Today's Beautiful Gem: Pratima (Statue) by Bhasa, retold by me (Part I)

The story of rAmayaNa is indeed familiar to all of us as it is one of our cradle tales. The key villain in the story is kaikeyi, one of the three wives of King das'aratha. We also know the story of s'rAvaNakumAra (This is also a favourite of Gandhiji). It is the tale about the boy who used to carry his blind parents everywhere, how one day he was trying to fill his pitcher with water for his thirsty parents, how the bubbling water made the hunting king Dasaratha suppose it to be a deer, how the boy died of a wound caused by Dasaratha's arrow, and how the grieving parents of the deceased boy cursed the king to suffer the pangs of sorrow due to separation from his son. Kaikeyi had knowledge of this curse in her possession. So she dearly wants her husband and her step-son Rama to be spared of the ill effects of this unfortunate s'Apa.

Dasaratha wants to crown Rama as the supreme king of the ikshhvAku race. Just at that time, Kaikeyi approaches the king to remind him of the boons granted to her. She wants Rama to be banished to the forests and her son bharata to be coronated in Rama's place. There was no option for the king but to accede to his queen's wishes. Rama, accompanied by his right foot sIta and his left foot lakSmaNa willingly heads for the woods. The King Dasaratha dies of heart-break due to the separation from his sons. Bharata, the other son of Dasaratha for whose sake all this drama was enacted, was all the while in his maternal grand-father's house in nandigrAma. He returns to ayodhya to visit his parents. At the outskirts of Ayodhya, he stops the chariot to take some much-needed rest. A temple-like structure was visible nearby. Bharata enters this building and learns that it is a museum housing the statues of the ancient kings of the ikshhvAku dynasty. To his surprise, he observes a statue that resembles his father, Dasaratha. He asks the curator of the museum whether staues of living kings were also housed in that hall. The curator, unaware that he was speaking to Dasaratha's son, replies that the statues bear their likeness only to dead kings. After listening to these words, Bharata swoons. Just at that moment, the retinue of vasishhTa and the three widowed queens arrives there to receive Bharata and to escort him for his coronation. After regaining his senses, Bharata disowns his mother and decides to go to the forests and spend his days with Rama.

Om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao