[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Ramayana unit. Story source: Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913).
King Dasaratha and Rama
Towards the palace went Sumantra, the chief counsellor. He entered the chamber in which Dasaratha had spent the night to awaken him and conduct him to the ceremony.
Kaikeyi met the counsellor and said: "Summon Rama hither, for the Maharajah must speak with him."
Wondering greatly, Sumantra hastened to the prince's dwelling and spake the royal command. Said Rama: "I will go quickly. Tarry here, O Sita, and await my return."
Sita followed Rama to the doorway and invoked the gods so that they might bless and protect him.
The multitudes of people hailed the prince as he was driven in his chariot towards the palace, and women threw flowers upon him from the housetops. . . . He entered the gate, driving through the first three courts; he dismounted and walked across the two inner courts; he then bade his followers to remain without, and soon he stood before the Maharajah and made humble obeisance.
Rama beheld his father sitting beside Kaikeyi; his body was bent, his face was worn with grief. Tears fell from Dasaratha's eyes as his son kissed his feet and the feet of Kaikeyi also; he strove to speak while tears streamed from his eyes, but all he could utter was, "Oh! Rama." . . . The sorrow of Dasaratha rose and fell in his heart like to the waves of a stormy sea.
Said Rama: "Oh! have I offended my sire? Speak, mother, and tell. Wherefore do tears fall from his eyes? Why is his face clouded with grief? . . . I would rather die than wound his heart by word or deed."
Kaikeyi said: "The Maharajah is not angered nor is he grief-stricken, but he fears to speak his purpose until thou dost promise to serve his will."
Said Rama: "O speak, and I will obey even if I am asked to quaff poison and die ere my time. My promise is given and my lips have never lied."
Kaikeyi said coldly: "The Maharajah vowed to grant two boons when I cured his wounds and saved his life, although he repents his promise now like to a man of low caste. I have asked him to fulfil his vow, and the boons I crave are that Bharata, whose star is bright, be installed as Yuvarajah, and thou shouldst be banished for twice seven years. . . . If thou art ready to obey thy father's will and preserve his honour, thou wilt depart this day from the city and permit Bharata to govern the kingdom."
Dasaratha's heart was pierced with agony at these words, but Rama heard them unmoved; they fell upon his ears like to sparks falling into the sea. Calmly he spake and said: "I will depart this day in fulfilment of my father's vow. Cheerfully will I obey his command. Let Bharata be summoned quickly from Girivrajah, and I will hasten to the jungle of Dandaka."
Said Kaikeyi: "So be it. . . . But tarry not, for thy sire will neither wash nor eat until thou hast departed hence."
Rama bowed before his sire who was prostrated with sorrow; he bowed before Kaikeyi also. . . . All the royal attendants wept, but Rama was unmoved as is the ocean when a pot of water is drawn from it or poured in.
Queen Kausalya and Rama
Kausalya wept and cried: "O dearly beloved, if thou hadst never been born I would not have to suffer this calamity. . . . My son, I am the chief queen, but Kaikeyi hath supplanted me, and I am disliked and neglected by my husband. . . . I am old and unable to endure the loss of thee, my son. . . . Hath my heart grown hard as rock that it will not break now? Are Yama's mansions so full that I am not called away? I have no desire to live any longer. . . . Can a son obey a sire in his dotage? . . . Rama, Rama, the people will rise in revolt; seize thou the throne, and if thy father remaineth hostile, slay him because he hath become contemptible before all men, being but a woman's slave."
Lakshmana said: "Mother, thy words are just. Who will dare oppose Rama so long as I serve him?"
Said Kausalya: "Hear the words of thy brother, Rama. If thy sire's command must he obeyed so must mine, and I command thee now not to depart to the jungle. If thou wilt not obey me, I will eat no more food and thou wilt be guilty of my death."
Rama said: "I must obey my sire's command. Permit me, therefore, O mother, to depart now. . . . O Lakshmana, I have promised my sire to obey. Do not ask me to break my plighted word."
Still Kausalya pleaded with Rama to remain, and he sought to comfort her, but her grief was too heavy to be removed, for she loved her son dearly and hated her rival Kaikeyi.
Rama and Sita
Said Sita: "A wife must ever accompany her husband and share his sufferings. If thou must depart to the forest, it is my duty to go before thee and smooth the thorns in thy path. So long as I am with thee, I will he happy even in the jungle. Dearer to me than the palace is the place where I can hold sweet converse with my husband. I will lighten thy burden of sorrow, O Rama, but if thou wilt leave me here alone I will surely die."
Rama spoke of the perils of the jungle, which was full of wild beasts and venomous reptiles, where food was scarce and, when found, bitter to taste, where they would find no home and would have to lie on the bare ground, and where they would suffer greatly from heat and cold, from tempest and rains.
"O Sita," he cried, "thou art dearer to me than life itself. How can I permit thee to suffer for me? My love will grow greater when I know what it is to be separated from thee. . . . Wait here, O loved one, until I return again."
Said Sita: "I know nor fear the perils and sorrows of the jungle. Rather would I sleep with thee on the bare ground than lie here alone on a bed of down. Without thee I have no desire to live. . . . Take me with thee, O Rama, and let me share thy sorrow and thy joys. Sweeter will be the jungle with thee beside me than the palace when thou hast departed."
In vain Rama remonstrated with her, but she refused to be separated from him. She fell at his feet, weeping bitterly, and at length he consented that she should share his sufferings in the jungle.
Then Lakshmana pleaded to accompany Rama also, nor could he be persuaded to remain behind.
Thereafter Rama and Sita and Lakshmana went together, walking barefooted, towards the palace to bid farewell to the Maharajah and his queens.
Next: The Death of Dasaratha