AYODHYA KĀNDA

         This is a very crucial sub-division of the epic. It is very thought-provoking as regards the wonderful way the fatal destiny of Rākshasā steered clear of the tremendous obstacles put in its way by the very, enemies of the Rākshasās ie., the men of course not with the intention of protecting them. Even the Dēvās were so anxious that they sent Nārada, the divine sage to Rāma and got from his the promise that he will fulfill his mission. This is the theme of Adhyātma Rāmāyana treating Rāma as God and aware of his divinity unlike Vālmeeki. Though the persons aiding the destiny suffered odium and were looked upon guilty for the time being, they turned out of the mere toys in the play destiny and demonstrated the superhuman strength of character of Rāma. With this view, it appeared as if Vālmeeki wrote a code of conduct for the humanity in general keeping Sri Rāma as the sole and only model. Instead of the somewhat vague epithets (as a catalogue) as previously, he now gives Rāma's character in explicit terms.

        Though Bharata and Satrughna were in their maternal grandfather's house far away from Ayōdhya and were shown all love and with every comfort, their heart and soul was with their old father and beloved brothers at home. Dasaratha also was thinking of his absent sons and was unhappy at their absence and was able to put up with it only by the loving services of Rāma to him. All his four sons (like Indra, Varuna etc.,) were like his four shoulders (instead of the normal two) and he was extremely fond of them (just as one loves all his shoulders). Yet he loved Rāma most and doted on him more for his virtues. Also Rāma was Vishnu come down to earth for the sake of Rāvana. Koūsalya was as happy with Rāma as her son, as Aditi, the great mother of Gods with her son Indra.

        Rāma was free from anger or any ill-will, he was serene always, soft-spoken, never replied even when harshly spoken to, always cherished even a small good turn to him very noble and forgot even hundred wrongs done to him even in the midst of archery practice he used to find time, to be in the midst of the wise the holy and the experienced old persons, to know about the right conduct, customs and traditions and philosophy etc., he was immaculate and wise, of sweet speech never spoke of unpleasant things, so humble as to address first, the persons coming to him to make them feet at home in his royal presence, never thought of his supreme might and his heroic deeds, never spoke a lie, truth being his forte, always worshipped the elders, very affectionate, compassionate, free from anger, loved and pleased his subjects and treated them all equally, with out any discrimination, strictly observed the traditions of his family and was very strict about the duties of the rulers, as in his view, their strict observance and due performance would ensure swarga, was wise as Bruhaspati, austere and pure. Knew every shade of dharma, thoroughly conversant with all the past and present trends of all kinds in the society and ever engaged in the welfare of mankind, never strayed even by a hair's breadth from the path of absolute rectitude, it appeared as if he was the only most perfect human being ever born (लोके पुरुषसारंगः, साधुरेकोविनिमितः), heroic, most handsome, beyond compare on earth for all the supreme qualities of the head and heart, far above all like Brahma and over all the creation, a worthy son to a worthy father, the great Dasaratha of immortal fame, so endeared himself to his people, as if he was their exterior soul, even superior to his great father in archery. (भरताग्रजः) Vālmeeki uses this to suggest a near equal skill in Bharata, a dark horse in military might till the last part of the story - Uttara Kānda), the fountain head of all auspicious qualities, innocent and mild, of most righteous conduct, highly capable, very secretive, quite unruffled under any circumstances, had under his full control his joy and sorrow and anger but when roused to most righteous anger, he struck terror into the hearts of even the celestials, alert always to his faults, of single minded devotion, a man of great wisdom and caliber and a man of steady wisdom (स्थिरप्रज्ञः), magnificent, self-sacrificing (his very breath), in battle he was more than a match to Dēvās and Asurās, admired throughout the three worlds, impatience, like the great earth, in intellect like God Bruhaspati, like Indra in might, splendid in every way, like the Sun with all his rays, resembled in every way, the eight rulers of the world (दिक्पालकः) in short the Goddess of earth rejoiced to have such a husband to her (earth is symbolically treated as the queen-consort).

