ramkatha-titel.gif (4275 bytes) 




Chapter 17(c)
The Brothers meet

Bharatha was overcome with grief. He lamented, "On whom else can God heap such unbearable agony than on me, who happens to be the son of a mother who felt that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are her enemies? Yes, Brother! I heard that you walked into the forest on bare feet with nothing to protect you from thorns and pebbles. The news wounded my mind like sharp spears; but, yet, I lived on! I am the cause of all this calamity; but as a sinner, I am alive; or else, I would have cast off my body long ago. My breath persisted in this body even when Guha suspected me of treachery against my brother and got ready to confront me in battle at the head of his forces! Alas! My heart is harder than diamond; that is the reason why it has not broken, in spite of those blows.

"I am looking on calmly at the very tragedy of which I am the cause; yet my life is so unfortunate that I am able to stand the thrust of so much sorrow. My mother has such dreadful poison in her that scorpions and serpents discard their proud possessions in sheer shame; being the son of such a mother how can God allow me to escape the consequences of my destiny?" Bharatha was indulging in such self-torture that the citizens, the queens, the sages and others who watched his grief, his penitence, his humility, his reverence and his fraternal affection were all stricken like lotus blooms fallen on ice. They reminded Bharatha of many incidents from the Puranas so that he might recover from his depression.

Then Rama addressed Bharatha. He said, "Brother! Why do you give yourself up to despair? Your sorrow is in vain. Destiny cannot be countermanded. At all times, everywhere, you will be honoured by good and virtuous people; those who ascribe crookedness to you will be miserable here and hereafter. And, condemning one's mother? This crime will be committed only by those unfortunates who have not been trained either in the society of the virtuous or at the feet of preceptors. Bharatha! Your name will be remembered long and those who bring it to their memory will be able by its unseen influence to discard their vices. You will be earning renown in this world and bliss in the next. The world will be sustained by your ideals and your rule. Bharatha! Both hatred and love cannot be suppressed and hidden in the heart. Their needs must find expression despite all attempts to keep them imprisoned in the heart. I know your nature very well. In order to uphold Truth, the Emperor let me go and, unable to bear the separation from me whom he loved so much, he lost his very life. It is not right for a son like me or like you to dishonour the word of such a loving father. Therefore, do not hesitate further. Tell me what you have to say, ask about things that you desire to know and decide to shoulder the responsibilities imposed on you. That is the best course for you." Rama spoke these words with great emphasis.

Bharatha had no chance to speak any more about his fond desires. But, he resolved to press one demand of his, the final one. "Rama! The Kingdom that you have given up, that has brought on this disgrace of being the cause for your exile, I do not like to rule over; I have no love towards it either. I can never go against your will, command. I will not do so at any time. If you but cast your loving eye on me with no trace of anger, I shall consider myself blessed. Lakshmana has served you now so long; send him back with Satrughna to Ayodhya and allow me to take his place at your Feet.

"This will bring both fair renown. Lakshmana is an expert in administration; he can rule over the Empire wisely and well in all fields of administration and bring solace to the soul of the departed father. Grant this prayer of mine; keep me with you; do not refuse my request; do not kick me from the presence". Imploring piteously in this way, Bharatha clasped the feet of Rama.

"Or else", continued Bharatha, "kindly return to Ayodhya with Sita and stay there. We three brothers will stay on in the forest. We shall carry on our lives here in any manner that you prescribe. If on the other hand, you pile upon me this royal burden, I cannot bear the weight and live. Keep me at your feet and pile on me a weight thousand times heavier than the Empire; I shall bear it gladly and with enthusiastic delight. I have no knowledge of the science of government, or the texts on morality; you are aware that one who is sunk in grief can have no wisdom in him. Even shame will be ashamed when one's servant answers back and points to one's want of knowledge. Do not put me in that position. Rama! I am opening my heart to your gaze and revealing my inmost feelings. I desire only to promote the welfare of the world. Kindly decide on the best cause for each of us; do not doubt our intentions; shower your Grace on us and confer on us your commands. We shall bow our heads in loyal reverence and carry them out without hesitation".

