Friday, March 4, 2011

PDE Ramayana: Dasharatha's Death

Reading Guide. Dasharatha dies attended by two of his wives, Kaushalya (mother of Rama) and Sumitra (mother of Lakshmana and Shatrughna). None of his sons are present at the time of his death: Rama and Lakshmana have gone into exile, while Bharata and Shatrughna are away in the kingdom of Ashwapati, Kaikeyi's father. You will see two different versions of the death scene here: the first version focuses on Dasharatha's awareness of his own karma, while the second version focuses on the tension between Kaushalya and her dying husband.

Image: The illustration shows the dead king, attended by his chief wife, Kaushalya. It is another example of the Mughal version of the Ramayana, dating to the reign of the Akbar the Great (Akbar-e-Azam).

Source. The first portion is from Ramayana, The Epic of Rama, Prince of India, condensed into English verse by Romesh Dutt (1899) — you might try listening to the audio while you read, or reading it out loud for yourself. The second portion is from Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [500 words]

Karma | 20. Dasharatha's Death | Bharata Returns

[In these verses Dasharatha tells the story of the hunting accident and concludes with the curse laid upon him.]

Slow and sadly by their bidding to the fatal spot I led;
Long and loud bewailed the parents by the cold unconscious dead,

And with hymns and holy water they performed the funeral rite.
Then with tears that burnt and withered, spake the hermit in his might.

"Sorrow for a son beloved is a father's direst woe;
Sorrow for a son beloved, Dasharatha, thou shalt know!

"See the parents weep and perish, grieving for a slaughtered son;
Thou shalt weep, and thou shalt perish for a loved and righteous son!

"Distant is the expiation — but in fulness of the time,
Dasharatha's death in anguish cleanses Dasharatha's crime!"

Spake the old and sightless prophet; then he made the funeral pyre,
And the father and the mother perished in the lighted fire.

Years have gone and many seasons, and in fulness of the time,
Comes the fruit of pride and folly and the harvest of my crime!

Rama eldest born and dearest, Lakshman true and faithful son,
Ah! Forgive a dying father and a cruel action done.

Queen Kaikeyi, thou hast heedless brought on Raghu's race this stain;
Banished are the guiltless children and thy lord and king is slain!

Lay thy hands on mine, Kaushalya, wipe thy unavailing tear,
Speak a wife's consoling accents to a dying husband's ear;

Lay thy hands on mine, Sumitra; vision fails my closing eyes,
And for brave and banished Rama wings my spirit to the skies!
Hushed and silent passed the midnight; feebly still the monarch sighed,
Blessed Kaushalya and Sumitra, blest his banished sons, and died.
~ ~ ~

After Rama had departed from Ayodhya, his mother, Kaushalya, reproached Dasharatha, saying, “Thou wouldst not break thy promise to Kaikeyi, but thou didst break thy promise made to thy counsellors that Rama should be thy successor.”

The Maharajah was bowed down with grief, and cried, “Oh! forgive me, Kaushalya, because my heart is breaking while I mourn for my beloved son. Oh! Do not wound me again, I pray thee.”

Kaushalya wept and said, “Alas! My grief hath made me speak cruelly to thee.”

In the middle of the second night after Rama had departed, Dasharatha awoke and cried, “O Kaushalya, I am dying with grief. Mine eyes have grown blind with weeping. Take my hand in thine and speak unto me. Oh! Bitterly I grieve now that I cannot look upon Rama ere I die. Happy are they whose eyes behold him. My heart beats feebly.”

When he had spoken thus, Dasharatha fell back and was silent. Kaushalya, mother of Rama, and Sumitra, mother of Lakshmana, knelt beside him, and they swooned when his spirit fled.

Karma | Dasharatha's Death | Bharata Returns

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