PARASURAMA'S Embarrassment | RAMAYAN

 

10. PARASURAMA'S DISCOMFITURE


Having thus safely handed back to Dasaratha at Mithila the princes entrusted to him in Ayodhya, and after attending the wedding celebrations, Viswamitra took leave of the two kings and went to Himalaya. In the story of Rama, Viswamitra has no further part. 

Viswamitra may be said to be the foundation of the grand temple of Rama's story. After Rama's wedding in Mithila, we do not see him again. It should be noted that characters that play a leading role in one canto of Valmiki almost fade out in subsequent cantos. Viswamitra who dominates the Bala Kanda does not appear again. Similarly, Kaikeyi and Guha are prominent only in Ayodhya Kanda. The same thing can be said of Bharata whom we do not come across in the chapters intervening between the Chitrakuta meeting and Rama's return to Ayodhya. 

The poet hardly brings Bharata before our eyes during the period of Rama's distress. The characters in Valmiki Ramayana (unlike those in the Mahabharata and in ordinary plays and novels) do not present themselves off and on. Critics should bear this general characteristic of Valmiki's epic in mind.

King Dasaratha returned to Ayodhya, accompanied by his retinue. On the way, there were bad omens and anxious Dasaratha asked Vasishtha what they portended. Vasishtha replied that there was no need to be alarmed, for though the birds in the air indicated approaching trouble, the animals on the land promised a happy consummation. 

As Dasaratha and Vasishtha were thus conversing, there broke out a great storm. Trees were uprooted; the earth quaked and clouds of dust went up and hid the sun and there was an all-enveloping darkness. Everyone was terror-struck. Soon they knew the reason for the strange phenomenon. There stood before them the awe-inspiring figure Parasurama, the sworn enemy of Kshatriyas, with a bow on one shoulder and a battle-axe on the other, and with an arrow shining like lightning in his hand. 

Terrible in appearance, with his matted locks gathered overhead, he looked like Rudra exulting in the destruction of Tripura. His face emitted flame-like radiance. The son of Sage Jamadagni struck terror among Kshatriyas, many generations of which he had annihilated. Wherever he went he was preceded by storm and earthquake. And the Kshatriya race trembled in fear. 

The Brahmanas in Dasaratha's retinue said to one another: "Because his father was killed by a king, Parasurama took a vow to destroy the Kshatriya race. We dared to hope that his vengeful wrath had been quenched in the blood of the innumerable kings he has slain. Has he again started his cruel campaign?" However, they honored him with the customary offering of water. 

After receiving it, Parasurama addressed himself to Rama: "Son of Dasaratha, I have heard of your prowess. I was somewhat surprised to learn that you strung the bow in King Janaka's court and that you drew the string till the bow broke. Here is my bow, equal in all respects to the one that you broke. This is the bow of Vishnu which was entrusted to my father. If you are able to string this bow, you will be worthy of my battle." 

Dasaratha was perturbed at this turn of events and he begged that his son Rama should be spared the trial. He said to Parasurama: "You are a Brahmana. We have heard that, satiated with your revenge, you have gone back to tapas as becomes your order, in pursuance of your plighted word to Indra, after giving away the earth you had conquered to Kashyapa. Is it proper that you should break your vow, and seek to injure a prince of tender years who has done you no wrong, and who is dearer to us than life?" 

Parasurama heard him unmoved without so much as looking at him, and addressed himself solely to Rama, as though the others did not exist: "Viswakarma originally made two exactly similar bows. One of them was given to Rudra and the other to Vishnu. This is the one given to Vishnu. What you are said to have strung and bent to the breaking point was Siva's bow. See if you can, string this bow of Vishnu; and if you do, it will be proof of your skill and strength and I will then honor you by fighting with you." 

Parasurama spoke in a loud and arrogant tone. To him Rama replied in courteous manner, yet in firm tones: "Son of Jamadagni! You have been vengeful because your father was killed by a king. I do not blame you for that. But you cannot put me down as you have humbled others. Please give me your bow." 

So saying, he took the bow and arrow from Parasurama. He strung the bow and setting the arrow to it, drew the string. Addressing Parasurama, he said with a smile: "This mighty Vaishnava arrow placed on the string cannot be put back idly. It must destroy something. Tell me, shall it destroy your powers of locomotion, or would you rather that it consumes the fruits of your tapas?" 

As the son of Dasaratha strung the bow of Vishnu, the glory on Parasurama's face faded, and he stood, no longer the warlike conqueror, but a self-subdued rishi, for the purpose of the Parasurama avatar was over. 

Parasurama said mildly to the Prince of Ayodhya: "I realise who you are. I am not sorry that you have quenched my arrogance. Let all my tapas go to you. But because of my promise to Kashyapa, I cannot remain in his domains and have therefore to hurry back to the Mahendra Mountains before the sunsets. Let me use my power of locomotion for this single thing. Subject to this, let the arrow which you have set to the bow consume all my power earned through tapas." 

So saying, Parasurama went in reverent circumambulation around the prince and departed. Ayodhya's citizens were overjoyed to bear that Dasaratha and the royal princes were returning to the capital. The city was festive with flowers and shone like the deva-loka. 

Rama and Sita lived happily in Ayodhya for twelve years. Rama had surrendered his heart to Sita. It was difficult for one to say whether their love grew because of their virtues or it was planted in their beauty of form. Their hearts communed even without speech. Sita, rejoicing in Rama's love, shone like Lakshmi in heaven. 

Long afterwards, when their forest-life began, Anasuya, the great sage Atri's holy wife, extolled Sita's love for Rama. 

And Sita answered: "How else could it be? Rama is a perfect being. His love for me equals mine for him. His affection is unchanging. Pure of heart, he has mastered the senses."





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