These words of Bharatha gave the vast gathering who listened to them, great joy. Their hearts melted with compassion and gratitude. They extolled in manifold ways the affection and faith that Bharatha had placed in his brother Rama. They were affected by the expression of his deep devotion. All of them with one voice prayed, "Rama! Lord! Accept the prayer of Bharatha. With the passing away of Emperor Dasaratha, the long-established glory and happiness of the people too have passed away! The world has been pitiably orphaned. Ayodhya is wailing like a despairing waif. Like a chaste woman who has been deserted by her lord, she is lamenting her lot".

Meanwhile, Kaikeyi (the forlorn queen) - what shall we say about her! She was standing there, her heart gnawed by grief. She was anxious to discover how she could explain her wrongs; she tried her best to seek out Rama while he was alone, so that she could beg his pardon, but, could not succeed. She was ashamed even to show her face to Rama. She wondered how she could ever subject Rama, whom she loved so dearly, to all the privations and travails she now witnessed. Rama was her very breath. Therefore, she felt sure that by herself she was never capable of inflicting harm on him; she guessed that it must be the influence of some Evil Power that had possessed her which brought about this sad series of events. But, she said to herself that the world would never pardon her, however strongly she asserted that it was none of her doing. Torn by these doubts and misgivings, Kaikeyi was powerless to move forward towards Rama to speak to him, nor could she walk away from him for she was anxious to have the burden lifted from her heart. She stood there, weak and frail, fearful and faltering.

Rama noted her agitation and using an opportune moment, he moved towards her in order to fall at her feet and pay her his homage.

Kaikeyi was waiting for just this chance. She clasped Rama's feet, saying. 'Child! You are much younger to me; you are my son. But yet, you are the Master of the Whole World because of your virtue and your wisdom. I do not commit any wrong when I hold your feet in my hands. Come. Rule over Ayodhya. Pardon my sin. That alone can redeem me from the disgrace which I have brought on myself.  If that cannot be, keep Bharatha in thy presence at thy feet; bestow on me that boon. That will give me peace of mind as long as I live; I have no wish to live after the consummation of this wish of mine. I am myself shocked that I craved for the fulfillment of those two desires, which not even the most vicious ogress would have entertained. Did I ask for them while I was the daughter of the Ruler of the Kekaya Kingdom? Or did I speak those words when I was possessed by some evil genius? Or, was I under the poisonous influence of some evil star? I do not know; I cannot tell." She wept aloud in anguish, holding the hands of Rama fast in her clasp.

Rama shed tears at her plight. He assuaged her by his soft and sweet words. He said, "Mother! You have done no wrong, not even the least bit. The human crowd is a pack of crows; they caw loud and hoarse, without any rule or reason. Men do not try to know the truth; in their ignorance, they blabber as the whim dictates. Those boons were not asked by you of your own free will with full knowledge of the implications. All this happened thus, for I willed it to happen so. You have rendered much help for the fulfillment of the purpose for which I have incarnated and the task I have set before myself. You have committed no disservice. Mother! I am repenting very much for having made you plead with me so long instead of expressing at the very outset my gratitude for the help you have done for my plan of action. Do not grieve over what has happened; if you do so, it will cast a shadow on my task; it will make my days inauspicious. Bless me, Mother! Shower your affection on me. Mother! Bless me." Rama prayed and fell at the feet of Kaikeyi.

When Rama spoke thus, Kaikeyi recovered her mental peace a little. The other Queens, Kausalya and Sumitra, heard the conversation and when they realized that Kaikeyi was but the innocent instrument of the Divine Will, they too consoled and comforted their sister Kaikeyi. Nevertheless, Kaikeyi stuck to her wish and held on to her prayer that Rama must accept the throne and be installed as Emperor with Sita as the Empress of Ayodhya and that Lakshmana, Bharatha and Satrughna must serve them and be their loyal companions in court. She said that she would spend her life until death put an end to it, witnessing this Glory and sharing in this ecstasy. She repeated these words often and pressed for the grant of her wish.

