Festive Preparations | RAMAYAN

 

11. FESTIVE PREPARATIONS


RAMA and Sita spent twelve happy years in Ayodhya. But now the Lord and his consort in human form had to experience the hardships, sorrows and conflicts of life on earth. 

As Bhagavan himself explains: "Whatever avatar I assume, my play must go through the feelings and experiences appropriate to that incarnation." Who was the Prince of Ayodhya who through his body, life and experience, suffered the sorrows of mankind and saved the gods? The ever-present, allpervasive Being who rules the world from within and without. 

Kamban, the Tamil poet, begins the Ayodhya Kanda referring to this marvel of how the King of Kings allowed himself to suffer the cruel machinations of the hunchback maid-servant and of a stepmother which deprived him of the sceptre and banished birn to the forest and beyond the sea. 

Dasaratha loved all his, four sons and yet he had a special affection for Rama. And the latter deserved it by his royal qualities and adherence to dharma. Queen Kausalya, like Aditi, the mother of the gods, was proud that she had such a son as Rama. Valmiki has filled pages with the tale of Rama's virtues. The muni is never satiated drinking from the ocean of Rama's qualities. He describes Rama's gifts and graces sometimes directly, sometimes as seen and admired by others. Thus and in many other ways he dwells on the qualities that made Rama the ideal man. 

Rama's graceful frame and virile beauty, his strength, his courage, the purity of his heart, his perfect life, his compassion, sweetness of speech, his serenity, his deep wisdom and his states manship were admired by the people and made them eagerly look forward to his becoming king. 

And Dasaratha knew and rejoiced in this expectation. Hence, considering his old age, he wished to crown Rama as Yuvaraja and entrust him with the de facto rule of the kingdom. Informing his ministers of his desire, he had the Raja Sabha convened. Rishis and wise men, leaders of the city and kings from neighboring lands, attended the Raja Sabha. When all were seated, each in his appropriate place, Dasaratha rose and addressed them. 

His deep manly voice, like the sound of a trumpet or the roar of rain-bearing clouds, filled the great hall. A royal radiance shone from his face. His words were full of meaning and charmed all ears. 

"Like my ancestors, I have tended this kingdom as a mother cares for her child. I have worked unremittingly for the people, Now my body is old and infirm. I wish therefore to appoint my eldest son as Yuvaraja and transfer to him the burden of responsibility. Following the holy custom of my forefathers, I hope to spend the rest of my life in austerities in the forest. Rama is fully equal to the task of kingship. He is expert in administration and statecraft and he is unequalled in valor. I can transfer this trust of sovereignty to him without any anxiety and I hope that this honored assembly will permit me to do so." 

Shouts of joyous acclaim rose from the great assembly and with one voice the gathered princes and potables exclaimed: "So be it." 

The King spoke again: "You agree with my proposal but give no reason. This will not do. Let the wise men explain why they agree."

Then several speakers rose and explained Rama's virtues and fitness to rule. The King's heart was filled with joy to hear these praises of Rama. 

At last the whole assembly rose and said with one voice: "Let there be no delay. Let Rama be anointed Yuvaraja." 

The King answered that he was happy and would forthwith carry out their wishes. Then turning to Vasishtha, Vamadeva and the other holy men and guardians of the sacred rites, he said: "This is the auspicious month of Chaitra, the season when the trees in the forest are covered with flowers. Revered elders, make all preparations for the anointing of Rama." 

The assembly was glad to hear these prompt orders. As bidden by the King, Sumantra, the minister in charge of the household, went to fetch Rama. Rama, ignorant of all these happenings, came and stood before his father. 

Hearing of the decision to anoint him Yuvaraja, he humbly bowed acceptance, saying, "I am in duty bound to carry out your orders, whatever they be." 

Dasaratha blessed Rama and said: "You are a good prince beloved of the people. Let not your courtesy and your consideration flag but increase with your opportunities of doing good, and earn you enduring glory." And Rama returned to his dwelling. 

Hardly had Rama returned home when Sumantra called in haste and told him that his father wished to see him. Asked for the reason, Sumantra could not tell; he only knew he had been enjoined to fetch the prince at once. 

Rama thought: "The King must have taken counsel over the coronation ceremony and perhaps met with some difficulty. But whatever happens is for the best." Rama was not eager to assume authority, but looked on it as only a duty to be done. If the King wanted him to take it up, he was ready to do so. But if the King wanted him to give it up, he was equally willing. In this mood, Rama went to his father.





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