In the previous episode we witnessed the very important event of “Paadhukaa Pattaabisheka” wherein, Bharata receives the “Paadhuka” (divine footwear) of Bhagawan Rama, takes it to Nandigraam, just outside the city of Ayodhya and coronates it to the throne. Thus, Bharata starts to discharge the duties of the kingdom on the behest of the divine “Paadhuka”. It is thus believed that the “Paadhuka” of Rama ruled the kingdom of Ayodhya till Rama returned back after fourteen years.
With this, we came to the end of the “Ayodhya Kaanda” and it is now time to move on to the next important Kaanda – The “Aaranya Kaanda”. The word “Aranyam” means, “Forest”. Hence, this Kaanda is entirely devoted to the events that took place during the “Vana-Vaasa” period of Lord Rama. In fact, this Aaranya Kaanda can be split into two main parts – The first part would deal with the events that happened before Sita’s abduction by Ravana and the second part would deal with the events that took place after Ravana abducts Sita. We shall thus begin with the first part in today’s episode.
Thus, Bharata and the entire group of people who accompanied him were sent back to Ayodhya and Rama decides to move to a new place. He expresses his opinion to Sita and says, “Oh Sita! I think it’s time for us to move out from here because all the citizens of Ayodhya have come to know the whereabouts of us. If we continue to stay here, people would be coming on and off and that would be a disturbance!” Sita accepts Rama’s decision and thus they commence their long journey in the dense forest!
Thus Rama, Lakshmana and Sita start walking towards the southern direction from the banks of river Mandaahini. Their first stop was at the ashram of Athri Maharishi. This is the place wherein Athri Maharishi was living with his wife Anasuya. We can worship this place even today – When we take a detour towards the southern direction from Chithrakoota, the first stop that we would encounter would be Athri-Anasuya Ashram. The three of them reach this place and Rama pays the due respects to Athri Maharishi and in turn, Athri Maharishi and Anasuya welcome Rama, Sita and Lakshmana inside. Thus, the five of them sit and start talking leisurely! Now Rama is completely free of everything – No kingdom, no people, no responsibility! All they need to do is to sit and gossip! 🙂
There are a few commentaries of the Ramayana that even mention the reason why Rama and Sita went away to the forest, on a lighter note – It seems that Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi were not very satisfied being in the “Vaikunta” due to the constant disturbance of numerous Devas and other celestial beings who come and visit them regularly! Hence, Goddess Lakshmi suggests to Lord Vishnu that they go down and be born on the earth as ordinary people and live happy and relaxed! Lord Vishnu accepts her suggestion and accordingly they take birth as Sita and Rama! After twelve years of waiting, they get married too and started their life together at Ayodhya. However, Sita had 365 mother-in-laws!! 🙂 How can they be free and relaxed? Hence Sita says to Rama, “Oh Rama! I think we’ve made a mistake somewhere! I thought that we would be happy and relaxed when we’re on the earth! Let’s do one thing! Let’s go to the forest and relax there!” Rama too accepts Sita’s proposal and this is why he had to stage all this drama! 🙂
However, on a serious note, it is believed widely that Rama wanted to meet various great Rishis’ and take their advice before starting to rule Ayodhya and this is the reason he had come to the forest! Thus, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana walk their way and reach Athri-Anasuya Ashram. Let the three of them rest for today after their long walk! We shall wait till tomorrow to see what did they do here and how did they move forward! 🙂