“When the king heard, he came forward and worshiped his guest and welcomed him. Given the letter, the auspicious news was heard and the king became very happy.” (Janaki Mangala, 117)
nṛpa suni āge āi pūji sanamāneu |
dīnhi lagana kahi kusala rāu haraṣāneu ||
Parents with children in the military have a unique struggle. As the material body is mortal, death can come at any moment. This is effected by natural forces, among which is disease. The terminal illness can be discovered at any moment, and an accident can end life in an instant. Old age takes longer to develop, so its impact isn’t as sudden. As these are the harsh realities of life, if your son or daughter serves in the armed forces, at any time you can get sad news, information that will take your breath away. A king a long time ago faced a similar situation with his beloved eldest son. The news he received one time was so auspicious, however, that he couldn’t help but feel elated.
The issue of sudden-death is also faced by the police officer’s family. If your father is a cop, you know that he faces danger every day. When you come home from school, there is the chance that he might have been injured during the day. When he goes out at night for a late shift, there is the chance that he might not come back. Surely there is the possibility of the same occurring for any person, but the law enforcement official is in the thick of criminal activity, where guns and nefarious characters who wield them are present. Therefore the risk is increased.
The parents are typically more apprehensive because they are supposed to protect the children throughout their lives. When the child enters into military combat the risk of losing life is the greatest. And since the parents aren’t on the field of battle with them, they can only hope to not hear bad news. Anytime someone from the military comes to them, anytime they get news of their deployed son or daughter, they have to hold their breath.
King Dasharatha’s son Rama did not volunteer to go into combat, but He was groomed since childhood to defend the innocent. Dasharatha himself was an expert fighter. His name means one who can fight in ten directions with a single chariot. As he graced this earth many thousands of years ago in the Treta Yuga, military combat took place using bows, arrows and swords during his time. You got around on a chariot driven by horses.
A ratha is a chariot, and in military combat it represents a single foe. The more expert fighters could go against multiple rathas at a time. Think of it like the handicap match in professional wrestling, where you have one guy going against two or three other guys. Dasharatha was special because he could fight simultaneously in ten directions: north, south, east, west, the four corners, and up and down. He was also on the side of the good guys. He only fought against wicked characters dedicated to flaunting the code of morality passed down since time immemorial. Because of his good nature and fighting ability, Dasharatha was the ideal man for ruling over the sacred city of Ayodhya.
Though he had four sons, Dasharatha’s favorite was Rama. Isn’t it just like the hand of Providence to snatch away someone we’re so attached to when we least expect it? The sage Vishvamitra one day came to Ayodhya and asked Dasharatha to have Rama accompany him in the forest. The vile night-rangers were harassing the most innocent in society. Fiends who masked their real appearance, cannibals with no scruples, were attacking the peaceful sages during their religious observances. Vishvamitra wanted the best protector, and so he asked for Rama.
The request was a little strange, as Rama was not yet a teenager. Dasharatha was ready to bring his whole army into the forest to give protection, but Vishvamitra insisted on Rama. As a pious soul, Dasharatha always deferred to the counsel of the priestly class. He reluctantly allowed Rama to go. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana went along too. Whenever you get Rama, you get Lakshmana also. Lakshmana is just as capable a fighter, and he never leaves Rama’s side.
So we can imagine how Dasharatha must have felt afterwards. He not only lost the personal association of his favorite person in the world, but he had to live knowing that they were in constant danger. Rama and Lakshmana were going to fight these wicked creatures, and the only comforting thought was that Vishvamitra would guide them. All faith was invested in the sage, and without that faith Dasharatha would have nothing to give him comfort.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Dasharatha is welcoming another priest into his home. This time Shatananda from Janakpur has arrived. He is the family priest of King Janaka. After being worshiped, he gives Dasharatha a scroll, which when read aloud brings the king so much joy. The scroll has news of Rama’s upcoming marriage. No news of any harm to the king’s eldest son. No news about Rama never returning. No news about any injury to Lakshmana. Rather, Rama has accomplished the amazing feat of lifting an extremely heavy bow in a contest in Janaka’s kingdom. No other prince in the world was able to move the bow, and yet Rama lifted it with ease. He won the hand in marriage of the beautiful Sita Devi, Janaka’s daughter. Thus Dasharatha was proud of his son and also excited to attend the wedding. He gladly gave his permission as well, which we know from Sita’s recounting of her marriage story in the Ramayana.
“Thereupon, after inviting my father-in-law, the elderly King Dasharatha, to Mithila and receiving his approval, my father gave me away to Rama, the knower of the self.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.52)
The pious leader of Ayodhya got news that day that sent the entire city into a joyful frenzy. Many years later, separation from the same Rama would cause him to leave his body. Death is inevitable, however, and one who thinks of Rama at that time has the most auspicious end to life. Rama is the Supreme Lord, non-different from the original. From Dasharatha’s character, we see why God chose him as His father during one of His plays on earth.
Infant son along the floors to scurry,
Their innocence in parents makes endless worry.
When sent off to fight enemy attack,
No guarantee they’ll ever come back.
Dasharatha’s eldest son to forest went,
King then worrying many a night spent.
When from Shatananda news to hear,
King joyful over fate of Rama so dear.
Categories: janaki mangala