Episode 99 – Manthara convinces Kaikeyi to ask for two “Boons” to King Dasharata

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In the last few episodes we’ve been witnessing that Ayodhya is in a festive mood yet again, thanks to the coronation ceremony of Rama scheduled very soon! The entire city is celebrating and rejoicing the festive mood as Sage Vasishtaachaarya and other important maharishis in King Dasharata’s courtroom prepare themselves for the big event! Rama and Sita, according to the instruction of Sage Vasishtaachaarya offer their prayers to Lord Narayana before the commencement of all the rituals. Meanwhile, the wicked old woman, Manthara comes to know what is going on and with all her frustration, rushes to meet Kaikeyi. It is to be remembered that Manthara is the servant (Daasi) of Kaikeyi. She barges into Kaikeyi’s chamber and explains about Rama’s coronation and how her son Bharata has lost out to Rama on this. Initially Kaikeyi couldn’t understand why is Manthara talking all these nonsense to her and why is she differentiating between Rama and Bharata! It is only at this point, Manthara starts to brainwash Kaikeyi by repeatedly saying that herself and Bharata would eventually be chased out of the kingdom as all the prominence would only be given to Rama and his mother Kaushalya if he is coronated and thus this coronation ceremony should be stopped at any cost! This should not proceed further!

After a few moments of brainwashing, Kaikeyi loses her thinking power completely and gets completely carried away with Manthara’s words! She slowly asks Manthara as to what should be done now!

“Swaarthamabhlubhaye praapthe dahyamaaneva manthare!

Bhavishyathi cha kalyaani kimidham paridhamsathe!!”

Yathaavai bharatho maanyaha tathaa bhooyobhi raaghavaha!

Kaushalya thaatharitthamcha mama sushruche bahu!!”

Thus from the above slokas, Manthara says, “Just how I’m a servant to you today, you would also become a servant to Kaushalya eventually in the future if Rama is coronated! Oh Kaikeyi! Please understand this! Dasharata and Kaushalya are trying to plot against you and your son Bharata!”

“Eva mukthvaa tathaa devyaa mantharaa paapa darshini!

Raamaartham upahum santhi kaikeyi idam abhraveeth!!”

Upon hearing all this from Manthara, Kaikeyi slowly starts to ponder upon! She is now getting completely brainwashed and Manthara is beginning to taste success already in her mission! Even today in the area of “Marketing”and “Sales”, when the sale has to be done to a customer, the most important job of a salesperson is to make the customer think! Once that thinking happens, it’s very easy to convince the customer to buy your product! Similarly here too we see that Kaikeyi starts to think and Manthara rightly captured this moment! Thus, Kaikeyi slowly asks Manthara, “What should I do now to stop the coronation from happening?”

“Puraa devaasure yuddhe saha raakshasadhippathihi!

Aagacchathvaamupaadhaaya devaraajascha saakshyakrith!!

Sasambra ithighyaathaha shatamaayo mayaasuraha!

Tushtena tena dadhyauthe dvou varau shuba dharshane!!”

Manthara now guides Kaikeyi as to what to do. She says, “Oh Kaikeyi! Now you’ve asked a valid question! Don’t you remember that in your early days of marriage, you had saved Dasharata’s life during a war with the ‘Raakshasaas’? Don’t you also remember that King Dasharata at that time, had offered to grant two unconditional boons to you and you’re still yet to ask them? Now is the time to ask for those two unconditional boons! (“Dvou varau shuba dharshane”)”

Kaikeyi was still not fully convinced with Manthara’s explanation. She asks back, “Oh Manthara! You are asking me to ask for two selfish boons to my own husband? Saving his life during the war was my duty! I have performed my duty without expecting anything in return! Of course, out of immense happiness, he had granted me the boons. I agree! But how can I take my beloved husband’s happiness and use it for my selfish needs? I’m not going to do all this!”

The moment Kaikeyi was backing out, Manthara again intervenes. She says, “The time has come now to ask for them! Whatever you think of doesn’t matter now! Past is past! If you’ve to survive in this palace… I don’t even care about you! If your son Bharata has to survive in this palace any longer, you need to ask for those two boons now!”

The moment Kaikeyi heard the phrase “Your son Bharata” from Manthara, she got completely entangled into the “Puthra Vaatsalya” (Attachment towards her son)She now gets completely convinced by Manthara’s arguments!

Thus Kaikeyi prepares herself mentally to ask for two boons! What are those two boons? What did Kaikeyi ask King Dasharata? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out!

Episode 98 – Manthara poisons Kaikeyi’s pure heart!!!

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In the previous episode, we witnessed that while Rama and Sita were praying together to Lord Narayana (as per the instruction of Sage Vasishtaachaarya) an old woman by name Manthara, who was the helper of Kaikeyi comes into the picture. She learns about Rama’s coronation and becomes furious and agitated. With all her fury she walks up the stairs and reach Kaikeyi’s room. Kaikeyi was getting herself ready for the function with all her happiness.

“Saa dahya maanaa krodhena mantharaa papa darshini!

Utthista moode kinjeche bhayam tvaam abi varthathe!!”

Thus, Manthara, the disgusting woman (“Papa darshini”) enters Kaikeyi’s room and shouts at her: “Hey moodaathma (Foolish woman)!! Get up! (“Utthista moode kinjeche”) You are a big time loser! You’re going to lose everything in life and yet you are so happy and dressing up yourself? I never knew you were such a fool on this earth!”

Kaikeyi was perplexed on hearing Manthara’s sudden gush of words and she looks surprised for a moment! She then asks, “Oh Manthara! What happened now? Why are you shouting like this? What is wrong?” Upon Kaikeyi’s question, Manthara replies back, “Oh Kaikeyi! You do not know what is happening? Your son is not coronated to the throne of Ayodhya! Your son has lost the battle of succession!”

“Jaayasya puthramaathmaanam maancha vismaya darshane!”

