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The Banishment Of Rama Dasa-Ratha - Chooses Rama As Regent

( Originally Published 1939 )



BUT of all his righteous children righteous Rama won his heart,

As Swayambhu, of all creatures, was his dearest, holiest part,

For his Rama strong and stately was his eldest and his best,

Void of every baser passion and with every virtue blest!

Soft in speech, sedate and peaceful, seeking still the holy path,

Calm in conscious worth and valour, taunt nor cavil waked his wrath,

In the field of war exceIIing, boldest warrior midst the bold,

In the palace chambers musing on the tales by elders told,

Faithful to the wise and learned, truthful in his deed and word,

Rama dearly loved his people and his people loved their lord !

To the Brahmans pure and holy Rama due obeisance made,

To the poor and to the helpless deeper love and honour paid,

Spirit of his race and nation was to high-souled Rama given,

Thoughts that widen human glory, deeds that open the gates of heaven!

Not intent on idle cavil Rama spake with purpose high,

And the God of speech might envy when he spake or made reply;

In the learning of the Vedas highest meed and glory won,

In the skill of arms the father scarcely matched the gallant son!

Taught by sages and by elders in the manners of his race,

Rama grew in social virtues and each soft endearing grace,

Taught by inborn pride and wisdom patient purpose to conceal,

Deep determined was his effort, dauntless was his silent will!

Dasa-ratha marked his Rama with each kingly virtue blest,

And from life-Iong royal duties now he sought repose and rest:

Shall I see my son anointed, seated on KosaIa's throne,

In the evening of my life-time ere my days on earth be done,Shall I place my ancient empire in the youthful Rama's care.

Seek for me a higher duty and prepare for life more fair?"

Pondering thus within his bosom counsel from his courtiers sought,

And to crown his Rama Regent was his purpose and his thought.

And he witnessed Rama's virtues filling all the world with love,

As the full moon's radiant lustre fills the earth from skies above!

Dear to him appeared his purpose, Rama to his people dear,

Private wish and public duty made his path serene and clear.

INTRIGUE

IN the inner palace chamber stood the proud and peerless queen,

With a mother's joy Kaikeyi gaily watched the festive scene,

But with deep and deadly hatred Manthara, her nurse and maid,

Marked the city bright with banners, and in scornful accents said :

"Take thy presents back, Kaikeyi, for they ill befit the day,

And when clouds of sorrow darken, ill beseems thee to be gay,

And thy folly moves my laughter though an anguish wakes my sigh,

For a gladness stirs thy bosom when thy greatest woe is nigh!

Who that hath a woman's wisdom, who that is a prudent wife,

Smiles in joy when prouder rival triumphs in the race of life,

How can hapless Queen Kaikeyi greet this deed of darkness done,

When the favoured Queen Kausalya wins the empire for her son?

Happy is the Queen Kausalya in her regal pomp and state,

And Kaikeyi like a bond-slave must upon her rival wait!

Wilt thou do her due obeisance as we humble women do,

Will thy proud and princely Bharat as his brother's henchman go,

Will thy Bharat's gentle consort, fairest princess in this land,

In her tears and in her anguish wait on Sita's proud command?"

With a woman's scornful anger Manthara proclaimed her grief,

With a mother's love for Rama thus Kaikeyi answered brief:

"What inspires thee, wicked woman, thus to rail in bitter tone,

Shall not Rama, best and eldest, fill his father's royal throne,

What alarms thee, crooked woman, in the happy rites begun,

Shall not Rama guard his brothers as a father guards his son?"

Scorn and anger shook her person and her bosom heaved a sigh,

As in wilder, fiercer accents Manthara thus made reply :

"But a danger thus ariseth if the elder wins the throne;

Haste thee, heedless Queen Kaikeyi, save the younger and thy son !

Speak thy mandate to thy husband, let thy Bharat rule at home,

In the deep and pathless jungle Iet the banished Rama roam,

This will please thy ancient father and thy father's kith and kin,

This will please the righteous people, Bharat knows no guile or sin!

Speak thy mandate to thy husband, win thy son a happy fate,

Doom him not to Rama's service or his unrelenting hate,

Let not Rama in his rancour shed a younger brother's blood,

As the lion slays the tiger m the deep and echoing wood!

With the magic of thy beauty thou hast won thy monarch's heart,

Queen KausaIya's bosom rankles with a woman's secret smart,

Let her not with woman's vengeance turn upon her prouder foe,

And as crowned Rama's mother venge her in Kaikeyi's woe.

Mark my word, my child Kaikeyi, must these ancient eyes have seen,

Rama's rule is death to Bharat, insult to my honoured Queen!"

