Selected Episodes from Raghuvamāsam
यथापराधदण्डानां यथाकालप्रवीधिनाम ।
त्यागाय संभृतार्थानां सत्याय मितभाषिणाम् ।
यशसे विजिगीषूणां प्रजायै गृहमेधिनाम् ।।
शैशवेऽभ्यस्तविद्यानां यौवने विषयैषिणाम् ।
वार्धके मुनिवृत्तीनां योगेनान्ते तनुत्यजाम् ।।
रघूणामन्वयं वक्ष्ये तनुवाग्विभवोऽपि सन् ।
तद्गुणैः कर्णमागत्य चापलाय प्रचोदितः ।।
Of kings who were untainted from their birth, Who toiled until there was success, who ruled the earth to the sea,
Whose car-track reached to heaven;
Who duly worshipped the sacred fire, who gave to every guest according to his wish, whose punishments were in proportion to the crimes, who were watchful at the proper time;
Who sought wealth that they might give it away, whose words were measured for the sake of truth, who sought victory for glory's sake, and for offspring took unto them
Who, in childhood, studied all good arts, and next in youth sought worldly joy, who, in age, lived hermit's lives, and cast away their bodies through meditation at last; Such was Raghu's line, and such my theme, though meagre be my wealth of speech; their virtues, having reached my ear, impel me to this fond attempt.
— Canto I. 5-9
This description, given by the poet in detail about the entire line of Raghu, is indeed significant, simply because it highlights the best qualities of the kings belonging to this line in general. All the kings belonging to the line of Raghu represent illumination, heroism and harmony in their respective ways. It is true that the last king of this race, Agnivarna, was not up to the mark, but this may be regarded as an exception whose description comes only in the 19th canto which is the last canto. Evidently, Agnivarna is not taken into consideration by the poet, when he counts the greatness of the kings belonging to this illustrious race.
वैवस्वतो मनुर्नाम माननीयो मनीपिणाम् ।
आसीन्महीक्षितामाद्यः प्रणवश्छन्दसामिव ।।
तदन्वये शुद्धिमति प्रसूतः शुद्धिमत्तरः ।
दिलीप इति राजेन्दुरिन्दुः क्षीरनिधाविव ।।
व्यूढोरस्को वृपस्कन्धः शालप्रांशुर्महाभुजः ।
आत्मकर्मक्षमं देहं क्षात्रो धर्म इवाश्रितः ।।
सर्वातिरिक्तसारेण सर्वतेजोभिभाविना |
स्थितः सर्वोन्नतेनोर्वी क्रान्त्वा मेरुरिवात्मना । ।
आकारसदृशप्रज्ञः प्रज्ञया सदृशागमः ।
आगमैः सदृशारम्भ आरम्भसदृसोदयः ।।
There once lived Manu, the son of Vivasvat, highly honoured by the wise, who was first among earthly kings like 'Om' among the sacred triad.
In his pure line was born Dilipa who was purer still, shining among kings like the Moon in the milky sea.
Broad - chested, with shoulders like a bull's, with long arms like Śāla boughs, he was as it were the very essence of the Kşattriyas residing in a body capable of doing its proper duties.
Endowed with all-surpassing strength, graced with a splendour that overpowered all others, towering over all on earth, he strode like Meru with its lofty form.
Like his form was his intellect, like his intellect was his
learning; his efforts were worthy of his learning and like his efforts was his success.
— Canto I. 11-15
Dilipa is the illustrious father of an illustrious son, viz., Raghu, the pre-eminent king of this race. Dilipa too, embodied all the virtues of the line, though it is heroism that is the most conspicuous in him, while it has to be admitted that heroism reaches the climax in Raghu himself, as is evident from his 'digvijaya' (conquest in all directions) described by the poet in Canto IV.
The poet in his inimitable style points out how king Dilipa was harmony personified, as it were, in respect of his form, intellect, learning, efforts and success thereof. The poet further points out:
ज्ञाने मौनं क्षमा शक्तौ त्यागे श्लाघाविपर्ययः ।
गुणा गुणानुवन्धित्वात्तस्य सप्रसवा इव ।।
अनाकृष्टस्य विषयैर्विद्यानां पारदृश्वनः ।
तस्य धर्मरतेरासीदवृद्धत्वं जरसा विना ।।
With knowledge he combined restraint of speech, with might forgiveness, with generosity absence of vaingloriousness, his virtues thus associated with other virtues, seemed as if they were twin-born.
Unshackled by worldly joys, thoroughly versed in all useful arts, he, who loved virtue, was without aging old.
— Canto I. 22-23
This is indeed nothing but a beautiful description of the rare harmony of virtues existing together, in the words of the poet himself: "twin-born".
The three goals of life, dharma, artha and kāma (Trivarga, as they are called) were also meticulously followed by Dilipa in
a harmonious manner, where artha and käma found their fulfillment in dharma, as it should be, in the case of an extraordinary personality like that of Dilipa (Canto I. 25), who was the model of men in his conduct. In spite of the fact that Dilipa was, as it were, harmony personified both in his bearing and conduct, he was very much aware of a great discord in his life on account of his being deprived of an appropriate progeny who could continue to carry on his line after him. That is why, he decided along with his queen, Sudaksinā, to go to the hermitage of Vasistha, his mentor, place his grievances before his Guru and get this defect rectified once for all through Guru's advice. Dilipa was greatly affected in his inner being and felt acutely this particular shortcoming, that for him all other achievements without a suitable progeny appeared to be meaningless. R. D. Karmarkar says:
Dilipa's address to Vasiṣṭha is couched in very elegant language and the thoughts of the son-less monarch, about the agony caused to the Pitrs on account of his being without a son, are full of pathos and make a powerful appeal to the reader. 27
I give below a few stanzas as illustration:
उपपन्नं ननु शिवं सप्तस्वङ्गेषु यस्य मे ।
दैवीनां मानुपीणां च प्रतिहर्ता त्वमापदाम् ।।
पुरुपायुपजीविन्यो निरातका निरीतयः ।
यन्मदीयाः प्रजास्तस्य हेतुस्त्वदद्ब्रह्यवर्चसम् ।।
त्वयैवं चिन्त्यमानस्य गुरुणा ब्रह्ययोनिना ।
सानुवन्धाः कथं न स्युः संपदो मे निरापदः ।।
किंतु वध्वां तवैतस्यामदृष्टसदृशप्रजम् ।
न मामवति सद्वीपा रत्नसूरपि मेदिनी ।।
It is but natural that it fares well with all the seven constituents of my state, since you are there to avert divine and human harm alike. .
That safe and unharmed by calamities my people live the utmost term of human life is surely due to your spiritual might.
With you, my preceptor born of the creator, guarding me who am free from vice, how will fortune not bless me continually?
Yet what is Earth to me with ail its isles and precious gems, when never from your daughter has sprung a child worthy of me?"
— Canto I. 60, 63-65.
And then we come to the episode of both Dilīpa and Sudaksinā devoting themselves whole heartedly to the service of Nandini, the cow in Vasistha's hermitage, in order to over-come the impact of the curse already incurred by him, unawares, because of deviation in his conduct of showing appropriate respect towards the mother of Nandini, Surabhi, during one of his trips to heaven. "Good fortune" says the poet, "is hindered if honour is not rendered where it is due". (Canto I. 79). Dilipa and Sudaksinā are asked to devote themselves to the services of Nandini, taking Nandini to be the representative of Surabhi, her mother. Here certain discord, disruption, in fortune is shown to be accruing to oneself on account of some lapse in one's action in the past. This is in accordance with the doctrine of Karma that pervades our whole life, according to Indian thought. This doctrine of Karma has its origin in the doctrine of Rta in the Vedas. Rta stands for certain harmony that governs the functioning of the entire universe. This harmony has been highlighted through the episode of Surabhi in the context of Dilīpa's over-all conduct. No one, it is said, can violate the principle of Karma, on any account, for one has to reap the fruits of Karma even after a lapse of time.
In Dilīpa's entire life and conduct, there is a specific emphasis given on the aspect of harmony in this manner. This particular
aspect has been highlighted duly in the couple's services meticulously rendered to Nandini, Vasistha's cow in his hermitage, for bringing about the requisite balance in their life.
The kindly monarch, shining in his glory... protected the cow born of Surabhi, as if she were earth embodied, with the four oceans for her udders.
Following the cow in his vow of service he prohibited even the remainder of his attendants (to follow him); nor was there any other means of self-protection; for Manu's race their own valour defends.
— Canto II. 3-4.
Now we come to the occasion when a lion suddenly attacks Nandini, the cow of Vasistha's hermitage, while he was engaged whole-heartedly in his services to her near a cave of the Himalayas. His valour was evident when we find him making efforts forthwith to strike the lion with his arrow. He, however, could do nothing when he found his right arm was restrained by some spell, as it were. The entire scene, as a matter of fact, was contrived by Nandini herself to test the sincerity of devotion in the king towards her. Ultimately, the king expressed his willingness to sacrifice his life in place of Nandini, when the lion, who was talking to him in human voice, insisted on killing the holy cow of Vasistha for satisfying its hunger. When the king offered his own body as food for the hungry lion, and was expecting a fierce attack from the lion on his body, the situation changed, and he found to his astonishment that there was simply no lion on the scene. Nandini, the holy cow herself, stood there in front of the king and said that the whole scene was contrived by her just to test his sincerity. She expressed her satisfaction finally with the services of the king.
Dilipa says to the lion when the cow Nandini has been seized by him:
स त्वं मदीयेन शरीरवृत्तिं देहेन निर्वर्तयितुं प्रसीद ।
दिनावसानोत्सुकवालवत्सा विसृज्यतां धेनुरियं महर्पेः ।।
क्षतात्किल त्रायत इत्युदगः क्षत्रस्य शब्दो भुवनेपु रूढः ।
राज्येन किं तद्विपरीतवृत्तेः प्राणेरुपकोशमलीमसैर्वा ।।
Do you therefore, favour me by satisfying your hunger with my body; release this cow of the great sage, whose young calf is yearning for her at the end of the day.