Manthara continues in her explanation, “Oh Kaikeyi! You’re acting as if you don’t know anything! Please try and save your son’s future! Don’t sit like this as if nothing is happening around you!”

Kaikeyi didn’t understand all this for a moment! She replies to Manthara, “No! Yesterday evening I saw Dasharata and he had mentioned to me that my son is going to be coronated today morning! What is wrong now?”

Manthara didn’t understand Kaikeyi’s explanation and she again asks back, Your son is to be coronated? It is Rama who is going to be coronated! Not Bharata! What are you blabbering?”

Upon which, Kaikeyi replies,

“Raamevaa bharatheevaa vishesham nopalakshaye!

Tasmaad dhusthaasmi yad raajaa raamam raajya vishekshyasi”

Kaikeyi reiterates to Manthara, “Oh Manthara! Don’t you know! Rama is my son! Bharatha is also my son! I see no difference in both of them! I’m happy that my son Rama is going to the king of Ayodhya from tomorrow! Thus, Kaikeyi was so pure in her heart that she has never differentiated between the four children! It is this pure heart of Kaikeyi that was poisoned by this wicked woman Manthara! Alwar describes this beautifully in one of his “paasurams” in Tamil:

“Kalakkiya maa manathanalaal kaikesi varam venda!

Malakkiya maa manathanalaai mannavanum maraadhozhiya!

Kolakkumaraa! Kaaduraiyappoo!”

Thus Alwar says here, “Kalakkiya maa manathanalaai”, which means, the brainwashed, mesmerized Kaikeyi, asks for the two boons to King Dasharata (“Kaikesi varam venda”). Here, “Varam” means boon. Thus accordingly, King Dasharata couldn’t deny the two boons that he had promised to Kaikeyi, as we all know! This is what Alwar says in the next line – “Malakkiya maa manathanalaai mannavanum maraadhozhiya!” Accordingly, now Kaikeyi orders Rama to march towards the forest! (“Kolakkumaraa! Kaaduraiyappoo!”)

It is thus; Manthara poisons Kaikeyi’s heart slowly and slowly! She continues to preach Kaikeyi:

“Upasthaasyathi koushalyaa daaseevartham kruthaanjalihi!

Puthrasya tava raamasya presyathvam hi gamishyathi!!”

Manthara says, “Oh Kaikeyi! How can you say Rama and Bharata are both your sons? Just think for a moment! Once Rama takes up the throne, you would be a servant/helper to his mother Kaushalya! Your son Bharata won’t stand to gain anything from it! All the respect will go only to Rama and Kaushalya! You and your son would eventually be chased out of the palace after few years!” (“Upasthaasyathi koushalyaa daaseevartham kruthaanjalihi!”) Here, “Daasee” means servant! Thus, Manthara speaks whatever shouldn’t be spoken to Kaikeyi, and slowly brainwashes her! Thus she finally says, “Oh Kaikeyi!! Atleast now, get up and go, do the needful!”

Kaikeyi slowly becomes thoughtful and asks Manthara, “What should I do now?” Manthara is extremely happy upon hearing this question from Kaikeyi! What was her guidance to Kaikeyi? What did she ask Kaikeyi to do? Let’s wait to find out till the next episode!

Episode 97 – Rama prays to Lord Narayana – Manthara hurries to meet Kaikeyi!!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that the entire city of Ayodhya was colorful with the festive mood as Rama was getting ready for the coronation ceremony. Sage Vasishtaachaarya prepares himself to commence the rituals associated with the auspicious ceremony and as a first step, he asks Rama to offer a prayer to Lord Narayana, who’s divine idol was in the palace of Ayodhya for many generations now. We saw in due course of the last episode, the history of this idol of Lord Narayana, which is now the presiding deity of the important temple of Srirangam, in the city of Tiruchirapalli.

Now proceeding further from this point, Rama along with his beloved Sita goes inside the temple where the idol of Lord Narayana was present and prays together. At this point, Sage Vasishtaachaarya tells Rama to pray for the successful conduct of the coronation ceremony! Rama thinks to himself, “Oh! This Vasishtaachaarya is asking me to pray for the coronation ceremony to take place successfully!” If this is the case, this Ramayana story would be over by this episode and we won’t have anything to write and witness further episodes in the blog!!! 🙂 🙂  Rama continues in his prayer, “If everything goes as per this Sage Vasishtaachaarya’s wish, how will I fulfill the purpose for which I was born? How am I going to go and kill Ravana? Where is this Manthara? Why is she not going to meet Kaikeyi still? Oh Lord Narayana! I’ve come to this earth with a purpose, and it is you who can help me in fulfilling that purpose! Hence, please send this Manthara to meet Kaikeyi soon!” 🙂 

Thus, Rama and Sita offer their prayers to Lord Narayana. Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes it with the following sloka:

“Saha pathniyaa visaalaakshyaa naaraayanam upaagamath!”

Thus, Rama takes Sita who has long and beautiful eyes (“Visaalaakshyaa”) and offers prayers to Lord Narayana. It was only once Rama starts his prayer, things start moving quickly, as Manthara arrives at the scene for the first time. This Manthara is an old woman who is the servant/helper of Kaikeyi. She incidentally passes through that particular place where people were talking about Rama’s coronation ceremony. Upon hearing it, Manthara was shocked and furious and she goes straight into Kaikeyi’s dwelling place. She did not like Rama to be coronated! (I shall explain the reason in the subsequent episodes). While she was going towards Kaikeyi’s room, she was making plans as to how to stop this coronation ceremony from taking place!

“Nyaathidaasi yatho jaathaa kaikeyaarthu saboshithaaha!

Praasaadham chathra shankaasam aaruroha yadhirchayaa!!

Avi dhooreshthithaam drishtvaa dhaadreem prappascha manthara!

Utthamenaadhi samyukthaa harshenaartha phalaasathi!!”

