Around this time, King Janaka in Mithila was making arrangements to find a suitable groom for his daughter. It was Vishwamitra’s futuristic vision that sensed the capacity for forging a long lasting and inseparable relationship between Dasharatha and Janaka. Those who recall the episodes of Rambha and Menaka in Vishwamitra’s life must also not forget the fact that it was the same Vishwamitra who mediated the marriage of Sita Devi and Sri Rama. Likewise, it was solely due to Vishwamitra’s guidance that Ahalya obtained liberation from her curse when she met Sri Rama. Shatananda, the son of this wife of Rishi Gautama, was the Purohita of Maharaja Janaka. We must not forget also, that it was Shatananda who officiated the marriage of Sita Devi and Sri Ramachandra. In this way, everything culminates in auspiciousness.
Maharshi Parashurama is akin to a revolutionary. When injustice and oppression becomes powerful in the world, a certain revolutionary fervor arises in the mind of some person. That becomes a revolution. Revolution is the response for injustice that has crossed all limits. It is the uprising of the Sattva feeling in human nature—however, this uprising is mixed with the zeal of Rajas. The rage of the revolutionary does not have any place for pity or restraint. There is also no place for patience or a measured discrimination of the wisdom of sifting the relevant from the irrelevant. Everything hinges upon obstinacy—a stubbornness devoid of reason. Indeed, there is a place in human history for even such feverish obstinacy. Because there is opportunity in human nature for committing injustice. When this injustice reaches a heightened state, a revolution rooted in justice will be the most appropriate vengeance. The kind of medicine required is directly proportional to the nature of the disease. Ginger for common cold. The first sign of a safe and healthy society is the complete absence of any cause for a revolution. The second sign is to remedy the aftereffects of a revolution as soon as possible.
The revolutionary work of Parashurama was complete. However, the intensity of the blaze of his fury had still not cooled down. Isn’t this similar to Narasimha Swami, the fire of whose rage was still burning even after he had finished his appointed work? Once the cooking is complete and the vessel is taken down from the stove, the charcoal continues to burn. The world would not experience contentment until the heat of Parashurama’s anger has not cooled down. Of the twenty-four hours in a day, the stove in our home must burn only for a maximum of a couple of hours or so. Similarly, a society might require a revolution for just a couple of days in an entire era. At all other times, what it needs is contentment and orderly peace. That can be established by Dasharatharama.
kālāgnisadṛśaḥ krodhe kṣamayā pṛthvīsamaḥ ||
It was an era that demanded a competent person endowed with an understanding of the nuances of Dharma, one who would undertake a battlefield confrontation between innately opposed qualities so that the welfare of the world could be attained. The Balakanda concludes by informing us that such a magnanimous warrior was ready in the person of Sri Rama.
The Balakanda is a narrative that tells us the process of the ripening of Sri Rama’s conduct and nature.
However, several other episodes are harmoniously woven into and make the story flow in an enchanting manner, and in the Ayodhyakanda, shows how Sri Rama got himself ready to face a sudden, dire question.
viśvāmitrāṃraṃgāya mithilānagaripateḥ ।
bhāgyānāṃ paripākāya bhavyarūpāya maṃgaḻaṃ ||
Of the seven Kandas in the Ramayana, the Ayodhyakanda is the largest excluding the Yuddhakanda. One can characterize the Ayodhyakanda as the heart of Srimad Ramayana. It contains the story of the obstacle to Sri Rama’s coronation as King up to the beginning of his exile in the forest. This portion of the story comprises several heart-wrenching episodes. These episodes bring before our eyes the various tribulations related to Dharma faced by Sri Rama, Sita Devi, Bharata, Lakshmana, Dasharatha, Kausalya, and Sumitra. Even while reading the work and becoming involved in the respective circumstances and characters, the proverbial ordinary reader will be unable to stop his heart from overflowing with emotion and shedding tears.
A caution is essential to bear in mind for those who embark on reading Maharshi Valmiki’s poetry. Valmiki does not merely narrate a story but a poem. Poetry contains a far subtle element apart from the incidents narrated in the story. Overall, it can be couched in the term, Rasa. To elucidate this further, it can be called Bhava (feeling, emotion) or Bhava-Dhwani (suggestion of feeling). This is known as “reading between the lines” in English. A special emotional, suggestive strength lies hidden between one written or printed sentence and the next, which is deeper than the direct meaning it conveys. When we carefully grasp this subtlety and internalize it, our learning of poetry attains fulfilment.
Maharshi Valmiki’s writing appears simple on the surface. His words are derived from common usage and his sentence construction is simple. Its flow is beautiful. In this manner, his poetry has a lilting quality to it. Thus, there is the danger of us being content only with the easy bits and forgetting its true depth. We need to be careful about this attitude. It is not advisable to regard Valmiki Maharshi’s poetry akin to reading a cheap short story or novel. The beauty of Valmiki’s prose also ensconces the depth of meaning.
In the episode of denying the coronation of Sri Rama in the Ayodhyakanda (Sarga 8,9), the conversation between Manthara and Kaikeyi is noteworthy. Here, Valmiki makes us laugh uproariously. Kaikeyi did not initially like Manthara. Then, Manthara provokes Kaikeyi’s selfishness. It is at this point that torrents of praise flood forth from Kaikeyi’s mouth regarding Manthara. This is followed by heartless and heart-tugging events: the conversation between Dasharatha and Sri Rama, the sorrow of Kausalya and Sumitra, Lakshmana’s fury, Sri Rama’s equanimity, and Sita Devi’s unswerving, courageous fidelity to her husband…in short, an entire tradition of nobleness.
To be continued