fetch the water for my ablution. Brother, be not sad thinking of kingdom or wealth; life in the forest will be my highest joy."


So Raama revealed to his brother his inmost thoughts. In thew passages Vaalmeeki uses the word daiva. In Sanskrit literature, daivam means fate. Daivam, dishiam, bhaagyam, niyati and vidhi are all words conveying the idea of something unexpected I and inexplicable. Because of the belief in God as the Prime Cause, a natural confusion arises between fate and God's will. What, Raama said to Lakshamana on the present occasion does not mean that he thought that the gods contrived Kaikeyi's action for their own benefit. Raama offered no more than the usual consolation:


"It is the work of fate. Do not grieve. No one is to blame for this.


In Kamba Raamaayana also, addressing his brother 'raging like the fire of Dissolution,' Raama says: "It is not the river's fault that the bed is dry. Even so, my going hence is not the King's fault, nor Queen Kaikeyi's nor her son's. The wrong is the work of fate. Why should one be angry then?"


This explanation calmed Lakshmana for a while. But soon his anger boiled up again. He said: "Very well, then. This is the work of fate. Fate, I grant, is the cause of our step-mother's sudden folly. And I am not angry with her. But are we, on that account, to sit still and do nothing? It is Kshatriya dharma to overcome evil and established justice.


"A hero does not bow down before fate. Having announced Raama's coronation by beat of drum to the town and country, the treacherous King invokes some old forgotten boon and orders you to go to the forest. Is it manly to call this fate and obey it meekly? Only cowards go down under fate. Heroes should oppose and vanquish it. I am no weakling to yield to fate. You will see today the might of a hero matched against fate. I shall tame the mad elephant fate and make it serve me.


"I shall banish to the forest those who conspired to banish you, if you wish to visit the forest for a change, you can do so later. The proper time for it will be when you have reigned as king for many years and then entrusted the crown to your sons. That was the way of our ancestors. If anyone questions your kingship now, I stand here to annihilate him.


"Are these two shoulders merely for beauty? This bow, these arrows and this sword hanging on my side, are they mere decorations? Or do you think they are theatrical equipment put on for show? I await your orders. Give me the word and test my prowess."


Raama gently pacified Lakshmana's rage, which was flaming up into a conflagration. "As long as our parents are alive," said Raama, 'it is our duty to obey them. I cannot dream of disobeying my father. It is our prime duty to do his bidding and enable him to fulfil his pledge. What joy is there in getting a kingship after insulting our parents and slaying Bharata, the embodiment of dharma?"


And he wiped with his hand the tears from Lakshmana's eyes. When Raama did this, Lakshamana grew calm. For the affectionate magic of Raama's hand could work wonders.

 

  
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