Dashavatar Part IV – Rama


Shri Rama is the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu. In contrast to Parashurama, who was fierce and ferocious by nature, we witness an avatar who is calm and collected at all times. Rama was the personification of dharma, who always fulfilled his duty, be it as a prince, a king, a son, a husband, a friend or a brother even in the face of adversity.

Lord Vishnu took the avatar of an ordinary human being. The purpose of doing so was to show humanity that it is possible to conduct oneself according to dharma without any divine powers and therefore set an example for the human race, apart from the natural purpose of restoring dharma.

There are numerous versions of the Ramayana which have been written and translated into various languages. Naturally, with the number of versions that exist, each version may narrate a slightly different variation of the story. The very first version was written by sage Valmiki, who had received Lord Brahma’s blessing to write the Itihasa (recount of events) of Lord Rama’s life. While writing the text, he witnessed the incidents unfold right in front of his eyes. For this article, I will be referring to Tulsidas’ version of the Ramayana, also known as the Ram Charit Manas.

The story

In the kingdom of Kosala, the capital of Ayodhya, lived a wise king named Dasharatha. He had three wives; Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. The king had everything he could ever want in his life, except for the fact that he was childless. This matter caused him great pain. After consulting the sages and his ministers, he performed the Putrakameshti Yaga, which would allow him to beget the sons he so desired. The gods were immensely pleased with Dasharatha’s sacrifice and handed the king a bowl of kheer, which he distributed to his queens. A few months later, four sons were born to him; Rama, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan. The king loved all his sons dearly, but Rama was the dearest of all.

At the age of seven, the sacred thread ceremony was performed for Rama. He excelled in all art forms and spent his time reading the scriptures and listening to spiritual discourses. After completing his education, Rama returned to Ayodhya to commence his duties as a prince. One day, sage Vishwamitra paid a visit to Dasharatha. He demanded that Rama and Lakshman accompany him to the forest, as the demons living there were constantly harassing the sages and interrupting their rituals. Dasharatha was very hesitant at first to send his beloved sons to the forest, but sage Vasishta assured the king that the princes would be safe with Vishwamitra. Dasharatha finally agreed and the trio departed for the forest.

Upon reaching the Dandakarya forest, the demoness Tadaka attacked the princes. Rama was unperturbed and calmly shot an arrow and killed her. The princes and sage Vishwamitra proceeded to a cottage where the other sages were performing rituals. Vishwamitra instructed the young princes to guard them until the rishis completed their rituals. And so they did. Pleased with the princes, Vishwamitra passed on the knowledge of divine weapons to Rama and Lakshmana. The two princes proceeded towards the city of Mithila, where the king Janak was holding a swayamvara for his daughter Sita. Vishwamitra insisted that Rama take part the swayamvara. Upon entering the ceremonial hall, Rama saw the bow, walked towards it, and in an attempt to string it, the bow broke into two pieces, thus winning Sita’s hand in marriage. Dasharatha was very happy with the news and rushed to Mithila to conduct the marriage ceremony. His other three sons married Janaka’s three daughters: Urmila, Mandavi and Shrutakirti.

The four couples lived together happily for a few years. One day, as Dasharatha was looking at himself in the mirror, he noticed that he had a few grey strands of hair. The king decided that he was now getting old and it was time to make Rama the crown prince. He summoned his ministers, who were overjoyed by his decision, to make the necessary arrangements.

Manthara, Kaikeyi’s maid, was upset seeing the celebrations in the city. She rushed to Kaikeyi, wailing: “Kaikeyi, look at this. The entire city is celebrating the coronation of Kaushalya’s son and here you are, sitting and doing nothing!”. “Why, what’s wrong Manthara?”, asked Kaikeyi. “The king is bent on making Rama the king instead of your son Bharat.”, said Manthara. Kaikeyi was perplexed: “And what’s wrong with that? Rama is my son too and he is loved by everyone. So it is only right that he becomes the king”. “You are naïve as ever. Dasharatha promised your father that your son would be crowned king. Have you forgotten about it? And need I remind you that you have two boons? Call the king to your apartment, lay down in a dark room and cast off all your jewellery. Once the king sees your plight he will definitely comply.” “You are right Manthara, which boons should I ask for?” “You will ask Dasharatha to crown Bharata the king. Then, as for the second boon, you will ask for Rama to be banished to the forest for fourteen years.”

The next evening, Dasharatha was called to Kaikeyi’s apartment. When he entered the apartment, he saw Kaikeyi dressed in rags, her hair was left open, and all her jewellery had been cast aside. The king rushed to his queen and asked: “What happened Kaikeyi? Have I done anything to displease you?” “No, but when I saved your life in the battlefield, you have given me two boons. I want you to grant me those boons now.”, said Kaikeyi. The king, unaware of the tragedy that was about to befall on him, smilingly replied: “Dear queen, ask for whatever you want and I will grant it immediately.” “Then, grant me these two boons: First, I want you to crown Bharat as the king and second, Rama should be banished to the forest for fourteen years.” Dasharatha was aghast. He pleaded Kaikeyi to reconsider, but she stood firm, unwilling to listen to the king’s plea. Dasharatha fainted, unable to bear the shock.

To be continued…


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