by Helen M. Johnson | 1931 | 742,503 words
This page describes Retreat to the forest which is the nineteenth part of chapter IV of the English translation of the Jain Ramayana, contained within the “Trishashti Shalaka Purusha Caritra”: a massive Jain narrative relgious text composed by Hemacandra in the 12th century. This Jain Ramayana contains the biographies of Rama, Lakshmana, Ravana, Naminatha, Harishena-cakravartin and Jaya-cakravartin: all included in the list of 63 illustrious beings or worthy persons.
Rāma said to the king, “While I am here, Bharata will not take the kingdom. Therefore, I shall go and live in the forest.” Rāma bowed with devotion to the king who agreed to this and went away with his bow and quiver, while Bharata wept aloud. When Daśaratha saw his son going to live in the forest, again and again he fell into a deep swoon, weak from affection. Then Rāma bowed to Queen Aparājitā and said:
“Mother, Bharata is just as much your son as I. Father has given him the kingdom to keep his promise. While I am here, he will not take it. So I must to into the forest. So you must look on Bharata with an especially gracious eye. Do not become weak at any time because of separation from me.”
After hearing that, the queen fell to the ground in a faint. Sprinkled with sandal and water by slave-girls, she got up and said: “Oh! Why have I lived! For a swoon is an easy way to die. How shall I alive endure the pain of the separation from Rāma? My son intends to go to the forest; my husband intends to become a mendicant. Are you made of adamant, Kauśilyā, that you are not crushed at hearing that!”
Rāma said again: “Mother, you are my father’s wife. Why have you done this which is suitable for inferior women? The son of a lioness goes alone to wander in the forest. But the lioness remains happy and is not worried at all. This promised boon is an important debt of my father. While I stay here, how can he pay the debt, mother?” After enlightening Aparājitā by suitable speeches such as this, Lakṣmaṇa’s elder brother bowed to her and the other mothers and departed.
Sītā bowed to Daśaratha from a distance, approached Aparājitā and bowed to her, and asked for orders to follow Rāma. Queen Aparājitā seated Jānakī on her lap like a child, bathing her with warm tears, and said: “Child, my son Rāmabhadra, respectful, at his father’s command goes into the forest. That is not difficult for him, a man-lion. You have been cherished from birth like a queen with the best vehicles! How can you endure the pain of going on foot, child? Your body is soft as the inside of a lotus; distressed by heat, et cetera, it would cause distress to Dāśaratha, also. I can not deny permission to you to go because you would be following your husband and I can not give permission because of the undesired hardships.”
Sītā bowed to Aparājitā, fearlessly, her face like a lotus opened at dawn, and said, “May my devotion to you always confer happiness on the road. I shall follow Rāma, like the lightning the cloud.” With these words, Janaka’s daughter bowed to her again and departed, meditating on Lakṣmaṇa’s elder brother, like one rejoicing in the supreme spirit meditating on the soul. Sītā, going to the forest, was observed with difficulty by the women of the town who described her with voices choked by sorrow: “Oh! Jānakī has become the chief example of young women whose husbands are their gods by her exceedingly affectionate devotion to her husband today. Unafraid of hardship, Sītā, excellent among good wives, purifies her two families by very good conduct, indeed.”
As soon as Lakṣmaṇa heard that Rāma had gone to the forest, the flame of anger was lighted at once and he thought: “Our father is honest by nature; women are dishonest by nature. After keeping the boon for so long, why on the contrary does she ask for it? The king, being such as he is, gave the kingdom to Bharata. His debt has been paid and our fear of the father’s debt has gone. Now shall I fearlessly take the kingdom from Bharata, basest of the family, and bestow it on Rāma to stop my own anger? Yet, Rāma, noble, will not take the kingdom abandoned like straw, and that would cause pain to the father. May there be no pain to the father; let Bharata be king. I shall follow Rāma like a footman.”
Thus reflecting, Saumitri bowed and took leave of the king, went to take leave of Sumitrā, bowed, and said: “Rāma is going to the forest and I am going to follow him. Lakṣmaṇa is not able to remain without the elder brother, like the shore without the ocean.” Sumitrā took courage somehow or other and said: “Son, it is well you are my son since you follow your elder brother. After bowing to me, my son Rāmabhadra has been gone today for a long time and becomes at a distance from you. Do not hesitate, son.” "That is well! That is well, mother! You are my mother,” saying, Lakṣmaṇa bowed to her and went to bow to Aparājitā. Saumitri bowed to her and said, “My elder brother has gone alone for a long time. I have come to take leave of you, eager to follow my elder brother.”
Kauśalyā said, weeping: “Oh, I, unfortunate, am destroyed, since you also are going to the forest, son, deserting me. Do you alone stay here. Do not leave, Lakṣmaṇa, to console me as I am afflicted by separation from Rāma.”
Lakṣmaṇa said: “You are Rāma’s mother, surely. Enough of this lack of self-control which is suitable for ordinary women, mother. My brother goes far away; I shall follow him, quickly. Do not hinder me, queen. I am always devoted to Rāma.”