Here, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes the entry of Manthra into the scene. He says, this woman passed by this place “by chance” (“Aaruroha yadhirchayaa”). This woman with wicked intentions climbed up the stairs to reach Kaikeyi’s place (“Praasaadham chathra shankaasam”)!

Thus, Manthara enters into Kaikeyi’s room with all her fury and anguish. Why was she so furious? What did this Manthara converse with Kaikeyi? Did Kaikeyi entertain her? Was she successful in brainwashing Kaikeyi? Let’s wait to see in the next episode!

Episode 96 – Why did Rama particularly incarnate at Ayodhya? A brief history of the present day shrine at Srirangam!!

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In the previous episode, we witnessed that the city of Ayodhya is all delighted and eager to witness the coronation ceremony of their beloved Rama. Preparations were afoot for the function to commence. Sage Vasishtaachaarya, along with the other important sages at King Dasharata’s courtroom get together and fix up the auspicious day and time for the event to take place. It was decided that the very next day was auspicious in the month of “Chaithra” (Around April-May, of the current calendar), during the season of spring wherein all the trees blossom beautifully and the nature is in it’s full attractiveness!

“Dheerga bhaahum mahaa sathvam mattha maathanga gaavinam!

Chandra kaanthaananam raamam atheeva priya darshanam!!”

Thus, Valmiki Maharishi explains here that Rama – The prince of Ayodhya who was so handsome and attractive to people both by his external as well as internal beauty, was getting ready for the grand event which was about to commence.

Finally, it is early morning of the day of the event, and Sage Vasishtaachaarya enters into the palace to start the auspicious rituals. As per the tradition, he first asks Rama and Sita to start with a prayer to the shrine of Lord Narayana, which was in the Ayodhya palace for numerous generations. In one of the earlier episodes, I had put forth an unanswered question: Why did Lord Rama take birth particularly in this “Ikshvaaku” family in Ayodhya and not anywhere else? Of course, the main purpose of Bhagawan’s incarnation as a normal human being, (as we all know) is to kill Ravana, however, Bhagawan could have accomplished this mission by being born anywhere in the world! But why did he particularly choose King Dasharata as his father and Ayodhya as his dwelling place? Let us see the reason in today’s episode and this is very important:

The main reason as to why Bhagawan chose Ayodhya and the Ikshvaaku clan for his incarnation is to worship this particular deity of Lord NarayanaThis particular deity of Lord Narayana is none other than the presiding deity of one of the greatest and the most significant Shri-Vaishnava temple of Srirangam, in the town of Tiruchirapalli, in the south-Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India. Thus, the presiding Shri Ranganaatha Swamy of Srirangam was initially present at the “Paarkadal” (The ocean of milk). From there, Lord Brahma took it to his Sathya Lokha and was worshipping the idol for a very long time. It was after so many years that King Ikshvaaku, one of the ancestors of Rama and King Dasharata, during his visit to Brahma’s Sathya Lokha saw this beautiful idol and requested Lord Brahma that he take it to the “Manushya Lokha” (Earth) and worship it from there! Accordingly, Lord Brahma was happy with King Ikshvaaku’s request and sends the idol with King Ikshvaaku. Thus, King Ikshvaaku brings it down to the earth and installs it in his palace in AyodhyaThe same palace where Lord Rama is at present now! Thus, this idol was there at Ayodhya for innumerable number of years across so many kings of Ayodhya and Ikshvaaku Dynasty. Thus, all the kings of Ayodhya were worshipping this idol of Lord Vishnu, until King Dasharata at the moment!

However, Lord Vishnu was thinking to himself that all the kings worship him and perform all the rituals as per the “Shaastras”, but he was still not satisfied with all that! He had a feeling that none of the kings were performing the rituals and puja as per the liking of Bhagawan! Thus, Bhagawan was disappointed! He was thinking as to how to solve this problem – Finally he himself came to the conclusion that if there should be someone who should do the rituals in the way that he should be satisfied, it is he himself who should do it! 🙂 He cannot expect anyone else to do it according to his satisfaction! Thus, we can see here that, the person who has to be worshipped should be Lord Vishnu, and also the person who will do the worshipping should be Lord Vishnu as well!! It is for this main reason that Bhagwan incarnated in Ayodhya – In order to be the worshipper of this idol of Lord Vishnu! Of course, as I had mentioned before, Bhagwan would have killed Ravana had he been born anywhere else, however He wouldn’t be able to worship this particular Lord Vishnu’s idol had he been born somewhere else!

It is this same Lord Vishnu’s idol that Lord Rama gifts Vibhishana (Ravana’s brother) after the war and after his coronation in Ayodhya. Lord Rama had immense love for Vibhishana and says to him “Oh my dearest Vibbishana! You can take this great idol of Lord Vishnu to Sri Lanka and keep it with you!” Thus, Vibhishana takes this idol with him and proceeds towards Sri Lanka. It is when he crosses over the river Cauvery and this beautiful place between the two rivers of Cauvery and Colleroon (Kollidam), Lord Vishnu himself says to Vibhishana that he would like to be here for the rest of the years! Vibhishana was sad that he would miss Rama’s gift very badly and prays to Lord Vishnu that He comes along with him to Sri Lanka. However, Lord Vishnu replies, Oh Vibhishana! I’m touched by your immense devotion! However, I feel that I should be only at this place and I cannot come with you to Sri Lanka. But please do not worry! I shall do something special for you – Normally, I reside in an east-westerly direction, but at this place I will reside towards the southern direction, facing Sri Lanka! Thus in this way my blessings would be coming to you continuously and uninterrupted!” It is only because of this reason we see even today that Lord Ranganatha Swamy of Srirangam, is facing the southern direction! The idol is almost 16 foot long! Thus, as the famous “paasuram” of Aalwar in Tamil says,

“Kuda disai mudiyai vaithu kuda disai paadham neeti vada disai pinbu kaati then disai ilankai nokki…”

Thus, as per the Aalwar’s paasuram, Sri Ranganaatha Swamy is lying down towards the southern direction even today, to bless Sri Lanka and Vibhishana who is ruling it! Thus, this very idol of Lord Vishnu was once at “Paarkadal”, then transcended to Lord Brahma’s Sathya Lokha and then came to Ayodhya and now to Srirangam!