Like a slow but deadly poison worked the ancient nurse's tears,

And a wife's undying impulse mingled with a mother's fears,

Deep within Kaikeyi's bosom worked a woman's jealous thought,

Speechless in her scorn and anger mourner's dark retreat she sought.

KING SEEKS THE QUEEN

THROUGH the portico of splendour graced by silver, tusk and gold,

Radiant with his thought of gladness walked the monarch proud and bold.

Through the lines of scented blossoms which by limpid waters shone,

And the rooms with seats of silver, ivory bench and golden throne,

Through the chamber of confection, where each viand wooed the taste, Every object in profusion as in regions of the blest,

Through Kaikeyi's inner closet lighted with a softened sheen,

Walked the king with eager longing, but Kaikeyi was not seen!

Thoughts of love and gentle dalliance woke within his ancient heart,

And the magic of her beauty and the glamour of her art.

With a soft desire the monarch vainly searched the vanished fair,

Found her not in royal chamber, found her not in gay parterre!

Filled with love and longing languor loitered not the radiant queen,

In her soft, voluptuous chamber, in the garden, grove or green,

And he asked the faithful warder of Kaikeyi, loved and lost,

She who served him with devotion and his wishes never crost.

Spake the warder in his terror that the queen, with rage distraught,

Weeping silent tears of anguish had the mourner's chamber sought.

Thither flew the stricken monarch; on the bare and unswept ground

Trembling with tumultuous passion was the Queen Kaikeyi found,

On the cold, uncovered pavement sorrowing lay the weeping wife,

Young wife of an ancient husband, dearer than his heart and life!

"Wherefore thus, my Queen and Empress, sorrow-laden in thy heart,

Who with daring slight or insult seeks to cause thy bosom smart?

Speak, command thy king's obedience, and thy wrath will melt away,

Like the melting snow of winter 'neath !the sun's reviving ray !"

Blinded was the ancient husband as he lifted up her head,

Heedless oath and word he plighted that her wish should be obeyed.

THE QUEEN'S DEMAND

SCHEMING for a fatal purpose, inly then Kaikeyi smiled,

And by sacred oath and promise bound the monarch love-beguiled:

"Thou hast given, Dasa-ratha, troth and word and royal oath,

Three and thirty Gods be witness, watchers of the righteous truth,

Sun and Moon and Stars be witness, Sky and Day and sable Night,

Rolling Worlds and this our wide Earth, and each dark and unseen wight,

Witness Rangers of the forest, Household Gods that guard us both,

Mortal beings and Immortal, witness ye the monarch's oath,

Ever faithful to his promise, ever truthful in his word,

Dasa-ratha grants my prayer, Spirits and the Gods have heard!

Call to mind, 0 righteous monarch, days when in a bygone strife,

Warring with thy foes immortal thou hadst almost lost thy life,

With a woman's loving tendance poor Kaikeyi cured thy wound,

Till from death and danger rescued, thou wert by a promise bound,

Two rewards my husband offered, what my loving heart might seek,

Long delayed their wished fulfilment, now let poor Kaikeyi speak,

And if royal deeds redeem not what thy royal lips did say,

Victim to thy broken promise Queen Kaikeyi dies today !

By these rites ordained for Rama, such the news my menials bring,

Let my Bharat, and not Rama, be anointecl Regent King,

Wearing skins and matted tresses, in the cave or hermit's cell,

Fourteen years in Dandak's forests let the elder Rama dwell,

These are Queen Kaikeyi's wishes, these are boons for which I pray,

I would see my son anointed, Rama banished on this clay!"

THE KING'S LAMENT

WHEREFORE now this cruel purpose hath a stainless heart defiled,

Ruthless wish to send my Rama to the dark and pathless wild?

Wherefore, darkly-scheming woman, on unrighteous purpose bent,

Doth thy cruel causeless vengeance on my Rama seek a vent,

Wherefore seek by deeds unholy for thy son the throne to win,

Throne which Bharat doth not covet, blackened by his mother's sin?

Shall I see my banished Rama mantled in the garb of woe,

Reft of home and kin and empire to the pathless jungle go,

Shall I see disasters sweeping o'er my empire dark and deep,

As the forces of a foeman o'er a scattered army sweep?

Shall I hear assembled monarchs in their whispered voices say,

Weak and foolish in his dotage, Dasa-ratha holds his sway,

Shall I say to righteous elders when they blame my action done,

That by woman's mandate driven I have banished thus my son?

Queen Kausalya, dear-loved woman ! she who serves me as a slave,

Soothes me like a tender sister, helps me like a consort brave,

As a fond and loving mother tends me with a watchful care,

As a daughter ever duteous doth obeisance sweet and fair,

When my fond and fair Kausalya asks me of her banished son,

How shall Dasa-ratha answer for the impious action done,

How can husband, cold and cruel, break a wife's confiding heart,

How can father, false and faithless, from his best and eldest part?"