With these words Saumitri bowed to her and ran in haste after Sītā and Rāma, carrying his bow and quiver. The three of them left the city, their lotus-faces blooming, eager for a forest-dwelling like a pleasure-grove. Men and women in the city fell into a miserable state at the departure of Maithilī, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa as if they were the breath of life. The townsmen ran after them quickly from very strong affection, abusing cruel Kaikeyī and fate. The king also, in tears, with his harem and attendants followed Rāma swiftly, drawn by the strings of love. Because the king and the people had followed Rāmabhadra rapidly, the city of Ayodhyā became entirely depopulated, as it were. Then Kākutstha (Rāma) stopped his father and mothers and made them return somehow or other by a speech which was the essence of propriety. Likewise he dismissed the townsmen with suitable words and proceeded with very great haste, accompanied by Sītā and Saumitri.
At every village he was urged to stop by the village-elders; at every city by the important men; but Kākutstha did not stop.
Now Bharata did not take the kingdom; but, on the contrary, reproached Kaikeyī and himself, not enduring the separation from his brothers. Eager to become? a mendicant, the king despatched his vassals and ministers to bring back Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa for the kingdom. In great haste they reached Rāma going to the west and with devotion told him the king’s command to return. Though urged by these unhappy men, Rāghava did not return. For the promise of the great does not change, like the foot of a mountain. Though dismissed by Rāghava again and again, they all went along with hopes fixed on his return. Jānakī, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa reached a forest on Pāriyātra which was the abode of terrible wild animals, with no human inhabitants, densely wooded. On the road they saw a river, Gambhīrā, terrifying from its deep whirlpools, with a wide stream. Rāma halted there and said to the vassals, et cetera: “Turn back at this place. For the road is very difficult beyond this. Go and tell good news of us to our father. In future serve Bharata like me, or rather, like my father.” With repeated loud lamentations, “Shame on us who are not suitable for the noble Rāma,” they turned back, their clothes wet with tears. Then Rāma with Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa crossed the river hard to cross, watched by them standing on the bank in tears.
When Rāma was out of sight, the vassals, et cetera, somehow went to Ayodhyā and reported to the king. The king said to Bharata, “Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa have not come. Take my kingdom. Do not be an obstacle to my initiation.” Bharata said, “I will not take the kingdom in any way, but I myself will go and appease my elder brother and bring him here.”
Then Kaikeyī went to the king and said: “You gave the kingdom to Bharata, O you who keep a promise. But your son, knowing what is proper, does not take the kingdom. There is great pain to his other mothers and to me, also. I, very wicked, did that, acting without reflection. Alas for the kingdom without a king though you are alive and have sons! My heart is breaking in two as I hear the cries hard to hear of Kauśalyā, Sumitrā, and Suprabhā. I shall go with Bharata to the sons, Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa, and bring them with me after conciliating them. Give me permission, lord.”
Commanded by the delighted King Daśaratha, she went with Bharata and ministers to Rāma, making haste. In six days Kaikeyī and Bharata reached the forest and saw Jānakī, Rāma, and Lakṣmaṇa at the foot of a tree. Kaikeyī descended from the chariot and, saying, “Son! Son!” kissed the bowing Rāmabhadra on the head. Embracing with her arms Vaidehī and Lakṣmaṇa who were bowing to her lotus-feet, she lamented in a very loud voice. Bharata, weeping, bowed to Rāma and fell into a faint from the penetration of the poison of sorrow. Restored by Rāmabhadra, Bharata, well-bred, said:
“Why did you come here, abandoning me like a stranger? Whatever censure there was for me, through my mother’s fault, to the effect ‘Bharata seeks the kingdom,’ remove that by taking me with you. Or better, return to Ayodhyā and support the sovereignty. In this way, the arrow of improper conduct will leave me, brother. Saumitri, the friend of the world, will be your minister; I here your doorkeeper; and Śatrughna your umbrella-bearer.”
When Bharata said this, Kaikeyī said: “Do as your brother says, son. You are always dear to your mothers. In this matter there is no fault of your father. There is no fault of Bharata. Kaikeyī’s alone is the fault easy to acquire from the nature of women. Whatever faults women may have separately, all of them except unchastity have taken place in me, a store-house of faults. Pardon this act which I committed which caused grief to the husband, sons, and the mothers, since you are a son.”
The elder brother of Lakṣmaṇa said to her who had spoken thus with tears: “How can I, the son of my father, break my promise? Our father gave him the kingdom with my approval. While the two of us live, how can our speech be false? Therefore, let Bharata be king at the command of both. I am not to be crossed by him, as my father is not to be crossed by me, mother.”
With these words, Kākutstha himself sprinkled Bharata as king with water brought by Sītā, with all the vassals as witnesses. After bowing and speaking to Kaikeyī and also Bharata, Rāma dismissed them and set out to the south. Bharata went to Ayodhyā and, his commands unbroken, assumed the weight of the kingdom at his father’s and brother’s command. Daśaratha and a large retinue took initiation under Muni Satyabhūti. Bharata, wounded in the heart by his brother’s dwelling in the forest, guarded the realm like a watchman, zealous in worship of the Arhat, wise.
Rāma, accompanied by Saumitri and the daughter of Maithila (Sītā), crossed the mountain Citrakuṭa on the road as he went and in a few days reached a place in the country Avanti, resembling a god placed on earth.