It is this deity that Sage Vasishtaachaarya asks Rama and Sita to worship now! Accordingly Rama goes inside the room where this idol was placed, taking Sita long with him. What did Rama pray to Lord Vishnu’s idol? What did he ask to him? Let’s wait till the next episode to find out! 🙂

Episode 95 – Ayodhya goes into celebration mode – For the third time now!

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In the previous episode we witnessed that Sage Vasishtaachaarya gave his approval for King Dasharata to coronate Rama to the Ayodhya throne. It is after this approval that King Dasharata goes to the people of Ayodhya and ask their opinion on this matter and all of them in unison approved King Dasharata’s decision to coronate Rama as his successor. Thus the entire city of Ayodhya started to rejoice this decision by their beloved king and were eagerly waiting for the coronation ceremony of Rama to take place. Accordingly, Sage Vasishta and others in King Dasharata’s courtroom try and fix an auspicious day and time for the ceremony to take place. Luckily, since the very next day was an auspicious one, it was decided that Rama would be coronated to the throne the next day itself!

Ayodhya swung into action and preparations were afoot to get ready for the ceremony! The people of Ayodhya were eagerly waiting to see their beloved Rama as their king and waiting for the “Rama Rajya” to commence! King Dasharata was overwhelmed with joy beyond words and asks the people of Ayodhya as to what did they see in Rama, that they want him to take over so quickly! The people describe Rama’s external and internal beauty and thus declare that if at all someone should rule Ayodhya, it should be Rama only! In the last episode we saw the beautiful description of Rama’s external beauty with the help of Thiyagaraja Swami’s famous composition, “Saamaja Vara Gamana!” Today we shall witness the internal beauty of Lord Rama. Valmiki Maharishi gives a beautiful description as follows:

“Vyasaneshu manushyaanaam brijam bhavathi dhukhithaha!

Utsaveshu cha sarveshu vitheva pari dushyathi!!

Sathyavaari maheshvaasaha vriddhasevi jithendriyaha!

Smitha poorva bhaasheecha dharmam sarvaathmanaa shruthaha!!”

Thus the people of Ayodhya narrate: “Oh Dasharata! All of us know our Rama very well! He doesn’t even know anything other than speaking the truth! He is straightforward and transparent in his approach towards everything! In every house of Ayodhya, for whatever auspicious event that takes place, it would be Rama to come and take part with all of us! Even before a father feels happy and smiles, Rama would smile! Similarly, if there is any sad happening at any house in Ayodhya, even before a mother sheds tears, Rama would shed tears and console the whole family! Oh Dasharata! For us, Rama is our son, our relative, our beloved friend, etc. more than just our king! Thus, Rama is a person who takes care of every family in Ayodhya as his own family! Thus, if there is ever a king for Ayodhya, it should only be Rama!”

Thus by hearing this from the people, King Dasharata was overwhelmed and he now consults his ministers and other great “Rishis” (Saints) in his courtroom! Everybody are overwhelmed with King Dasharata’s decision! Thus, the preparations begin and Ayodhya enters into the festive mood once more – For the third time now! It should be remembered that Ayodhya was in festive mood when Rama was born and when Rama’s marriage was announced!

Sage Vasishtaachaarya gets ready for the coronation ceremony to commence and first up, he asks Rama and Sita to have bath in the holy river of Sarayu and perform a very important duty, before proceeding towards the coronation ceremony! What was that most important duty? Let us wait till the next episode to find out! 🙂

 

Episode 94 – “Saamaja vara Gamanaa!!” – Ayodhya hails King Dasharata’s decision!!

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In the previous episode we had commenced with the discussion on the “Ayodhya Kaanda” wherein we witnessed in the opening chapter that Bharata and Shathrugna leave for “Kekeya Desha” to spend some time with their uncle. Meanwhile, King Dasharata was in deep thought about the future of the Ayodhya Kingdom and thus he calls for the court session. He expressed his wish in the previous episode that he wants his eldest son Rama to be his formal successor and he be coroneted as early as possible. Sage Vasishtaachaarya was presiding the courtroom and he was listening carefully to the wish of King Dasharata.

Sage Vasishtaachaarya was both thoughtful and happy at the same time – Thoughtful because, being a “Brahma-Rishi” he was able to foresee a danger that is coming through with this decision, and happy because Rama was getting ready for a major responsibility! He thus conveys his consent and approval for King Dasharata’s wish. He says, “Oh Dasharata! We should have done this much before! However, it is only upon my instruction you had sent Rama along with Sage Vishwaamithra to the forest, and of course subsequently the marriage took place and now let us not delay further! Let’s proceed in making Rama succeed to the throne!”

Upon hearing this from his “Guru”, King Dasharata was spell bound with happiness! He thanks Sage Vasishtaachaarya for his approval.

Now, it is the time to appease the subjects of Ayodhya about this big decision. Accordingly, King Dasharata calls for a “Darbar(A public hearing) and he announces his decision of Rama’s succession! In the present day, we talk about “Democracy” but it is very interesting to note that the art of democracy was in practice even in those days!

“Praapthya varsha sahasraani bahuun yaayunshi dheevathaha!

Jeernasyaashcha shareerasya visraanthi abhirojaye!!”

