Part 2: Rama's exile
As narrated by Grandpa and edited by Arlene Hunter
Courtesy of the Association of Grandparents of Indian Immigrants
For the next twelve years Rama and Sita lived happily in Ayodhya.
Rama was loved by all. He was a joy to his father, Dasharatha, whose heart nearly burst
with pride when he beheld his son. As Dasharatha was growing older, he summoned his
ministers seeking their opinion about crowning Rama as prince of Ayodhya. They unanimously
welcomed the suggestion. Then Dasharatha announced the decision and gave orders for the
coronation of Rama. During this time, Bharata and his favorite brother, Shatrughna, had
gone to see their maternal grandfather and were absent from Ayodhya.
Kaikeyi, Bharata's mother, was in the palace rejoicing with the other queens, sharing
the happy news of Rama's coronation. She loved Rama as her own son; but her wicked maid,
Manthara, was unhappy. Manthara wanted Bharata to be the king so she devised a heinous
plan to thwart Ramas coronation. As soon as the plan was set firmly in her mind, she
rushed to Kaikeyi to tell her.
"What a fool you are!" Manthara said to Kaikeyi, "The king has always
loved you more than the other queens. But the moment Rama is crowned, Kausalya will become
all powerful and she will make you her slave."
Manthara repeatedly gave her poisoned suggestions, clouding Kaikeyis mind and
heart with suspicion and doubt. Kaikeyi, confused and distraught, finally agreed to
"But what can I do to change it?" asked Kaikeyi with a puzzled mind.
Manthara was clever enough to chalk out her plan all the way. She had been waiting for
Kaikeyi to ask her advice.
"You may recall that long ago when
Dasharatha was badly wounded in the battle field, while fighting with the Asuras, you
saved Dasraratha's life by swiftly driving his chariot to safety? At that time Dasharatha
offered you two boons. You said you would ask for the boons some other time."
Kaikeyi readily remembered.
Manthara continued, "Now the time has come to demand those boons. Ask Dasharatha
for your first boon to make Bharat the king of Kosal and for the second boon to banish
Rama to the forest for fourteen years."
Kakeyi was a noble-hearted queen, now trapped by Manthara. She agreed to do what
Manthara said. Both of them knew that Dasharatha would never fall back on his words.
The night before the coronation, Dasharatha came to Kakeyi to share his happiness at
seeing Rama the crown prince of Kosala. But Kakeyi was missing from her apartment. She was
in her "anger room". When Dasharatha came to her anger room to inquire, he found
his beloved queen lying on the floor with her hair loose and her ornaments cast away.
Dasharatha gently took Kakeyi's head on his lap and asked in a caressing voice,
"What is wrong?"
But Kakeyi angrily shook herself free and firmly said; "You have promised me two
boons. Now please grant me these two boons. Let Bharata be crowned as king and not Rama.
Rama should be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years."
Dasharatha could hardly believe his ears. Unable to bear what he had heard, he fell
down unconscious. When he returned to his senses, he cried out in helpless anger,
"What has come over you? What harm has Rama done to you? Please ask for anything else
Kakeyi stood firm and refused to yield. Dasharatha fainted and lay on the floor the
rest of the night. The next morning, Sumantra, the minister, came to inform Dasharatha
that all the preparations for the coronation were ready. But Dasharatha was not in a
position to speak to anyone. Kakeyi asked Sumantra to call Rama immediately. When Rama
arrived, Dasharatha was sobbing uncontrollably and could only utter "Rama!
Rama was alarmed and looked at Kakeyi with surprise, "Did I do anything wrong,
mother? I have never seen my father like this before."
"He has something unpleasant to tell you, Rama," replied Kakeyi. "Long
ago your father had offered me two boons. Now I demand it." Then Kakeyi told Rama
about the boons.
"Is that all mother?" asked Rama with a smile. "Please take it that your
boons are granted. Call for Bharata. I shall start for the forest today."
Rama did his pranams to his revered father, Dasharatha, and to his stepmother,
Kakeyi, and then left the room. Dasharatha was in shock. He painfully asked his attendants
to move him to Kaushalya's apartment. He was waiting for death to ease his pain.
The news of Rama's exile spread like a fire. Lakshmana was furious with his father's
decision. Rama simply replied, "Is it worthwhile to sacrifice your principle for the
sake of this small kingdom?"
Tears sprang from Lakshmana's eyes and he said in a low voice, "If you must go to
the forest, take me along with you." Rama agreed.