The high sounding word meaning a Kṣatra (Kṣattriya) is well known in the world by its derivation: 'one who protects from danger', of what use is a kingdom to him who acts in a reverse way and of what use is his life to him which bears the stain of ignominy?
— Canto II. 45, 53
[And then King Dilipa] "...cast himself a prey before the lion as he would a ball of flesh." II.59
It is significant here to note the heroism of king Dilipa, who was prepared to sacrifice his own life for the sake of the holy cow for whose protection and services he had offered himself voluntarily. More than his physical body, Dilipa was more concerned to protect his "body of fame", for he speaks out his mind to the lion as follows: -
किमप्यहिंस्यस्तव चेन्मतोऽहं यशःशरीरे भव मे दयालुः ।
एकान्तविध्वंसिषु मद्विधानां पिण्डेष्वनास्था खलु भौतिकेषु ।।
If you think of sparing me, be kind to spare the body of my fame, for people like me put little value on their physical bodies that are made up of gross elements and are, there
fore, bound to perish.
— Canto II. 57
This is expressive of Dilipa's high sense of value, speaking volumes of his developed mind that exudes illumination of a high order, while valour and heroism remain as the basis throughout. In Dilipa, we find a blend of various virtues displayed on different occasions such as heroism, illumination, and harmony, while heroism remains conspicuous in him. A harmonious integration of his character and conduct with those of his ideal wife, queen Sudakṣiṇā, who helped her husband in ways more than one, in all his domestic and family-duties, became conspicuous both in the hermitage of their Guru, the great Vasiṣṭha, while serving the cow Nandini to the best of their capacity and also later, when the queen, after return from the hermitage, became pregnant. The poet in his inimitable style writes:
निधानगर्भामिव मागराम्बरां शममिवाभ्यन्तरलीनपावकाम् |
नदीमिवान्तःसलिलां सरस्वतीं नृपः ससत्त्वां महिषीममन्यत ।।
"The king regarded his pregnant queen as the sea-clad earth with her buried treasures, or the sami tree with fire concealed within it, or the river Saraswati with her waters hidden below her bed".
— Canto III. 9
This typical harmony in conjugal life envisaged by the great poet here is simply unparalleled and unique in itself, although it is true that Kālidāsa is adept at such descriptions of an ideal couple in other contexts too, in Raghuvamsam itself, for example, in case of Aja-Indumati, Rāma-Sītā and the like.
Kālidāsa's description of Dilipa as a king is quite charming and the following description of Dilipa's journey to Vasiṣṭha's hermitage is exquisite:
स्निग्धगम्भीरनिर्घोषमेकं स्यन्दनमास्थितौ ।
पावृषेण्यं पयोवाहं विधुदैरावताविव ।।
मा भूदाश्रमपीडेति परिमेयपुरःसरौ ।
अनुभावविशेषात्तु सेनापरिवृताविव ।।
सेव्यमानी सुखस्पः शालनिर्यासगन्धिभिः ।
पुष्परेणू त्किरैवर्तिराधूतवनराजिभिः ।।
मनोभिरामाः शृण्वन्तौ रथनेमिस्वनोन्मुखैः ।
षड्जसंवादिनी: केका द्विधा भिन्नाः शिखण्डिभिः ।।
मृगद्वन्द्वेषु पश्यन्तौ स्यन्दनावद्धदृष्टिषु ।।
श्रेणीवन्धाद्वितन्वदिभरस्तम्भां तोरणस्त्रजम् ।
सारसैः कलनिर्हादैः क्वचिदुन्नमिताननौ ।।
Seated in one chariot that rumbled on with a deep and pleasant sound, like the Airāvat and lightning occupying a Icloud in the season of rains.
But scanty retinue was theirs, lest they disturb the hermitage; and yet such their peculiar splendour, an army seemed to surround them.
Breezes that were gratifying in their touch played over them, fragrant with the exudations of the śala tree, scattering flower-dust and gently shaking the groves of trees.
Listening to the cries of peacocks that lifted up their heads
at the sound of the chariot-wheel, the cries that charmed the mind, that answered to the Sadja note and were broken twice in utterance.
Seeing the likeness of each other's eyes in the pairs of deers, that had withdrawn not far from the way and had fixed their gaze on the chariot.
At times raising up their faces at the Sårasa birds, who sweetly warbled, and by fiying together in a line seemed to form a garland at the archway without supporting pillars.
— Canto I. 36-41
सग्मीप्वरविन्दानां वीचिविक्षोभशीतलम् ।
आमोदमुपजिघन्ती स्वनि वासानुकारिणम् ।।
हेयंगबीनमाढाय घोषवृद्धानुपस्थितान् ।
नामधेयानि पृच्छन्ती बन्यानां मार्गशाजिनाम् ।।
काप्यभिख्या तयोगमीदव्रजतोः शुद्धद्वेषयोः ।
हिमनिर्मुक्तयोर्योगे चित्राचन्द्रममोरिव ।।
Smelling the fragrance of lotuses in the ponds grance that was sweet as their own breath, and was cooled by the ruffiing wavelets.
Questioning the old herdsmen, who came with presents of fresh butter, of the names of forest trees on the way.
And a nameless grace was theirs as onwards they moved, clad in bright raiment, like the moon with Chitră beaming, when the mists have rolled away.
— Canto I. 43, 45-46
ग्रस्ततः पञ्चभिरुच्चसंश्रयैरसूर्यगैः सूचितभाग्यसंपदम् ।
असूत पुत्रं समये शचीसमा त्रिसाधना शक्तिरिवार्थमक्षयम् ।।
दिश: प्रसेदुर्मरतो ववुः सुखाः प्रदक्षिणार्चिर्हविरग्निराददे ।
वभूव सर्वं शुभशंसि तत्क्षणं भवो हि लोकाभ्युदयाय तादृशाम् ।।
At the right moment, she who was comparable to Śaci (Indra's wife), gave birth to a son whose glorious fortune was indicated by five planets occupying high places, and far removed from the Sun, as regal power gives birth to inexhaustible treasures through its triple means. And at that moment, the quarters brightened up, and the winds blew gently, while the fire with the flames curling towards the south accepted oblations; all augured happiness: the birth of such as these brings good to all mankind.
— Canto III. 13-14
When we come to assess the importance of Raghu, to whom the name Raghuvamsam owes its origin, we find that in the poet's estimate, Raghu, long before being crowned as a king, had attained prominence because of his unique personality and prowess, even during the life-time of Dilipa himself, when he was conferred the title of Yuvarāja (the crown prince) by the king himself. Dilipa, it is specifically stated by the poet, became more irresistible than ever because of Raghu's prowess who happened to be his great asset:
विभावसुः सारथिनेव वायुना घनव्यपायेन गभस्तिमानिव ।
वभूव तेनातितरां सुदुःसहः कटप्रभेदेन करीव पार्थिवः ।।
Vibhavāsuh sārathineva vāyunā ghanavyapāyena gabhastimaniva Babhuva tenātitarām suduhsahah kataprabhedena kariva pārthivah
As fire because of its helpmate the wind, or the sun by the dispersion of clouds, or an elephant by the opening of its temple, so by him the king became more irresistible than ever.
— Canto III. 37
What is more significant is that he was appointed by his illustrious father to protect the sacrificial horse meant for completion of one hundred sacrifices comparable to Indra known as Åšatakratu (one who has completed one hundred sacrifices). DilÄ«pa completed ninety-nine sacrifices with the help of Raghu and his comrade-princes. The last sacrifice, however, could not be completed unhindered, simply because the sacrificial horse was carried away by Indra in disguise who was afraid of being superseded by Dillpa. And then a fierce fight ensued between Indra and Raghu, as expected, for Indra was adamant in his decision to obstruct the last sacrifice in order to protect his title 'Åšatakratu' meant to be applied uniquely to Indra and Indra alone. The poet, while describing the fight between Raghu and Indra, has highlighted the valour of Raghu by depicting him as "Kumāra vikramah" i.e., one who is as brave as Kumāra or Kārtikeya, who himself is an exemplar of heroism:
वभूव युद्धं तुमुलं जयैपिणोरधोमुखैरुर्ध्वमुखैश्च पत्रिभिः।।
अतिप्रवन्धप्रहितास्त्रवृष्टिभिस्तमाश्रयं दुप्पसहस्य तेजसः।
शशाक निर्वापयितुं न वासवः स्वतश्च्युतं वह्निमिवादभिरम्बुदः।।
And now ensued a fierce fight between them who strove for the mastery, their arrows hurtling upwards and downwards, like so many fierce-looking winged serpents, while the siddhas and the soldiers stood by. Nor could Indra, even with a ceaseless shower of missiles, repress him who possessed such irresistible fire, just as a cloud is unable to extinguish the lightning-fire released from itself."
- Canto III. 57-58
In the end, Indra was pleased with the heroism of Raghu:
तथापि शस्त्रव्यवहारनिष्ठुरे विपक्षभावे चिरमस्य तस्थुपः ।
तुतोष वीर्यातिशयेन वृत्रहा पदं हि सर्वत्र गुणैनिधीयते ।।
However, Indra was pleased with his great heroism, who for long stood in a state of hostility, a state made terrible by the use of weapons: for indeed virtues find access everywhere [even in the mind of an enemy].
— Canto III. 62
And then, in the words of the poet, when Raghu was asked by Indra to speak out what was in his mind:
Then putting back the arrow which was not wholly drawn out of the quiver, and which by its golden feathers made his fingers radiant, the sweet-voiced prince made answer to the king of the gods.
O Lord, if you think that the horse cannot be restored, then let my father, who is hallowed by constant vows, be blessed with the entire fruit of the sacrifice, as if the rite were concluded in the proper manner.
— Canto III. 64-65
Indra granted this boon to Raghu, and because of Raghu, as a matter of fact, the entire fruit of the sacrifice accrued to Dilipa as a boon although the last one was practically interrupted by Indra himself. Raghu knew fully well that it was not a full-fledged victory on his part, and yet he was to be satisfied on the practiv cal level because circumstance demanded it. The point to be noted here is Raghu's heroism itself, irrespective of the outcome of the fight in the end; it was nevertheless Raghu's victory, for Indra had to acknowledge Raghu's valour and grant him the boon which virtually was a fulfillment of the wish of Dilipa through Raghu's unique heroism.