Four days and nights were thus spent by them in the forest, praying, pleading, consoling, explaining, assuaging, weeping and imparting solace. They had all only one wish ruling their hearts; to persuade Rama to return to the Capital. At last, Rama directed Vasishta, the Royal Preceptor, and Bharatha to return to Ayodhya along with the Queens and the Citizens. News of this order spread despair among them; they said that the place where Rama was, was for them as delightful as a million heavens put together, and so, they refused to move. They said that only those whom the Gods discarded would turn their backs on the forest where Rama was. They said, "O, what great fortune is this that awaits us here! A bath in the holy Mandakani river, delicious fruits for appeasing hunger, the Darsan of Sita and Rama, so charming to the eye, so exhilarating to the heart! Where else is heaven? What else is happiness?"

They talked in this strain among themselves and resolved that they should persuade Rama by every means to return with them, if they have to go at all. Each one of them expressed his inmost wishes in words soaked in sweet love. Finally, one wise old Brahmin said, "Well,  if we possess the good fortune and the merit to deserve the auspicious and happy company of Rama in this forest, He would certainly agree to keep us here. If that is not our destiny, our evil fate itself will harden the heart of Rama, and He would drive us back to Ayodhya. If Rama does not bestow Grace who else can? What does it matter where we spend our days, when we cannot spend them in the presence of Rama? Away from Rama, we are but living corpses." When he finished, all of them responded with the exclamation, "True! True! These words are absolutely true."

When Emperor Dasaratha passed away, the Family Preceptor Vasishta had sent a message to Janaka, and as soon as he received it, he and his queen, Sunayana, had come to Ayodhya for condoling the bereaved. They learnt there about all developments. When Bharatha arrived, and decided to proceed to Chitrakuta along with the Mothers, the Royal Preceptor, and the leaders of the people, Janaka and his queen also accompanied them. They were waiting long for a favourable chance to meet Sita and Rama.

Meanwhile, Sita's mother directed a maid to find out whether Kausalya and other Queens were available for audience, and she hurried towards their residences. It was the eleventh day of the bright half of the Jyeshta month. The Queens met that day, in the forest - the four of them. Queen Kausalya paid honours to Queen Sunayana, and treating her with great respect, offered her a seat. It was the first time the Queens met Janaka's consort. 

As soon as Queen Sunayana saw the Queens of Ayodhya, Kausalya, Sumithra and Kaikeyi, she felt that even the hardest diamond would melt before their loving conversation, their tender manners and their compassionate comradeship. She found that their bodies had become emaciated, and that their heads were bowed by sorrow. Their eyes were fixed on the ground below their feet. They were shedding streams of tears. The three Queens extolled the virtues and excellences of Sita and Rama, but could not stop the outflow of grief.

Queen Sunayana could find no words to speak. At last, she said, "Mother! Of what avail is sorrow at this stage? Providence directed things along this crooked way. A diamond-edged cutter was used to sunder the cream on the milk! We have heard of the life-giving Amrith, the heavenly nectar; but, we have not seen it. But, we are privileged to see now the equally potent poison. We have the visual experience only of crows, storks, vultures and owls; but the visual experience of the Celestial Hamsa which has Lake Manasa-Sarovar as its habitat is beyond us. Queens! The sport of destiny is full of contradictions and absurdities; they are as unpredictable as the wayward sport of children". While trying thus to console the Queens, Sunayana herself could not restrain her tears. 

At this, Kausalya said, "Sunayana! This has happened not through the fault of one particular person. Happiness and misery, profit and loss, are all the consequences of Karma, the deeds, words and thoughts of the persons themselves. Has it not been declared, "Avasyam anubhokthavyam, krtham Karma subhaasubham?" Good or bad, whatever karma has been done, its consequences have to be willy-nilly suffered or enjoyed. God knows the hardship-filled process of Karma; He confers the appropriate consequence according to the deed. Each one carries on the head this Divine Command. O, Queen! We are entangled in delusion, and we yield in vain to grief. Why should the merit earned and stored by us in previous lives desert us when we grieve? Can this rule of cause and effect holding sway over the world from before the beginning of the world be set aside for our sake? It is a mad hope". Kausalya ended her attempt at consoling, with many a sigh.

