Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ramayana Story Contd: Birth of Sri Rama

जय श्री राम !
( Jai Sri Ram )

शुक्ल अम्बरा धरां विष्णुं,
शशि वर्णं चतुर भुजं ।
प्रसन्ना वदनं ध्यायेत्,
सर्व विघ्न  उपाशन्तयेत्  ॥

( Shuklambharadaram vishnum,
Shashivarnam chaturbhujam |
prasannavadanam dhyayet,
sarvavignopshantayet || )

नमस्ते अस्तु भगवन्  विश्वेश्वराय महादेवाय त्रियम्बकाय त्रिपुरान्तकाय त्रिकग्निकालय ,
कालाग्निरुद्राय निलकन्ताय मृत्युञ्जयाय सर्वेश्वराय सदाशिवाय श्रीमन् महादेवाय नमः ।
( Namaste astu bhagawan Vishveshvaraya, Mahadevaya,
Triyamabakaya Tripurantakaya Trikaganikalaya,
Kalagnirudraya Nilakantaya Mrityunjayaya,
Sarveshvaraya Sadashivaya Sriman Mahadevaya namah | )

वनमाली  गदी शन्गी शङ्की चक्री च नन्दकी ,
श्रीमन् नारायणो विष्णु वसुदेवोभि रक्षतु ।

( Vanamali gadhisangi shanki chakri cha nandaki,
Sriman Narayano Vishnu Vasudevobhi rakshatu | )

Dasharatha, the mighty Emperor of Khosala Kingdom, was ruling in a magnificent manner. Citizens and rural folk of Khosala were leading a happy and contended life. The dwellers of Khosala were highly affluent and lived a luxurious life, but they never deviated from the path of Dharma. In Khosala, every individual was well-educated, cultured, and wealthy. Everyone wore elaborate attires made of rich silk garments. Everyone was adorned with golden ornaments, golden ear-rings and golden Mukuts( golden helmet. Look to the picture at right, Lord Krishna is shown wearing a golden mukut decorated with a peacock feather.). Every man wore beautiful garlands of auspicious flowers around their neck(Notice that in the above picture, Sri Rama and Lakshmana are also wearing a garland of flowers). Wearing a garland of flowers was considered a mark of polished manners in the Indian culture in olden times. Thus, the people of Khosala were rich, educated and cultured. However, the most vital hallmark of the people of Khosala was that every person was steadfastly committed to Dharma. Naturally, there was peace and prosperity all around in Khosala.

There is a saying in sanskrit: 'Yatha raja, Thata praja'
It means: 'People will be, as the King is'.

The people's behaviour, welfare and beliefs are dictated by the behaviour, ruling and beliefs of the King. In any organisation, the leadership dictates how the organisation will shape up. It is the leadership that decides which behaviour is to be encouraged and what activities are to be punished. Using reward and punishment, the leader can very easily and effectively guide all his subordinates. Thus, the role of leadership in any organisation is critical. If that organisation happens to be a large state, then the role of the leadership(ruler) is further amplified.

A ruler plays the most important role. In any society, only those vocations, arts, ideas, studies, attires, languages, religious beliefs gain prominence which are promoted by the state(ruler). Those arts, vocations, attires, languages, religious beliefs, studies and ideas that are discouraged by the state become unpopular and extinct. Artists and scholars, who play a chief role in shaping the social discourse, are dependent on the ruler patronage. Ruler decides which businesses are to be supported and which ventures are to be opposed. Ruler decides when there will be war. He decides the economic policies. Everyone's life is framed around the decisions taken by the ruler. Thus, a ruler directly or indirectly decides what his subjects will read, wear, eat, say, listen, and think. In short, people reflect their rulers. So, it is extremely important to have a dharmic ruler for a dharmic society.

Now, Khosala is a dharmic society. And the credit for this feat goes to the long line of illustrious Kings of Ikshvaku dynasty. The great Kings of Ikshvaku followed the dharma in their personal lives and implemented it in their country. They lead their people by example. When someone preaches, what he himself does not practice, then it is not received favourably by the people. Only those who practice what they preach are respected and emulated by the people. Ikshvaku Rulers knew it and so, they never compromised on Dharma in their personal or public lives. Those who lives public lives are always under constant scrutiny. Moreover, there is no distinction between personal lives and public lives. A person who lies in his private life cannot claim to uphold truth in his public life, because it is not convincing. People who hold responsible public offices not only have to be Dharmic, they also have to appear Dharmic. It is very important.

So, Ikshvaku rulers never wavered from the path of Dharma, come what may. So, they earned fair fame. Dasharatha followed in the ideal of his ancestors.

Any King depends on his ministers for good administration to be carried out. There is an interesting analogy to the relationship of King and his ministers: A minister is to King as a trunk is to an elephant.