He says to the people of Ayodhya, “Oh my dearest people! I’ve given my 100% into protecting the kingdom and ensuring your welfare for the past 60,000 years! Now I feel that I’m old and I should retire to the ‘Vaanaprastha Ashrama”. I do not know if I still have that valor in my body so as to wage and fight wars, as I’m getting physically weaker by the day! (Jeernasyaashcha shareerasya) I’m thinking of coronating my eldest son Rama to the throne as my official successor and as the next king of Ayodhya! I want your suggestions on this!”

Thus King Dasharata expresses his decision to the people of Ayodhya. Normally, what should have been the people’s reply? Atleast for a name sake they should have said “Oh Dasharata! You’ve done a fantastic job so far! We wish that you may continue for a few more years!” However, the people of Ayodhya did what was unexpected! They rose up in unison and replied, “Oh! Old man! Please retire immediately!”

King Dasharata was shocked for a moment! He asks his people again, “Oh my dear people! Why are you so angry on me? Have I caused trouble to all of you in all these years of my rule?” Upon which, the people reply back, “No King Dasharata! This is not the point here! We are all waiting to see Rama as our king! We are eagerly awaiting the ‘Rama-Raajya’! We are eagerly waiting to see our Rama as our king!”

King Dasharata is very happy upon hearing the response from his people. However, he wants to hear more about Rama from them! To hear something good about his son, any father will be interested! That too, if the common people are appreciating his son, what is stopping King Dasharata from hearing more from them? So he asks back, “Oh my dearest people! What do you find so much good in Rama that you want him urgently as the king? What are the features of Rama that you like the most?”

Upon which, the people reply,

“Icchaamohi mahaabaahum raghuveeram mahaabalam!

Gajena mahathaayaantham raamam chathraavruthaananam!!”

The people of Ayodhya describe Rama’s significance – Rama is not an ordinary child, but is an invincible and a divine force! He has infinite strength (Raghuveeram Mahaabalam!) We want to witness the beauty of Rama sitting on the elegant elephant (Gajena mahathaayaantham) and at this time, while Lakshmana fans the “Chaamaram” (A type of a hand fan) for Rama, we want to look at His glorious face in the middle of this. (Raamam chathraavruthaananam)!

The people of Ayodhya go on to describe about Rama’s unique appearance and features – They say that they are itching to see Rama walking towards them like a confident lion, with his broad shoulders and confident, yet handsome face! Saint Thiyagaraja sings the following famous and the beautiful composition at this context:

“Saamaja vara gamana – Saadhu hrut!

Saarasaabhja Paala Kaalaateeta Vikhyaata!!”

Saint Thiyagaraja describes the beauty of Lord Rama – He says, Lord Rama is a majestic person with the majestic gait (Gamana) of a huge elephant (Saamaja)! He is like the sun who causes the hearts of His “Bhakthaas” (devotees) to blossom like a lotus flower with love and devotion! (Hrut – Saarasaabhja) and thus his name and fame transcends the entire world and time! (Kaalaateeta Vikhyaata)!

Thus, the people of Ayodhya were extremely happy with King Dasharata’s decision to coronate Rama to the throne! The entire city of Ayodhya goes into celebration mode once again! Let Ayodhya be in the celebration mood for today! We shall wait till the next episode to find out what happened subsequently! 🙂

 

Episode 93 – Commencing the “Ayodhya Kaanda” – King Dasharata thinks of coronating Rama as his successor!!

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In the previous episode, we witnessed the last significant event of the “Baala Kaanda” wherein Sage Parasurama confronted with Rama as the entire family along with King Dasharata were en-route Ayodhya. We witnessed that Rama, with his invincible abilities lifted the “Vaishnava Dhanush” from Parasurama and thus his anger was reduced. After this encounter, the entire caravan reached Ayodhya and once the people of Ayodhya saw all of them approaching, they were so eager to see their little Rama along with his newly married little Sita! They were thronging the streets to have a glimpse of their beloved prince! Thus, Rama and others reach the palace and all of them commence their married lives happily! Their happiness continued for the next twelve years and thus marks the end of the “Baala Kaanda”!

In today’s episode we shall commence with the “Ayodhya Kaanda”. This second “Kaanda” (or Part) of the Ramayana talks about all those events and happenings in the city of Ayodhya after Rama’s marriage. We shall discuss all the important events one by one in the subsequent episodes. The “Ayodhya Kaanda” commences by saying that, after 12 years of happy marriage, Bharata and Shathrughna, the other two sons of King Dasharata leave for the “Kekeya Desha” to spend some time with Kaikeyi’s father and brother. Thus, Bharata leaves to his uncle’s place and as we know, Shathrughna follows Bharata wherever he goes (We discussed about “Bhaagawatha Paarathanthriyam” in one of our early episodes, and here we can see the example of it).

“Gacchathaamaathula kulam bharathena tathaa anakaha!

Shathrugnaha nitya shathrughnaha neethaha preethi pulaskruthaha!!”

Thus, Valmiki Maharishi begins the Ayodhya Kaanda with the above sloka, wherein he says that Bharata leaves for his uncle’s (Mother’s brother) place by name Kekeya. Kaikeyi’s brother is Yuthaajith. Bharata thus goes to the kingdom of Kekeya to spend some time with his uncle Yuthaajith. Shathrughna follows Bharata and goes wherever he goes!

“Sahi devair udheernasya raavanasya vadhaarthibhihi!

Architho maanushe lokhe jagnye Vishnu sanaathanaha!!”

As Rama and Sita were living happily with each other at Ayodhya, in the meanwhile, the Devas (Celestial beings) are talking with each other – “Oh! Vishnu and Mahalakshmi are living happily in the “Manushya lokha”! Is this what we asked for? We had requested Lord Vishnu to incarnate in the world so as to destroy Ravana and that hasn’t taken place even after 24 years! When will this ultimate event take place?” Thus, it is to be noted here that the Devas are those people who only care for their own comfort and luxury. They never care for Bhagawan and His comfort! Whereas, if we take the case of our Aachaaryas and Aalwars, they always care about Bhagawan’s comfort, rather than their own comforts! This is why Periyaalwar, in his famous “paasuram” in Tamil says after worshipping Bhagawan,

“Pallaandu pallandu pallaayirathaandu! Pala kodi nooraayiram pallaandu!

