Rama Praises His Devotees
Turning to Vibhishana, Rama said, "Dear friend, you have set forth an example of loyalty to truth in face of immense adversity. Against all odds you stood behind me. As an acknowledgment of you steadfastness and devotion I would like you to take the throne of Lanka. Rule with honesty, justice, simplicity and fear of God. May you and your people prosper ever hereafter."
But Vibhishana protested. He said, "O lord, a devotee has no value for the riches, wealth, wine and woman. Let me serve your holy feet; do not burden me with this duty of a king." Rama pacified the upsurge of these noble thoughts and said to Vibhishana, "No, you are the fit person to rule your people. They have already suffered a lot. Moreover, let me show to the world through you, that my devotee can be rewarded both with love and material comfort. You will have best of both the worlds."
Then turning to Sugreeva, Rama praised his friendship and cooperation. Sugreeva was also given warm send off and was told to rule Kishkindha for the welfare of monkey clan.
Lord Praises Hanuman
Hanuman was standing with his eyes focused at the holy feet of Rama. He was modesty, humility, and devotion personified. Rama turned to him and lovingly said,
"O my greatest devotee, what should I offer you! Your devotion for me cannot be described in words nor can it be compared with any other. Your superhuman efforts in locating Sita and your great feat to bring the whole mountain to save life of Laxmana will be remembered for ages to come. Your intelligence, strength, and devotion will inspire many to worship you as their Ideal God. I bless you and offer a boon that you shall have a permanent seat wherever my story is recited, heard, told, read or written. You will be known as Veer (powerful) Hanuman. O son of wind, whosoever takes your name, seeks your help, prays for assistance, whosoever remembers you in distress or difficulty or calamity, that person with your blessings will become free from the trouble. Therefore you will also be known as Sankat-Vimochak, waiver of disaster and distress."
Humbly Hanuman bowed down to Rama's feet and took the dust to his head.
[Yes, many Indians believe that when I am writing this to you and when you are reading, Hanuman is always present in the room.]
Return to Ayodhya
As Rama, Laxmana, and Sita preapared to return to Ayodhya, there was joyous shouts of Victory to Rama, Veer Hanuman ki Jai -- Victory to Hanuman. Gods from the Heaven poured flowers and garlands to celebrate and show their pleasure. A Divine Air Plane -- Pushpaka -- was sent for Rama and his company so as to take them quickly to Ayodhya. Hanuman and Vibhishana also accompanied them to Ayodhya.
Bharata Prepares To Welcome Rama
Here in Ayodhya, Bharata was waiting for the arrival of Rama, Laxmana, and Sita. He knew the day when Rama should return. He had counted every day of those fourteen years that Rama had to suffer in forest as a result of his mother's folly. He had ruled as the representative Rama, living like a monk -sanyasin. Rama's wooden shoes adored the throne during his absence.
[This love and sacrifice of Laxmana and Bharata for their elder brother Rama is still cherished as an ultimate example of love between brothers. This glory of Indian ethos and culture is still sung in many houses as well on stages. Many plays are written and enacted now and then, in the past and present times also. But with the advent of science (materialistic, consumerist, utilitarian culture of modern times), where values like love and sacrifice are scornfully looked down upon as outdated emotionalism, many Indians too do not find anything worth while in this story of Rama.]
Bharata encouraged people of Ayodhya to celebrate the return of Rama with pomp and show. Actually there was no need to pass any order. The whole Ayodhya was eager to welcome her heroes. The whole city was decorated with flowers and garlands. Every house adored beautiful look of cleanliness and was lighted with candles and bulbs. Perfumes and scent filled the air. Every street was cleaned and watered, and decorated with hand-painted colorful designs.
[We Indians today also celebrate this victorious return of Rama on the auspicious day of Dasera. There is declared as a holiday; and schools, colleges, offices, and factories are closed. There is gaiety all around. Sweets are prepared in every house and distributed amongst friends and relatives.]
The pleasant noise of airoplane -Pushpaka- reached the crowd below. There was mad rush to see Rama first. Bharata and Rama hugged each other, tears flowing down their eyes. Rama inquired about the well being of Kaikeyi first, then about his mother Kausalya and Sumitra. Kaikeyi had repented her harsh decision to send Rama to forest. In this act, she and the other two queens had become widows. The sobering effect of all these realities showed in Kaikeyi's changed behaviour of simplicity and humility. After salutations, Rama talked to them about his experiences of forest life. The story of Sita's kidnapping and Ravana's death were narrated. Hanuman and Vibhishana were introduced.