Then Rama proceeded to Sita and asked her to stay behind. "Look after my mother,
Kausalya, in my absence."
Sita begged, "Have pity on me. A wife's position is always beside her husband.
Don't leave me behind. Ill die without you." At last Rama permitted Sita to
Urmila, Lakshamans wife, also wanted to go with Lakshmana to the forest. But
Lakshmana explained to her the life that he plans to lead for the protection of Rama and
"If you accompany me, Urmila," Lakshmana said, "I may not be able to
fulfill my duties. Please take care of our grieved family members." So Urmila stayed
behind on Lakshmana's request.
By that evening Rama, Sita and Lakshmana left Ayodhya on a chariot
driven by Sumatra. They were dressed like mendicants (Rishis). The people
of Ayodhya ran behind the chariot crying loudly for Rama. By nightfall they all reached
the bank of the river, Tamasa. Early the next morning Rama awoke and told Sumantra,
"The people of Ayodhya love us very much but we have to be on our own. We must lead
the life of a hermit, as I promised. Let us continue our journey before they wake
So, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, driven by Sumantra, continued their journey alone. After
travelling the entire day they reached the bank of the Ganges and decided to spend the
night under a tree near a village of hunters. The chieftain, Guha, came and offered them
all the comforts of his house. But Rama replied, "Thank you Guha, I appreciate your
offer as a good friend but by accepting your hospitality I will break my promise. Please
allow us to sleep here as the hermits do."
Next morning the three, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, said goodbye to Sumantra and Guha and
got into a boat to cross the river, Ganges. Rama addressed Sumantra, "Return to
Ayodhya and console my father."
By the time Sumantra reached Ayodhya Dasharatha was dead, crying until his last breath,
"Rama, Rama, Rama!" Vasishtha sent a messenger to Bharata asking him to return
to Ayodhya without disclosing the details.
Bharata immediately returned with Shatrughna. As he entered the city of Ayodhya, he
realized that something was terribly wrong. The city was strangely silent. He went
straight to his mother, Kaikeyi. She looked pale. Bharat impatiently asked, "Where is
father?" He was stunned by the news. Slowly he learned about Ramas exile for
fourteen years and Dasharathas demise with the departure of Rama.
Bharata could not believe that his mother was the cause of the disaster. Kakyei tried
to make Bharata understand that she did it all for him. But Bharata turned away from her
with disgust and said, "Dont you know how much I love Rama? This kingdom is
worth nothing in his absence. I am ashamed to call you my mother. You are heartless. You
killed my father and banished my beloved brother. I will not have anything to do with you
for as long as I live." Then Bharata left for Kaushalyas apartment. Kakyei
realized the mistake she made.
Kaushalya received Bharata with love and affection. Addressing Bharata she said,
"Bharata, the kingdom is waiting for you. No one will oppose you for ascending the
throne. Now that your father is gone, I would also like to go to the forest and live with
Bharata could not contain himself any further. He burst into tears and promised
Kaushalya to bring Rama back to Ayodhya as quickly as possible. He understood the throne
rightfully belonged to Rama. After completing the funeral rites for Dasharatha, Bharata
started for Chitrakut where Rama was staying. Bharata halted the army at a respectful
distance and walked alone to meet Rama. Seeing Rama, Bharata fell at his feet begging
forgiveness for all the wrong doings.
When Rama asked, "How is father?" Bharat began to cry and broke the sad news;
"Our father has left for heaven. At the time of his death, he constantly took your
name and never recovered from the shock of your departure." Rama collapsed. When he
came to senses he went to river, Mandakini, to offer prayers for his departed father.
The next day, Bharata asked Rama to return to Ayodhya and rule the kingdom. But Rama
firmly replied, "I cannot possibly disobey my father. You rule the kingdom and I
shall carry out my pledge. I will come back home only after fourteen years."
When Bharata realized Ramas firmness in fulfilling his promises, he begged Rama
to give him his sandals. Bharata told Rama the sandals will represent Rama and he would
carry out the duties of the kingdom only as Ramas representative. Rama gracefully
agreed. Bharata carried the sandals to Ayodhya with great reverence. After reaching the
capital, he placed the sandals on the throne and ruled the kingdom in Ramas name. He
left the palace and lived like a hermit, as Rama did, counting the days of Ramas
When Bharata left, Rama went to visit Sage Agastha. Agastha asked Rama to move to
Panchavati on the bank of Godavari River. It was a beautiful place. Rama planned to stay
at Panchavati for some time. So, Lakshamana quickly put up an elegant hut and they all