Un sevadi sevvya thirukkaapu…”

Here, the phrase “Un sevadi sevvya thirukkaapu” means, “Oh Bhagawan! You should be fine without any problems! You are coming to this “Dushta Desha” full of corrupt people like us all around! Hence, you should be fine without any problem!” This is an example of how our Aalwaars and Aachaaryas care for Bhagawan, more than for themselves! Whereas for Devas, they are more interested in getting the “Amrut” (Divine Nectar) along with loads of comforts for themselves!

Even if we take our own examples every day, whenever we go to a temple, do we pray to Bhagawan that he should be comfortable and fine? We never do that! 🙂 All we pray for is our comfort and our things to be executed well! Lord Krishna himself says, “Only those people who care for my comfort and my well-being, more than theirs’ are my true devotees!”

Thus while the Devas were talking like this, Lord Rama also realized that it is time to move on! He made his “Sankalpa” and it is only at this moment, things start moving forward! King Dasharata once again calls for the assembly of his court. Once the court assembled, King Dasharata expresses his desire to coronate Rama as his successor to the throne. He says, “I should have made this decision twelve years back! However, that didn’t happen as Sage Vishwaamithra had come and taken Rama along with him, and subsequently he got married. For the next twelve years I didn’t want to disturb Rama as he was newly married! Now since I’m aged and since I’m not very confident in defending and protecting our kingdom as efficiently as I was doing before, I think it’s time now to hand over the reigns to my eldest son Rama, as per the norms of our Ikshvaaku Dynasty! Oh rishis, and manthris, I seek your suggestions on this subject!”

Once King Dasharata expressed his decision, Sage Vashishtaachaarya looks at him gets up from his seat. As we all know that Sage Vasishtaachaarya is a “Brahmarishi” and he has the ability to foresee things that are about to happen in future, something was holding him back! However, ignoring that “something”, he slowly gets up from his seat to reply to King Dasharata’s decision. What did Sage Vasishtaachaarya reply? What was his idea? What was going through his mind? Let’s wait to find out in the next episode!

Episode 92 – Sage Parasurama confronts Rama – End of “Baala Kaanda”!!

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In the previous episode we concluded the auspicious event of the Sita-Rama wedding with the important ritual of “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam”. In the due course of the entire discussion on this subject, over the last 10-15 episodes, we also witnessed how important is a marriage even in the modern day and the various important purposes of getting into this happy bonding in life.

Now moving on further, after the marriage ceremony is over at Mithilapuri, King Dasharata and co., start their journey towards Ayodhya with his sons and their newly married wives! King Janaka gives his daughters a tearful send-off as they commence their journey. During the midst of the long journey, King Dasharata suddenly started seeing bad omens all around! By seeing the bad omens, he was pretty sure that some danger awaits him and his children. The danger came in the form of Sage Parasurama! Sage Parasurama, as I had described in an earlier episode was an embodiment of anger! He was coming in front of King Dasharata and Co. with all his fury, and while he came towards them, King Dasharata was stunned and became scared!

It might be surprising for us that King Dasharata got scared when he saw Parasurama in front of him, although being one of the greatest warriors and an invincible king! But why did he feel scared? The simple answer is that, upon seeing his little Rama and Sita, any great warrior will feel scared! King Dasharata was saying to himself, “Oh!! May God protect these little tender children! May they be unharmed!”

“Ghoraasthu pakshino vaacho vyaaharanthi samanthathaha!

Bhoumaaschaiva mrigaassarve gacchanthisma pradakshinam!!”

Thus, in the above sloka Valmiki Maharishi beautifully explains that King Dasharata is seeing all the possible bad omens upon the arrival of Sage Parasurama – He says that the animals were walking in a peculiar fashion, birds were making some unusual sounds, they were flying and rounding about in an anti-clockwise direction, etc. Thus, amongst all these bad omens, Sage Parasurama arrives!

“Poorvam kshatravatham krithvaa gadhamanyur gadhajjvalaha!

Yeva mukthvaakthamaadhaaya bhaargavam bheema darshanam!!”

Thus, Sage Parasurama came in front of them with all his fury! He was having a fierce look of anger on King Dasharata and especially on the little Rama!

“Dhanusho bhedhanam chaiva nikilena mayaashrutham!

Thatatgadha manu chintyamcha bhedanam manushat gathaa!!”

Now Sage Parasurama talks to Rama and he says with all his anger, “Oh Rama! I heard that you were widely appreciated at Mithilapuri just because you had lifted a broken Shiva-Dhanush! I cannot accept all that! Now I have the unbroken “Vaishnava-Dhanush”! I can accept you as an invincible prince only if you’re able to lift this from my hand!” Upon hearing this, King Dasharata was shocked beyond words! He doesn’t know what to do and hence he falls on Parasurama’s feet and begs for mercy! But Sage Parasurama is not going to relent from his stand!

It is at this moment Lord Rama steps in! He accepts Sage Parasurama’s challenge and to the utter amazement of everybody around him, Rama easily grabbed the “Vaishnava Dhanush” from the hands of Sage Parasurama! Upon seeing this, Sage Parasurama was stunned and his anger started to come down slowly! King Dasharata was astonished at the miraculous event that has just taken place!

However, once Rama lifts the bow and locks the arrow inside it, it cannot be withdrawn! It is called “Amoha-Baanam”! Thus, Rama asks Sage Parasurama as to where should be fire the arrow. Sage Parasurama requests Rama to fire the arrow on his “Tapo-Bhalam” (The power obtained by his immense penance)! Thus, after this episode it is believed that Sage Parasurama proceeded towards the southern direction and reached the “Vaamana-Kshethram” (The present day south Indian state of Kerala) and was doing penance for a long time!