The elephant is mighty and strong, but without its trunk, the elephant is effectively rendered futile. Similarly, a King needs effecient and righteous ministers. The mighty Dasharatha was able to give such a good governance as he had appointed eight able ministers. The administration of Dasharatha was a great success due to the eight ministers of Dasharatha who were highly efficient, skilled, unbiased, intellectual and dharmic. With such a good king and such able ministers, the administration was transparent and timely. Justice delayed is justice denied. In Khosala, Justice was neither delayed nor denied to anyone. People of Khosala were, therefore, content with their lives.

The capital of Khosala was the city of Ayodhya. Ayodhya is a sanskrit word. It means 'unassailable' in Sanskrit. Ayodhya, the capital city of Khosala, was equivalent to the Heaven in its splendor, grandeur and strength. People of Ayodhya loved their Emperor exceedingly. Thus, life was beautiful for all the people of Khosala but for one defect. People of Khosala and the Emperor Dasharatha had a nagging worry.

Emperor Dasharatha was ruling his Empire like Indra rules Heaven. His wealth and might were like that of Kubera, Lord of Yakshas. Emperor Dasharatha had beautiful and dutiful wives, his subjects were loyal to him, his people loved him, but he had one thing missing in his life......Emperor Dasharatha had no progeny. Kingdom of Khosala had no successor. This aspect worried the public and gave sleepless nights to Dasharatha. The Emperor yearned for kids but his wish remained unfulfilled for long.

Every man carries three debts from the time of birth, according to Shaastras(scriptures):
a)First debt is deva runam(debt to Gods).
b)Second debt is Rishi runam(debt to rishis/sages).
c)Third debt is Pitru runam(debt to ancestors).

Please bear with me, while I explain this concept. If you find it unnecessary, skip to the story part. But, the story wont be properly understood without understanding this concept.
a)Deva Runam:
Deva means Gods and Runam means debt. So, Deva Runam means debt towards Gods.

According to Shaastras(scriptures), every human is indebted to various Gods for the boons that he receives from them. Every human is depending on devas(gods) for his day-to-day existence.

But first, we must know who are Devas or Devatas(Gods)?

One can broadly categorize Gods into groups:
a) 12 Adityas ( Dwadasha Adityas )
b) 11 Rudras ( Ekadasha Rudras )
c) 8 Vasus ( Ashta Vasus )
d) 2 Ashwinis 

Total = 12 + 11 + 8 + 2 = 33. So, Hinduism has a total of 33 Koti (Category) of Gods. The colonial and the communist 'indologists' have wrongly interpreted the term Koti as 'crore'(10 million). They have, thus, wrongly concluded that Hinduism has 330 million Gods. But, the term 'Koti' does not refer to any mathematical figure. It simply signals that there are 33 types of Gods.

There are several sub-divisions within it. Each division or sub-division is headed by a God. It is an elaborate and intricate system.

It is like a large cosmic cabinet of ministers(or board of directors) with each minister having some portfolios(powers) under his control. This cosmic cabinet is headed by a cosmic God-King or God-CEO. This God-King(or God-CEO) is Indra(picture to the right) who is also ruler of Heaven. .

Some of the popular deities in this cosmic cabinet are:
a) Vayu ( Wind God ),
b) Agni ( Fire God ),
c) Surya ( Sun God ),
d) Kubera ( The Lord of Wealth and ruler of Yakshas ),
e) Varuna ( Water God ),
f) Soma ( Moon God ),
g) Yama ( God of Death ),
h) Brihaspati ( Teacher of Gods )
i) 2 Ashwinis ( Divine Healers )
j) Parjanyas ( Cloud energies ) ... etc .

In Hinduism(Sanatana Dharma), the entire creation has a gross physical manifestation and a corresponding subtler powers. The physical manifestation and subtler powers are considered an extension of the subtle divine forces. Therefore, in Hinduism, every natural force is considered to be governed by a divine deity. This divine deity is not only the ruler of the physical natural force but also ruler of the subtler divine aspect of the same force. In this manner, every natural force has a presiding deity. Since there are several forces, there will be several deities. Each deity rules/controls/governs a particular force/power/energy. Many times, a single deity is simultaneously a ruler of many different items. (One can infer that these items are related to each other subtly)

Every force/energy in the universe has a divine manager. That energy will work in several places and items. So, that divine manager(Deva) will be the presiding deity of several items simultaneously. These Devas(Gods) not only govern the physical aspect but also the subtler powers behinds these forces.
 For example, Aditya is the Sun God. Sun is illuminated by the Sun God. He is also the ruler of eyes. That means, our eyes have the power to see due to the power of Sun God. It is also logical here because our eyes are able to see by receiving the reflected light only.
Similarly, Varuna is the Lord of Moisture/Water, he is also the ruler of taste. That means the tongue has the power to taste due to Lord Varuna's grace.
Similarly, Soma is the Moon God, he is also the ruler of Mind.