        Just two or three of these grand traits of character, are sufficient to make one a perfect gentle person and two or three more will turn one into a saint and when all these are to be found in one person, that person must have been the rarest of the rare persons ever born on earth, as the sage says in the 1st Sarga of the Bāla kānda (बहवो दुर्लभाशचैव). Further, that rarest gem of mankind was born in a super-natural way through Nector obtained from a unique yagna, conducted by the most, unique sage Rushyasringa. This is the pivotal point round which the whole of Rāmāyana turns though Vālmeeki had chosen to represent Rāma as a human being but without losing even a single chance to din and din into out ears that Rāma is Vishnu himself conditioned (of course voluntarily) in human coil ego-bound but always serviced by Yōga Māya Dēvi. Some critics (I cannot say ignorant of the spiritual cosmic laws and the pecular threat posed by Rāvana to the worlds) disregard them and treat Rāma as a human being (of course perfect), solely concerned with some hybrid (east and west combined) rules of poetics, regarding the purely and only imaginative poetry missing (to the point of blasphemy even) the mystic truths propounded by epic-poets (rishi-poets soaring on the wings of spirituality and not of mere poetic imagination) especially Bhagawān Vālmeeki and Bhagawān Vyāsa.

        These critics, admire Rāma because, though undoubtedly great, he jumps with joy like ourselves, weeps like us, abuses his wrong-doers similarly like a man of common clay, is misled as easily by wrong-advisors, becomes frantic at the loss of his wife, baptises her, perfectly innocent, with fire, even to the surprise of the most common humanity abandons her, even caste-conscious and administers justice with partiality at the dictates of his favoured community, a great war-monger like Parasurāma, but under the mask of Aswamēdha a symbiosis in such criticism of a admiration and stinking, unpardonable calumny. They eliminate his divinity and admire him as being their pot-companion so to say and rising to the great heights of human perfection an entirely un-Vālmeekian conception and even unpoetic. Almost all Shakesperian heroes are not men of straw, rising to great heights of fame. They are kings, leaders of the society, mighty commanders of army etc., from the beginning and are far apart from the run-of-the-mill humanity always. Without bothering myself about those hybrid and corrupting rules and models of criticism, I come to Rāma and his most identical counter-parts.

        One can easily imagine the unique strength of the unique evil posed by Rāvana and his mighty hordes of Rākshasās. He had the unique strength of the evil, being a great unique strength of the evil, be a great scion of the mightiest family of Titans (on his mothers side), who crossed swords with great Vishnu, in the first cosmic war. He had also tremendous strength of virtue, being a Scion (on his father's side) of the great line of Prajāpatis. He had also to his credit a great many virtues, provided they did not cross the path of his tāmasic ego. Further he acquired a terrific power through penance, capped by the unique boon from God Brahma. Thus dharma, rolling in dust, could only look to Lord Vishnu as its saviour, the other great Gods Brahma and Lord Siva being unable by themselves to control Rāvana, the former by his boons and the latter, by being a prisoner, so to say, in the worship room of Rāvana.

        Neither Kārtaveeryārjuna, the mightiest mortal, then, nor Vāli, the mightiest monkey, could face this evil. They could win a duel with him only. But they had to reckon with the mind-boggling power of the military machinery with the great powers of deceptive warfare etc., in a battle-confrontation, notwithstanding the great monkey-chief under Vāli or great kings following Kārthaveeryārjuna.

        That great mortal could only be Rāma and he alone inspiring greatmonkey-chiefs and no other human being. The mightiestmonkey-chiefs stood in awe of him as God. Rāma was born with the divine stuff and stood alone apart from all other morals, however great they might be. He was born with all types of excellence, moral, royal spiritual and dhārmic (रमो विग्रहवान् धर्मः) not a figure of speech, but a fact that the God of dharma incarnated as Rāma. All these settled on him and not acquired by him by discipline in the same way as a common man does to become perfect. As a matter of fact, where was the time for him for such common man's discipline, as he was barely sixteen years of age when he killed the great demoness Tātaka and was barely forty years of age when he led the campaign against Rāvana?