When she finished, Queen Sunayana spoke thus: "Mothers! You are indeed highly fortunate, for, Emperor Dasaratha has a renown for holy merit that few rulers have. You are the Consorts of such a noble person. You are the mothers of the very embodiment of Dharma, the very personification of Love, Rama, whose heart embraces all beings in compassion. You have earned everlasting fame all over the world. What you said now is the ultimate truth. Happiness and misery are the two pots balanced on back and front by the rod to which they are tied and placed on the shoulder. Every one has to carry both in equal measure. In case one has no misery, one cannot identify happiness, can he? Na sukhaallabhyathe sukham. From happiness, no happiness can ensue, isn't it?" Kausalya said amidst her sobs, in a grief-stricken voice, "If Sita, Rama and Lakshmana reside in the forest, many calamities will happen. I know that Bharatha cannot survive separation from Rama. My agony is heightened when I see Bharatha, more than when I see Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. Fear overpowers me when I think of Bharatha". Sumitra and Kaikeyi agreed it was very true. They too were saddened at the condition of Bharatha.

Sumitra spoke next. She said, "Mother! Through your blessings and good wishes, our sons and daughter-in-law are as pure as the Ganga itself. Bharatha had never so far asserted that he was the brother of Rama and claimed something from him. But now, he is demanding that he should fulfill his wishes, in a satwic, highly righteous manner. Even the Goddess of Speech, Saraswathi, will hesitate to accept the assignment of describing the virtues, the humility, the large-heartedness, the fraternal attachment, the steadfastness of that faith, the courage and inflexibility of that courage, that mark out Bharatha as a great person. Can the ocean be measured by means of a snail shell? Bharatha is at all times, under all conditions, the effulgent Lamp of the Royal Line; only, people did not realize this until now. A gem has to be examined before its value can be determined; gold has to be tested on the touchestone, before its genuineness and fineness can be known. Let us not talk despairingly about him at this time. Our reason is now affected by sorrow and deluded by filial attachment." Sumitra wiped her tears, as she concluded her wise words of consolation. 

Hearing her words, the Queen of Mithila, Sunayana, thought within herself, "The queens of Ayodhya are really very great, one greater than the other, in nobility. They do not praise their own children, as mothers are prone to do; they extol the virtues of the sons of co-wives. This is quite against the nature of women, as usually found in the world. How they are describing and appreciating sons born to the other wives of their husband! These queens who do not distinguish between their sons and the sons of the other queen, are ideal housewives for the whole world. Ah! What large heartedness! What purity and perfection in the feeling of Love?"

Kausalya mustered some little courage, and addressed Sunayana thus: "Queen of Mithila! You are the consort of the Ocean of Wisdom, Emperor Janaka. Who dare convey counsel to you! We prattle away in our ignorance. Yet, I pray you might tell the Emperor Janaka at the earliest, when he is in a mood to listen, these words of mine, namely, 'Persuade Rama and make him agree to have Bharatha for some time with him. Since Lakshmana has already spent some time in his presence, let Lakshmana be sent to Ayodhya to oversee the activities and administration there, and Satrughna be directed to assist Lakshmana in his duties at Ayodhya.' If only Rama agrees, the rest of the problems would set themselves right quickly. It is only the condition of Bharatha that gives me anxiety. His attachment and love for Rama are deep-rooted and delicate. The Emperor has passed away; Rama will not return from the forest. If Bharatha finds separation from Rama unbearable, it might lead to his death. Then, the empire would be reduced to a living corpse! My heart is torn by fear and anxiety when I picture the future, and the calamities that are in store." Kausalya held fast in her hands the two hands of Queen Sunayana, and appealed to her to fulfill this mission, achieve this end, and confer Ananda on them all.  

Sunayana was touched by the affection that filled the heart of the Queen and her adherence to the path of righteousness. She said, "Mother! Humility and virtue are innate in you. They are natural expression of your goodness and nobility, as smoke on fire and beds of grass on mountain peaks. Of course, the Emperor Janaka is ever ready to serve you by word, deed, and thought. He is ever eager to help. But, can a lamp illumine the Sun? Rama has come into the forest to accomplish the task of the Gods. After finishing that assignment, he will surely return to Ayodhya and reign over the Empire. The might of his arms will ensure the attainment by subman, man and superman, of all their dearest wishes. These tidings were long ago revealed by the Sage Yajnavalkya. His words can never be falsified."

