Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 Bhagavatha: The story of Rama

Sage Shuka continues his narration of the Bhagavatha to redeem Parikshit, who was cursed to die in seven days. This was the fourth day. Shuka continues the stories of the kings of the Ikshwaku dynasty, which had noble kings, Dilipa, Bhagiratha,  Khatwanga, Raghu, Aja and Dasaratha. To the blessed Dasaratha, Lord Srihari himself was born -- in four forms; Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna.
Shuka says the chronicle of the story of Rama has been narrated in detail by seers. So he would just summarise the story in a nutshell.
To redeem the pledge of his father Dasaratha, Rama abandons the kingdom and roamed the forests with his wife Sita and Lakshmana. On one occasion Lakshmana chops off the nose and ears of Shurpanakha, the sister of Demon king Ravana. This incident provokes Ravana to steal Sita away in Rama's absence. Rama, causes a bridge to be built across the sea and exterminated the host of demons along with Ravana, even as the wildfire consumes a whole forest.
Rama had earlier beat Maricha and other demon chiefs all alone, to protect the sacrificial fires of sage Vishwamitra, while Lakshmana stood as a mere spectator.
Rama strings the formidable bow of Shiva, (which breaks under the impact) to marry Princess Sita. On the way back to Ayodhya, he tames the overgrown pride of Parashurama.
Respectfully accepting the command of his father, he relinquishes the throne and leaves for the forest.  After the mutilation of Surpanakha, Rama slays her kinsmen Khara, Dhooshana, Trishira and other innumerable demons, and leads a hard life of an ascetic.
The ten-headed monster, Ravana learns from his sister, Shurpanakha the beauty of Sita. Kindled by passion, he sends Maricha as a weird golden deer, who draws away  Rama from his hermitage. Maricha is killed by Rama. Meanwhile, Ravana carries away Sita forcibly. Rama, disunited from Sita, roams the woods like a forlorn creature, exemplifying the plight of those attached to women. He performs the last rites of Jatayu, the king of vultures who fought Ravana (while he was carrying away Sita). 
He cultivates friendship with the monkeys (Sugriva, Hanuman and others).  After killing Vali, Sugreeva's brother, he ascertains through them the whereabouts of Sita. Hanuman finds Sita in Lanka and returns after burning it. Rama marches to Lanka with Sugreeva and his generals like Hanuman, Nila and Angada. With the permission of the Lord of the seas, a bridge to Lanka is built. With the guidance of  Ravana's brother Vibheeshana (who surrenders to Rama), they reach the shores of Lanka. The city shook like a river churned by hoards of elephants. A fierce battle ensues between the two armies. In a one-to-one combat, Rama fights Ravana and kills him. Vibheeshana performs the last rites as ordained by the scriptures.
Rama then saw his beloved spouse Sita, who was in a retreat in the Ashoka vana sitting under the simshapa tree. Observing Sita in that state, emaciated due to separation from him, Rama was filled with compassion. Rama bestows on Vibhishana the kingdom of the rakshasas. Having completed the fourteen years of exile by then, he helps Sita mount the aerial car Pushpaka and along with Lakshmana, Sugriva, Hanuman and others, he flies back to his capital Ayodhya.
Rama was pained to see Bharatha, his brother, living like an ascetic in Nandigrama, in the outskirts of Ayodhya. Bharatha places Rama's wooden sandals on his head -- and with his ministers and the joyful citizens of Ayodhya behind him, proceeds from Nandigrama with pomp and ceremony to meet Rama. Placing the sandals before Rama, he dropped down at his feet. Rama folds Bharatha in his arms and bathed him with his tears.
Their guru, Vasishta, performs the coronation of Rama.
Once Rama happens to hear one of his citizens casting aspersions on Sita.  Although he knew her to be pure, Rama abandons Sita in order to show the ignorant and the myriad-mouthed world that the ruler should be above reproach. She was pregnant then. She is given refuge in sage Valmiki's ashram, where she gives birth to Lava and Kusa. Unable to stand the separation from her Lord, Sita enters the bowels of the earth.
Rama, hailed as the maryada Purushottam (one with an impeccable conduct), after a long and glorious rule steeped in dharma, returns to his divine realm.

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Srimad Bhagavatham