        Rāma is neither a Yōgi nor a saint. He descended from the highest peak of Godhood to become man, just like very few other like Jesus the anointed, Mahommed, the Prophet, Buddha, the enlightened (The light of Asia, Edwin Arnold) etc.

        In their case, the dividing line between their divinity and their human beingness is very thin but opaque. Their discipline is nothing but negotiating that small strip, just to put themselves in communion with the superior God (variously named God Vishnu, father in heaven, Allah etc.,) just to know the nature of their role on earth and how best to lead the erring humanity in the path of virtue consistent with the humanity they have chosen to live amidst. Being perfect themselvess and even an embodiment of perfection itself what more perfection have they to strive after? They isolated themselves from the society for a brief time, just to ponder over what the evil was up to by was of temptations, hostility indifference, sufferings, humiliation, tortures and even death. This is not discipline in common parlance to achieve perfection.

        Regarding Jesus, the poisonous life by Satan of the first parents (Adam and Eve) was ruining mankind according to his (Satan's) plan and he never afterwards bestirred himself personally. But coming to know that the son of God had come down to suck off his (Satan's) poison, Satan, for the second time (perhaps he confronted in person none before) met Jesus in the desert, to tempt him, corrupt him and wean him away from his mission. As for the prophet, even a spider realised that it was doing a service to a God-head and one far above a virtuous personality or a saint.

        Thus, Rāma, being of the same category and stuff must be interpreted in the same way his actions, words, behaviours etc., having the same authority and sanctity as Commandments, holy verses and vēdic Shikshāvali etc. His acts are acts of God and of impartial destiny. Small foibles (which the critics are hungering after) enhancing the beauty of a fine personality are mere made-up rules of poetics and have absolutely no relevance in understanding Rāma, our greatest idol for all times and the mysterious destiny etc. This is Vālmeeki's thought. Very significantly, the sage began his narration from the time of the proposed coronation of Rāma. He left Vālmeeki free to draw his own conclusions about Rāma. Vālmeeki from the divine inspiration from God Brahma, saw the perfect God-Hood (of course conditioned) of Rāma and wrote about the most supernatural birth of Rāma and similar exploits in Bāla kānda. Of course there were legends about his God-Hood but Vālmeeki verified them thoroughly by his inspiration. Or else Vālmeeki, without any detriment, could as well have omitted some small and trifling incidents, showing apparently Rāma in low profile. But Rāmāyana also speaks of the mysteries of the cosmic order the destiny, the great God Vishnu the great sustainer of the universe, looking after the welfare of both the mortals and perfectly balancing their interests and taking all the steps to prevent recurrence of the evil posed by Rāvana and his ilk and nipping it in the bud, if there was any such thing in the offing - all these and others from the warp and woof of Rāma's personality - some known to him and some not known to him, but guided by some kind of (not human) sixth sense. Any other view about Rāma seems to me like viewing the great Tāj Mahal or Chārminār with head bent down and looking from between the legs or like applying our pussy foot-rule to take the height of the highest mountain.

        King Dasaratha was extremely happy with such a dutiful son as Rāma serving him. But one day, he was jolted out of that blissful state, by some dark thoughts of despair assailing him. Rāma appeared as the fittest person to ascend the throne. He was nearest to his heart and the Idol of the people and he in turn, loved the people. He would make a far better king than Dasaratha himself. Rāma was far superior to all rulers, by his might and virtues and people would welcome him as a Rain-God. Further, Dasaratha was feeling the burden of kingship, on account of his rapidly ripening old age. Further he observed some evil omen swhich seemed to foreshadow some imminent tragedy to him. He very much despaired of seeing Rāma on the throne before he left for the celestial regions. He became even panicky and wanted to rush through the coronation of Rāma in consultation with the wise and elders. First king Dasaratha confided his wish and fears to his trusty and wise ministers. As fates would have it, they readily approved with one voice his choice of Rāma as his successor to the throne and also an immediate coronation ceremony.