But all the three older queens were fade up with these worldly matters now! After praising the obedience and bravery of Rama, unparalleled love and sacrifice of Laxmana, and extreme suffering of Sita, they requested Rama to permit them to retreat to forest to lead life of renunciation. [This was quite natural in those days when elderly people used to renounce worldly pleasures and retire to loneliness of forest and Ashrams. They engage themselves in the worship of God, mediation and contemplation.]
Reluctantly Rama agreed to their request, and thus Kausalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra left Ayodhya for forest life.
Righteous Rule of Rama -- Rama Rajya
Soon, Rama was given his due honour as King of Ayodhya. Formal sacrificial ceremony was performed with gaiety and pomp. Rama ruled wisely. Food and shelter, water and fodder, everything was aplenty. Art and literature, craft and business prospered. Justice and peace prevailed every where. In fact justice was never denied or delayed because there was no crime!!! Everyone including animals and trees were happy and contented.
End Of The Story
Story of Rama should end here. A happy ending.
But because of some inexplicable reasons this does not happen! The story continues to its most tragic end. As if the trials and tribulations - suffering of Sita was not enough, a new and queer situation develops. I am not inclined to proceed further, but as is customary, the story, whether tragic or comic, must be told in full. Therefore, reluctantly I will tell the remaining story in brief.
In this Rama Rajya, one voice of protest and dissent was gradually making itself heard. It spread from one ear to another, from one house to the next, from one province to the next. Initially it created a faint rumble, but gradually the faint murmur acquired the intensity of audible words.
And what was this all about?
One washerman and his wife doubted the purity of Sita because she had stayed as a prisoner of Ravana! In the Royal Court, they declared:
"O Noble king, as a perfect master you should always lead the most ideal life, above any reproach. There should not be darkness under the lamp! Our culture and tradition does not allow infidel woman to stay with her husband. She must be deserted/banished. Sita has stayed in the custody of Ravana as a prisoner. What proof she has to prove her innocence and purity! Who will believe her? It will be better if you leave her. It will be in conformity with the noble tradition of Raghu Dynasty, as well as a just gesture on your part as the king of Ayodhya."
Rama and the whole court was stunned to listen to these inauspicious words of the washerman. But who can hold the tongue of the masses! Who can shut the mouth that speaketh thus! Rama tried to put an end to this useless allegation by informing the court and the assembly about the Fire Test that Sita has already gone through (passed) successfully. But this did not convince everyone. An occasional voice of protest was still heard in the court.
Then Rama offered that Sita would take another Fire Test to prove her innocence and purity. To this Sita herself took objection. She said,
"O my lord, there will always be some one who cannot be satisfied by any 'test' or any proof. Their convictions are hard-pressed in their psyche and no amount of genuine proof will convince them about the truth, for they do not want to get convinced. They are born to raise doubts about the Truth itself.
Today this washerman has stood to cast aspersions on my character, tomorrow some one else is sure to follow the suit. He would want fresh proof. Then should I continue to pass the test every day? O noble lord, I appeal to you to make your own judgment and act accordingly."
Rama passed many sleepless nights. Sita was carrying his two sons in her womb. She was innocent, Rama knew and believed. But as a righteous king, as the caretaker of all, not only in matters of food and shelter, but also regarding their emotions and conventions he was accountable. Ultimately, Rama decided to desert Sita, the Purity personified!!!
Rama Deserts Sita
This difficult duty fell on the shoulders of Laxmana. Only 'Sanyasin' Laxmana would be able to control his emotions at the harsh moment of leaving Sita. A chariot was arranged one day which took Sita and Laxmana to far off forest Ashrama of Sage Valmiki. The Rishi was already briefed about Rama's decision. The sage was pleased to receive Sita and promised every care for her health. Sita gave birth to two lovely sons: LAVA and KUSHA. [Later his two sons were accepted by Rama, and were handed over the reigns of Ayodhya.]
Sita now was tired of her difficult life. Insult, humiliation, distress did make her impact on her. And this daughter of Mother Earth prayed to Mother Earth to make room for her so that she could find peaceful rest for sometime in her life. The Earth separated into two and Sita buried herself under the protective cover of her Mother.
And Rama Too
Rama was distressed. His golden rule and prosperity of his people, his Rama-Rajya meant little to him now; the episode of Sita hovered constantly over his heart. The folly and compulsions of authority and social welfare became clear to him. One day, all alone he drowned himself in the holy waters of river Sarayu.
Thus Rama and Sita departed; but have they really