With these words, Sunayana fell at the feet of Queen Kausalya. Taking leave of her, and preparing to leave the place, she proceeded towards the cottage where Sita was. When she entered and saw Sita, she was overwhelmed with grief. She could not control her tears; she ran towards Sita and caught her arms. Sita consoled her mother by various means; she counseled courage and faith; she prostrated at the feet of the mother. 

She stood before her mother in her anchorite robes, appearing like Parvathi, the Consort of Siva, during the days when she did thapas. The mother could not contain within herself the question: "Child! Are you really my Sita, or, are you Parvathi?" She looked at her long and leisurely from head to foot, and was filled with wonder and joy. [picture: Parvathi in a hatha yoga pose]

At last, she said, "Sita! Through you, two families have been consecrated, the family of your parents and the family of your parents-in-law. Your fame will reach the farthest horizons. The flood of your renown will flow as a river in full flow between its two banks, the two royal lines of Mithila and Ayodhya. The Ganga has but three sacred spots on it - Haridwar, Prayag and the Sagarasangama, where it joins the Sea. May the stream of your pure fame enter and sanctify each one into a holy temple."

Hearing these words of truth that flowed from the affection of her mother, Sita blushed and bent her head, as if she was overcome with a sense of shame. She said, "Mother! What words are these? What is the relevance? What comparison can be found between me and the holy Ganga?" Saying this, she went through the gesture of prostration directed towards the Ganga, with a prayer for pardon.

Sunayana embraced her daughter, and stroked her head in tender affection.  "Sita! Your virtues are examples for all women who are mistresses of families to follow and emulate." Sita intercepted her, and said, "Mother! If I spend much time with you, the service of Rama might be delayed. Therefore, please permit me to go into his presence." The mother too realized that her desire lay in that direction and so, she felt that she should not be an obstacle in her way. She fondled and caressed Sita profusely and said at last, "Child! Go and serve Rama as you wish." Sita fell at her feet and left the place, for serving Rama.

Sunayana pondered long over the reverential devotion that Sita had towards her husband, and her other virtues. She never took off her eyes from Sita until she disappeared from view. She stood at the same spot, watching her and admiring her. She was awakened from the reverie by her maid who came near her and said, "Mother! Sita has gone in; it is best we now return to our residence." Suddenly, Sunayana turned back, wiping the stream of tears from her eyes; her unwilling steps took her to the cottage allotted to her.

The Sun set just at this time; so, Rama and Lakshmana, Bharatha and Satrughna proceeded to the river for evening sacraments like bath and ritual worship of the Gods at dusk. The pundits, the members of the Brahmin caste, the ministers and others also accompanied them. After finishing these, they partook of fruits and tubers, and laid themselves to bed under trees allotted to each group. When dawn broke, after the morning sacraments were gone through, all of them gathered around the cottage of thatch where Rama was. Rama came out with a bewitching smile, and passed through that thick crowd inquiring of each lovingly about health and welfare.

Bharatha fell at the feet of Rama when He came near him. He said, "Lord! A desire has arisen in my heart; I am unable to express it before you on account of fear and shame." Rama stroked the head of his dear brother, saying as he did so, "Why do you hesitate to tell me? Come, tell me what it is." At this, Bharatha said, "Brother! I have a great desire to see the hermitages, the sanctifying bathing ghats on the banks of the river, the glens of these thick forests, the wild animals that roam therein, the lakes and streams, the waterfalls around this Chitrakuta peak. They have all been rendered holy by the imprint of your Lotus Feet. The residents of Ayodhya are over-powered by the urge to see those meritorious spots".

Rama replied, "Bharatha! Your desire is highly commendable. You can gladly explore this region, with the permission of the Sage Atri". Hearing this, Bharatha was very happy. He fell at the feet of the sage as well as of Rama, and then proceeded to the interior of the forest, visiting on the way, with Satrughna and the people from Ayodhya, many hermitages and other holy spots.

On the way, he saw a well by the side of the mountain. It had in it holy waters from all the sacred rivers and lakes. Bharatha sprinkled its waters reverentially on his head; he prostrated before that seat of sacredness. He cleaned the water by removing with his own hand some dry leaves and dirt that had fallen on the water. It is this well that is honoured even today as Bharathakupa or Bharatha's Well, all over the world.




contents of this Vahini | | previous page | next page