        In my view, of all the poets, including Kālidās, Vālmeeki's thoughts are most opposite with reference to the context in the story. He never resorts to unnecessary flights of fancy.

        In Kamba Rāmāyana, great poets, in their poetic fervor consider logic etc., as of no consequence. After sixty thousand years Dasaratha, on one fine morning, looking into a mirror, was startled to see a patch of hair near his ears being white, as if Rāvana's sins had come to fruition and that white patch being never his ears whispered to him that he should abdicate his throne in favour of his great son Rāma and resort to hermitage life (with his pet wife Kaīkēyee in the third order of Hindu life especially with rulers of his Dynasty. Kaīkēyee on whom he relied as the sole prop in his forest-life, settled his project at the very threshold. Oddly enough the king sent invitations to the far-off kings and chieftains to attend the coronation. Logic says that his father-in-law (and thereby Bharata and Satrughna) must have got the invitations. By this oversight of the poet the noble Bharata (by not attending though invited) was put under a dark cloud. One sided view the poet crude to Kaīka a crude handle to play the dirty game.

        As regards Kālidās (Raghuvamsa), the same ideal is there of the patch of white hair near the ears (but Kālidās was many centuries before Kamba) and whispering the same thing (abdication) in the ears of the king, but in this case whispering for fear of Kaīkēyee (कैकेये शंकया). Thus both the ideas of the above poets and the style constitute a fine piece of poetry. But Vālmeeki carries off the palm. His version gives much food for thought and is most apt for the occasion and embraces and brilliantly suggests many aspects of the story. His ideas besides being grand poesy, is most imperial when he deals with the great wizard destiny. He imputes nothing vile or cunning to Dasaratha in the haste he displayed. There is no idea of the patch of white hair, as if the king had for the first time a mirror before him. Thousands of years back his hair was white and his fame was white, figuratively saying. The real mystery (of destiny) was that this curse was hibernating in him and in his seventh heaven of happiness, he completely forgot it, to be reminded of it by the omens only and not by old age or gray hair. A bolt from the blue may at any time, strike him. Hence his innocent haste, but a potentially mischievous one. Another mystery of destiny is that not a single soul, including Vasishta in the August assembly he summoned, mollified his fears of an impending evil nor suggested any propitiatory rites to keep the evil in abeyance, so that he could freely invite all his dear and near ie., his father-in-law and not important Bharata and Satrughna and do the coronation, leisurely because his ignoring his father-in-law for the second time (the first being at the marriage) was patently wrong and sinful. This is the destiny sought to be propounded by Vālmeeki or Vyāsa.

        Invitations were immediately sent to the neighbouring rulers. Neighbouring kings and chieftains responded immediately to the invitation in all pomp and splendour and were duly received by the king. People from the neighbouring towns and villages assembled at the palace. No invitation was sent to either Janaka or Kēkaya king since they could not attend the coronation at such short notice.

        Vālmeeki specifically mentions this omission unlike other great poets. Most significantly Janaka also was omitted. When both of them would attend the ceremony the coronation, the coronation-site would easily turn into a battle-ground or a furiously debating assembly. Janaka insisting on the usual rule of primogeniture and Kēkaya insisting on the pledge of Dasaratha at the time of the marriage of his daughter that he (Dasaratha) would give the throne to the son of Kaīkēyee. Herein lies the eminence of Vālmeeki. But in truth, if the coronation had run smoothly they would never have objected to Rāma being made the ruler in their absence. They would be very glad to hear that happy news afterwards. त्वरयाचानयामास, उशचात्तौश्रोष्यतः प्रियं". It is destiny that frowned upon the coronation of Rāma then and neither Kaīkēyee did nor her father would.

        The great consult (mocked at by destiny) began, the king Dasaratha presiding over it, like Indra over the great assemblage of Dēvās.