But today the words of Manthara had done their trick. Queen Kaikeyi reminded Dasharatha about the two boons he had promised her years back. The king remembered and was in fact pleased to grant the boons on that auspicious day. And as the fate had it, Kaikeyi asked:
Of the first boon, O my beloved husband, I ask that instead of Rama Bharata be given the throne of Ayodhya, and,
Of the second boon, I ask for the banishment of Rama to the forest for fourteen years.
The king was not prepared for such unusual demands. He tried to persuade the queen to ask for something else, but no. Kaikeyi was firm in her resolve. The king went for compromise in granting the throne to Bharata but pleaded with his queen not to insist to send Rama to Forest. But still, no. Kaikeyi was firm on both the counts.
King Dasharatha was heartbroken on listening to the resolve of Kaikeyi to send Rama to the forest for fourteen years. He could not imagine even in dream that his most beloved son Rama would be put to such an acid test. He knew that the separation from Rama would be the last thing his old and frail body could tolerate. With heavy heart, he pleaded with his wife, "O Kaikeyi, what has possessed your kind heart! Why has your love for Rama disappeared! Please say that you are speaking in jest, and that you are not serious about your two demands."
"Ask for anything else. Ask for many palaces and jewelry, ask for army of thousand of elephants and horses, ask for my life, but spare my Rama from the hardships of forest and banishment to the life of recluse. I grant Bharata the throne of Ayodhya."
But, no. Kaikeyi was firm as a rock in her demands. Said she, "Come what may, you must keep your word of honour. If you fail, you will see my corpse at the sunrise next morning." She also reminded the King about the lofty tradition of keeping promises even at the cost of life in the Raghu dynasty.
The news reached the chamber of Rama and Sita, as also all around the palace, that something grossly inopportune has happened to the king, and that he is ill in the chamber of Kaikeyi. The prime minister - Sumanta - was summoned by the king to fetch Rama to the chamber of Kaikeyi.
When Rama reached there he saw his father lying semiconscious on the floor full of grief and pathos. His eyes were filled with tears of desperation and sorrow. Rama pleaded with Kaikeyi to tell him what had happened to his father. When the whole story of the promises etc. was told, Rama understood the situation very well. He knew that both King Dasharatha and himself are caught in a situation that demanded supreme sacrifice. Bharata was not present in Ayodhya during all these happenings.
Rama was full of praise for Kaikeyi. Said he,
"O mother, you have bestowed a great honour upon me by asking for these two promises. Firstly, I agree with you that Bharata would be a better king than I. Secondly, what of fourteen years of forest life! Time will fly with wink of the eyes. But I must be grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to be close with the nature. Moreover, I shall personally look after the conditions of subjects in far off places of our kingdom. I would be more than happy to redress their grievances. And most importantly, I shall get the rare opportunity to submerge myself in spiritual practices to seek the God. The daily hectic life of the king otherwise also comes in the way of God realization and meditation. And last but not the least, to uphold the word given by the parents is the duty of every son, even if it puts him to utmost suffering. It is a rare opportunity offered to anyone to die for the honor of his father."
Sita and Laxmana Decide To Go With Rama
Thus Rama genuinely felt nothing at such an arduous predicament. Everyone present was stunned to listen to the brave and high thinking of Rama. Respect for Rama doubled in everyone's heart. But the daughter of Janaka - Janaki (i.e. Sita), the newly married wife of Rama, was not be left behind. After seeking permission from her mother-in-law, she spoke with dignity and composure to her husband, "O Lord, I will also accompany you to the forest."
Instantly many objections were raised by Queen Kausalya, Prime Minister, and Rama himself that for the newly wedded queen it would not be proper to leave the comforts of the palace and seek difficult life of the forest. Moreover, her in-laws needed her care more than the able-bodied husband. Kaikeyi has not asked her to accompany her husband.
But Sita was not to be so easily put off. With firm determination she said to Rama, "Please do not deny me the chance of serving you when you need it most. I am your shadow, I have taken wedding vows to be with you in joy and sorrow, in palace or in jungle, in life and death. I can not remain alive without you. If you still insist that I should stay here with your parents, I declare that I will jump in the river Sarayu after your departure!"
At last when every effort of persuasion failed, Rama conceded to the request of Sita, his wife, to accompany him. And then comes the extreme sacrifice of a brother for elder brother.
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