For surely a king is first a man. And so it must follow that a king does as all men do: the best he can~CAMERON DOKEY, the storyteller’s daughter.
And the man who witnessed all of this was aadi Kavi Valmiki, the legendary poet and Rishi who composed the tale of an extraordinary king who became the ruler of the ‘the hearts of his countrymen ‘, their God. Valmiki is one of the few people in our story who understand the thoughts that guide Rama’s actions. He knows fully well how worthy Rama is of this honour and how his actions might be misunderstood and misconstrued by the ignorant of the present and of the future. It is Valmiki who knows that Rama had been a Great Man long before he even became King and through his writing, he immortalizes each moment in the life of the man for whom work was worship.
Rama’s phenomenal sacrifice
Our story begins when Shri Ramachandra the crown prince of Ayodhya, son of Dasharatha is told of the vows made by his father to his stepmother Kaikeyi that her son Bharata be crowned successor of the King in Rama’s place whilst he himself must dwell in the forest for 14 years. At this point, Lakshmana, Rama’s dear brother becomes furious and counsels him to join him in raise weapons against the grave injustice and kill or capture his senile father Dasharatha who was clearly wronging him. The following words are spoken by Lakshmana calling upon the Kshatriya in Rama.
न शोभ अर्थाव् इमौ बाहू न धनुर् भूषणाय मे |
न असिरा बन्धन अर्थाय न शराः स्तम्भ हेतवः || २-२३-३०
अमित्र दमन अर्थम् मे सर्वम् एतच् चतुष्टयम् |
“My arms are not meant for handsomeness alone. The bow is not for decoration. Sword is not for tying around the waist. Arrows are not for staying immobile. All these four are intended for subduing enemies.”
Yet, Rama chooses not only to to be the dutiful son but also to prevent any possibility of his father from being blamed for breaking a vow(by both family members and most importantly the countrymen) for his father too, was the king of the land and a king cannot afford to lose respect in the eyes of people or his family. A King who is not morally upright will no longer inspire devotion and loyalty in his people and can potentially inspire others to question his conduct, law and order and even cite the king’s wrongful conduct as an excuse for crimes.
Rama, being the ideal prince could not thus allow his father to inspire a moral degradation in the entire society for his sake. Every action of his was thus guided by intentions to achieve the ‘greater good’ and not to let any personal emotions disrupt either his moral compass or that of his family members. On a side note, Kaikeyi used his righteousness as a weapon. It is evident in the below verses:
धर्मूलमिदम् राम विदितम् च सतामपि |
तत्सत्यम् न त्यजेद्राजा कुपितस्त्वत्कृते यथा || २-१८-२४
“Oh, Rama! It is known by even wise men, that truth is the root of righteousness. See that the offended king does not abandon such a truth for your sake.”
These very words summarize the root of the woes of our Maryada Purushottam Ramachandra, the Man, the king, the god, the hero who was dear to one and all and forever placed his vows and his duty to his people and to the society above personal emotions and glory.
Siya-Rama: a truly painful love story
Nonetheless, it is because of this that his dearest wife Sita understood how much it pained her husband to send her to live in Valmiki Rishi’s hermitage and live a life of solitude keeping with him a gold replica of her, never marrying again(Ekapatnivrat) even though polygamy was common among kings of the time. She was His Sahadharmini and complemented Him in the truest sense. With a deep understanding of Dharma, Neeti and Maryaada, Queen Sita was as much an enigma as Her husband.
When abducted by Raavana of Lanka through deceit, she lashes back at him instead of cowering with fear and tells him that his end is near. She repeatedly scorns him and mocks him even while she is in captivity and Raavana does not dare to touch her fearing his own death because of a previous curse from Rambha(wife of his nephew Nalakubera who had promised that he would die if he ever tried to violate another woman without her consent) whom he had attempted to rape. Even when Hanuman, the messenger of Shri Rama offers to rescue her from Raavana’s lair, she declines to return until Raavana answered for his crime of disrespecting and underestimating women. Princess of Videha and daughter to Janaka, Sita was an exceptionally intelligent, morally upright and fiercely independent woman.
Rama: The King
Our National Anthem begins with the lines- ‘Janaganamana Adhinayaka Jaya He, Bharata Bhaagya Vidhaata’. Shri Rama was the very personification of this idea in Treta Yuga. The man who realized that in order to be a true representative of his people( a true Adhinaayak), a Prajaa-vatsala Raaja( a king who was forever in service to his countrymen and at the same time looked after them like a Guardian), he would have to ensure that nothing, not even his core family came between him and his people.
His entire life and the suffering he brought upon himself with a smile was a glaring example of how much the Nripati(Lord/ Leader of the people) should be willing to sacrifice for the sake of his people. Duty forced him to send his beloved queen to the hermitage of Maharshi Valmiki forest and even made him exile Lakshmana, his dearest brother and confidante. It forced him to live in isolation from his dear ones with his children growing up far away.
The Maryada Purushottama
It is not easy to be a ‘Good King’ for, he must not only be an impartial judge, but he also must be the Janaganamana Adhinaayaka-the representative who would dwell in the hearts of his people, laugh with them, cry with them and empathize with every situation.
His brother Lakshmana and his devotee, the great Vaanara Veer, Hanuman are two others who know and understand Rama better than anyone both as a man as well as a king. While the man Rama had the courage to raise his voice against social ills and go out of his way to rescue Ahalya, befriend Guhaka, restore Sugreeva to power by ending Vaali’s tyranny; the King Ramachandra was the Protector and guardian of dharma who did not have the right to allow any allegation stain the ability of the king to deliver justice.
Also read: Raavan – Enemy of Aryavarta