Raghu's ascension to the throne after Dilipa is described thus:
म राज्य गुरुणा दत्तं प्रतिपद्याधिकं वभौ ।
दिनान्ते निहितं तेजः सवित्रेव हुताशनः ।।
Succeeding to the kingdom made over to him by his father, he shone more brilliantly like fire which at the end of the day received lustre imparted to it by the sun.
मनुप्रभृतिभिर्मान्यैर्भुक्ता यद्यपि राजभिः ।
तथाप्यनन्यपूर्वेव तस्मिन्नासीद्वसुंधरा । ।
And the earth, whom although worthy kings from Manu onwards had enjoyed, yet wooed him as though she never had loved before.
मन्दोत्कण्टाः कृतास्तेन गुणाधिकतया गुरौ ।
फलेन सहकारस्य पुष्पोदगम इव प्रजाः ।।
And by his virtues exceeding those of his father, he made his subjects feel less keenly (the retirement of) his father, as when the fruit appears the mango's blossom is scarce remembered."
हंस श्रेणीपु तारामु कुमुद्वत्सु च वारिपु ।
विभूतयरतदीयानां पर्यस्ता यशसामिव ।।
इक्षुच्छायनिपादिन्यस्तस्य गोप्तुर्गुणोदयम् ।
आकुमारकथोद्धातं शालिगोप्यो जगुर्यशः ।।
And the wealth of his fame seemed dispersed in rows of swans, in clusters of stars and in lakes with lotuses. The female keepers of the rice-fields sitting in the thick shade of sugar canes sang his fame which was due to his virtues beginning from the story of his life as a child.
- Canto IV. 1, 7, 9, 19-20
This shows the unique greatness of Raghu as a king, surpassing both the past ones and the contemporaries available during his time; it is therefore no wonder that the entire treatise is named after him as Raghuvamśam.
In this context, the poet has also pointed to Raghu's illumination in so far as he is described as invariably choosing the path of fairness instead of the unfair ones:
नयविदभिर्नवे राज्ञि सदसच्चोपदर्शितम् ।
पूर्व एवाभवत्पक्षस्तस्मिन्नाभवदुत्तरः ।।
nayavidbhirnave rājni sadasaccopadarśitam
Men learned in state politics taught him both fair and unfair
ways (of strategy); but he always chose the former and never the latter alternative.
Canto IV. 10
About such genuine heroes, the Gita says, they are really sthitadhi or sthitaprajña i.e., whose mind is well balanced while others that are puffed up by their achievement are really ahamkära vimūdhātmā or are bewildered by their egoistic vanity.
Regarding Raghu's digvijaya (conquest of all four quarters), it would be sufficient to point out that he came out victorious wherever he went in different directions, East, West, North and South. We find beautiful and elaborate descriptions from the poet depicting Raghu's most memorable conquests all over India; Canto IV of Raghuvamsam is full of these beautiful descriptions of the conquest by Raghu, most of them richly suggestive and highly imaginative, the actual content of which is meant to highlight the heroism of Raghu and his army. Some examples are given below:
रजोभिः स्यन्दनोद्भूतैर्गजैश्च घनसंनिभैः ।
भुवस्तलमिव व्योम कुर्वन्व्योमेव भूतलम् ।।
rajobhiḥ syandanodhdūtairgajaiścha ghanasannibhaiḥ
bhuvastalam iva vyoma kurvan vyoma iva bhūtalam
...With the dust raised by the chariots and with elephants looking like clouds, he seemed to make the sky look like the earth, and the earth look like the sky.
- Canto IV. 29
स सेनां महतीं कर्पन्पूर्वसागरगामिनीम् ।
वभौ हरजटाभ्रप्टां गङ्गामिव भगीरथः । ।
sa senām mahatīm karṣanpūrvasāgaragāminim
babhau harjatäbhraştām gangamiva bhagirathah
Leading his large army to the Eastern Ocean, he appeared like Bhagiratha leading the Ganges that had slipped from the matted lock (of Siva).
— Canto IV. 32
आपादपदमपणता? कलमा इव ते रघुम् ।
फले संवर्धयामासुरल्यातपतिरोपिताः ।।
Those who bowed down before his lotus-feet and who were (on that account) reinstated after having been first ejected, honoured Raghu by presenting him with their wealth, like paddy-plants which yield their fruit when they are transplanted after having been first uprooted.
- Canto IV. 37
दिशि मन्दायते तेजो दक्षिणस्यां रवेरपि ।
तस्यामेव रघोः पाण्डया: प्रतापं न विपेहरे ।
The Sun himself glows dim in the south, but even there the Pandyā princes could not resist Raghu's might.
- Canto IV. 49
Again, take the following description:
भयोत्सृष्टविभूषाणां तेन केरलयोपिताम् ।
अलकेपु चमूरेणु चूर्णप्रतिनिधीकृतः ।।
The dust raised by his army replaced the saffron powder in
the hair of the Kerala ladies who in their fear had put aside their ornaments.
यवनीमुखपदमानां मेहे मधुमदं न म ।
He could not bear the flush of wine upon the lotus-faces of the Yavana ladies, just as the gathering of untimely clouds the tender light of the morning sun upon the lotuses.
- Canto IV. 61
It is noteworthy, even amidst such highly imaginative descriptions of the poet, that Raghu is shown to be a king having a balanced attitude with illumination and a sense of harmony pervading his entire invasion; though an unconquerable hero, he was bereft of pride or greed for others' territory. The poet is quite suggestive in this regard, when he points out that:
गृहीतप्रतिमुक्तस्य स धर्मविजयी नृपः ।
श्रियं महेन्द्रनाथस्य जहार न तु मेदिनीम् ।।
grhitapratimuktasya sa dharmavijayi nrpah
śriyam mahendranāthasya jahāra na tu medinim
Conquering in the cause of righteousness, Raghu took away the royal prowess but not the domains of the Lord of Mahendra who was first captured and later on released.
— Canto IV. 43
It is to be noted further that on returning from his conquests, Raghu performs the ViÅ›vajit sacrifice in which everything one possesses is given away.
स विश्वजितमाजहे यज्ञं सर्वस्वदक्षिणम् ।
आदानं हि विसर्गाय सतां वारिमुचामिव ।
sa viśvajitamājahe yajñam sarvasvadakṣiṇam
ādānam hi visargāya satām vārimucāmiva
He (after his conquest was over) performed the ViÅ›vajit sacrifice in which everything one possesses is gifted away. The good, like clouds, draw up (wealth, water) only that they might give away.
— Canto IV. 86
What is still more astonishing about Raghu is that even after virtually becoming a pauper on account of the ViÅ›vajit sacrifice, where one is required to give all one's wealth away as daksinā (gift), he took every care not to disappoint Kautsa, who had come to him for financial help in order to pay the fee required by his preceptor, Varatantu. Raghu, being reduced to pauperhood through the ViÅ›vajit sacrifice, was of course under no obligation whatsoever to fulfil the wishes of Kautsa but the king's personal honour being at stake, he got the wealth from Kubera, the lord of Kailāsa, and offered the same to Kautsa. As a matter of fact, it was offered to him by Kubera himself, whom he desired to conquer by force:
... Raghu, on his part, seeing that the wealth of the earth had all been drained, now desired to wrest it from Kubera.
At dawn, when he was making ready to set forth, his treasure-keepers wonderingly told him how from the sky a shower
of gold fell into the very inside of the treasure-house.
- Canto V. 26, 29
Kautsa's blessings bestowed Raghu with a son, who was named Aja. As the son was born in the early morning hours, known as Brahma's hour, he was named Aja (unborn, existing from all eternity), after Brahman himself (Canto V. 36). What is most significant however about the great hero, viz., Raghu, is that he had not only conquered all his opponents during his youth and established his kingdom without any rival, he also took to sannyāsa in the last stage of his life and conquered the triple constituents of matter (gunatraya) for attaining balance and ultimately attained the summum bonum (highest good) through yogic practices (VIII.21)
* * *
When we come to a description of Aja, in the RaghuvamÅ›a, we find that he is regarded as a replica of Raghu, in almost all respects.
रूपं तदोजस्वि तदेव वीर्यं तदेव नैसर्गिकमुन्नतत्वम् ।
न कारणात्स्वादविभिदे कुमारः प्रवर्तितो दीप इव प्रदीपात् ।।
He had the same powerful figure, the same valour, and the same inborn loftiness; the son, did not differ from his father, as a lamp does not differ from the lamp from which it is kindled.
— Canto V. 37
This is quite significant, because it shows that Aja was a worthy descendant of Raghu.
Then we find an elaborate and beautiful description of Indumatī swayamvara (the marriage ceremony of the princess Indumatī where she was supposed to select her husband) in the sixth canto, where we find Indumatī, the most beautiful daughter of the King of Vidarbha, making her choice of Aja as the lord of her love and life amidst the most eligible suitors. Aja was so handsome and attractive that in the lofty hall, where Indumatī was to make her choice, other suitors immediately lost hope about their own success in winning over Indumatī, when "they saw Aja who seemed the God of Love, restored to his original form by Siva, who had yielded to Rati's prayers." (VI.2)
The poet's description of Aja at the swayamvara:
वैदर्भनिर्दिष्टमसौ कुमारः क्लृप्तेन सोपानपथेन मञ्चम् ।
शिलाविभङ्गैर्मृगराजशावस्तुङ्गं नगोत्समवारुरोह ।।
परार्ध्यवर्णास्तरणोपपन्नमायेदिवानलवडासनं म ।
भूयिष्ठमामीदुपमेयकान्तिर्मयूरपृष्ठाश्रयणा गुहेन ।
By a well-arranged stairway he mounted to the dais that the King of Vidarbha assigned to him, as ascends a lion's cub over rocky ledges to gain a mighty mountain-summit. Then as he sat down on a jewelled throne spread with richhued tapestry, he very much resembled Kärttikeya in his splendour, when the latter mounts his peacock,"
- Canto VI. 3-4
तेषां महार्हासनसंस्थितानामुदाग्नेपथ्यभृतां स मध्ये |
रगज धाम्ना रघुसूनुरेव कल्पद्रुमाणामिव पारिजातः
Raghu's son alone shone by his lustre amid those kings who were seated on gorgeous thrones, and were attired in splendid robes, as shines the Pārijāta amongst Heaven's trees.