In this way, the entire human body has different Gods as their presiding deities.Simultaneously, these Gods are also the presiding deities of the planets (Graha).

Further, these Gods are also the rulers of directions. According to the Indian architecture(Vaastu Shaastra), there are 8 directions governed by Gods.

1) East is governed by Indra (King of Heaven and Gods),
2) South-East is governed by Agni (Fire God),
3) South is governed by Yama (God of Death),
4) South-West is governed by Nairuthi,
5) West is governed by Varuna (Water God),
6) North-West is governed by Vayu (Wind God),
7) North is governed by Kubera (King of Yakshas)
8)  North-East is governed by Eesana.

Also, these Gods are related to the planets of our solar system. For example, Sun is ruled by Aditya. Or more precisely, Sun is the gross physical manifestation of Aditya. Its like Sun is the physical body and Aditya is the spirit and power behind the body that illuminated the body. Similarly, Moon is ruled by Chandra. It means that Moon is like a body and Chandra Deva(Moon God) is like its soul.

The 9 planets(Graha) are:
1) Sun (Aditya or Surya)
2) Moon (Soma or Chandra)
3) Mercury (Budha)
4) Venus (Shukhra)
5) Mars (Angaraka or Mangala)
6) Jupitor (Brihaspati)(Guru/teacher of devas)
7) Saturn (Shani)
8) Rahu
9) Ketu

These are collectively called as Navagrahas(picture to the left). Rahu and Ketu are shadows(Chaya Grahas) responsible for Solar eclipse and Lunar eclipse respectively.

These Gods are also the rulers of days of week:.
1) Sunday is ruled by Aditya(sun),
2) Monday is ruled by Soma(moon),
3) Tuesday is ruled by Angaraka(Mars),
4) Wednesday is ruled by Budha(Mercury),
5) Thursday is ruled by Brihaspati(Jupitor),
6) Friday is ruled by Shukra(Venus),
7) Saturday is ruled by Shani(Saturn).

(As we can see, the modern week structure is clearly derived from the Hindu week structure. In fact, no other religion gives any reason why there are only 7 days in a week and why a day is named after a particular planet.

Only Hinduism offers an explanation. Because there are 7 planets, there are 7 days...one day for each planet. The days are named after the planets based on astronomical activity.

According to Indian astrology(Jyotisham), a day starts with a sun rise and ends with a sun rise next day. so, the day starts in the dawn and ends at the time of next day's dawn unlike the modern definition of day from mid-night to mid-night. This entire period from dawn to dawn constitutes one single day. Each day is divided into time periods of equal length called hora. A single day contains 24 horas. Maybe the term 'hours' is a corrupted form of the original sanskrit term 'hora'. So, a single day is divided into 24 horas. And the horas are associated with 7 planets. 

Now, the day of the week is determined based on the hora in which the sun rises. Example, if the sun rises in the hora associated with moon, then it is called monday(Moonday or Somavara). If the sun rises in the hora associated with sun, then it is called sunday(or Ravivara). So on and so forth.)

Thus, each God can simulatenously be the presiding deity of several physical manifestations and powers/energies. But behind all these various physical manifestations, the subtle force is the same. And this subtle force is ruled by that particular God and hence he rules all the physical manifestations that use this subtle force. Imagine each God to be a cosmic minister. Under each ministery, there are different departments. And all these departments are headed by that minister. Indra is the head of this cosmic cabinet.

(Yama is  the God of death and also the administrator of the Hell.Unlike the abrahamic religions, the God of Death is not a negative personality in Hinduism. So, Yama is not similar to 'Satan' or 'Devil'. In abrahamic religions, 'God' is manager for all positive things and 'Satan' is the manager of all negative things. And there is a constant rivalry and race between 'God' and 'Satan'. But, Hinduism does not agree to this simple portrayal. According to Hinduism, entire universe with its positives and negatives is governed by the God alone. It is God does the 'positive' and the 'negative'. Hell is seen as a huge negative in Abrahamic religions because it is associated with pain. So, 'Satan' is imagined as its manager. But, in Hinduism, Hell is similar to a prison. Manager of Prison cannot be viewed as a negative personality just because he is managing prison. The manager of prison derives his sanction from the government. Similarly, Yama manages Hell. But he is not a negative personality. He derives his powers from the God only.)

