IDLE SPORT AND TERRIBLE RESULT | RAMAYAN

 

22. IDLE SPORT AND TERRIBLE RESULT 


Dasaradha had been driven ruthlessly by circumstances to an action which not only broke his heart but made him hate himself and deprived him even of selfpity. The only way out of the dilemma of either breaking his plighted word or doing a great wrong to Rama would have been for the latter to disobey him and insist on his rights. But Rama placed his duty to his father high above all other things. And Rama was all the world to Sita and Lakshmana. So they had all gone together. 

To Dasaratha, agonising on his bed of pain in desolation and remorse, Kausalya spoke reproachful words. 

The stinging words in which Kausalya's sorrow found expression caused excruciating pain to Dasaratha, but she seemed to find some relief in giving vent to her feelings in this way. 

"Proud of having kept your word and happy in young Kaikeyi's approval and gratification, have you any thought for others? You have been my world and my god, my joy in this world and my hope for the next and you have forsaken me. My son, the light of my life, has been wrenched away from me and banished. I live here alone, old, helpless woman, without the love of my lord or the sight of my only son. Was ever a woman left more desolate? But you, are you not delighted with what you have done? It is enough for you that Kaikeyi and Bharata are happy. You need not entertain any fear that Rama will mar that happiness, even if he returned from the forest after fourteen years. He will not touch the kingdom once ruled by Bharata. The tiger does not touch the leavings of another animal's. Like a fish, eating its offspring, you have killed your own child." 

Touched to the quick, the King even in the intensity of his anguish turned to his wife with a humble prayer for forgiveness with clasped hands. 

"Have pity on me, Kausalya," he moaned. "You have been kind and forgiving even to strangers. Do have some compassion on your husband who has always loved and honored you and whose heart is broken by a sorrow which knows no remedy!" 

These piteous words and the sight of her husband in supplication and the memory of happier hours pierced the noble queen to the heart and she fell at his feet imploring forgiveness for unbecoming words forced out of her by grief. 

As the leaden hours crept slowly on, Dasaratha remembered something that had happened long ago and it aggravated the anguish of his heart. 

The King turned to Kausalya and said: "Are you still here, my dear? The fruit of one's action can never be escaped. I now endure the result of a great sin that I committed in the days that are gone. Men in their ignorance sometimes do great evils for the sake of some slight momentary pleasure. Then when the time comes, the price has to be paid. When I was young, I had the skill to use my bow against unseen targets aiming by sound only. For the pleasure of exercising this skill, I once killed an innocent man and committed a great sin. Listen, I shall relate to you that sad adventure. It was before you came to me. One night I went, out in my chariot to hunt on the banks of the Sarayu. It had been raining heavily and, from the mountainsides, the streams were running dyed with the rich colors of minerals and fresh soil. The birds were silent. The forest seemed asleep. I could take the aim by the ear and shoot, without seeing, a tiger or bear or other wild beast that might come to slake its thirst in the stream. I wanted to test this skill of mine. It was dense darkness. I waited for some wild animal to come. Then I heard a gurgling sound as of an elephant drinking. At once I aimed an arrow in the direction whence the sound came. Like a venomous serpent, swish went my dart and hit the object. But I was shocked to hear a human voice exclaim 'Alas! I am dead!' I heard the man cry again piteously, 'Who can be my enemy? Never have I done any harm to anyone. Who then could want to kill me thus as I was filling my pitcher with water? What could he gain by this? Why should anyone bear hate against one living his innocent hermit life in the forest? What is to happen to my old blind parents now, with none to look after them? O misery!' Horror-struck, I stood trembling in every limb. My bow and arrow slipped from my hands. I approached the place from where the voice came and I found a young ascetic lying on the ground with dishevelled hair, covered all over with blood and earth. Beside him lay an upturned pitcher. The look of his eyes was as fire. When he saw me, he cried, 'O Sinner that has killed me! Why did you aim your arrow at me that was taking water from the stream? My old blind parents are thirsty and are waiting for me in the ashrama, thinking that I would return with my pitcher filled. Why did you kill me? O God, my penances and my devotions have all gone to naught. My parents do not know that I lie here stricken and helpless. They will go on waiting for me and even if they knew it, what could they do, blind and helpless? Who are you? What! Are you not the King of Kosala? And so, you, the King, who should by right protect me, have slain me. Very well, O King, go yourself and tell them what you have done. Fall at their feet and beg for forgiveness. Else, their anger will reduce you to ashes. Go straight to the ashrama. Take that path there. Go at once and save yourself. But this arrow is a torture. Pull it out and relieve me of the pain before you go.' I knew that if I pulled out the arrow from his body, his pain would end indeed, but so would his life in a gush of blood. My hand refused to do the deed. For a while I stood, not knowing what to do. Then, the young ascetic said: 'Do not hesitate. Do end my pain. My mind is now clear and I have calmed myself. Boldly pull out the arrow and release my life.' Gently I pulled the arrow out. The young ascetic turned on the ground, heaved a sigh and, with his eyes fixed on me, breathed his last. It is this crime of mine that is now pursuing me. The agony of those blind parents who were deprived by me of their son has come now for me to endure." 





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