- Canto VI. 6
This undoubtedly speaks of the most beautiful and harmonious physical features of Aja. This typical harmony of features in Aja becomes conspicuous when the poet points out that after coming near Raghu's son, i.e., Aja, Indumati stopped from going any further, for Aja was flawless in all his limbs sarvavayavānavadya (VI.69). And then we see what Sunanda, the lady escort of Indumati, has to say in praise of their anticipated union the union of Aja with Indumati which is supposed to be an ideal one: -
कुलेन कान्त्या वयसा नवेन गुणैश्च तैस्तैर्विनयप्रधानैः ।
त्वमात्मनस्तुल्यममुं वृणीष्व रत्नं समागच्छतु काञ्चनेन ।।
Choose him, thy peer in lineage, beauty, youth and in all virtues of which modesty is the chief; let the gem be set in gold.
— Canto VI. 79
Here again, there is a definite indication of an anticipated union in case of Aja and Indumati which is likely to be the most befitting and harmonious in all respects. My point here is that the entire episode of the union of Aja-Indumati, lays specific emphasis on harmony and beauty that lasted throughout their conjugal life, which unfortunately was cut short by an accidental death of Indumati in her prime of youth after the birth of Dasaratha.
There is also an elaborate description of heroic exploits of Aja displayed during his return journey along with Indumati after marriage, when he was obstructed on his way by the kings who were angry, because of being deprived of Indumati. A fierce battle ensues between them; Aja strewed the battle-field with his enemies' heads severed from their neck by his bhalla (a kind of arrow). At the end, the prince struck, with his sleep-inducing missile, the entire army of his foes, thus compelling them to go to sleep.
सशोणितैस्तेन शिलीमुखाग्रैर्निक्षेपिताः केतुषु पार्थिवानाम् ।
यशो हृतं संप्रति राघवेण न जीवितं वः कृपयेति वर्णाः ।।
Then, with the blood-stained points of his darts he wrote letters on their banners: 'Raghu's son now has taken from you your glory, but has spared your lives out of mercy.'
- Canto VII. 65
As if this was not enough of humiliation for his enemies, he also drew the attention of his newly wed bride, Indumati, to his own valour with avid interest in the following words:
इतः पगनर्भकहार्यशत्रान्चदर्शि पत्यानुमता मयामि |
एवंविधंनाहवचेष्टितेन त्वं प्राचं हस्तगता ममभिः ।।
Look, Vaidarbhi (0 daughter of the king of Vidarbha), — I give you leave — look at these our foes; even infant hands may seize their weapons, it is with such feats of war that they seek to win thee from my hands!
- Canto VII. 67
This speaks also of a sense of humour in Aja as well as his desire to show his heroism to his newly wedded wife, IndumatÄ«, who in turn appreciated the valour of her newly wedded husband, not directly, but through the lips of her maids, as she was herself overpowered with bashfulness. (VII. 69) The harmonious blending of heroism of the bridegroom with the charming response by the bride created a beautiful scenario with the background of the sleeping army of the foes. Then he set his left foot upon the heads of the enemy kings and carried away his flawless bride, IndumatÄ«. The utter humiliation of his foes at his hands shows the natural valour of Aja who was compared to a lion's cub. He, however, spared the lives of those kings who in a humiliated condition were overwhelmed by sleep induced by his missile; this speaks of his compassionate nature too.
Immediately on his return, his coronation as the king follows with the approval of his father, Raghu. Here, again, the poet refers to the ideal character of Aja, when the kingdom comes to him unsought, for what sons of other kings seek to make their own even by unfair means, Aja accepted that kingdom only as a gift from his father, Raghu, without any lust for enjoyment:
दुरिंतैरपि कर्तुमात्मसात्प्रयतन्ते नृपसूनवो हि यत् ।
तदुपस्थितमग्रीदजः पितुराज्ञेति न भोगतृष्णया ।।
What sons of Kings seek to make their own by wrong, Aja took when come to him unsought, at the behest of his father, and not because he lusted after enjoyment.
- Canto VIII. 2.
Once again his greatness as a hero, even after the acquisition of the kingdom from his father, becomes evident when the poet describes his invincibility as a king:
स वभूव दुरासदः परैर्गुरुणाथर्वविदा कृतक्रियः ।
पवनाग्निसमागमो ह्ययं सहितं ब्रह्म यदस्त्रतेजसा ।।
"Thus when his preceptor, who was deep-learned in Atharva texts, had performed the rites for his installation, he became irresistible to his foes: as the union of Wind and Fire are sacred lore to the glory of weapons."
— Canto VIII. 4
However, what is significant about Aja is that there was a harmonious blending of power with a high sense of practical com-monsense displayed by him when he adopted the middle course in subjugating other kings:
न खरो न च भूयसा मृदुः पवमानः पृथिवीरुहानिव ।
स पुरस्कृतमध्यमक्रमो नमयामास नृपानद्धरन् ।।
Not over-harsh, nor yet too lenient, he followed the middle course, and humbled the kings without uprooting them like the wind the trees.
- Canto VIII.9
There was a great benevolence as it were in Aja's governance
as a king, for in the worlds of the poet:
अधिकं शुशुभे शुभंयुना द्वितयेन दयमेव गङ्गतम् ।
पदमृद्धमजेन पैतृकं विनयेनाग्य नवं च योवनम् ।।
सदयं वुभुजे महाभुजः सहसोद्रेगमियं बजेदिति ।
अचिरोपनतां स मेदिनीं नवपाणिग्रहणां वधूमिव ।।
अहमेव मतो महीपतेरिति सर्वः प्रकृतिष्वचिन्तयत् ।
उदधेरिव निम्नगाशतेष्वभवन्नास्य विमानना क्वचित् ।।
"Two things alone shone more bright when joined with the auspicious two: His father's prosperous state with Aja and Aja's fresh youth with his modesty. The long-armed [prince] enjoyed the newly-wedded Earth with tender love, like a newly married bride, lest she should be dismayed. Everyone of his subjects thought 'It is me the King loves best', for he scorned none amongst them, like the Ocean none scorning amongst his hundred streams.
— Canto VIII. 6-8.
This is indeed a rare virtue in Aja which is highlighted here by the poet. Again:
वलमार्तभयोपशान्तये विदुपां सत्कृतये वहुश्रुतम् ।
वसु तस्य विभोर्न केवलं गुणवत्तापि परप्रयोजना ।।
He used his power to free the oppressed from fear, and his vast learning to honour the learned: thus not merely his wealth but his virtues alike this monarch used for other's good.
— Canto VIII. 31
This speakes highly of Aja as a king endowed with reer virtues not only of great, but also of the good men. kālidāsa, in his Meghadūtam, also points out, ''the belongings of good man are meant to alleviate the sufferings of the oppressed, who need their protection''. 28 Here was a great hero who was intrinsically a good man too, with a happy and a fruitful conjugal life, for Indumatīgave birth to a heroic son, Daśaratha, who was to attain glory later as the father of Śri Rāma. This happy conjugal life of Aja and Indumatī, however, came to a sudden and unexpected end during the prime of their youth, when a wreath of heavenly flower hung at the top of the lute of Nārada, passing through the sky, fell accidentally onn Indumatī's breast while she with her Lord, Aja, enjoying together in a city-park. This was most unfortunate indeed, but what is more significant is that it was a final turning point in Aja's otherwise glorious and happy life. Aja ceased to be himself since that most unfortunate incident and there was a through and final disruption in his life -style fromthat moment-how great was Aja;s loss in Indumatī's sudden demise! It was an ideally harmonious conjugal life the couple had befor this sad and unexpected separation of one from the other thrugh death. This harmony was so refined,and on a higher plane that, once disturbed could not be restored again. In Aja's lamentation, immediately after the sad demise of his beloved queen, Indumatī, as described by the poet with exquisite poetic skill, becomes quite evident to thereaders:
Even his indorn firmness broke and in teat-choked words he (deeply) mourned (her): when even iron melts with intense heat, how much more human beings?(VII.43)
कुसुमान्यपि गात्रसंगमात्प्रभवन्त्यायुरपोहितुं यदि ।
न भविष्यति हन्त साधनं किमिवान्यत्प्रहरिष्यतो विधेः ।।
अथवा मृदु वस्तु हिंसितुं मृदुनैवारभते प्रजान्तकः ।
हिमसेकविपत्तिरत्र मे नलिनी पूर्वनिदर्शनं मता ।।
सगियं यदि जीवितापहा हृदये किं निहिता न हन्ति माम ।
न विषमप्यमृतं क्वचिदमवेदमृतं वा विषमीश्वरेच्छया ।।
If even flowers suffice to cut short life by contact with the limbs, then what else may not serve as instrument for Fate when He seeks to slay?
Or by tender means alone does Death destroy a tender life; the lotus plant destroyed by the shower of frost strikes me as the first illustration of this.
If this wreath can destroy life, how does it, even when placed upon my heart, not kill me? Ah! Even poison turns into nectar, or nectar into poison through the will of God.
— Canto VIII. 44-46
Aja wails in grief and expresses his utter helplessness at the sad and untimely demise of his beloved queen, for in losing her, he has lost everything and in tear-choked words that expressed his utter despair, thus:
धृतिरस्तमिता रतिश्च्युता विरतं गेयमृतुर्निरुत्सवः ।
गतमाभरणप्रयोजनं परिशून्यं शयनीयमद्य मे ।।
गृहिणी सचिवः सखी मिथः प्रियशिष्या ललिते कलाविधौ ।
करणाविमुखेन मृत्युना हरता त्वां वद किं न मे हृतम् ।।
My firmness is broken, my joy sped, music is stilled (for me), the season has lost its charm, ornaments are now vain and my couch henceforth lies desolate. The mistress of my home, counsellor, the friend of my intimate moments, a loved pupil in all the fine arts: tell me what relentless Death has not taken away from me, in bereaving me of thee?