Human beings depend on these various gods for day-to-day existence. A person needs timely rains, proper sun light,  and heat, ...etc. A person also needs all the organs of his body to function properly. All these needs are fulfilled by the Gods. Therefore, each man is indebted to these Gods. Shaastras(scriptures) state that this debt can be cleared by performing Yagams(religious rites to please the Gods), praying(or worshiping) the gods by visiting temples and performing other vedic rituals .

As we can see, Hinduism is a complicated and sophisticated religion. So, frequently, abrahamic religions misunderstand Hinduism. Hinduism is alternatively portrayed as a polytheistic or pantheistic religion. The point is that Hinduism is above and beyond such caricaturization and categorization.

Hinduism contains the concepts of polytheism, pantheism, monotheism, and monism simultaneously.Each concept is interlinked with the other. So, frequently, abrahamics are confused with Hinduism. So, they end up concluding that Hinduism must be a mish mash of different beliefs. But, they are sorely mistaken. The problem is with the categorization itself. These categorizations were created by abrahamics. But, Hinduism defies this categorization and does not fit into the pigeon hole created by them.

The various Gods that have been mentioned above have attained Godhood owing to the punya(good karma) from their previous births. Their Godhood is not permanent, just like we will not remain human beings forever. Just like we have a death, these Gods also have an ending. Its just that their life-times are vastly greater than ours and their powers are vastly superior to ours.

Essentially, Hinduism views the universe in a completely different way compared to abrahamics. Abrahamics view universe as different from the God. Abrahamics view God as positive being and devil as a negative being. According to abrahamic religions, God is an omniscient and omnipotent being.

Hinduism's definition goes beyond this to the next crucial level: God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. That means, God is present everywhere in everything. God is smaller than the minutest and larger than the largest. There is nothing in the world that is devoid of God. Nothing can exist without God. So, fire has God, water has God, sun contains God, rain is God, God is within you and God is within me...etc. God is one, but the universe is myraid. So, a single God manifests in different forms to govern the universe. God has no form, so he acquires different forms for the benefit of the people. This single God is not jealous of anything or anyone. Because everything is God. There is nothing other than God. Can the God be jealous of Himself or Herself? So, one God(Monotheism) takes many forms(polytheism) to govern the universe(pantheism). But, nothing other than the God exists(Monism).

Unity in diversity... One God in diverse universe... with myriad forms and names.....

The names and forms are temporary. Universe(including Heaven and Hell) is temporary. Only the God is eternal.

Thus, it is best to avoid looking at Hinduism through the prism of abrahamic religions. Instead, one must study Hinduism from an independent perspective to understand its subtleties.


b)Rishi Runam:
The Second debt is rishi runam(Rishi debt).

Rishis have passed on great knowledge to humans through their works. Generally, a poet or a writer composes a work for money or fame. A rishi is neither interested in material wealth or worldly fame. A rishi creates a literature with only on purpose: the welfare of the world. Thus, that literature is extremely auspicious and precious. Such great literature is gifted by the rishis to humankind. Therefore, every human is indebted to these rishis. This rishi debt can be cleared by reading/writing/teaching their works. For eg: I am indebted to Rishi Valmiki for Srimad Ramayana, and I am clearing my Rishi debt by reading Ramayana.

c)Pitru Runam:
Third debt is pitru runam(Ancestors debt). Every man is indebted to his parents for giving birth to him. Our body which is the source of all our comforts, which is also the tool for all our pursuits has been bestowed by our Parents. Therefore, we are indebted to our parents for this body and birth. This debt to parents can be cleared by giving birth to another child after marriage. Each human being must marry and then reproduce, so that he can clear his debt to his ancestors.
Generally, a son is considered to be preferable because the son carries on the name of the Gotra(clan) forward, a son can also become putra.A putra is a son who after the death of parents performs certain rites in a place named Gaya. Not every son is a putra, only that son who performs these vedic rites after the death of parents, so that the parents are eligible for a place in Heaven is called putra. This should not be construed as encouraging one gender. Because the shaastras(scriptures) also say that the parents of a girl who do a Kanyadaan(gifting the girl away in a vedic marriage) also go to heaven for a very very long time. Infact, it is said that those who do kanyadaan properly will get heaven. Whatsmore, 10 generations before them and 10 generations after them are also eligible for heaven due to that single act of Kanyadaan. Such is the greatness of Kanyadaan. Thus, a girl child is also a boon(infact, a bigger boon).
Every person carries these three debts. These three debts are also incurred by the mighty Emperor Dasharatha. He studiously cleared his Rishi Runam by learning the literature gifted by rishis. He cleared his Deva Runam by appropriately performing Yagams regularly.But he was unable to clear his Pitru Runam because he did not have any kids. Since, he did not clear his debt, that meant he was not eligible for Heaven after death. Therefore, Emperor Dasharatha yearned for an issue. Finally, Emperor Dasharatha decided to perform Ashvamedha Yagam, so as to clear his papam(bad karma). In hinduism, every person enjoys comforts(sukham) due to the past account of punyam(good karma) and every person suffers misery(dukham) due to the past account of papam(bad karma). Therefore, Dasharatha decided that he was undergoing the misery of childlessness due to his past account of papam(sins). To clear these sins and to purify himself, he would conduct Ashvamedha Yagam. Once the sins are washed away, Emperor Dasharatha could become a father.
Emperor Dasharatha, on the advice of his sagacious minister Sumantra, invited the magnificent Rishi Shrunga to head the yagam. Rishi Shrunga was a great tapasvi.
Ashva Medha yagam is performed only by Emperors. It is an exceedingly complicated, gruelling, expensive and difficult yagam to perform. Once that yagam is commenced, it cannot be stopped in the midst. If the yagam comes to a stops unfinished then it leads to various calamaties befall, not just on the Emperor, but the whole Kingdom.
Thus, Ashvamedha Yagam was performed rarely. Rishi Shrunga was invited because he had immense tapo shakti(power gained by meditational penance). Rishi shrunga had devoted long years for tapasya(meditation) and had acquired extra-ordinary powers. Hence, his very presence would be auspicious to the yagam. His very presence would ensure the smooth conduct of the Yagam and eventual success of Yagam.

