Rāmāyaṇa - Ayodhyā-kāṇḍa - Part 9 - Bharata returns with Rāma's Pāduka

With the wives of Daśaratha before him, Sage Vasiṣṭha set out to the spot where Rāma was. Kausalyā saw the bathing place of Rāma and was overcome by sorrow. They even saw the piṇḍa made of iṅgudī that Rāma had offered to his father and lamented at his fate. They then spotted the brothers.

Rāma, Sītā, and Lakṣmaṇa fell at their mothers’ feet. Kausalyā embraced Sītā just as a mother would embrace her daughter. She cried, “How is it possible that the daughter of the king of Videha, the daughter-in-law of Daśaratha, and the wife of Rāma is reduced to such a state? Terrible grief consumes my heart!” Rāma prostrated before Vasiṣṭha and sat down surrounded by his brothers and his men.

Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa then asked Bharata why he had come to the forest clad in barkcloth. Bharata said, “It was a grave wrongdoing of our father to exile Rāma; his longing for his son sent him to svarga. My mother never got her desire fulfilled and instead became a widow.  She must fall into the most dreadful of narakas. I am your dāsa. Please get consecrated as king right away. It is only befitting that you should rule the kingdom by the virtue of your seniority and your own noble qualities. All the citizens and our mothers have come here with the request. Please show your grace upon me – your brother, disciple, and dāsa.”

Rāma embraced Bharata and said, “A noble person like you will never harm the kingdom. Also, you should not childishly reproach your mother. She commands as much reverence as our father. My father instructed me to go to the forest and wished to coronate you as king. After having given his orders, he left the world. We should enjoy the share allotted to us.”

As the sorrowful night brightened into dawn, Rāma’s brother performed japa and the morning rituals on the banks of the river Mandākinī. They then sat around in silence around Rāma until Bharata spoke, “The kingdom was given to me and my mother was placated; now, I give the same way to you. Only you can take care of the vast kingdom and save it from disintegration. Just as a donkey cannot match the pace of the horse and other birds that of Garuḍa, I cannot match your power.”

Rāma replied, “No one acts of his own free will; man is not independent and is dragged along by fate. All gains end in losses, all unions result in separations, and life ends in death. Just as a house with strong pillars collapses with time, humans too decay and succumb to old age and death. Days and nights deplete the life of all beings in the world, just as the Sun dries up water in summer. You must grieve only for yourself and not for anyone else. Your life constantly dwindles, whether you stand still or move. Mṛtyu walks with you, sits beside you, and wherever you travel, it follows you. Just as two logs of wood drift together in the great ocean, and having met, drift apart after a few moments, so do your wives, children, relatives, and riches meet you and quickly go away. You will certainly lose them. Life trickles away like the waters of a stream, never to return and thus, happiness should be one’s ultimate aim.”

“Our father, who was dhārmic by nature, performed all earthly deeds and led a full life. A learned and intelligent person like you should not mourn for him. A steadfast person does not grieve and holds fast to wisdom in all circumstances.  As per the instructions of our revered father, go ahead and rule the kingdom; and I cannot disregard his wish either.”

A bewildered Bharata replied, “There is no one else in the world who is unperturbed by sorrow and is not elated by joy. Your courage and sattva are like that of the immortal deities. While I was away, my wretched mother did a dreadful deed on my behalf, but I never asked for it. Please forgive me! As I am bound by dharma, I am not subjecting my mother to a serve punishment, although she deserves it for heinous deed she has committed. Our father was a god to us, he was our guru and king. Nevertheless, would any dhārmic man like him do a sinful deed merely to please a woman? An ancient proverb says, ‘Creatures lose their wits when their end is near.’ Through his actions, the king has proved the saying right.  You know what is right and thus, correct the deed of our father, which he committed out of anger, delusion, and recklessness. A son is truly a son if he corrects his father’s flaws. You know dharma, so come back and take care of the people belonging to the four varṇas. The wise have declared gṛhasthāśrama as the foremost among all the āśramas; how can you renounce it? I am merely a child compared to you both in terms of learning and by age. How can I govern the earth while you are alive? In the assembly of the people present here, may the revered Vasiṣṭha coronate you right away. You must then return to Ayodhyā and fulfil the three ṛṇas. Please free my mother and me from this infamy. I request you with my head bowed down. However, if you go into the forest ignoring my plea, I will follow you!”

