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WHEN it was known that the four
princes and the three queens were reunited
and could be seen together in one place, a
chorus of joy went up in the army and
retinue and they came surging forward to
witness that happy spectacle. They were
sure now that Rama would return to
Ayodhya and the people embraced one
another for the very joy.
The sage Vasishtha conducted the three
queens to the hut. On the way, they saw
the river Mandakini. When he showed
them the spot where the princes daily took
water for their use, Kausalya and Sumitra
broke down and sobbed. Said Kausalya:
"From this pool in the river, Sumitra,
your son takes water to the ashrama every
day. Lakshmana is prepared to do the
commonest task cheerfully for his brother.
He does not mind the weight of the water
pot on his princely shoulder."
They saw the spot where Rama and
Lakshmana poured out libations for their
father's Spirit. The darbha grass lay with
the ends facing south, beside the oil cake.
Kausalya clung to Sumitra and said: "O
Sister! This is the food that the mightiest
kings have to be content with after death."
They reached the hut. There they saw
the princes with faces clouded with
sorrow, seated under a thatched roof.
Unable to bear the sight, the royal mothers
sank to the floor.
When Rama lifted Kausalya tip, she
stroked him with her flower-soft hands
and was at once sad and happy. She
embraced Sita and said: "My child,
Janaka's daughter, daughter-in-law to the
King of Ayodhya, do you live in this hut
in the forest? O, faded lotus-flower! O,
golden image covered with dust! My heart
melts at the sight of you."
Rama reverently touched the feet of
Vasishtha who seemed another Brihaspati,
the preceptor of the gods, come down to
earth, and then sat by his mother. Bharata
humbly sat apart facing Rama. The elders
surrounded them, eagerly awaiting what
Bharata would say and how Rama would
"Bharata, why have you left your
kingly duties and come here in deer skin
and with matted locks?" asked Rama.
Bharata attempted to speak several times,
but at first could not get beyond the word
'Brother.' Then he pulled himself together
with a great effort and said:
"Sending you to the forest, but unable
to bear the pain, our father's soul fled to
heaven. All the good my mother has got
from her evil plan has been that she has
become a sinner and a widow and is in
deep sorrow. Despised by the world, she
experiences hell on earth. Only you can
save us. Undo all the evil that has been
done and wipe off our tears by agreeing to
be crowned. It is to implore you for this
that we and the citizens and the army and
the widowed queens have come and are
all here waiting on your word. Grant us
our prayer. This alone will put an end to
our sorrow and re-establish the dharma of
our race. Without a rightful king, the land
is like a widow, desolate and helpless.
You must come back and make it happy
and secure. Like the full moon rising,
dispel our darkness. The ministers here
and I fall at your feet and beg of you. Do
not refuse, O, brother!"
Saying this, the great Bharata, with
tear-filled eyes, clung to the feet of
Rama raised him from the ground and
embracing him said:
"Child, we were born in a noble family
and brought up in good ways. Neither you
nor I can do anything wrong. I see no fault
in you, my blameless brother! Do not feel
sad and do not speak unkind words about
your mother. It is not proper that we
should blame her. Surely our father had
the right to tell us what to do, aye, even to
decree banishment, just as he had the right
to order a coronation. Our duty is to honor
our father and our mother. How could I
disobey or question their command? Was
it for me to refuse my father's command
that I should go to the forest? He gave you
kingship and he ordained for me life in the
forest. He certainly had the right to settle
the manner of our lives. What right do we
have to alter or reject his plans? Far from
being wrong, it is your duty to rule the
land. And I too shall do my duty and fulfil
our father's last command by living
fourteen years in the Dandaka forest.
Failing to fulfil our father's wish, can I
find contentment in the possession of the
Bharata repeatedly besought and
importuned Rama. Rama realised that
Bharata grieved that it was for his sake
injustice had been done and that he
endeavored to remove the blot.
"Do not blame yourself," he said. "Do
not think that all these things took place
for your sake. Destiny rules everything.
Give up your grief. Return to Ayodhya
and rule the kingdom. Let us each perform
the duties assigned to us by the father we
love and revere."
The people who watched the talk and
saw the determination of the prince were
filled with joy and sorrow in equal
measure. Bharata's affection and purity
filled them with pride and joy.
Rama told Bharata his unalterable
decision. "I cannot possibly disobey my
father's word. You will please me by not
persisting in trying to persuade me.
Satrughna is there to help you in ruling, as
Lakshmana is here to help me in forest
life. With Lakshmana by my side, I lack
nothing. Let us all four, brother, do our
The learned Jabali, one of the priests
who had accompanied Bharata, here
interposed a lesson on worldly wisdom for
the benefit of Rama. "You talk again and
again of your father's command.
Dasaratha was a physical body which has
now rejoined the five elements. You talk
as though there is some continuing
relationship between that person who is
now no more and yourself. This is sheer
illusion. Why do you like the foolish
prating of dharma and seek to give up the
good fortune to which you were born?
Like a woman mourning with dishevelled
hair, the city of Ayodhya is plaintively
longing and waiting for your return. Go
back. Accept the crown. Enjoy life's
pleasures. Listen to Bharata. Do not fail in
your proper duties."
