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

Rama receives Bharata and consoles him. He advises Bharata that just as he was obeying his father's wishes, Bharata too must do so by returning to Ayodhya to perform the kingly duties. Bharata receives the sandals (pAduka) of Rama and returns to Ayodhya to rule as Rama's representative. Thirteen years pass and Rama has to perform the s'rAddha of his father. At this juncture, rAvaNa arrives in the garb of a brahmin well-versed in all aspects of learning including s'rAddhakalpa (performance of ceremonies for the dead). Rama receives him and requests him of the ways to propitiate the dead spirits of his father. Ravana says that a certain golden deer residing in the Himalayas is the best offering he could make. Rama animatedly discusses of the plans to go to the Himalayas. Just then, they sight a kA.nchanamR^iga (manifesting as the rAkshhasamAya of Ravana) in the distance. Rama goes in pursuit of this and at this time Lakshmana was away to receive the patriarchs. Ravana seizes this chance and abducts the lonely Sita to la.nka.

Sumantra, the minister of Ayodhya, and Bharata learn of the abduction of Sita, the killing of vAli, the the installation of sugrIva, the intent to retrieve Sita, etc. Bharata was hurt immensely after receiving these sad tidings. He reproaches his mother Kaikeyi. It is at this juncture that Kaikeyi informs Bharata about the curse, how she wanted to spare the deceased king of the permanent separation from his son Rama (don't forget that Shravanakumara died and Kaikeyi does not want Rama to die and thinks separation in terms of retirement to forest is better than death) and how in her confusion she uttered the words fourteen years instead of fourteen days and how people like vasishTa and vAmadeva were in the knowledge of these facts. Bharata becomes ashamed and begs the forgiveness of his mother. He does not want to be a silent spectator. He wants to help his brother Rama in his quest to defeat Ravana and he prepares to march with his army. By this time, Ravana was defeated and vibhISaNa was installed on the throne and the returning Rama encounters Bharata and his army. All of them are reunited and the coronation of Rama takes place. All is well that ends well!

Note: The charactres of Kaikeyi and Sita are ennobled in this version of Rama's story of Bhasa. The way in which Bharata learns of his father's death is indeed poignant.

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