Bharata requested thus, but Rāma did not budge. People were awestruck at his determination and were reduced to tears at the same time. Rāma told Bharata of the promises that their father had made to Kaikeyī’s father and the boons he had offered her for saving his life. He also recollected the saying of Gaya, ‘A son is called putra, because he safeguards his father from falling into a naraka called put.’ Rāma again said to Bharata, “Go back and rule the kingdom populated by humans while I will rule over the animals in the forest. May the royal umbrella protect you from the Sun, while the canopy in the forest protects me. Let us all, the four sons of Daśaratha, make his words come true!”

A senior ascetic named Jābāli tried to convince Rāma to accept the throne. However, Rāma replied with glorious words, “It is only character – cāritra that determines the worth of a person. The subjects of a kingdom will behave just like their king. The actions of a king must thus be always truthful and benevolent. The kingdom and the world are rooted in truth. The devas and ṛṣis accord the highest place to truth and only the honest man attains the highest abode. Yajña, dāna, tapas, the Vedas, and svarga, everything rooted in truth. Thus, let me truthfully follow my father’s command. I will not become dishonest out of greed, delusion, or ignorance. I made my promise to my father and it brought delight to the heart of Queen Kaikeyī. I shall never break my promise.”

Vasiṣṭha tried to calm Rāma down and told him the story of creation of the universe – Everything was just water and from water came the earth. Svayambhū Brahmā then came into existence with the deities and the primordial varāha lifted the earth from the water. From the imperishable Brahmā was born Marīci and from him, Kaśyapa. Vivasvān, the Sun, who was also the first prajāpati, was born from Kaśyapa; from him Manu, who is called Vaivasvata, was born. Ikṣvāku was the son of Manu and the first king of Ayodhyā. Following him, in order, were Kukṣi, Vikukṣi, Bāṇa, Anaraṇya, Pṛthu, Triśaṅku, Dhundhumāra, Yuvanāśva, Māndhātā, Susandhi, Dhruvasandhi, Bharata, Asita, Sagara[1], Asamañjas, Aṃśumān, Dilīpa, Bhagīratha, Kakutstha, Raghu[2], Kalmāṣapāda-saudāsa, Śaṅkhaṇa, Sudarśana, Agnivarṇa, Śīghraga, Maru, Praśuśruka, Ambarīṣa, Nahuṣa, Nābhāga, Aja, and Daśaratha.

Vasiṣṭha also said, “The eldest son has always succeeded the father and Rāghava, you must not abandon the custom now! A man born in this world has three gurus – his teacher, father, and mother. The father gives birth; the teacher imparts knowledge and is therefore, called guru. I was the guru to your father and to you as well. By heeding my words, you will not stray from the dhārmic path. By listening to the words of your aged mother and by heeding to the request of Bharata, you will not stray from the dhārmic path.”

Rāma would still not budge from his decision and instead emphasised upon the debt that children owe to their parents. Bharata was immensely distressed and grew adamant as well. He pledged to lie before Rāma’s hut and fast until he consented return to Ayodhyā. Rāma tried to dissuade him from doing so, but Bharata was stubborn. He even cried out to his people “Why don’t you exhort my noble brother to do as I wish?” The people replied, “We fully understand Rāma’s pledge to stand on his father’s word. That is why we cannot get him to go back!” Bharata declared that he would live in the forest for fourteen years instead of Rāma.  

Many seers and divine beings gathered there and admired the meeting of the two noble brothers. Remaining invisible, they lauded the fortune of Daśaratha to beget sons like them. Eager for the destruction of the ten-headed Rāvaṇa, the seers said, “O noble Bharata! If you have any regard for your father, you must listen to what Rāma says. Only because Daśaratha was free from the debt he owed to Kaikeyī, he went to svarga.”  Rāma was gladdened by their splendid words. He promised Bharata that he would come back after fourteen years of exile and rule the king. He convinced Bharata about his ability to rule the kingdom and advised, “Whether it was excessive love or greed that made your mother act the way she did on your behalf, you must still treat her as your mother!”

Bharata then requested Rāma, “Please place your feet on these gold-studded sandals, brother; they shall provide for the welfare of all the world.” Accordingly, Rāma put them on and then presented them to Bharata. Reverentially receiving them, Bharata performed pradakṣiṇa to Rāma and placed the sandals on the head of a splendid elephant. Rāma paid homage to all his people in due order: to his gurus, ministers, and his two younger brothers as well as everyone else who had come. He bid them farewell. The mothers could not speak as their throats choked. Rāma bowed down to them and returned to his hut, weeping.