— Canto VIII. 66-67
Now nothing is left for Aja to be consoled with; life has become a void for him in the absence of Indumati.
Aja's expressions of wailing are so pathetic that they can be compared, if at all, with the wailings of Rati in Kumarasarhbhavam, Canto IV, when she was also unexpectedly deprived of her Love-Lord, Madana (Cupid), as he was reduced to ashes by fire originating from the third eye of Lord Shiva on account of His wrath at being disturbed during penance.
There was an end to Aja's enjoyment once for all, for Indumati was really the centre of all enjoyments for Aja who was never allured by any other source (VIII. 69). As a matter of fact, Aja's death was expedited by this sad and untimely demise of his beloved queen, for the message of wisdom coming from his preceptor to console him in different ways on this occasion could not find a footing in Aja's grief-stricken heart. The poet writes:
तस्य प्रसह्य हृदयं किल शोकशङ्कः प्लक्षप्ररोह इव सौधतलं विभेद ।
प्राणान्तहेतुमपि तं भिषजामसाध्यं लाभं प्रियानुगमने त्वरया स मेने ।।
Sorrow's dart, they say, forcibly broke his heart, as a shoot of the fig-tree does the palace top; and in his eagerness to join his beloved, he considered even that cause of the end of his life, which physicians could not cure, as a gain.
- Canto VIII. 93
It is difficult to imagine a better picture of conjugal love and harmony than that of Aja and his beloved queen, Indumati.
Regarding this canto a commentator has the following to
This Canto is probably the best and the most widely read of all the cantos in RaghuvamÅa... The lamentation of Aja stands unrivalled in the simplicity of language and depth of pathos..There is almost an absence of any studied effort on the part of the poet to produce any word effect, and the flow of language is unimpeded and natural. Altogether this canto clearly reveals Kalidasa at his best.29
* * *
In Raghuvamśam, Rāmā stands before us as a colossal figure, in whom the lofty qualities of the descendants of the solar race have reached their culmination. He is the epitome of dharma, it is rightly said, a model for others to follow, in whom heroism, harmony, and illumination, all these virtues, find their best manifestation.
In the Raghuvamśam, Canto X, in the very beginning, the poet mentions how Lord Visnu, whom the gods, tortured by the tyranny of Rāvana, approached for a respite, promised to them that he would take birth as Daśaratha's son, specifically for this purpose, and would destroy Rāvana. By the time when Raghuvamśa was composed, it must have been a confirmed belief, that Rāma was an avatāra or incarnation of Lord Visnu, although it is also a fact that the human qualities and virtues of Rāma were never lost sight of. In the original Rāmāyana, composed by the Ādikavi Vālmīki, although there are some references to Rāma being Visnu's incarnation, the emphasis from the very beginning is on Rāma as the best of all human beings. Vālmīki asks Nārada if there is any one in the contemporary world who is endowed with the best of human virtues enumerated one by one by Vālmikī himself, and the reply comes forthwith from Nārada that certainly there is one such model of a man, Rāma by name, born to the Iksvāku dynasty, who fulfils the criteria specified by the poet, and possesses all those virtues that are indeed very rare.30
Now coming to Raghuvamśam, we find that the virtue of equanimity has been highlighted in Rāma by the poet, which speaks highly of his illumined mind. Regarding Rāma's exploits and valour there cannot be any second opinion, of course, as is evident from his slaying of Tātakā at an early age under the guidance of the sage Viśwāmitra and his heroic exploits with Śiva's bow in Mithila where he won in marriage, Janakanandini,
the daughter of the illustrious king, janaka,through has prowess.
kālidāsa has very aptly drawn our attention to this fact:
कौशिकेन स किल क्षितीः वरो राममध्यरविघाततशान्तये ।
काकपक्षधरमेत्य याचितरतेजसा हि न वयः समीक्ष्यते ।।
While Rāma was (still) wearing a boy's dark curls, there came Kausika to beg him from the King to quell disturbance in his sacrifice. For in the high-spirited (heroes) age is not regarded.
— Canto XI. 1
This is sufficient to indicate the valour of Rāma manifested even in his early age. But his illumined spirit was no less manifest in his youth when his coronation ceremony was first announced and subsequently cancelled. He had to forsake the kingdom out of respect for the earlier vow of his revered father to grant two boons to KaikeyÄ«, the mother of Bharata. It was KaikeyÄ« who asked for the banishment of Rāma to the forest for fourteen years and the kingdom for Bharata instead. Kālidāsa points out that the people of Ayodhya amazingly noted a rare equanimity on Rāma's face when first he wore the auspicious silken robes for coronation and then later put on the bark garments for going to the forest in order to fulfill the vow made by his revered father, Dasaratha:
दधतो मङ्गलक्षौमे बसानस्य च वल्कले ।
ददृशुर्विस्मितास्तस्य मुखरागं समं जनाः ।।
"Amazed, the people remarked his unchanging aspect, both when he wore the holy silken robes and when the bark dress."
— Canto XII. 8
An unparalleled and unique illumination maintaining a rare balance at the advent of prosperity followed by dire adversity — naturally remind us of the characteristics of a sthitaprajña (one whose intellect is unruffled amidst changes) in our hoary tradition, as is envisaged in the Bhagavadgita.31 No wonder that such an ideal personality should find a firm footing in the heart of every good man. This is what is suggested by the poet in the next stanza, where Kalidasa points out that:
स सीतालक्ष्मणसखः सत्यादगुरुमलोपयन् ।
विवेश दण्डकारण्यं प्रत्येकं च सतां मनः ।।
sa Sītā Laksmanasakhah satyādgurumalopayan
viveśa dandkāranyam pratyekam ca satām manah
With Laksmana and Sitā for companions, helping his revered father not to deviate from truth, [Rāma] he entered the Dandaka forest, and the heart of every good man.
— Canto XII. 9
Coming to the heroic exploits of Rāma at Dandaka forest, when he was attacked by Khara and other demons, after the insult extended to Surpanakhā, Rāvana's sister, on account of her becoming furious at being rejected by both Rāma and Laksmana in her lustful advances, we find the description of the poet in this regard as:
दधतो मङ्गलक्षौमे बसानस्य च वल्कले ।
ददृशुर्विस्मितास्तस्य मुखरागं समं जनाः ।।
True, Rāma was alone while the demons numbered thousands; yet in the fight they saw him equal to their own
— Canto XII. 45
This implies that Rāma was so swift in his movements that he seemed to be opposite every one of them or he appeared to them as having assumed so many varieties of forms. Such was Rama's prowess in the battle field, which reached its climax in his direct fight with Rāvana, the great king of Lankā. The foe in this case was not an ordinary warrior; he had conquered the world's guardians, had worshipped Lord Śiva by making an offering of his heads, and had also poised aloft the Kailāsa mountain. It is therefore appropriate that Rāma should highly esteem his foe because of his extraordinary status. The poet describes:
That fight between Rāma and Rāvana, in which after a long time their valour found scope for their mutual encounter, seemed not in vain.
— Canto XII. 87
Rama's Love for SIta and for Nature,
Sītā was a woman of rare beauty and character, and without a reference to her the Rāmāyana cannot even be conceived of.
As is evident from the poet's description in Canto XIII, Rama's romanticism is manifested after the battle with his great foe, Ravana, is over, and he is on his way back to Ayodhyā in Puspaka (the aerial car) along with Sītā. We find, in Kālidāsa's description, Rāma, as being endowed with an aesthetic and poetic appreciation of harmony and beauty, both external and internal. Rāma's entire life-time is, of course, well-known for his emphasis on harmonious living governed by the idea of dharma which gave him the impetus to forsake with equanimity the kingdom even on the eve of his coronation as King of Ayodhyā, but it is also noteworthy that Rāma's emphasis on harmony is no less visible in his appreciation of the beauty of Nature as well as the beauty of his
wife, Sītā, an epithome of the best womanly virtues.
Kālidāsa describes in the following stanza from Raghuvamśam, XIII. 15., where Rāma points out to Sītā, who is seated with him in the Puspaka, the rare beauty of the sea-shore abounding in the dark Tamāla and palm trees. The ocean looks from afar like an iron wheel, and the dark shore-line as a streak of rust gathered along with the edge of that wheel. Very beautiful imagery, indeed, which shows the rare beauty of the slender shore-line, blue-hued because of Tamāla and Palm-forests. In the next verse )XIII.16), Rāma was flying over a region full of Ketaka plants in blossom and the pollen of the flowers had been wafted by the breeze onto Sita's face. Rama gallantly remarks:
वेलानिलः केतकरेणुभिग्ने संभावयत्याननमायनाक्षि ।
मामक्षमं मण्डनकालहानेर्वेत्तीव विम्वाधग्वद्भुतृष्णम् ।।
O long-eyed One, the breeze from the shore beautifies thy face with the dust of the Ketaka, as if it knows how I, in my longing to taste thy bimba like lips, am impatient of the loss of time that decoration may take.
- Canto XIII. 16
Let us cite here some other beautiful descriptions of this ideal couple, given by the great poet, which are contrary to the modern impression in some quarters that Rāma was perhaps not an ideal husband and the image of Sītā represented as a mere weakling weeping under the Aśoka tree in Lankā. Take the verse 20 in Canto XIII, where Rāma displays how sensitive he is about the mid-day sun afflicting his beloved whose beautiful face is perspiring under the scorching heat.
असौ महेन्द्रद्विपदानगन्धिस्त्रिमार्गगावीचिविमर्दशीतः ।
आकाशवायुर्दिनयौवनोत्थानाचामति स्वेदलवान्मुखं ते ।।
This breeze from heaven, scented with the ichor of great Indra's elephant, and cooled by contact with the waves of the triple-streamed Ganges, wipes from thy brows those drops that mid-day heat has raised.
What a beautiful scene between an ideal lover and his beloved, Rāma and Sītā! Again take the description of Rāma recalling before Sītā, their stay in Panchavatī:
एपा त्वया पेशलमध्ययापि घटाम्बुसंवर्धितवालचूना ।
आनन्दयत्युन्मुखकृष्णसारा दृष्टा चिगत्पञ्चवटी मना मे ।।
अत्रानुगोदं मृगयानिवृत्तग्तरंगवातेन विनीतखेदः ।
रहस्त्वदुत्पग्निपण्णमूर्धा स्मरामि वानीरगृहेषु गुप्तः ।।
This Pancavatī, where thou, though slender-waisted, didst rear the young mango with water poured from a jar, and where the black antelopes have raised their heads, gives delight to my mind as I see it after a long time. I recall how, returning from chase by Godāvari's stream, I rested my head in thy lap and slept in the privacy of the bower of reeds, while the breezes from the waves removed my fatigue."
— Canto XIII.34-35
Rāma enjoying a sound sleep in Pancavatī after completing his chase in the lap of Sītā in privacy and speaking about the same in retrospect, on their way back to Ayodhyā in the Puspaka (the aerial car) is a very beautiful episode. It speaks of an uninterrupted mutual love for each other expressive of perfect harmony in an otherwise disturbed conjugal life of Rāma and Sītā both on account of sudden banishment from Ayodhyā to the forest and also because of abduction of Sītā by Rāvana.
The same perfect rapport between each other becomes evident when Rāma is narrating to Sītā, on his return journey, about
is deeply felt misery near the Mālyavān mountain range when he was rendered bereft of her company, on her abduction by Rāvana. Rāma points out from the aerial car the sky-kissing peak of Malyavanta hills, and tells Sītā about his pathetic condition in her absence as follows:
सैषा स्थली यत्र विचिन्चता त्वां भष्टं मया नूपुरमेकमुव्यम् ।
अदृश्यत त्वच्चरणारविन्दविलेषदुःखादिव कदमीनम् ।।
त्वं रक्षसा भीर यतोऽपनीता तं मार्गमताः कृपया लता मे ।
अदर्शयन्वक्तुमशक्नुवत्यः शाखाभिरावर्जितपल्लवाभिः ।।
मृग्यश्च दर्भाङ्कुरनिव्यपेक्षास्तवागतिज्ञं समवोधयन्माम् ।
व्यापारयन्त्यो दिशि दक्षिणस्यामुत्पक्ष्मराजीनि विलोचनानि ।।
एतद्गिरेर्माल्यवतः पुरस्तादाविर्भवत्यम्वरलेखि शुङ्गम् ।
नवं पयो यत्र धनैर्मया च त्वद्विपयोगाश्रु समं विसृष्टम् ।।
गन्धश्च धाराहतपल्चलानां कादम्बमर्धोद्गतकेसरं च ।
स्निग्धाश्च केका शिखिनां वभूवुर्यस्मिन्नसह्यानि विना त्वया मे ।।
पूर्वानुभूतं स्मरता च यत्र कम्पोत्तरं भी तवोपगूढम् ।
गुहाविसारीण्यतिवाहितानि मया कथंचिदघनगर्जितानि ।।
आसारसिक्तक्षितिवाप्पयोगान्मामक्षिणोद्यत्र विभिन्नकोशैः ।
विडम्ब्यमाना नवकन्दलैस्ते विवाहधूमारुणलोचनश्रीः ।।
अत्रावियुक्तानि रथाङ्गनाम्नामन्योन्यदत्तोत्पलकेसराणि ।
द्वन्द्वानि दूरान्तरवर्तिना ते मया पिये सस्पृहमीक्षितानि ।।
This is that glade, where in my search of thee, I found an anklet dropped, which seemed to be struck dumb with sorrow at separation from thy lotus-foot.
Ah, timid one! These creepers unable to speak, yet pitying, showed me the path, by which the Rakshasa had borne thee, with their branches the leaves of which were bent. The deer too, neglecting the sprouts of Darbha grass, taught me, who knew not the way thou hadst gone, by directing their eyes, with their upturned lashes, in the southern direction.
Here before us appears the sky-kissing peak of Mālyavat, whereon the clouds dropped fresh rain and I tears, for loss of thee, at the same time.
There, reft of thee, the scent of puddles struck by rain-showers, the Kadamba flowers with filaments half-opened and the melodious tones of the peacock became unbearable to me.
0 timid one (bhīru), remembering thy embrace, accompanied by tremor, erstwhile enjoyed by me, I could scarce endure the rumble of clouds here resounding from its caves. Where the beauty of thy eyes, that were red by the smoke from the marriage-fire, as imitated by the fresh Kandali flowers whose buds were fully opened by contact with the vapours exhaled by the shower-drenched earth, afflicted me.
Here, my love, I fondly gazed on pairs of unseparated Cakravaka birds that gave to each other the filaments of lotus, while I stood so far removed from thee.
— Canto XIII. 23-29,31
Here Kālidāsa has described vividly the pathos of the separation of Rāma from Sītī and paints a picture of the happy and the ideally harmonious conjugal love of Rāma and Sītā in spite of their untimely separation from each other.
Was Sītā really "timid" after all, as the epithet "bhīru" indicates in the above stanza, or is it simply a term of endearment used by Rāma? It is my humble submission that the latter is the
truth in the present case, not the former; it is rather the deep love and protective instinct of Rāma that caused his beloved wife to behave timidly before him (and even when she was away from him) in order to elicit more of the intense love from her consort, whom she had followed to the forest out of sheer love, not out of compulsion.
The above interpretation seems to stand to reason when we find Rama using the term "candi" (the fierce one) also with the same fervour and sincerity in case of STta, when he finds:
करेण वातायनलम्वितेन स्पृष्टस्त्वया चण्डि कुतूहलिन्या ।
आमुञ्चतीवाभरणं द्वितीयमुदिभन्नविद्युलयो घनस्ते ।।
The cloud, touched by thy hand, stretched through the lattice in curiosity, O fierce one, seems to offer thee a second bracelet of the ring of lightning manifested from it.
— Canto XIII. 21
Here also the term "Candi" is a term of endearment; although it indicates here the dignity of Sīta to whom it is addressed. The entire episode here also speaks of Rāma's deeply caring attitude towards Sītāand also of Rāma's high degree of sensitivity to her exceptional beauty which is enhanced by her hand coming into contact with the cloud and lightning.
What is the most significant point, however, to note regarding Sita in her relationship to her most loving and caring consort is that she was not only physically attractive and the most befitting partner in her various love-plays with Rāma, she was also not a weakling or timid. She was really an ideal woman of strong character who rejected outright the unlawful and unethical advances of Rāvana, the undisputed hero of Lankā, for carnal pleasures with her. This theme was highlighted by the Ādikavi Vālmīki himself in his Rāmāyana, particularly in the Sundarakānda, and Kālidāsa in his highly suggestive style has referred to this theme also very
learly in half a stanza when Bharata meets and bows at the holy feet of Sītā, at the end of Canto XIII of Raghuvamśam.
My point is that she was not at all timid (bhīru) in any ordinary sense, not even when she is seen clinging to Rāma's lap at the threatening from Sūrpanakhā in Raghuvamśam XII.38, which only speaks of her unique personality in completely surrendering to the will of her Lord out of sheer love for him; even an expression of fear on the part of such a loving one can elicit the loveliest form of expression from her doting husband in extending his requisite loving protection. A significant description is given to us about Sīta, when the poet suggestively points out how Māruti i.e., Hanumān first saw her:
दृष्टा विचिन्वता तेन लङ्कायां राक्षमीवृता ।
जानकी विषवल्लीभिः परीतेव महापधिः ।।
Searching through Lankā, he found Sītā encircled by the demonesses, like the life-giving plant (mahausadhi) being clasped on all sides by poisonous creepers.
— Canto XII. 61
Here the implication is that Sita was not at all affected by or afraid of the demonesses in any way. As a matter of fact, the simile of mahausadhi or the life giving plant in Sītā's context reminds us of Vālmīkī Rāmāyana, Sundarakānda, where Rāvana is admonished by her, without any fear whatsoever in her mind, to follow the principles of sādhudharma (the principles of conduct which are followed by good men), vis à vis, Rāksasadharma (principles of the demons that take into account only their own typical self-interest at the cost of all others). Comparison of Sita with a life-giving plant amidst poisonous creepers in the form of demonesses by Kālidāsa naturally calls to the mind of the reader her astonishingly exemplary conduct, bereft of any fear whatso-
ever, in front of Rāvana in the Aśoka grove, as depicted in Vālmīki Ramayana.
Here it might be of interest to make a little excursion into the Vālmīki Rāmāyana, for an elaborate description of Sītī's spiritual strength before which Rāvana must have been flabbergasted in his encounter with her, which Kālidāsa has referred to in Raghuvamśam XIII.78, with great dexterity only in half a stanza in his inimitable style. Ravana tries to exert pressure on her in different ways. He even goes to the extent of speaking about svadharma (the principle of the Rāksasas) in justification of his most heinous crime of abduction as follows:
Svadharmo Rāksasam bhīru sarvadaiva na samśayah,
Gamanam vā parastrinām haranam sarhpramathya vā.32
What has Sītā got to say to such a shameless justification advanced with an apparent scholarly dignity by Rāvana in favour of his heinous conduct, which amounts to something like the Devil quoting the scriptures? She rejects Rāvana's justification outright, of course, but not by a mere fiat, but by sound reasoning. Sītī points out that svadharma, as envisaged by Rāvana, is not a sādhudharma (good conduct) and is therefore not worthy of being practised. Mark her words:
Sādhu dharmamaveksasva sādhu sādhuvratam cara,
Yathā tava tathānyesām raksya dāra niśācara.33
You, 0 Ravana, should follow the principles of good conduct, by protecting women of other races too as much as you are protective of women of your race.
