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«BOOK IV: RAMA-BHARATA-SAMBADA (The Meeting of the Princes) THE scene of this Book is laid at Chitra-kuta. Bharat returning from the kingdom of the ...»

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The Ramayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India

BOOK IV: RAMA-BHARATA-SAMBADA (The Meeting of the Princes)

THE scene of this Book is laid at Chitra-kuta. Bharat returning from the kingdom of the

Kaikeyas heard of his father's death and his brother's exile, and refused the throne which

had been reserved for him. He wandered through the woods and jungle to Chitra-kuta,

and implored Rama to return to Ayodhya and seat himself on the throne of his father. But

Rama had given his word, and would not withdraw from it.

Few passages in the Epic are more impressive than Rama's wise and kindly advice to Bharat on the duties of a ruler, and his firm refusal to Bharat's passionate appeal to seat himself on the throne. Equally touching is the lament of Queen Kausalya when she meets Sita in the dress of an anchorite in the forest.

But one of the most curious passages in the whole Epic is the speech of Jabali the Sceptic, who denied heaven and a world hereafter. In ancient India as in ancient Greece there were different schools of philosophers, some of them orthodox and some of them extremely heterodox, and the greatest latitude of free thought was permitted. In Jabali, the poet depicts a free-thinker of the broadest type. He ridicules the ideas of Duty and of Future Life with a force of reasoning which a Greek sophist and philosopher could not have surpassed. But Rama answers with the fervour of a righteous, truth-loving, Godfearing man.

All persuasion was in vain, and Bharat returned to Ayodhya with Rama's sandals, and placed them on the throne, as an emblem of Rama's sovereignty during his voluntary exile. Rama himself then left Chitra-kuta and sought the deeper forests of Dandak, so that his friends and relations might not find him again during his exile. He visited the hermitage of the Saint Atri; and the ancient and venerable wife of Atri welcomed the young Sita, and robed her in rich raiments and jewels, on the eve of her departure for the unexplored wildernesses of the south.

The portions translated in this Book are the whole or the main portions of Sections xcix., c., ci., civ., cviii., cix., cxii., and cxix. of Book ii. of the original text.

I THE MEETING OF THE BROTHERS

Sorrowing for his sire departed Bharat to Ayodhya came, But the exile of his brother stung his noble heart to flame, Scorning sin-polluted empire, travelling with each widowed queen, Sought through wood and trackless jungle Chitra-kuta's peaceful scene.

Royal guards and Saint Vasishtha loitered with the dames behind, Onward pressed the eager Bharat, Rama's hermit-home to find, Nestled in a jungle thicket, Rama's cottage rose in sight, Thatched with leaves and twining branches, reared by Lakshman's faithful might.

Faggots hewn of gnarled branches, blossoms called from bush and tree, Coats of bark and russet garments, kusa spread upon the lea, Store of horns and branching antlers, fire-wood for the dewy night,— Spake the dwelling of a hermit suited for a hermit’s rite.

"May the scene," so Bharat uttered, "by the righteous rishi told, Markalvati's rippling waters, Chitra-kuta's summit bold.

Mark the dark and trackless forest where the untamed tuskers roam, And the deep and hollow caverns where the wild beasts make their home, Mark the spacious wooded uplands, wreaths of smoke obscure the sky, Hermits feed their flaming altars for their worship pure and high.

Done our weary work and wand'ring, righteous Rama here we meet, Saint and king and honoured elder! Bharat bows to his feet, Born a king of many nations, he hath forest refuge sought, Yielded throne and mighty kingdom for a hermit’s humble cot, Honour unto righteous Rama, unto Sita true and bold, Theirs be fair Kosala's empire, crown and sceptre, wealth and gold!" Stately Sal and feathered palm-tree on the cottage lent their shade, Strewn upon the sacred altar was the grass of kusa spread, Gaily on the walls suspended hung two bows of ample height, And their back with gold was pencilled, bright as INDRA'S bow of might, Cased in broad unfailing quivers arrows shone like light of day, And like flame-tongued fiery serpents cast a dread and lurid ray, Resting in their golden scabbards lay the sword of warriors bold, And the targets broad and ample bossed with rings of yellow gold, Glove and gauntlet decked the cottage safe from fear of hostile men, As from creatures of the forest is the lion's lordly den!

Calm in silent contemplation by the altar's sacred fire, Holy in his pious purpose though begirt by weapons dire, Clad in deer-skin pure and peaceful, poring on the sacred flame, In his bark and hermit's tresses like an anchorite of fame, Lion-shouldered, mighty-armed, but with gentle lotus eye, Lord of wide earth ocean-girdled, but intent on penance high, Godlike as the holy BRAHMA, on a skin of dappled deer Rama sat with meek-eyed Sita, faithful Lakshman loitered near!

