A Dutiful Son- Rama
“Father’s Day” is observed in the month of June. It is the day for expressing our love and respect to our father, one of the most important person of our lives. Both father and mother, all over the world, play a vital role in shaping the character of their children. In traditional India, a dutiful son takes care of his parents in their old age. This is our social security. The daughter is more committed towards her husband’s family though her emotional ties with her own parents never get severed.
Today I will tell you the story of a dutiful son, Rama, who went to exile for fourteen years in order to fulfill the promises that his father Dasharatha made to one of his queens, Kaikeyi.
Long long ago, in India, there lived a king whose name was Dasharatha. He ruled the kingdom of Koshal (part of present day Uttar Pradesh) from its capital Ayodhya. He was loved by one and all because he cared for the happiness and prosperity of his subjects. Dasharatha had three queens, Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. Even though Dasharatha had everything to make him happy he was very sad at heart because had no children.
He was getting old, and was worried for not having an heir to inherit his throne. Upon the advice of his guru (spiritual guide), Vashishtha, Dasharatha performed a great sacrificial fire worship. On the final day of worship, a figure appeared in the huge flame with a bowl of rice pudding. The figure intoned, “Take this rice pudding and divide this amongst your wives. They will give you the sons you desire.” Then it disappeared.
Dasharatha took the bowl to his first wife, Kaushalya, and gave her half of the pudding. Out of what was left, he divided that to his second wife Kaikeyi and the third wife Sumitra. When a little bit of pudding was still in the bowl, he gave that to Sumitra saying “Here, finish it up.”
Kaushalya duly gave birth to a son, Rama. Kaikeyi was next, with a son Bharat. Sumitra was the last. She had been given two helpings, so she had twin boys, Lakshmana and Shatrughan.
As the boys grew older, Lakshmana got attached to his eldest brother, Rama, and Shatrughan to Bharat. All the brothers, however, were very close and loved each other. Rama was respected by all because of his good nature and truthful character. He was strong, handsome and was the heir to the throne.
When the boys were close to sixteen, it was one day, sage Vishwamitra arrived in the court of Dasharatha. Vishwamitra requested Dasharatha to send Rama and Lakshmana with him to the forest to kill the demons who disturbed him in his prayers. Rama and Lakshmana accompanied the sage and killed the she-demon Tadaka and her followers. Vishwamitra was pleased and taught Rama the sacred verses to call for the divine weapons to be used to protect justice.
After completing the task, Rama was ready to return home when Vishwamitra asked Rama to accompany him to the kingdom of Janak. Janak’s eldest daughter, Sita, was about to pick a husband from the princes assembled in the swayambara (a gathering arranged for choosing a royal husband).
Almost every prince present in the assembly wanted to marry Sita as she was the most beautiful girl on earth. To choose the best of the princes in the gathering, a condition was laid. Sita will marry the prince who will be able to bend and string a very heavy bow left in the front of the assembly.
One after another all princes tried to lift the bow, but it could not be lifted, let alone bend and string. It weighed like a mountain. Finally Janak was about to give up when Vishwamitra asked Rama to try. Rama took his blessing, prayed, and lifted the bow at ease. When he tried to string the bow it snapped in two.
Rama proved to be the strongest prince in the assembly. Sita happily garlanded him. Dasharatha was informed and he requested Janak to let the three sisters of Sita marry his other three sons – Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan. Janak was overwhelmed with the unexpected offer from Dasharatha. He immediately made all arrangements and all the four brothers got married together in front of the sacrificial fire.
Dasharatha then decided to retire making Rama the crown king of Koshal. But things did not go according to Dashratha’s plan.
When the day of coronation of Rama was announced Bharat and Shatrughan were at their maternal uncle’s place. The city started to prepare for the occasion and the queens were happy for the oncoming event. At this time, Dasharatha’s second wife Kaikeyi got an ill advice from her scheming, hunchback maid Manthara.
Manthara said to Kaikeyi, “Why are you happy in celebrating Rama’s coronation? Don’t you realize that you will not be as respected as Kaushalya and Bharat will be totally ignored.”
“What nonsense you talk,” said Kaikeyi, “I love Rama and he is the heir.”
“Not if you change things” said Manthara in a devilish voice.
“But, how can I?”
“Easily,” said the scheming maid, “Remember, a very long ago, you saved Dasharatha’s life during a war, and he said he would grant you any two wishes.”
“Yes, and I said I would ask for my wishes later, when I knew what I wanted,” said Kaikeyi.
“Exactly” shouted Manthara “Ask for them now. Ask for Bharat to be crowned king and for Rama to be banished to the forest for fourteen years.”
Kaikeyi fell a prey to the conspiracy of Manthara. When Dasharatha came to accompany her to the coronation ceremony, she was lying on the floor, sobbing.
When Dasharatha repeatedly asked the queen about the thing that was bothering her, Kakeyi replied, “Do you recall the promise you made, when I saved your life in the battle field, to fulfill two of my wishes?”
“Yes my queen” said Dasharatha, “I remember that and I will not break my promise. Ask for what you desire!”
Kakeyi sternly said, “Crown Bharat king and banish Rama to the forest for fourteen years.”
King Dasharatha was stunned into silence. He or his ancestors had never broken a promise. What could he do now? His happiness and his future had all been stolen from him instantly.
Dasharatha some how whispered to his attendant, “Go and get Rama.”
When Rama arrived, his father was far too unhappy to speak. It was Kaikeyi who spoke, “Bharat is to be king and you are to be banished for fourteen years.”
“Is this what my dear father desires?” asked Rama.
“Your father is keeping his two promises to me.” Kaikeyi answered.
“Then I have no choice, I must honor my father’s word. If promises are made, they must be kept. Let Bharat rule. I leave for the exile immediately.”
Sita and Lakshman insisted to accompany Ram.
Dasharata died shortly following Rama’s departure.
When Bharat came to know about this he got furious with his mother and Shatrughan kicked Manthara out of the house. Then Bharat went after Rama in order to request him to come back and rule the kingdom. Rama very humbly refused as he did not want his father’s promises to be broken. Bharat returned to Ayodhya with Rama’s sandals and ruled the kingdom as an appointee of Rama. Even in the palace he chose to lead the life of a hermit like his elder brother Rama.
During the exile, Sita was abducted by the demon king Ravana. Rama hunt out Ravana with the help of the monkey king Sugreeva and his commander Hanuman. A fierce battle ensued and Ravana was finally defeated. Rama triumphantly returned to Ayodhya with Sita after fourteen years’ of exile. We celebrate Diwali in memory of Rama’s return to Ayodhya.
Rama is considered by all Indians as an ideal son who willingly undertook hardship in order to save his father’s honor. He was also a great warrior and an emblem of justice.