In the previous episode, we had witnessed the continuation of Sage Maarkandeya’s description on the Ramayana to Yudishtra. The context comes wherein Yudishtra is asking Sage Maarkandeya an important question as to why Draupati should suffer because of his wrongdoing and bad “Karma”. For this, Sage Maarkandeya explains how there is a precedent to this and narrates how Mother Sita had to undergo an ordeal even though it was Bhagawan Rama’s destiny to face an exile. In this way, Sage Maarkandeya explains the entire Ramayana story in a nutshell as part of the “Rama-Upaakhyaana Parva” which we’re currently witnessing. Till now we’ve witnessed the divine incarnation of Bhagawan Rama and how He married Mother Sita as part of the grand event at Janakapuri. After the marriage was over, Bhagawan Rama along with His brothers returned back to Ayodhya with their newly married wives and subsequently all of them lived happily together for the next twelve years.
As days and years pass by, King Dasharata decides that he has had enough at the throne and thinks about passing on the reins of the Ayodhya kingdom to Bhagawan Rama, who is the eldest. For this, he has several rounds of meetings and consultations with all stakeholders, including his three wives, sages, Ayodhya residents, etc. and as all of them give their in-principle consent, the date and time for the grand swearing-in ceremony is fixed by Sage Vasishtachaarya. It is at this time, an old woman by name “Manthara” decides to play spoilsport. During Bhagawan Rama’s young days, once upon a time, He had made fun of Manthara to be having a bent back, and she had carried this vengeance all through her life for so many years. Thus, as this swearing-in ceremony is being planned, Manthara wants to use this as an opportunity to sabotage the entire event and with this, she wants to fulfil her vengeance. In fact, in the Vaalmiki Ramayana text, there is not much reference to who this Manthara really is, however, in the Mahabharata text, there is a vivid reference. Of course, we can witness in the Ramayana text that Sugriva, Hanuman, Vaali, etc. are all the sons of the Devas such as Surya Bhagawan, Vaayu Bhagawan, Indra, etc. However, there is no direct reference to who Manthara is. Thus, from the Mahabharata text, we come to know that Manthara is none other than the daughter of the “Gandharva” by name Dundhubi.
Thus, Manthara motivates and brainwashes Kaikeyi to ask for the boons that her son Bharata should be the next king of Ayodhya and not Bhagawan Rama by any means. Secondly, Bhagawan Rama should descend to the forest for the next fourteen years in exile and He should never come near Ayodhya at all as Bharata is ruling the country. Buoyed by Manthara, Kaikeyi too becomes poisoned mentally and she straightaway goes to King Dasharata with the two boons. As she conveys these two requirements, it is already the middle of the night! Next morning is the swearing-in ceremony and arrangements are being made on war-footing! However, there is this twist in the tale – Kaikeyi breaks her silence and openly asks King Dasharata to grant these boons to her! Unable to bear the words that Kaikeyi uses, King Dasharata falls on the floor and has no other option but to grant the boons that she had asked for! We should remember here that King Dasharata had earlier promised Kaikeyi of granting two boons for saving his life once, and Kaikeyi hadn’t asked them since them. Now, Kaikeyi has correctly used the right opportunity to put forth her demands and King Dasharata got entangled into a clear trap!
As King Dasharata is someone who doesn’t go back on his assurances and words, he grants the two boons to Kaikeyi and collapses on the floor! Later on, Kaikeyi calls Bhagawan Rama to convey this news to Him, and also about the two boons which His father had given before collapsing on the floor. Even though the boons are extremely harsh in nature, Bhagawan Rama’s face never had any objections! He accepts both these boons and immediately gets ready to descend to the forest. As Bhagawan Rama gets ready to leave, Mother Sita stops Him and expresses her wish to accompany Him to the forest for the next fourteen years. Even though Bhagawan Rama did not have the intention to take Mother Sita with Him, upon compulsion from her, Bhagawan Rama lets her to accompany Him. Upon seeing both Bhagawan Rama and Mother Sita leaving to the forest, Lakshmana too decides that he would accompany them to the forest. Thus, all the three people make their way out of the Ayodhya palace and the entire city came to its knees! All these are happening at a time when Bharata and Shatrughna had gone to the Kekeya Desha to spend some time.
So for today, let us understand up to this point and in the next episode, we shall continue this discussion further! Stay tuned! 🙂