"Is this he whom joyous nations called to fair Ayodhya's throne, Now the friend of forest-rangers wandering in the woods alone, Is this he who robed in purple made Ayodhya's mansions bright, Now in jungle bark and deer-skin clad as holy anchorite, Is this he whose wreathed ringlets fresh and holy fragrance shed, Now a hermit's matted tresses cluster round his royal head, Is this he whose royal yajnas filled the earth with righteous fame, Now inured to hermit's labour by the altar's sacred flame, Is this he whose brow and forehead royal gem and jewel graced, Heir to proud Kosala's empire, eldest, noblest, and the best?" Thus lamented pious Bharat, for his heart was anguish-rent, As before the feet of Rama he in loving homage bent, "Arya!" in his choking accents this was all that Bharat said, "Arya!" spake the young Satrughna and he bent his holy head!





Rama to his loving bosom raised his brothers from his feet, Ah, too deep is love for utterance when divided brothers meet, Faithful Guha, brave Sumantra, bowed to Rama's righteous feet, And a joy and mingled sadness filled the hermit's calm retreat!

II BHARAT'S ENTREATY AND RAMA'S REPLY

"Speak, my true, my faithful Bharat," so the righteous Rama cried, "Wherefore to this jungle dwelling hast thou from Ayodhya hied, Speak, my fond and loving brother, if our father bade thee come, Leaving throne and spacious empire in this wilderness to roam?

Heir and Regent of Kosala! Dost thou tend our father well, And obey the lofty mandate from his royal lips that fell, And the ancient Dasa-ratha, glorious still in regal might, Doth he pass his bright life's evening in each pure and holy rite?

Doth my mother, Queen Kausalya, still for Rama wet her eye, And the gentle Queen Sumitra for her banished Lakshman sigh, Doth the peerless Queen Kaikeyi pass her days in duties fair, Guard her Bharat's mighty empire, tend him with a mother's care?

Is each holy rite and homage to the Gods and Fathers done, Is the honour due to elders rendered by each duteous son, Do thy warriors guard thy kingdom as of yore with matchless skill, And with counsel deep and duteous do thy min’sters serve thy will?

Rich thy fields in corn and produce fed by rivers broad and deep, Rich thy green unending pastures with the kine and fattened sheep, Tend the herdsman and his cattle, tend the tiller of the soil, Watch and help with all thy bounty workmen in their peaceful toil, For the monarch's highest duty is to serve his people's weal And the ruler's richest glory is to labour and to heal!

Guard thy forts with sleepless caution with the engines of the war, With the men who shoot the arrow and who drive the flying car, Guard Kosala's royal treasure, make thy gifts of wealth and food, Not to lords and proud retainers, but to worthy and the good!

Render justice pure and spotless as befits thy royal line, And to save the good and guiltless, Bharat, be it ever thine, For the tears of suffering virtue wither like the thunder levin, And they slay our men and cattle like the wrath of righteous heaven, Fruitful be thy lore of Veda, fruitful be each pious rite, Be thy queen a fruitful mother, be thy empire full of might!" Weeping, weeping, Bharat answered Dasa-ratha's eldest son, "Dasa-ratha walks the bright sky, for his earthly task is done!

For impelled by Queen Kaikeyi to the woods he bade thee go, And his spotless fame was clouded and his bosom sank in woe, And my mother, late repenting, weeps her deed of deepest shame, Weeps her wedded lord departed, and a woman's tarnished fame!

Thou alone canst wipe this insult by a deed of kindness done,— Rule o'er Dasa-ratha's empire, Dasa-ratha's eldest son, Weeping queens and loyal subjects supplicate thy noble grace,— Rule o'er Raghu's ancient empire, son of Raghu's royal race!

For our ancient Law ordaineth and thy Duty makes it plain, Eldest-born succeeds his father as the king of earth and main, By the fair Earth loved and welcomed, Rama, be her wedded lord, As by planet-jewelled Midnight is the radiant Moon adored!

And thy father’s ancient min’sters and thy courtiers faithful still, Wait to do thy righteous mandate and to serve thy royal will, As a pupil, as a brother, as a slave, I seek thy grace,— Come and rule thy father’s empire, king of Raghu’s royal race!" Weeping, on the feet of Rama, Bharat placed his lowly head, Weeping for his sire departed, tears of sorrow Rama shed, Then he raised his loving brother with an elder's deathless love, Sorrow wakes our deepest kindness and our holiest feelings prove!