Emperor Dasharatha respectfully requested Rishi Shrunga for the permission to commence the Yagam. Rishi Shrunga gave the permission after setting an asupicious muhurtham. Then, the Emperor informed his teacher, Guru Vashishta, and puruhits(priests) about the commencement of Yagam and obtained favourable reply from them. Then a beautiful, strong and gracious horse(ashva) was unleashed a part of the process of the Yagam. This horse would traverse the entire empire into different kingdoms for a period of one year. The horse must not be stopped in its path by anyone. If it is stopped, then it is a challenge for war towards Emperor Dasharatha. Then, Emperor would have to defeat that opponent by using his army and get back his horse. So, the horse would be accompanied by a small battalion of army. For one year, this yagam horse would roam various kingdoms throwing a challenge to those kings. It is evident that only an almighty emperor who has subdued all his opponents can perform this yagam. While, the horse is traversing the length and breadth of the country, the royal couple i.e Emperor Dasharatha and his Queen Kaushalya should not enter yagya vatika(place for conducting yagya). Meanwhile many other vedic rituals, rites and events would go on for one year. Many visitors from various different countries all over the world would come to watch this majestic yagam. All of them would have to be dined(anna danam) for that one year.

Emperor Dasharatha was discussing the plans on how to care for his visitors. "We will have to employ lot of people for the smooth conduct of impending Yagam.,"he ordered his ministers. His ministers nodded gravely listening intently. He continued with his instructions, " So, employ experienced people. Employ those people who had already attended other yagams and vedic rituals before. Employ experts of vastu. Employ dharmic people. Employ good managers, event organisers, and accountants. Employ builders to build temporary housing for the visitors. Employ carpentors...employ actors and actresses who can entertain the masses and employ labourers to do many different chores. Employ those people who have knowledge shaastras(scriptures). Employ those who lead their life according to the dictates of shaastras(scriptures). We will have to dine all the visitors for one year till the yagam is being conducted. Different people from different backgrounds with different tastes would come and all of them have to be dined appropriately. People from both rural areas and urban areas will visit. We have to take care of them all."
Dasharatha's voice became even more grave and the ministers understood that his next instructions were vital, so they listened to his next instructions with utmost concentration and seriousness. The emperor continued with his orders," Be particularly careful and gentle towards the rural folk. Do not ever, look down upon the rural people. Infact, give them higher priority than the city folk. Rural folk might be timid and tentative in such gatherings, while the city folk will be confident. Also, generally, rurals are scoffed at, while the citizens are given a better treatment. So, you must arrange such a way that the rural folk are never given an impression that they are lesser than the citizens.
People from different castes and classes of society will come. So be alert, and let no misconduct happen towards any visitor of any caste or class. People from different castes or classes of the society would expect and need different service. This must be kept in mind while attending them. Employ only those people at the dining places as servers and managers, who do not succumb to anger and emotion. Take precautions so that flare ups do not happen. Then, various Kings, Princes and other royalties have to be invited along with their families and escorts. Some kings need to be invited by personally visiting them, some kings have to be invited through emissaries, some kings have to be invited by messangers...etc."