Coldly spake the Queen Kaikeyi: If thy royal heart repent,

Break thy word and plighted promise, let thy royal faith be rent.

Truth-abiding is our monarch, so I heard the people say,

And his word is all inviolate, stainless virtue marks his sway.

Let it now be known to nations, righteous Dasa-ratha lied,

And a trusting, cheated woman broke her loving heart and died!"

Darker grew the shades of midnight, coldly shone each distant star,

Wilder in the monarch's bosom raged the struggle and the war

"Starry midnight, robed in shadows! give my wearied heart relief,

Spread thy sable covering mantle o'er an impious monarch's grief,

Spread thy vast and inky darkness o'er a deed of nameless crime,

Reign perennial o'er my sorrows heedless of the lapse of time,

May a sinful monarch perish ere the dawning of the day,

O'er a dark life sin-polluted, beam not morning's righteous ray!"

MORNING came and duteous Rama to the palace bent his way, For to make his salutation and his due obeisance And he saw his aged father shorn of kingly pomp and pride,

And he saw the Queen Kaikeyi sitting by her consort's side.

Duteously the righteous Rama touched the ancient monarch's feet,

Touched the feet of Queen Kaikeyi with a son's obeisance meet.

"Rama!" cried the feeble monarch, but the tear bedimmed his eye,

Sorrow choked his failing utterance and his bosom heaved a sigh.

Rama started in his terror at his father's grief or wrath,

Like a traveller in the jungle crossed by serpent in his path,

Reft of sense appeared the monarch, crushed beneath a load of pain,

Heaving oft a sigh of sorrow as his heart would break in twain,

Like the ocean tempest-shaken, like the sun in eclipse pale,

Like a crushed, repenting "rishi" when his truth and virtue fail!

Breathless mused the anxious Rama, what foul action hath he done,

What strange anger fills his father, wherefore greets he not his son?

"Speak, my mother," uttered Rama, "what strange error on my part,

Unremembered sin or folly fills with grief my father's heart?

Gracious unto me is father with a father's boundless grace,

Wherefore clouds his altered visage, wherefore tears bedew his face?

Speak, my ever loving mother, speak the truth for thou must know,

What distress or deep disaster pains his heart and clouds his brow?"

Mother's love nor woman's pity moved the deep-determined queen,

As in cold and cruel accents thus she spake her purpose keen:

"Grief nor woe nor sudden ailment pains thy father loved of old,

But he fears to speak his purpose to his Rama true and bold,

And his loving accents falter some unloving wish to tell,

Till you give your princely promise, you will serve his mandate well!

Listen more, in bygone seasons, Rama, thou wert then unborn,

I had saved thy royal father, he a gracious boon had sworn,

But his feeble heart repenting, is by pride and passion stirred,

He would break his royal promise as a caitiff breaks his word.

Years have passed and now the monarch would his ancient word forego,

He would build a needless causeway when the waters ceased to flow!

Truth inspires each deed attempted and each word by monarchs spoke,

Not for thee, though loved and honoured, should a royal vow be broke,

If the true and righteous Rama binds him by his father's vow,

I will tell thee of the anguish which obscures his royal brow ;

If thy feeble bosom falter and thy halting purpose fail,

Unredeemed is royal promise and unspoken is my tale!"

"Speak thy word," exclaimed the hero, "and my purpose shall not fail,

Rama serves his father's mandate and his bosom shall not quail,

Poisoned cup or death untimely, what the cruel fates decree,

To his king and to his father Rama yields obedience free,

Speak my father's royal promise, hold me by his promise tied,

Rama speaks and shall not palter, for his lips have never lied."

Cold and clear Kaikeyi's accents fell as falls the hunter's knife,

"Listen then to word of promise and redeem it with thy life.

Wounded erst by foes immortal, saved by Queen Kaikeyi's care,

Two great boons your father plighted and his royal words were fair.

I have sought their due fulfilment, brightly shines my Bharat's star,

Bharat shall be Heir and Regent, Rama shall be banished far!

If thy father's royal mandate thou wouldst list and honor still,

Fourteen years in Dandak's forest live and wander at thy will,

Seven long years and seven, my Rama, thou shalt in the jungle dwell,

Bark of trees shall be thy raiment and thy home the hermit's cell.

Over fair Kosala's empire let my princely Bharat reign,

With his cars and steecls and tuskers, wealth and gold and armed men!

Tender-hearted is the monarch, age and sorrow dim his eye,

And the anguish of a father checks his speech and purpose high,

For the love he bears thee, Rama, cruel vow he may not speak,

I have spoke his will and mandate, and thy true obedience seek.

Calmly Rama heard the mandate, grief nor anger touched his heart,

Calmly from his father's empire and his home prepared to part.

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