"But I may not," answered Rama, "seek Ayodhya's ancient throne, For a righteous father's mandate duteous son may not disown, And I may not, gentle brother, break the word of promise given, To a king and to a father who is now a saint in heaven!

Not on thee, nor on thy mother, rests the censure or the blame, Faithful to his father's wishes Rama to the forest came, For the son and duteous consort serve the father and the lord, Higher than an empire's glory is a father's spoken word!

All inviolate is his mandate,—on Ayodhya's jewelled throne, Or in pathless woods and jungle Rama shall his duty own, All inviolate is the blessing by a loving mother given, For she blessed my life in exile like a pitying saint of heaven!

Thou shalt rule the kingdom, Bharat, guard our loving people well, Clad in wild bark and in deer-skin I shall in the forest dwell, So spake saintly Dasa-ratha in Ayodhya’s palace hall, And a righteous father’s mandate duteous son may not recall! "

III KAUSALYA'S LAMENT AND RAMA'S REPLY

Slow and sad with Saint Vasishtha, with each widowed royal dame, Unto Rama's hermit-cottage ancient Queen Kausalya came, And she saw him clad in wild bark like a hermit stern and high, And an anguish smote her bosom and a tear bedewed her eye.

Rama bowed unto his mother and each elder's blessings sought, Held their feet in salutation with a holy reverence fraught, And the queens with loving fingers, with a mother's tender care, Swept the dust of wood and jungle from his head and bosom fair, Lakshman too in loving homage bent before each royal dame, And they blessed the faithful hero spotless in his righteous fame.

Lastly came the soft-eyed Sita with obeisance soft and sweet, And with hands in meekness folded bent her tresses to their feet, Pain and anguish smote their bosoms, round their Sita as they prest, As a mother clasps a daughter, clasped her in their loving breast!

Torn from royal hall and mansions, ranger of the darksome wood, Reft of home and kith and kindred by her forest hut she stood!

"Hast thou, daughter of Videha," weeping thus Kausalya said, "Dwelt in woods and leafy cottage and in pathless jungle strayed, Hast thou, Rama's royal consort, lived a homeless anchorite, Pale with rigid fast and penance, worn with toil of righteous rite?

But thy sweet face, gentle Sita, is like faded lotus dry, And like lily parched by sunlight, lustreless thy beauteous eye, Like the gold untimely tarnished is thy sorrow-shaded brow, Like the moon by shadows darkened is thy form of beauty now!

And an anguish scathes my bosom like the withering forest fire, Thus to see thee, duteous daughter, in misfortunes deep and dire, Dark is wide Kosala's empire, dark is Raghu's royal house, When in woods my Rama wanders and my Rama's royal spouse!" Sweetly, gentle Sita answered, answered Rama fair and tall, That a righteous father’s mandate duteous son may not recall!

IV JABALI'S REASONING AND RAMA'S REPLY

Jabali a learned Brahman and a Sophist skilled, in word,

Questioned Faith and Law and Duty, spake to young Ayodhya's lord:

"Wherefore, Rama, idle maxims cloud thy heart and warp thy mind, Maxims which mislead the simple and the thoughtless human kind?

Love nor friendship doth a mortal to his kith or kindred own, Entering on his wide earth friendless, and departing all alone, Foolishly upon the father and the mother dotes the son, Kinship is an idle fancy,—save thyself thy kith is none!

In the wayside inn he halteth who in distant lands doth roam, Leaves it with the dawning daylight for another transient home, Thus on earth are kin and kindred, home and country, wealth and store, We but meet them on our journey, leave them as we pass before!

Wherefore for a father's mandate leave thy empire and thy throne, Pass thy days in trackless jungle sacrificing all thy own, Wherefore to Ayodhya's city, as to longing wife's embrace, Speed'st thou not to rule thy empire, lord of Raghu's royal race?

Dasa-ratha claims no duty, and this will is empty word, View him as a foreign monarch, of thy realm thou art the lord, Dasa-ratha is departed, gone where all the mortals go, For a dead man's idle mandate wherefore lead this life of woe?

Ah! I weep for erring mortals who on erring duty bent Sacrifice their dear enjoyment till their barren life is spent, Who to Gods and to the Fathers vainly still their offerings make, Waste of food! for God nor Father doth our pious homage take!

And the food by one partaken, can it nourish other men, Food bestowed upon a Brahman, can it serve our Fathers then?

Crafty priests have forged these maxims and with selfish objects say, Make thy gifts and do thy penance, leave thy worldly wealth and pray!



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