This lecture angered Rama. He said
with much sharpness: "Sir, you seem to
set little value on truth and rectitude. Your
materialist talk fills me with such
abhorrence that I wonder that an
unbeliever like you should have been
tolerated in the court."
Jabali hastened to explain that, far from
being an infidel, he had all his life been a
teacher of the Shastras and that he had
only spoken as he had done out of an
earnest wish to persuade Rama to return.
Vasishtha also intervened on his behalf
and that unlucky interlude came to an end.
Vasishtha then put the case for Rama's
return this way:
"On the whole, my opinion is that you
should return to Ayodhya and accept the
throne. Of course, your father's command
also has to be considered, and reconciled
to this step. You have obeyed that
command at once and unhesitatingly, but
now a new situation has arisen. Bharata in
his helplessness, fearing infamy, has
sought shelter at your feet. How can you
spurn him? We all know that you love
him as your life. You never refuse those
who approach you for help. How then can
you deny it to Bharata now? Is it not your
life-principle to help those who seek
refuge at your feet?"
But Rama showed no signs of
relenting. Then, Bharata turned to
Sumantra and said, "My brother has no
pity for me. Please spread a bed of darbha
grass here for me. I shall take the pledge
of fasting unto death."
Sumantra hesitated and looked at
Rama. Then Bharata himself fetched and
spread the grass and sat on it.
"My child, this is not right," said Rama
firmly. "Rise. Go to Ayodhya and fulfil
your duties. Do not go against Kshatriya
Bharata got up and as a last resort
appealed to the people who had
accompanied him, a representative crowd
of soldiers and citizens from Ayodhya:
"O, citizens of Ayodhya! Why do you
stand mutely looking on? Do you not want
Rama to return? Why then are you silent?"
The people answered: "Rama will not
swerve from truth. He will stand firm by
his father's promise. He will not return to
Ayodhya. What is the use of pressing him
Rama said, "Listen to them, brother.
They wish well by both of us. Virtue
dwells in their hearts."
Bharata said: "Here I am as guiltless as
Rama and a fit substitute for him. If the
King's word should be fulfilled let me stay
here in the forest in place of Rama. Let
him fill my place and rule in Ayodhya."
Rama laughed and said: "This
procedure of exchange cannot apply here.
This is not trade or business for barter and
agreement. It is true that sometimes one
discharges the duties of another, when the
latter is too weak and unable to do it. But
how does it fit on this occasion? Can any
of you say that for life in the forest I have
no capacity but only Bharata has?"
Then the wise Vasishtha found a
solution for the problem in which
righteousness as to which should be more
right. "O, Bharata, rule the kingdom under
Rama's authority and as his deputy. No
blame would attach to you then and the
pledge would be kept."
Rama took Bharata on his lap and told
him, "Brother, look on the kingdom as my
gift to you. Accept it and rule it as our
A glory descended on Rama and
Bharata at that moment at they shone like
Bharata said: "Brother, you are my
father and my God. Your least wish is my
dharma, Give me your sandals. That token
of yours shall reign in Ayodhya till you
return. And for fourteen years I shall stay
outside the city and discharge the King's
duties in your place, paying reverent
homage to your sandals. At the end of that
period, you will return and accept the
"So be it," answered Rama.
He placed his feet on the sandals and
handed them to Bharata who prostrated
himself on the ground and accepted them
and put them on his head.
Bharata and his retinue turned back
towards Ayodhya. On the way, they met
the sage Bharadwaja and reported what
had happened. He blessed Bharata saying:
"Your virtue will be for ever
remembered. Are you not a son of the
solar race? As water flows downwards,
the virtue of your family runs its
inevitable course in you. Your father
Dasaratha is indeed happy. He is not dead
but lives again immortally in you."
They met Guha again and crossed the
Ganga and reached Ayodhya. Bharata and
his followers entered Ayodhya. The city,
bereft of the King and Rama, appeared
desolate to Bharata. It seemed to be
enveloped in the darkness of a moonless
night. When he returned in haste from
Kekaya, he had entered the city in fatigue
and shapeless fear and suspense; but today
he entered it again fully realising all the
He remembered the past and thought of
the present and grieved afresh. He went to
the palace and took the queens to their
desolate apartments. He went to the
assembly hall, and said: "Great is my
sorrow. But I shall bear it. I shall stay in
Nandigrama and carry out my tasks as I
have promised Rama. Make all
arrangements for this purpose."
This was done and he solemnly
announced in the assembly, "This
kingdom is Rama's. For the time being, he
has asked me to be in charge. In my
brother's place I have installed his sandals.
Deriving my authority from them I shall
do my work as king."
Accordingly, Bharata stayed in
Nandigrama and with the help of
ministers ruled the kingdom as a religious
duty until Rama should return after
completing his forest life. And indeed, is
it not the law laid down in Scripture that
one should serve the world unselfishly
and without attachment, leaving the fruit
of one's work at the feet of the Lord?
Rama did his penance in the forest for
fourteen years and all the time Bharata too
did his penance at Nandigrama near
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?