“Hum kaarena mahaadevaaha tamvidhodat trilochanaha!

Adhikam medhithe vishnum devaaha sarshiganaarthaha!!”

Thus, Sage Parasurama accepted his defeat in front of Rama and proceeded towards Kerala for doing penance! King Dasharata was relieved after he left that place and thus all of them proceeded towards Ayodhya! Since then, all of them were living happily together for the next 12 years!

With this note, we come to the end of the “Baala-Kaanda”! Phew! We’ve taken 92 episodes to finish Baala Kaanda alone! However, the reason why we took so much of time is that, there were loads of important things to talk about and describe in detail! We shall move on a bit faster from now on! Now the story shifts the scene to twelve years later! What happened next? We shall start with the “Ayodhya Kaanda” from the next episode! 🙂

Episode 91 – “Maangalyam thandhunaa anena..!” – Meaning of “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam”

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Till now for the past few episodes we have been experiencing the beauty of the auspicious Sita-Rama wedding and meanwhile we were also talking about the significance of various rituals that are performed as part of a marriage ceremony. Particularly in the previous episode we had discussed the significance of two of the major rituals – “Sapthapathi” and “Laaja Homam” and why are they performed! Today we shall conclude the discussion on the marriage ceremony by extending the discussion on “Laaja Homam” forward and taking it into the all-important “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam”.

During the discussion about the “Laaja Homam” I had mentioned that in this ritual, the wife prays to Agni Bhagawan for the longevity of life for her husband. On a lighter note, we can say from all these rituals that, the husbands are a little bit smarter! 🙂 In a way, even the “Shaastraas” indirectly make the wives pray for the long life for their husbands! But does the vice versa happen? 🙂 We should indeed think for a moment! This now leads us to the very important and the culminating ritual of a marriage ceremony – The “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam”. Basically this ritual, as all of us know that this entails the husband tying the “Thiru Maangalyam” around the neck of his wife. The basic significance of this ritual is that, this “Thiru Maangalyam” in the neck of a woman is the one, which indicates that her husband is alive! Thus, this ritual of “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam” signifies that the husband and wife should live together for a long time!

We have a very famous sloka that is associated with this ritual. If we actually look deeper, this particular sloka is not part of the Vedas nor is it a “Manthra”. It is just a sloka. The sloka is as follows:

“Maangalyam thanthunaa anena mama jeevana hethunaa!

Khande bhadhraami shubage tham jeeva sharadasshatam!!”

Thus, this is just a sloka and not a manthra! Interestingly, the Vedas doesn’t give much importance to this “Thirumangya Dhaaranam” but only gives prominence for the “Saptha Pathi”. Of course, in the modern day wedding, we give so much of importance to the “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam”.

Anyway, now let us explore the meaning of the above sloka: It says, “Khande bhadhraami shubage”, which means, “Oh my dear wife! I’m tying this sacred thread containing the “Thirumaangalyam” around your neck!” Why is this sacred thread being tied? “Maangalyam thanthunaa anena mama jeevana hethunaaa!” – The husband says,It means that this thread is the proof that I’m alive! With this sacred thread around your neck, oh my dear wife! You also live with me for a long time!” If the husband says like this, what does he mean? J He is indirectly requesting his wife to pray for his long life! 🙂

Thus, this “Thirummaangalya Dhaaranam” is a ritual that is performed as a prayer for a long life together as a couple! It is thus; Sita and Rama married each other and prayed for a long lasting life together as a “Dhivya – Dhampathi”.

Before we conclude the discussion on the Sita-Rama wedding, I received a question from one of my readers that was very interesting to me! I shall address this question before I conclude this discussion: It goes like this:  “Sita and Rama are Goddess Mahalakshmi and Lord Vishnu incarnates on this world! They are already married for so many “Yugas”! Now when they are born on this earth, why do they need to get married again in this elaborate fashion?”

It’s a really interesting and a valid question! I shall try to give an answer to this. My answer has two parts:

Firstly, as I had been mentioning for so many episodes right from the commencement of this blog, the very purpose of the “Rama – Avatar” by Bhagawan is to teach us the way of living a righteous life by following the path of Dharma. Thus, “marriage” is a very important dharma for a human life! It is only to illustrate this “Dharma” and show us how we should live together as a couple, Lord Rama marries Sita! Thus, for the question pertaining to why did Sita and Rama get married, one of the main answers is that, it is not for their pleasure – It is for us to understand the significance of a marriage!

Secondly, another reason why Rama and Sita married each other is to bless all of us – “Jeevaathmaas” together as a couple! If Rama were alone without marrying Sita, he would definitely end up killing all of us, for the amount of sins that we’ve accumulated over so many births! This, can be witnessed all through the entire Ramayana story – Any killing or punishment meted out by Rama would have been when Sita was away from him! For instance, the Maareecha and Shubaahu episodeSita was not there with Rama; The killing of ThaatakaSita was not there with Rama; Killing of the 14,000 Raakshasas Again Sita was not there near Rama; Killing of Vaali by Rama – Again, Sita was not there near Rama; Ultimately, when Rama killed Ravana, Kumbakarna, etc. during the war, Sita was not there near him! Hence, we can see at every instance of the Ramayana that, whenever Sita and Rama are together, Rama doesn’t kill anybody! He is a “Karunaa – Murthy” (The Lord who is always merciful) to all his devotees when he is with his beloved wife! For instance, when the “Kaakaasuraa” came and attacked Sita in the presence of Rama, ideally Rama should have killed him! However, due to the presence of Sita near him, he let him off! Thus, it becomes evident as to why Sita married Rama!