"Sumantra!" Dasharatha addressed particularly to one of his eldest and experienced ministers," You should personally go and invite Mithila's King Janaka. He is a repository of all shaastras(scriptures). He is an intellectual and yet is humble. He has immense respect for the Vedas. Similarly, go to Kashi King and invite him personally. He is my close friend and ally. Also, go and invite and King of Kaikeyi, my father-in-law, along with his sons. Similarly, invite King of Anga personally.
Invite the Kings of old kingdoms like Sindhu, Saurasthra and Saveera. Invite the Kings who rule the kingdoms of south. They are mighty and respectable." In this manner, Emperor Dasharatha gave many orders to his group of ministers to invite many kings from around the world.

As the time passed, the traffic of eager visitors kept increasing exponentially. Visitors from across the countries kept pouring into Ayodhya. People of all sections of society were among the visitors. Many mighty and powerful Kings attended the Yagam along with their large royal retinues. All the auspicious ingredients that were required in the yagam were fetched. All other preparations were made. No expense or effort was spared. Ayodhya was buzzing with activity. Finally, the glorious and the rare yagam commenced amidst the holy rishis. Many vedic programmes were being conducted simultaneously along side the Yagam for the one year.

Finally, after one year, the horse that was unleashed an year ago, returned along with the battalion that was send for its protection. The horse was not challenged by anyone wherever it trode signifying that the Emperor Dashratha's rule was accepted by one and all. He had no challengers.

The yagya vatika(altar for conducting Yagam) was built elaborately at the banks of holy river Sarayu. The altar was designed in the shape of Garuda(the vehicle of Lord Vishnu). Every vedic ritual was being conducted exactly as the shaastras(scriptures) had prescribed them without even the slightest miscalculation or mistake. The entire yagam was being supervised by the Guru Vasishtha. Finally, havisu(cow ghee to be poured in Yagam) was duly offered in to the holy flames accompanied by holy chantings of mantras by the rishis, so that Lord Indra was satiated.

After that, many people were dined. Lakhs and lakhs of Brahmanas dined. Lakhs and lakhs of servants dined. Lakhs and lakhs of of sanyasis dined. Lakhs and lakhs of citizens dined. Many old people dined, many women dined, and many children dined. Servers were well-attired and adorned with beautific ornaments like Mukut(headgear) and ear-rings made of gold. They were cultured, gentle, polite and friendly to all their guests.
From a distance, one could hear the following echos coming from these dining halls," please eat, please eat...do you want more rice....do you want sweet dish......you are not eating, eat more... give them silk clothes.... give them ornaments......etc". Only such words were heard, not one harsh word was heard in that place. All the people, who dined there, were extremely pleased with the delicious food, hospitality, magnificent service and politeness of servers. The service not only filled the stomachs of the visitors but also their hearts. With their hearts content and stomachs full, all those visitors gave ashirvaad(blessings) to the Dasharatha. Everyone was heard saying," This Emperor is wonderful. His hospitality is great. Let his wish be fullfilled. Let him beget wonderful kids. Let this kingdom have glorious successors who surpass their mighty ancestors in dharma and prowess."
A agni kunda(altar where holy fire is worshipped) was built in shape of Garuda(divine vehicle of Sri Maha Vishnu. Look at the left image) in the position of descending on the earth. It was built with golden bricks, so the altar looked like a real Garuda as the golden colour of the altar matched the golden colour of Garuda's wings.
Then, the wife of Dasharath, Empress Kaushalya, would be required to slay the yagam horse, that has traversed the entire earth for one year, with three daggers. The condition was that while Kaushalya slew the horse, she must control her emotions. She shall not give way to any malice or fear. She must participate in the whole thing with a pure heart and complete faith. The royal lady did exactly as prescribed exhibiting extra-ordinary patience. Then, that night the dead body of that horse would be laid down at a certain place. Empress would have to sleep that night along side that dead body. Again, she was required not get frustrated or fearful. She must be cheerful and pleasant the whole night. The gentle Empress Kaushalya did so. Then the next day, the horse's medha(brain) is removed and it is refined. Then it is offered into the holy fire accompanied by the sacred chantings of potent vedic mantras. At this time certain smoke rises from the holy fire, this smoke must be breathed in by Dasharatha. By breathing in this smoke, all the papams(sins) of Emperor Dasharatha would be removed and he would become purified. The papams(bad karmas) that were being the hindrance in his beggetting children, have now been eliminated. Then, Dasharatha would have to gift away his wives to ritwicks(priests who conduct yagam). Because the ritwicks do not accept wives, Emperor Dasharatha would have to offer wealth to receive his wives back. All this is prescribed as part of the yagam. Thus, it is evident that this yagam is extremely ardous and peculiar to perform. Not anyone can perform it. Only a mighty Emperor who has subdued both his external enemies and the internal enemies(Desire, Anger, Avarice, Delusion, Pride, Malice) can complete this amazing Yagam.