What is most important for Sītā is dharma that respects the dignity of others as much as it respects one's own (Yathā tava tathānyesām,— these words are highly suggestive). Justice can be ensured only if an equal treatment is meted out to people according to their deserts, irrespective of the situation of belonging
to one's own clan or to others, which is irrespective of caste, creed, or birth in a particular race, etc. The concept of fairness, as Rawls34 has pointed out,is fundamental to justice. And this idea of fairness is inherent in the notion of sādhudharma, as envisaged by Sīta while advising Rāvana in the most uncongenial circumstance. Sītā's point was that women of an alien race also ought to be protected by Rāvana, the king of kings, no less than his own women. The implication of this is important and far-reaching. Even in those days, Sītā was single handedly fighting both rationally and ethically and was pleading for women's rights, irrespective of their caste, creed or race before Rāvana, the most powerful king of the time, on the grounds of a general principle of conduct which she designated assādhudharma. This is how Sītā with an astounding sensibility for high moral principles met Rāvana's argument in support of svadharma, which was really an argument in favour of adharma, in the Aśoka grove where she was imprisoned by him. It is still more astounding how she conducts herself in the presence of the great abductor, Rāvana. I will draw the attention of the serious students of Rāmāyana only to two different lines in the same context:
Tmamantaratah krtivā pratyuvāca śucismitā
Rāvanam prsthatah krtva bhūyo vacanamabravīt."
A small blade of grass made to serve as a screen at times, and at other times talking with Rāvana with her back towards him, these were the strategies adopted by her to avoid Rāvana the great, who was so very despicable from her point of view. This speaks of the unusual dignity of Sītā in face of adversity. Her aversion and indifference for the abductor in spite of all his prosperity, wealth and power are evident from the above lines. She was no doubt distressed because of her separation from Rama and yet she was mentally perfectly alert. Spiritual strength of an unusual variety and depth should tell on, rather shatter,
the nerves of anyone who has deviated from the righteous path, and this is what really happened to the great Rāvana who had degraded himself to the lowliest level by abducting the wife of another person during his absence.
Sītā's unusual strength of character and her absolute faith in herself were manifest also at the time when she was asked by Rama to prove her chastity through the fire-ordeal in Lanka in front of all present including Hanuman.
Sītā did not accept her fate and even the orders of Rāmā lying down with a supine submissiveness, as is most unfortunately supposed by many. The highest dharma for her, however, it should be noted, consisted in thinking good of and doing good to her husband who was her all in all and was himself an incarnation of dharma.
Kālidāsa gives expression to the same idea of the spiritual strength of character in Sītā in his typically suggestive style as follows:
लङ्केश्वरप्रणतिभङ्गदृढव्रतं त -
द्वन्द्यं युगं चरणयोर्जनकात्मजायाः ।
ज्येष्ठानुवृत्तिजटिलं च शिरोऽस्य साधो -
रन्योन्यपावनमभूदुभयं समेत्य ।।
That adorable pair of Sītā's feet, that had kept the rigid vow of repudiating the supplications of Lankā's Lord, and the head of this noble (brother) whose locks were matted together from his adopting the way of life embraced by his elder brother, then coming together, sanctified each by the other.
- canto XIII. 78
The adorable pair of Sītā's feet, it is noteworthy, had repudiated the supplications of Lankā's Lord, Rāvana, such was the nature of her firmness in continuing with an unbreakable vow.
On the other hand, noble Bharata's vow was also no less great, for his locks were matted together because of his adoption of the way of life of his illustrious elder brother. So the poet surmises that when one came in contact with the other (i.e., when noble Bharata's head bowed at the holy feet of Sītā on her return from Lankā), they mutually sanctified each other. What a great revelation indeed, a revelation made available to the readers only because of the unusual intuitive talent of Kālidāsa which could give a photographic impression, as it were, of this unique event.
When we come to Canto XIV, we find Rāma's sterling character glowing in dazzling light, as it were, when he meets mother Kaikeyī after his return to Ayodhya (a unique meeting, surely):
कृताञ्जलिस्तत्र यदम्व सत्यान्नाभव्यत ग्वर्गफलादगुरुर्नः ।
तच्चिन्त्यमानं सुकृतं तवेति जहार लज्जां भरतस्य मातुः ।।
Then with hands clasped together, he soothed KaikeyÄ«'s shame saying, 'Mother, it is due to thy merit, that our father did not swerve from truth, that leads to heaven, if only one thinks (rightly) about it.
— Canto XIV. 16
Then with hands clasped together, he soothed Kaikeyī's shame saying, 'Mother, it is due to thy merit, that our father did not swerve from truth, that leads to heaven, if only one thinks (rightly) about it.
— Canto XIV. 16
What a high compliment paid to Kaikeyī, anticipating her embarrassment on meeting Rāma after his return! This is certainly the sign of a perfect hero that Rāma was, and a genuine effort on his part not to put even his enemy in an embarrassing situation. Here it may also be regarded as a conscious effort on the part of Rāma to bring about harmony in the life and thoughts of mother Kaikeyī and through her to bring about concord in the entire household too. Sītā, almost simultaneously, begs apology to her two widowed mothers-in-law; by announcing her name, she bows down to them and says:
Here I am, Sītā, destitute of all auspiciousness, a source of trouble to my husband.
Immediately by this she wins the hearts of her mothers-in-law who acknowledge her merit on the other hand by pointing out that her spotless conduct and life alone had brought her Lord and his younger brother safely back through great ordeals in the forest. Here again, there is a restoration of peace and concord in the household both on account of Sītā's spotless character and also because of her genuine modesty expressed in front of her mothers-in-law after her return. With their spotless conduct and exemplary character, Rāma and Sītā were a unique couple indeed!
Regarding Rāma's ideal type of dealing with all his widowed mothers, the poet has this to say: On account of his intrinsically loving disposition, Rama paid equal regard to all his mothers, as the leader of the heavenly army i.e., Kartikeya had paid equal regard to all his six mothers (Krttikas).
तेनार्थवॉल्लोभपराङ्मुखेन तेन घ्नता विघ्नभयं क्रियावान् ।
तेनास लोकः पितृमान्विनेत्रा तेनैव शोकापनुदेन पुत्री ।।
As he was free from avarice, his subjects became prosperous; as he dispelled their fear of obstacles, they performed their religious rites, as he corrected them, they had in him a father; and as he smoothed away their grief, they had in him a son as well.
— Canto XIV. 23
Now, the prosperity of Ayodhyā on all sides described by thooet thooet during Rāmā Rajya i.e. Rāma's rule needs to be noted too 5ays the poet:
तस्यै प्रतिश्रुत्य रघुप्रवीरस्तदीप्सितं पार्श्वचरानुयातः ।
आलोकयिष्यन्मुदितामयोध्यां पासादमभंलिहमारुरोह ।।
ऋद्वापणराजपथं स पश्यन्चिगाह्यमनां सरयूं च नौभिः ।
विलासिभिश्चाध्युपितानि पौरैः पुरोपकण्ठोपवनानि रेमे ।।
Followed by his attendants, the mighty warrior of Raghu's race went to the top of his sky-soaring palace in order to have a look at the delighted Ayodhyā. He was delighted to see Ayodhyā highway lined with rich shops, the Sarayu ploughed by boats and the parks at the skirts of the town thronged with happy citizens of both the sexes.
- Canto XIV. 30
Sita's banishment by Rama
The most pathetic and unfortunate episode in the Raghuvarhśam occurs where there is a description of Rāma hearing with great concern that the people of Ayodhyā were all praise for him except for the fact that he had accepted the Queen Sītā, although she had lived in the palace of the Rāksasa Rāvana for sometime. For the people of Ayodhyā, this was an unpardonable sin on the part of Rāma. Naturally, on hearing this slanderous report, —
कलत्रनिन्दागुरुणा किलैवमभ्याहतं कीर्तिविपर्ययेण ।
अयोधनेनाय इवाभितप्तं वैदेहिवन्धोर्हदयं विदद्रे ।
The heart of Vaidehi's consort (Rāma), was as if smitten by that slanderous report, imputing foul disgrace to his wife and therefore unbearable, and broke down like heated iron when beaten with a sledge-hammer.
— Canto XIV. 33
Although initially Rāma had to face a dilemma, unable to decide what to do, finally he resolved to banish Sītā, though he was sure of his wife's innocence, as he was convinced that the slander could not be wiped off by any other means, and the glory of the solar race had to be valued more than one's own body and object of sense. It was Laksmana who obediently carried out Rāma's orders, and started on his mission to leave Sītā near Vālmīki's hermitage.
One thing that seems to many quite inexplicable, however, is as to why this final decision of Rāma was kept hidden from his faithful and beloved wife, Sītā, and why Laksmana was asked to leave his respected sister-in-law near Vāmīki's hermitage under the pretext of an excursion to see the penance-groves for which Sītā had expressed her longing before her husband. Was it necessary to adopt a course of camouflage in case of a faithful wife like Sītā? But, then why was this course adopted by Rāma, the ideal husband and also an ideal king? On the other hand, does it not manifest extreme restraint on the part of Rāma? Does it not indicate the exemplary modesty of the husband in restraining himself from communicating to his beloved wife, since it was bound to be unbearable to speak something that was bitterest in his entire life? This can perhaps best be understood by one who has loved most deeply and yet required to do in regard to the object of love something most regrettable but unavoidable on account of the demands of public responsibility that one is required to discharge.
Rāma certainly wanted to prove himself before his subjects to be an ideal king who was not insensitive to calumny; perhaps, he wanted to set a typical model for all his subjects to follow, who would no longer dare to ignore the ideal conduct meant for them in their daily life too. When Laksmana informed him about the successful execution of the duty assigned to him for banishing Sītā in the forest, the poet writes about the natural reaction of Rāma to this most unbearable news for him as follows:
वभूव रामः सहसा सवाप्पस्तुषारवर्षीव सहस्यचन्द्रः ।
कौलीनभीतेन गृहान्निता न तेन वैदेहगुता मनस्तः ।।
Suddenly Rāma shed profuse tears, as the moon in Pausa (winter season) showers down dew; for on account of the scandal he had cast his beloved Sītā from his home, but not from his mind.
