Reading Guide. Before Bharata can seek Rama in the wilderness, he has to perform the funeral rites for his father.
Image: This illustration shows Dasharatha's funeral; if you look closely, you will see that even the sun in the sky is saddened by the king's death.
Source. The Ramayana, translated by Manmatha Nath Dutt (1891 and following). [600 words] The excerpt below is a literal English translation of Valmiki's Sanskrit Ramayana. As you will see, it contains detail and description that is quite different from the shortened versions of the epic you have been reading. I wanted you to get a sense of what Valmiki's version is like!
As Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi, was thus burning in grief, that foremost of those skilled in speech, the saint Vashishtha, endowed with excellence of language, said, "Do not weep; good betide thee, O illustrious prince. Do thou perform the funereal rites of the departed king."
Hearing Vasishtha's words, Bharata, cognizant of duty, bowed down to the ground and despatched the ministers for performing the last rites. And raising from under the oil the body of the king, with a sallow countenance and appearing to be asleep, Bharata placed it on the ground upon a couch in front, adorned with various gems.
Then overwhelmed with grief, Dasharatha's son bewailed him thus, "O king, what was it that thou hadst intended to do — I absent and away from home — by banishing righteous Rama and the powerful Lakshmana? Whither wendest thou, O mighty monarch, forsaking these aggrieved people, who have already been deprived of the lion-like Rama, energetic in action? O father, thou having ascended heaven and Rama having taken refuge in the woods, who now in this city of thine shall protect what the people possess and secure unto them what they have not? Widowed in consequence of losing thee, this earth does not look graceful. The city appeareth unto me like the night deprived of the moon."
As Bharata was lamenting thus in dejected mood, the mighty ascetic Vashishtha again addressed him, saying, "O mighty-armed one, do thou, without indulging in any reflections, perform those funereal ceremonies of the monarch which ought to be performed.'
Thereupon honoring his words by saying, "So be it," he urged speed upon all the ritwigs, priests, and acharyas. And then those that had brought the king's corpse outside from the fire chamber, instructed by the ritwigs and priests according to the ordinance, began to offer oblations into the fire.
Next, placing the king deprived of life on a car, the servants, with their throats oppressed with vapor and with their minds weighed down with dejection, carried him. And scattering gold and silver and various kinds of cloth on the way, people went in front of the king. Others procuring sandalwood, agarwood and other resinous incenses, cast it on the earth. And drawing near the king there, ritwigs laid various other fragrant substances on the funeral pile.
Then, offering oblations into the fire, the ritwigs began to recite japa, and as laid down in the scriptures, sama singers chanted samas. And by means of litters and other conveyances, each mounted according to her rank, the wives of the king went out from the city, surrounded by aged men. And ritwigs went round the corpse of the king who performed many sacrifices, leaving it on the left side. And kindling with grief, the women, also headed by Kaushalya, circumambulated the pyre.
And then there was heard the wail of women distressed with grief, weeping piteously by thousands like unto kraunchis [birds]. Weeping again and again, with their sense lost, the wives of the king alighted from the car on the banks of the Sarayu.
Having performed the watery rites, the wives of the monarch as well as the counsellors and priests, in company with Bharata, entering the city with tears in their eyes, spent ten days in mourning lying down on the ground.