“Being prayed for by the demigods, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth Himself, directly appeared with His expansion and expansions of the expansion. Their holy names were Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. These celebrated incarnations thus appeared in four forms as the sons of Maharaja Dasharatha.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.2)
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तस्यापि भगवान् एष
साक्षाद् ब्रह्ममयो हरिः
पुत्रत्वं प्रार्थितः सुरैः
शत्रुघ्ना इति संज्ञया
tasyāpi bhagavān eṣa
sākṣād brahmamayo hariḥ
putratvaṁ prārthitaḥ suraiḥ
śatrughnā iti saṁjñayā
One quarter of a portion. The full prasadam resulting from the sacrifice conducted by the priest, Rishya-shringa, given to Dasharatha’s three wives. Half a portion to the leading queen, Kausalya. The other half divided in two. One portion to Kaikeyi and the other to Sumitra.
This is the visible explanation for the appearance of four beautiful sons to the king of the Raghu dynasty many thousands of years ago. Maharaja Dasharatha was desperate for a successor, to continue the line of pious rulers in the sacred city of Ayodhya, which today is synonymous with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Though the portions were the direct cause of birth, in the background was the decision of the Supreme Lord Vishnu to descend to earth. The Rakshasa named Ravana had become too powerful, off the strength of boons obtained from Brahma, the creator. The demigods were desperate; they found no other way to solve the dilemma.
The portion assigned to Kausalya was Vishnu completely; a direct expansion. The other three were partial expansions, but it was the most blessed achievement for the king. Four sons that were truly Divine. They grew up following the leader, agraja, Shri Rama, and each made their own sacrifices, as wonderfully described in the Ramayana tale.
1. Missing the chance to stop the change in plans
Following protocol, his personal sentiment, and the overwhelming will of the people, Dasharatha one day decided it was time for Rama to take over the throne. The passing of the torch. A wonderful abhisheka ceremony to follow. An installation celebration to be remembered for generations.
कामार्तस्तु महातेजाः पिता दशरथस्स्वयम्।।
कैकेय्याः प्रियकामार्थं तं रामं नाभ्यषेचयत्।
kāmārtastu mahātejāḥ pitā daśarathassvayam।।
kaikeyyāḥ priyakāmārthaṃ taṃ rāmaṃ nābhyaṣecayat।
“Being under the control of passion and lust, Rama’s father, Maharaja Dasharatha, wanted to fulfill Kaikeyi’s cherished desire, thus he did not go through with Rama’s installation ceremony.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.12)
Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama, later described that Dasharatha became a victim of kama, and so the plans suddenly changed. That is a rather harsh assessment, but understandable given what was to result from the new decision.
Queen Kaikeyi inserted herself into the affair, cashing in on two boons previously promised to her by Dasharatha. The result was straightforward and easy to understand: Bharata would be the new king. Rama would have to leave the kingdom and not return for fourteen years, living like a mendicant.
Unfortunately, Bharata was away on business at the time. Though his mother was directly involved in this scandal, there was nothing he could do to change the decision. He would certainly have interfered; not allowing the parents to make such a tragic mistake.
2. Being under suspicion
There is the saying from Shakespeare, “The lady doth protests too much, methinks.” If you raise too strong of an objection to an accusation, people might get the impression that you are actually guilty. It looks like you are only speaking so strongly in order to cover up the guilt.
Bharata would have to worry about this, since he was the beneficiary of Kaikeyi’s plan. The tragedy is that there was not a hint of envy. Bharata loved Rama just as much as the other brothers did. He did not want to become the next king. He did not want any harm to befall others in the family.
3. Knowing that his mother had done something terrible
Bharata returned home and got hit with a quadruple-whammy. He was now the king of Ayodhya. Rama had been exiled from the kingdom and Sita and Lakshmana accompanied Him. King Dasharatha had left this world due to the pain of separation from Rama.
The worst of it all: Kaikeyi was responsible. It was her idea. She started the chain of events. Bharata’s own mother; he couldn’t believe it. His life ruined because his mother wanted something for her son that not even he wanted.
4. Living without Rama
Bharata tried his best to remedy the situation. He went to the forest and had a meeting with the three in exile. He offered to switch places with Lakshmana. As Bharata was older, he should have to suffer instead of a younger brother.
He made every argument that would make sense, but the decision remained. Rama wanted to honor the wishes of the father. Rama would not make Dasharatha appear to be dishonest, regardless of the suffering others had to endure.
5. Living as an ascetic.
There was a compromise. Rama would rule in absentia, through His sandals. Bharata refused to live like a king, though he technically still was. Bharata remained inside of a hut, placing Rama’s sandals on the throne. He would wait there the entire fourteen years, not taking a single personal benefit from the affair.
Goswami Tulsidas particularly appreciates Bharata’s sacrifice, because he is one of the few characters in the Ramayana who served Rama without gaining anything in return. Sugriva and Vibhishana became kings of their respective lands. Ahalya, Jatayu and several others earned liberation because of direct contact.
It was Bharata who lost everything, and yet he continued to serve, embodying the pure devotional spirit. This is the teaching of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, that the Supreme Lord may do with me as He wishes, but I will always be devoted to Him.
Bharata away so not to learn,
Worst news hitting upon return.
Rama and father Ayodhya leaving,
Plot his own mother conceiving.
To fall into jealousy how?
Where worst situation now.
Deciding as ascetic in cottage to live,
After Rama lovingly sandals to give.
Categories: the five
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