Bharata then placed the sandals on his head and boarded the chariot with Śatrughna. On the way, the paid their respects to Sage Bharadvāja in his āśrama and told him about the events that transpired in the forest. Bharata also told the sage that Rāma, upon the instruction of Vasiṣṭha, bestowed the gold ornamented sandals. Hearing the wonderful words uttered by Bharata, the sage said, “Your valorous father is not dead, not when he has a son like you, who cherishes the path of dharma!” Reverentially bidding farewell to the sage, Bharata and his men crossed over Yamunā, and Gaṅgā, and passed through the Śṛṅgaverapura. As he spotted Ayodhyā at a distance, Bharata told his charioteer, “Look! Ayodhyā’s beauty and bliss are gone; it is desolate and silent.”


As Bharata’s chariot resounded through the streets of Ayodhyā, he observed cats and owls roaming everywhere; humans and elephants appeared to be in hiding. The city lay shrouded in gloom. It appeared like the extinguished fire of a yajña, which had once blazed with all dignity. It was like an army routed in a battle – its armours broken, horses and elephants slaughtered, and its heroes slain. It resembled a herd of cows that no longer graze new grass once their bull has left them, but long for his company. It was like a pearl necklace that had lost all its gems. It appeared as if a blazing forest fire had consumed the entire nature that had joyfully blossomed in spring. All the shops and market places were closed. It looked like a drinking hall littered with smashed goblets and men lying dead drunk. The city resembled a bow string that was once strong and resilient, now snapped by an enemy.

Bharata was distressed as he did not find the former music, fragrance, and the grandeur of the city. He entered his father’s residence that resembled a cave abandoned by its lion.

After dropping off his mothers in the city, the grief-stricken Bharata made his decision known to his gurus, “I bid farewell to you all, as I am going to Nandigrāma. I will endure my pain of separation from Rāghava there and will wait until he comes back and assumes kingship, for he is truly our king.” Receiving the blessings and approval of Vasiṣṭha and the ministers, Bharata set out still bearing Rāma’s sandals on his head. Śatrughna, the purohitas, and a large number of citizens followed Bharata. As soon as he entered Nandigrāma, Bharata addressed his gurus, “This kingdom was given to me by my brother as a trust; these gold-studded sandals will ensure its yoga and kṣema. I shall look forward to the day when Rāma’s feet will be placed in these sandals. Once I am reunited with him, I will hand over the kingship to him and conduct myself towards him like a student to a guru. Only then, I will be cleansed of my pāpa.”

Wearing a barkcloth and matted hair like a muni, Bharata waited in Nandigrāma with his army. Having anointed them, Bharata informed the sandals all activities of the kingdom as well as his decisions.


Some time after Bharata’s departure, Rāma observed that the tapasvīs who he was living with were growing anxious day by day. Wondering if Sītā, Lakṣmaṇa, or he was the cause of their dismay, he asked them about it and learnt that Khara, the younger brother of Rāvaṇa was causing immense trouble. An old seer, trembling, told him, “Khara uprooted all tapasvīs who were residing in Janasthāna. From the moment you came, the rākṣasas are troubling ascetics. They appear in strange and terrifying forms. They are enemies of everything that is noble and sacred. Before these foul creatures unleash physical violence on the tapasvīs, we must leave this āśrama. You too leave, my son, before Khara harms you.” Nothing that Rāma said could stop the tapasvīs from going.

Rāma too felt that his memory would linger upon his encounter with Bharata, the mothers, and the citizens if he continued to live there. He, thus, left the place with Vaidehī and Lakṣmaṇa.

To be continued...
[The critically constituted text and the critical edition published by the Oriental Institute, Vadodara is the primary source. In addition, the Kannada rendering of the epic by Mahāmahopādhyāya Sri. N. Ranganatha Sharma and the English translation by Sri. N. Raghunathan have been referred.]

[1] His mother’s co-wife tried to poison the unborn child, but he was born safe; he was thus named sa-gara ‘with poison’

[2] Their successors are called Kākutsthas and Rāghavas




Visionary sage and the author of the fifth Veda, the Rāmāyaṇa



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

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अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...