The mighty Emperor Dasharatha performed this holy Yagam and successfully completed the whole process. Once the yagam was finished, Emperor Dasharatha gifted away his entire Kingdom to four ritwicks who conducted the yagam. This rule was imposed by none other than Lord Brahma. After the Emperor gifted his vast kingdom to the ritwicks, they ritwicks said,"O, great one, what should we do with this vast empire? Only you are capable of ruling it. So, please take it back." Thus, those ritwicks returned the entire kingdom to the Emperor.
Dasharatha, then, gifted to each of those ritwicks ten lakh milch cows, ten crores of gold coins, and forty crores of silver coins. To those Brahmanas who had just come to watch the yagam, Dasharatha gifted one crore gold coins.

Then, the Emperor Dasharatha turned to Rishi Shrunga and respectfully said,"O venerable sire, you have guided this yagam to success and now my papam(sins) that was being hindrance to my father-hood is removed. Sire, now for the cause of begetting progeny, please head an appropriate ishti(a vedic ritual similar to yagam conducted after a yagam)."
The great tapasvi Rishi Shrunga then addressed the Emperor,"I am telling to you, Dasharatha that you will shortly father four majestic sons who will increase your kula's(race's) reputation. I have thought about it and decided that you should perform Putra-Kama-Ishti prescribed in shashtras."

Havisu is the cow ghee(and other items) that is poured into holy fire as part of yagam along with the chanting of holy mantras. This havisu is received by the devas(Gods). It is like their food. The havisu is divided among devas in a certain manner depending on their status. When a yagam is conducted, then all the devas come to receive their share of havisu. The Fire God(Agni) is the carrier of this food to the Gods. In the Kali Yuga(the present Epoch/Yuga), Devas are not visible to human eye. In Dwapara Yuga(the preceding Epoch/Yuga), the Devas(Gods) could be seen by some very righteous and holy people, but the general public was unable to view these divine beings. In Treta Yuga(the Epoch/Yuga in which Ramayan occured), Devas(Gods) were visible to most people. This difference is chiefly due to the diminishing taposhakti(spiritualy prowess gained by meditation/prayer/devotion of Lord) of mortals in various Epochs/Yugas. Sanatan Dharma tells us that dharma steadily declines in each Epoch/Yuga. The first Epoch/Yuga is Krita Yuga, followed by Treta Yuga, followed by Dwapara Yuga and ending with Kali Yuga. So, the Dharma is shining brightly in Krita Yuga and it steadily declines with each Yuga thereafter with Kali Yuga(the last Epoch) being a dark age. With increase in dharma, people gain punya(positive karma) and thus gain spiritual energy. With increase in adharma(antonym of dharma), people lose their spiritual energy.

Thus, in Treta Yuga people had enough spiritual energy to witness the divine beings with their naked eyes while the same is not possible for the mortals living in Kali Yuga( the present Epoch that we live in). Therefore, when Emperor Dasharatha commenced the Putra-Kama-Ishti, all the Devas, Gandharvas, Siddhas, ...etc along with Lord Brahma descended on the Yagya Vatika(altar of holy fire), to receive the havisu. All the Devas(Gods) were seated and Lord Brahma was also seated. The Devas were waiting to be called to receive the havisu.

Devas on seeing the Lord Brahma, the creator, started complaining to him about their problems. The first to complaint was the head of Devas(Gods), Lord Indra, himself," O Bhagwan, a Rakshasa(demon) named Ravana after receiving boons from you, has started troubling and torturing everyone in the universe. He has not left anyone in peace. He is torturing Rishis, Yakshas, Gandharva and even weak Brahmanas. Not even Devas are able to stop him. Even I, the Lord of all Devas, am unable to withstand him thanks to the boons you granted him. He has even started ordering the nature. He has become the master of the nature. Surya(sun), Marut(wind), Varuna(rain),and even Samudra(sea) are being commanded by him according to his wishes. He has conquered the Heaven and has enslaved all the Devas(Gods). I have lost my peace of mind because I am always in his fear."
As soon as, Indra started, all the other Devas(Gods) also joined in. Vayu(Wind God) started with his list of problems,"O venerable creator of universe, I am extremely pained by this terrible demon Ravana. I, now, carry out all my tasks according to the whims of that demon. I am fine with even that, but the whims of these demons are illogical and defy my natural traits. They drink and dine to the full capacity of their bellies but still want me to pass through them gently, helping their digestion and respiration. This demon Ravana, wants gentle breeze near his beaches. He closes all the doors and windows of his palatial rooms and then wants a gentle breeze.
Once, this wretched demon wanted to capture the mighty monkey Vali from behind without his knowledge. But somehow, Vali found out that this wretch was coming from behind and captured him under his armpits. This ten-headed demon could not free himself from the clutches of Vali for a long time. During this time, he felt breathless. Later, after Vali freed his grip, Ravana made alliance with him. Then, he came to me and beat me up. Why, you ask? Because he felt breathless... You see, sire , my pathetic condition?"
Vayu(Wind God) was interrupted by Agni(Fire God) who had his tale of woe to tell. Agni started narrating," Lord Brahma listen to my predicament as well. The demonic Ravana wished me to serve in his royal kitchen. But the twist is that he wont offer any fuel. No woods either. I just have to burn and cook by myself. How is that possible, I ask? But he doesnt listen..."
Before Vayu(Wind God) could finish, Yama(God of Death) started addressing the Lord Brahma," O great Sire, my situation is so tragic that it is comic. I am supposed to be the Lord of Death for all the mortals. But this vile demon has become a Lord of Death for me. I am supposed to be the controller of all the mortals but this Ravana is controlling me..."

