Reading Guide. Although announces that he will go into exile alone, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana insist on accompanying him.
Image: The illustration on this page is a beautiful modern sculpture that shows Rama and Sita departing Ayodhya together.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [700 words]
With darkened brow and saddened eyes, Rama then went unto Sita and told her all, and said, “My mother is heartbroken, O Sita; she hath need of thee to soothe her grief. O dearly beloved, I must now depart and leave thee. Be ever obedient unto Bharata, nor laud me ever, for a rajah cares not to hear another praised in his presence.”
Said Sita, “A wife must ever accompany her husband and share his sufferings. If thou must depart to the forest, it is my duty to go before thee and smooth the thorns in thy path. So long as I am with thee, I will be happy even in the jungle. Dearer to me than the palace is the place where I can hold sweet converse with my husband. I will lighten thy burden of sorrow, O Rama, but if thou wilt leave me here alone I will surely die.”
Rama spoke of the perils of the jungle, which was full of wild beasts and venomous reptiles, where food was scarce and, when found, bitter to taste, where they would find no home and would have to lie on the bare ground, and where they would suffer greatly from heat and cold, from tempest and rains. “O Sita,” he cried, “thou art dearer to me than life itself. How can I permit thee to suffer for me? My love will grow greater when I know what it is to be separated from thee. Wait here, O loved one, until I return again.”
Said Sita, “I know nor fear the perils and sorrows of the jungle. Rather would I sleep with thee on the bare ground than lie here alone on a bed of down. Without thee I have no desire to live. Take me with thee, O Rama, and let me share thy sorrow and thy joys. Sweeter will be the jungle with thee beside me than the palace when thou hast departed.”
In vain Rama remonstrated with her, but she refused to be separated from him. She fell at his feet, weeping bitterly, and at length he consented that she should share his sufferings in the jungle.
Then Lakshmana pleaded to accompany Rama also, nor could he be persuaded to remain behind.
Thereafter Rama and Sita and Lakshmana went together, walking barefooted, towards the palace to bid farewell to the Maharajah and his queens.
Rumours of what had happened were passing through the city, and the people gazed with sorrow on Rama, his bride and his brother, and some said, “The Maharajah is possessed by demons.” Others said, “Let us desert the city and follow Rama. Then Bharata will have none left to rule over.”
Rama entered the palace with his wife and brother, and stood before the Maharajah with folded hands.
Dasharatha lamented and said, “A woman hath deceived me. She concealed her wicked designs in her heart as a fire is concealed by ashes. The evening is late; tarry therefore with thy mother and me until day breaks.”
Said Rama, “Kaikeyi commanded me to depart this day to the jungle, and I promised to obey. When fourteen years have gone past, we shall return again and honour thee.”
The Maharajah and his counsellors desired to send the royal army and the huntsmen and much grain and treasure to the jungle with Rama, although Kaikeyi protested loudly, but Rama refused to have soldiers and followers, and asked for the raiment of bark which he must wear and for the spade with which to dig roots and the basket to carry them.
The shameless Kaikeyi then went away and returned with three dresses of bark. Rama and Lakshmana immediately cast off their royal garments and all their ornaments and assumed the rough attire of devotees. But Sita, who from childhood had been clad in silk, wept and said, “How can I wear raiment of bark? I cannot use such attire.”
All the women shed tears at these words, and Dasharatha said, “Kaikeyi's command is binding on Rama only, and his wife and brother may assume any garments they desire.”
So the robe of bark was taken away from Sita; it was not permitted that she should be put to shame.
Photographer: Indi Samarajiva