Moreover, If we as devotees go and stand in front of Bhagawan when he is alone, we can be sure that we would be burnt down to ashes by him, for the amount of sins that we keep committing every day! The Vishnu Sahasranaama describes Bhagawaan’s eyes as “Chanda sooryouscha nethre!” – It means, Bhagawan’s one eye is as cool as a moon and the other is as hot as the sun! When we go and stand in front of him, we would never know which eye would focus on us! If our sins are very high in number, it is for sure going to be the eye that burns us down! It is for this reason, we should always go to the person whose both eyes are as cool as the moon – And this person is none other than Goddess Sita Devi! Her eyes are full of mercy for Her children and she is the person who will forgive us for all our sins and unite us with Bhagawan! Ultimately she is our Divine Mother! 🙂

Hence, it is for this main reason that Sita and Rama are together! I hope I had answered the question of my reader in a satisfactory manner! Anyway, after all the marriage rituals were over, King Dasharata along with his sons and his newly wed wives, leave from Mithilapuri and start their journey towards Ayodhya. What happened next? Did all of them reach Ayodhya safely? Were there any hindrances that they had to face? Let’s wait and see in the next episode! 🙂

Episode 90 – “Paani grunheeshva paaninaa!!” – Sita & Rama perform “Saptha-Pathi” & Laaja-Homam” together!

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In the last few episodes we’ve been talking at length about the auspicious Sita-Rama wedding, and the inner meaning of the sloka “Iyam Sita mama suthaa..” – The most important sloka in the Valmiki Ramayana that beautifully portrays the auspicious event. As an extended discussion, during the last couple of episodes we were witnessing a very important social evil called “Divorce” and we pondered upon why divorces and separations happen at ease in the modern day. The last episode also focused on some possible solutions to curb this social menace. We discussed the importance of “Satsangs” and “Saadhu-Samaagama” wherein we said that, by channelizing ourselves towards good and healthy friendships with people around and by enhancing our “Bhagawat-Chintana” by reading and exploring various spiritual texts, music in the praise of Bhagawan, etc., it gives us the ultimate divine pleasure and automatically, the relationship between the couple would enhance further and thus follow the path of Dharma together!

In today’s episode, we shall continue to discuss about a couple of very important rituals done as part of the marriage ceremony, even today – The “Saptha-Pathi” and “Laaja-Homam”. Of course we’ve spoken a bit about “Saptha-Pathi” already, but today we shall discuss it in more detail. To begin this discussion, we recall here that the most important lesson to be learnt from the Sita-Rama wedding is that; Marriage is a bonding – A divine and a happy bonding between the couple – The bonding that is undertaken by us with the guidance of the “Shaastraa”, in front of “Agni Bhagawan”. Given this extremely high level of significance, there is absolutely no question of breaking away from this divine bonding! Now let’s go back to our subject on the Valmiki Ramayana.

“Iyam sitaa mama suthaa saha dharma chareethava!

Pratheecha yenaam bhadramthe paani grinheesva paaninaa!!”

In the last phrase of this all-important sloka, King Janaka says, “Paani grinheesva paaninaa”, which means, “Oh Rama! Hold her hands with yours!” For this, Periyavaachaan Pillai gives a beautiful description in one of his commentaries on the Ramayana. He says, “Oh Rama! You can hold Sita’s feet later on! Now, hold her hands first!” Rama asks back, “What are you saying? I’m a great prince! Why should I hold someone else’s feet?” He again says, “Oh Rama! I’m not telling this! The Shaastras are saying!” While the “Saptha-pathi” is going on, the boy has to hold the girl’s foot and place it slowly on a stone (“Ammikkal” in Tamil), and chant the following manthra:

“Aathishtenam asmaanam asmenathvaa sthiraa bhava!!”

This manthra signifies that “Oh my dear wife! Please harden your mind and heart like this stone and get yourself prepared! You will need to do lot of work and you’ll need to shoulder lot of responsibilities after our marriage!” This same manthra would be employed for boys when they do their “Upanayanam” – wearing their sacred thread (Poonool, or Saarani). In that context, the meaning would be, “Oh son! You are now becoming a Brahmachaari and would be going to the ‘Gurukula’ to learn your lessons, wherein you would not get to be physically comfortable! Hence, harden and prepare your mind for the challenges ahead!” Here we say the following:

“Aathishtenam asmaanam asmenathvaa sthiroo bhava!!”

Thus, for the boy it is “Sthiroo bhava” and for the girl it is “Sthiraa bhava”. This is the only difference – The former is “Pullinga” (Masculine) and the latter is “Streelinga” (Feminine). Thus, the significance of the “Saptha-Pathi” is that, the girl is preparing herself to enter her husband’s home, wherein she has to shoulder numerous responsibilities! This is exactly what Aandaal says in the following lines:

“Ammi midhikka kanaa kanden thozhi naan!

Thee valam seiya kanaa kanden thozhi naan!

Kaithalam pattra kanaa kanden thozhi naan!!”

As I had mentioned before, the phrase “Kanaa Kanden” in Tamil means “Dreaming about”. Thus, Aandal dreams about her marriage with Lord Krishna, and hence she invokes each and every ritual of the marriage ceremony and says that she is dreaming about performing all these important rituals, holding hands with Lord Krishna! She continues to explain one more important thing:

“Pori muharndhu atta kanaa kanden thozhi naan!”

Here, the phrase “Pori muharndhu” signifies another very important ritual called “Laaja-Homam”. The girl’s brother should perform this ritual. Accordingly, the girl’s brother, takes his sister’s hand and places it on her husband’s, and places a handful of puffed rice (“Pori” in Tamil) on their hands together. Now the husband has to chant manthras, while the wife should pray to Agni Bhagawan for a long life for her newly wed husband. This is a very important event and is called “Laaja Homam”.

There is one more event in a marriage ceremony that is very significant – The “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam”. This is a unique event and has to be covered in detail. Why do we perform the “Thirumangalya Dhaaranam”? What is it’s significance? Let’s wait till the next episode to talk about this! 🙂