Ramayana: Rama and Bharata

You will see another variation on the word rajah here: the Sanskrit raj, which means "rule" or "dominion." This word also entered into English as the term used to refer to the centuries-long British rule in India, the British Raj as it was called. You can read more about the history of the British in India at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Ramayana unit. Story source: Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913).

Rama and Bharata

News Comes to Bharata

In the morning, messengers were sent speedily to Bharata, who sojourned in the kingdom of the Kaikeyas with his mother's sire, the rajah Aswapati, bidding him to return without delay.

Seven nights passed while the prince journeyed towards Ayodhya. He knew not that Dasaratha had died until he reached the palace. Then Kaikeyi, his mother, informed him without tears. Bharata wept, and flung himself down upon the floor and cried aloud.

Kaikeyi said: "Thou shouldst not thus give way to grief, my son."

Said Bharata: "If the Maharajah were alive, he would have embraced and kissed me on my return. But where is Rama, who is now as a sire unto me?"

Then Kaikeyi told him all that had taken place, and said: "For thy sake, my son, I have accomplished this. Sorrow not, because thou wilt be installed as ruler here."

Said Bharata: "I have lost my father and my elder brother. Of what good is a kingdom unto me now? O evil-hearted woman, thou hast bereft this house of all joy; thou hast slain my sire and banished Rama. . . . But I will bring my brother back from the jungle; he shall be seated on the throne."

Satrughna [Bharata's brother] sorrowed like Bharata, and when he beheld the wicked hunchback Manthara, he threw her down and dragged her across the floor, saying: "This hateful creature is the cause of our calamities. I will slay her."

Kaikeyi flew away in terror, and Bharata said: "Slay her not, because she is a woman. I would have killed my wicked mother, but, had I done so, Rama would never have forgiven me nor have spoken to me again. Spare this wretch, O Satrughna, lest Rama should be angry with thee."

Kausalya, mother of Rama, then approached Bharata and said: "The raj is now thine, O ambitious one. Thy mother hath secured it for thee."

Bharata fell at her feet and vowed that he would never sit on the throne, but would hasten after Rama to entreat him to return.

Then Kausalya wept and embraced him because that he was loyal to his elder brother.

Bharata Goes After Rama

When Bharata had performed the funeral rites for the Maharajah, he left Ayodhya with a strong army to search for Rama.

The two brothers met in the jungle of Chitra-kuta, and they embraced one another and wept for their dead sire.

In the morning Bharata spake to Rama in the presence of the army, saying: "This raj, which was given unto me against my will, I now gift unto thee, mine elder brother. Accept it and remove the stain of my mother's sin."

Said Rama: "O Bharata, my royal sire, fulfilling his vow, banished me to the jungle and appointed thee to the raj. A faithful son cannot recall the mandate of his sire."

Javali and Rama

Then Javali, the Brahmanic counsellor of Dasaratha, spake and said: "O Rama, why dim thine understanding with empty maxims? Thou hast already obeyed thy sire. It is foolish to think that thou shouldst continue this allegiance to one who is dead. A man enters the world alone and departs alone; he owns not friendship to kindred. His parents are to him like a wayside inn which he leaves in the morning; his allegiance to them is temporary. He meets them like a traveller who tarries on his journey and then goes on his way as before. In this world we have only one life to live. If thou wilt refuse this raj, thou wilt destroy thy one life. I am sorry for those who scorn the blessings of this world so long as they are alive in the hope that they will reach a Paradise which does not exist. When this life is spent we are extinguished for ever. Alas! that men should make to their ancestors useless offerings. Can a dead man eat thereof? These offerings are a waste of food. If the soul endures and passes into a new body how can it benefit from food eaten by another? These practices were invented by cunning priests with selfish motives. . . . There is no Hereafter. Therefore, snatch the joys of life while thou canst, O Rama; take the raj which is offered to thee and return to Ayodhya."

Said Rama, whose heart was filled with anger: "O Javali, thy motive is excellent but thy doctrines are false. A good man is distinguished from an evil man by his deeds. How can I, who have embraced a virtuous life, turn now into the path of evildoing? The gods who read a man's heart would curse me for my sins. Vain are thine idle words; thy reasoning is cunning but false. Truth is our ancient path. Truth endures when all else passes away. The venom of falsehood is more deadly than the venom of a serpent's sting. Thou hast said that there is no Hereafter, and that we should snatch pleasures while life endures. If that is so, why do wise men condemn what is evil if the vicious are simply pursuing the quest of happiness? Why do sages live austere lives, eating fruits and roots, instead of feasting on flesh and drinking wine? There would be no sciences if we believed only those things we behold. Inferential proof must be permitted. Is a woman to consider herself a widow when her husband is out of sight? . . . Know, all of ye, that I will be faithful to the mandate of my sire. I will keep my promise which I cannot recall. Let Bharata reign, for I will dwell in the jungle."

Rama's Sandals

Bharata said: "If my sire's wish must be fulfilled, let me remain in the jungle for fourteen years so that Rama may return to Ayodhya."

Said Rama: "Neither Bharata nor I can recall or change the commands of Dasaratha."

Thereafter Bharata gave to Rama a pair of new sandals decked with gold, saying: "Put these upon thy feet, and they shall accomplish the good of all."

Image source: Bharata and Rama

Rama put on the sandals and then returned them to his brother, who said: "I will live as a devotee for fourteen years with matted hair and in a robe of bark. These sandals, O Rama, will be placed upon the throne which I will guard for thee. If thou dost not return when the time of thy penance is ended, I will perish upon the pyre."

The brethren then took leave of one another. Bharata returned to Ayodhya, and to his counsellors spake, saying: "I will dwell outside the city in Nandigrama until Rama returns again."

Then he clad himself in bark and went to the jungle. There he conducted the affairs of government, holding the royal umbrella over Rama's sandals. All presents which were given were first presented to the sandals, because Bharata ruled the kingdom for his elder brother. The sandals of Rama were the symbol of royal authority.

(1100 words)

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