In the previous episode we witnessed one of the most important events in the Ramayana story wherein, King Dasharata, unable to bear the separation from his son, breathes his last! We also witnessed that King Dasharata had received a curse during the early days of his life because he had killed an innocent boy on the pretext of hunting down a deer! It is this curse that is taking shape currently and cost Dasharata his life!
Imagine the pitiable state of King Dasharata here – He was childless for a long time, and after the “Puthra-Kaameshti” Yaaga, he was blessed with four sons. However at the time of his demise, sadly none of the four sons were near him! We already know that Bharata and Shathrugna had left for Kekeya Desha and now Rama and Lakshmana had gone on exile! What sin did King Dasharata do to experience such a pitiable and a painful death? Was giving Rama to this world his greatest sin? This is a very touching and a moving episode narrated beautifully by Valmiki Maharishi.
Now moving on, the entire city of Ayodhya is grieving King Dasharata’s death! Sorrow and anguish were written on every citizen’s face. The entire palace was plunged into darkness! Loud cries were heard all over the place! Thus as this was the scene in Ayodhya, since neither of the four sons were at the palace at that time, King Dasharata’s body was preserved in a tub of oil for a certain period of time.
It is very interesting to note here that “preservation of dead bodies” was already in practice even in those times – We now talk about all these in Egypt, however it’s interesting that such things existed during the Ramayana period itself! A message was sent across to Bharata and Shathrughna to return immediately to Ayodhya. Accordingly Bharata and Shathrugna leave for Ayodhya immediately. As they were approaching the city, they found that Ayodhya was an embodiment of sadness and grief! They couldn’t believe what they were seeing in front of them!
As the two brothers approached the palace, people on the corridors looked down at them – In fact, some people even feigned and fumed in anger at Bharata! For a moment he didn’t understand what was going on! (It is to be noted that at this moment, Bharata and Shathrughna are not aware of what all had happened at Ayodhya after they had left – They do not know that Rama had gone on exile and didn’t know that their father had passed away!!)
Finally they reach the “Raaja-Bhavanam” (Approach roads to the palace) with the fear of what mishap has happened all of a sudden! Once they enter the palace, Bharata and Shathrugna go straight into King Dasharata’s chamber – They found the chamber completely deserted! Nobody was there! Bharata was puzzled – Normally whenever he comes to see his father, he receives him with a broad smile and makes him sit on his lap and pamper him with all his love! Now where is father? Where has he gone? Bharata was concerned, and so was Shathrugna!
“Apashya gasthu tathastathra pitharam pithuraalaye!
Jagaama bharatho drashtum maatharam maathuraalaye!!”
Thus, unable to find King Dasharata in his chamber, Bharata goes into his mother Kaikeyi’s chamber to check out what is happening. It is where Bharata received the first shock of his life – He sees his mother in the attire of a widow! He goes to his mother and enquires what happened! He asks, Oh Mother! What is this attire? Why are you like this? Where is father? What is he doing? I’m unable to find him anywhere in the palace! Please tell me!” This was the first question asked by Bharata, as Kaikeyi replies,
“Yaathahi sarva bhoothaanaam thaangathim me pithaa gathaha!
Raajaa mahaatmaa tejasvi jaaya yuugassathaam gathi!!”
Look at the way Kaikeyi replies! She says, “Oh Bharata! Your father has reached the place where everyone will reach one day!” Is this the way a wife will talk after the death of her beloved husband? How cruel was Kaikeyi’s tone and usage of words!
Upon hearing this, Bharata couldn’t believe his ears! He was speechless and stunned! Tears started rolling down poor Bharata’s eyes! He didn’t expect such a shock ever! He fell on the floor and started to weep bitterly!
“Haa hathosmeeti kripanam dheenam vaachamudheerayan!
Tatasshokhena samveethaha pithur marana duhkithaha!!”
Thus, Bharata received the second shock of his life now! His mind couldn’t bare this extreme sorrow and he fell on the floor, rolled over and crying bitterly! Kaikeyi, upon seeing this state of her son, wanted to cheer him up and give the kingdom of Ayodhya to him! She lifts him by her hands saying,
“Uttishto utthista kimdeshe raajan!”
Kaikeyi deliberately uses the shabdha “Raajan” and the next moment Bharata stood up! This was the third shock of his life! Now Bharata starts to understand vaguely what exactly had happened – He had many questions in his mind now – “Raajan? Who is the Raajan? Rama or me? Why is she calling me as the Raajan? Now this is a big danger!”
Thus Bharata was shocked beyond words upon hearing this particular phrase! How did Bharata react to it? What was his reply to Kaikeyi? Did he accept the kingdom of Ayodhya or did he throw it away? What happened next? Just as Bharata was having numerous unanswered questions in his mind, I’m sure that there are so many questions like these that are unanswered in our minds too! Lets’ wait to find out the answers in the next episode!