- Canto XIV. 84
This speaks greatly of Rāma's deep feelings of tenderness towards his beloved wife and of the profusion of tears that he shed and also of the fact that Sītā was still so very dear to his heart, although cast away from home on account of the scandal in her name. Sītā was in dire distress after the news of her banishment was suddenly communicated to her in the forest by Laksmana himself; let us see what she says to Laksmana at that point:
श्वश्रूजनं सर्वमनुक्रमेण विज्ञापय प्रापितमत्प्रणामः
प्रजानिषेकं मयि वर्तमानं सूनोरनुध्यायत चेतसेति ।।
वाच्यस्त्वया मद्वचनात्स राजा वह्नौ विशुद्धामपि यत्समक्षम् ।
मां लोकवादश्रवणादहासीः श्रुतस्य किं तत्सदृशं कुलस्य ।।
Request the mothers-in-law, greeting them from me in due order: — "Pray in your hearts for your son's progeny that I bear in my womb.' Next, to the King convey this message from me: does it beseem thy noble race, that thou forsak-est me now, at breath of scandal, although my purity was proved in fire in thy very presence?
— Canto XIV. 60-61
I don't think that there could be an adequately satisfactory reply to this question raised by Sītā expressed in her dire distress. Finally, of course, she was reconciled to her fate, not because she was a weakling, but again because of her deep love for Rāma, for
she said in the next moment:
कल्याणबुद्धेरथवा तवायं न कामचारो मयि शकनीयः ।
Or rather it was no willing act of thine, towards me, since thou art so benevolent in thy disposition...
— Canto XIV. 62
This speaks of her illumined mind in the face of adversity. And then —
किं वा तवात्यन्तवियोगमोघे कुर्यामुपेक्षां हतजीवितेऽस्मिन् ।
स्याद्रक्षणीयं यदि मे न तेजस्त्वदीयमन्तर्गतमन्तरायः ।।
I would have no longer borne this accursed life, all profitless to me through endless separation from thee, had not thy seed, that I bear in my womb, and that must be preserved, proved an obstacle
- Canto XIV. 65
She decides then and there to take recourse to penance (tapas) after giving birth to the progeny of Rāma, so that in the next life, she may have Rāma again for her husband but will never be separated from him. What depth of love indeed!
Now let us see what Sage Vālmīki has to say about Sītā's banishment by Rāma in Raghuvamśam, after his meeting with Sita near his hermitage. Kālidāsa as a matter of fact displays his own deep feelings in this regard, it seems, through Vālmīki who is made to express the following:
By holy intuition I know that thou art abandoned by thy husband who was agitated by a false scandal: grieve not then, O Princess of Videha; thou hast come to thy father's
home in a different country. I acknowledge Rāma's greatness in view of the fact that he has uprooted Rāvana who was a thorn to the three worlds, he has also been always true to his vow, and his character is free from any blemish and yet I am sorrowful for his cruel dealings with you without any reason whatsoever.
— Canto XIV. 72-73
Sītā rather comes out with greater glory in this second ordeal of her banishment much more than when she went through her first fire-ordeal in the presence of Rāma in Lankā. Rāma's nobility and greatness in remaining faithful to his beloved wife till the end in spite of all this cannot be undermined or under-estimated in any way, for he never accepted another woman as his bride in the absence of Sītā and kept an effigy of Sītā on his side for fulfilling the requirements of sacrificial performances. (XIV.87). Rāma was certainly a great king and a faithful husband, too, but in my opinion, the balance would be slightly tilted in favour of Sītā who is glorious like no one else in the Raghuvamśam.
But at the same time Rāma was both an ideal king and also a loving husband. It is true that he was a loving and protective husband for his wife, Sītā, but unfortunately he had to face a dilemma when he heard of the scandalous report about his faithful wife, and did not know what to do. Finally, he decided in favour of banishing his pregnant and faithful wife to the forest. Calumny was the only ground of Sītā's banishment.
राजर्पिवंशस्य रविप्रसूतेरृपस्थितः पश्यत कीदृशोऽयम् ।
मत्तः सदाचारशुचेः कलङ्कः पयोदवातादिव दर्पणस्य ।।
पौरेपु सोऽहं बहुलीभवन्तमपां तरङ्गेष्विव तैलविन्दुम् ।
सोढुं न तत्पूर्वमवर्णमीशे आलानिकं स्थानणुमिव द्विपेन्द्रः ।।
अवैमि चैनामनघेति किंतु लोकापवादो वलवान्मतो मे ।
छाया हि भूमे शशिनो मलत्चेनारोपिता शुद्धिमतः प्रजाभिः ।।
Behold, how dark a blot my act has brought on all the Sun-descended race, so flawless in its virtue — stock of saintly Kings — as a cloud-bearing breeze stains a mirror. I cannot bear this slander, the first of its kind, spreading wide among my folk, like a drop of oil on waves of water, even as a mighty elephant hates the post to which he is tied."
I know that she is innocent, and yet public opinion, I hold, prevails: Earth's shadow cast across the spotless Moon is held by vulgar minds to be a stain on her.
— Canto XIV. 37-38, 40
Rāma went though a really difficult ordeal in this case, and his greatness both as a faithful husband and as an ideal king remained intact in so far as he decided not to take another woman as his spouse in place of Sītā and also kept an effigy of Sītā by his side, as already referred to, while performing sacrifice, thus displaying his unflinching devotion to his wife of spotless character. Sītā, it is to be noted, took it as a matter of great consolation for herself and somehow bore the grief of unbearable separation from her beloved husband, on learning about this from different sources at the hermitage of Vālmīki (Canto XIV. 87). However, all the same, the entire episode shows Rāma as king and as husband torn between two most difficult alternatives. And this existential problem for Rāma, was indeed a hard knot to cut.
After Sītā gave birth to her two sons in the hermitage, Kuśa and Lava by name, her sons got adequate training in the hermitage under the guidance of the sage Vālmīki himself, and became well-versed and well-trained in singing the Rāmāyana composed by Vālmīki himself. They are also said to have given their performance before Lord Rāmā and his brothers. Then Rāma, being
very much impressed by their singing and on learning about Vālmīki being both the composer of Rāmayāna and the music teacher of Kuśa and Lava both, went to the sage Vālmīki along with his brothers. Here Rāma was asked by Vālmīki himself to accept Sītā, after introducing his sons to him. But Rāma had the following to say in reply, and this is most unfortunate, for again, here, the public opinion holds sway in his mind. Rāma says:
तात शुद्धा समक्षं नः स्नुपा ते जातवेदसि ।
दौरात्म्यादक्षसरतां तु नावत्याः श्रदृधुः प्रजाः ।।
Sire, this your daughter (Sītā) has been purified in fire in our very presence, but because of the wickedness of the Rāksasa, the subjects here, did not put their faith in it.
-Canto XV. 72
Again, the demand was made on Sītā by Rāma himself on behalf of the subjects as follows:-
Let her convince them of her chastity, then I will accept her along with her sons, by your command.
-Canto XV. 73
This was indeed too much of a demand for Sītā. However, when the next day, Rāma arranged a meeting of his subjects and called Vālmīki to be present there, the sage ordered Sītā as follows:
Dear child, let the doubt be removed from the mind of the people, concerning your conduct, in the presence of your husband.
And here was the climax reached by Sītā in her life already
replete with ordeal after ordeal. Sītā had no other alternative now but to give up her life voluntarily after giving her last minute declaration as follows:
वाङ्मनःकर्मभिः पत्यौ व्यभिचागे यथा न मे ।
तथा विश्वंभरे देवि मामन्तर्धातुमर्हसि ।।
If there is no violation of duty from my side towards my husband whether in speech, thought or action, 0 divine Earth, the supporter of the universe, please conceal me in your bosom.
If there is no violation of duty from my side towards my husband whether in speech, thought or action, 0 divine Earth, the supporter of the universe, please conceal me in your bosom.
Sītā, to my mind, represents the ultimate victory of a woman of rare honour and dignity. She was well aware of the depth of Rāma's love for her, and it was really a strong protest of a highly dignified woman.
It is precisely because Sītā was "pure and chaste" beyond an iota of doubt and also because at the same time she was not a weakling or docile as she is made out to be in certain uninformed quarters, she invited her end in this way, without speaking a word to anyone, not even to her beloved Rāma, so that the world at large may perchance learn a fitting lesson from this regarding the excesses done to her by the willful public which had been so very unjust towards her. So, in my humble opinion, there was nothing strange, nothing unclear, about her final response, when she was not left with any other alternative. Devadhar has rightly pointed out in this context that "Kālidāsa's account of Sītā's disappearance tallies with that of Vālmīki's Rāmāyana, Uttarakānda".36 If Rāma was so very disturbed about his and the solar dynasty's honour being at stake, because of the scandalous reports from the public, it is no wonder that for an honourable lady of the stature of Sītā, it should be intolerable to undergo humiliating situation one after the other, finally ending with a public demand for a second fire-ordeal in front of the denizens of Ayodhyā before her
readmission into the royal household along with her children.
What an irony of fate, indeed, that the people felt ashamed at her departure, though they were the cause of her ordeal.
तस्थुस्तेऽ वाङ् मुखाः सर्वे फलिता इव शालयः ।।
The people, with-drawing their gaze from the path of her sight, stood with their face downwards, inclined like rice plants with the burden of fruits.
— Canto XV. 78
Neither Sītā nor Rāma should have tolerated such vagaries of the public mind which was already inclined to blame Sītā in spite of her obviously spotless character. Nothing less than a second fire-ordeal could have satisfied the public that was perhaps curious to see the earlier ordeal to be enacted once again before them. I am reminded here of the following observations of a famous existentialist thinker expressed in another context which seem to be somewhat relevant here in the context of the citizenry of Ayodhya vis-à-vis the great Sītā and Rāma towards whom it was so very intolerant beyond any reasonable explanation. "It is a fundamental truth of human nature", says Kierkeggard, "that man is incapable of remaining permanently on the heights, of continuing to admire anything. Human nature needs variety. Even in the most enthusiastic ages people have always liked to joke enviously about their superiors. That is perfectly in order and is entirely justifiable so long as after having laughed at the great they can once more look upon them with admiration; otherwise the game is not worth the candle".37 So strange, and yet so true!
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