On listening to all their woes, Lord Brahma nodded his head. Then, Lord Brahma consoled them with these soothing words,"Yes, sons, I know, he is torturing everyone. I know your predicament. I know He has not left alone anyone. He is troubling Devas, Gandharvas, Kimpurushas, Nagas, Siddhas and Yakshas. Ravana had performed a great tapa(meditative penance), so I had to give him a boon. You know that anyone, regardless of his other traits, is eligible for a boon if he performs a tapa. So, I granted him the boon that he asked. But, do not worry, there is a way out.
That day, when I manifested before him pleased with his tapasya, Ravana had asked a boon for deathlessness. Naturally, I rejected that wish and reminded him that every thing that is born must, one day, die. Everything that is created must, some day, be destroyed. This is the natural course. Then, he asked me for another boon. He requested me to grant him deathlessness in the hands of Devas, Gandharvas, Siddhas, Kimpurushas, Kinneras, Nagas, and Asuras(demons). Hence, he is unconquerable for those races. But, he did not mention naras(men) and vanaras(half-men/monkeys/bears). He did not forget them. He did not mention them because of deep contempt towards those races. He underestimates their prowess and strength. So, a human can kill Ravana."

Suddenly at that time, Sri Maha Vishnu manifested at that Yagya Vatika(altar of holy fire). Sri Maha Vishnu was holding a divine counch(shanka) and disc(chakra) in his two of his four hands. On seeing Lord Vishnu, everyone rised and started praying to Sri Maha Vishnu. Then Devas requested Sri Maha Vishnu in a unison thus," Bhagwan, you are a great one. You have always saved us when we were in any trouble in the past. Today, we again seek your refuge. We are being tormented and we need you grace. Please take a birth in the human race to vanquish the demon named Ravana. This Emperor Dasharatha is a dharmic emperor, his wives are well natured, dutyful and mild mannered. Pleae, take an avatar as a man by taking birth as a son to Dasharatha and his queens. Please bless us and help us..."

Before we go further, I will have to mention one thing. Sri Maha Vishnu will not just slay Ravana because Devas requested him to do so. In Bhagavatham, Lord Vishnu has laid out conditions on which he eliminates someone. Death punishment is not given for small mistakes. It is reserved for the most heinious and unrepentant ones. In Bhagavatham, Lord Vishnu says,"When someone starts troubling/misbehaving/torturing/criticizing with sudha sadhu(those who harm no one and are living by complete belief in Lord), Devas, Vipras(those who study the Vedas and are living as the Vedas have prescribed), cows, Vedas and finally me, then once all the threshold of decency and morals is crossed, I will slay that person." Also, when Lord Vishnu slays, he does not do so out of anger or enemity. He slays in the same way a surgeon removes a rotten part that threatens to harm the rest of the body. Similarly, Lord Vishnu like a cosmic healer removes the sinner so that rest of the universe can be saved. Also, it saves the soul of the sinner by stopping from committing further sins. So, when Lord Vishnu slays, it is out of love, mercy and kindness but never out of anger or enemity.

So, now Sri Maha Vishnu replied to Devas' request, "I will slay that demon Ravana because he is frightening and torturing everyone without reason. I will slay Ravana along with his sons, brothers, army, relatives, friends and allies. Then, I will live and rule this earth for 11000 years as a human king and establish the dharma throughout. I will prove that humans are not as weak as the arrogant Ravana assumes. I will live a perfect human's life to establish an ideal for the human race to live by. I will be born as the son of punyatma Dasharatha."

Hearing it, the Devas were delighted. To show their gratitude, they requested thus," O Bhagwan, once you have killed that Ravana along with his supporters, please visit our abode, Heaven. We wish to be your hosts to show our gratitude." Lord Vishnu, the ocean of mercy, agreed to the request of Devas.

Thus, there were two primary objectives of Rama avatar: One was to slay the adharmic Ravana once he crossed a karmic threshold by committing the sins mentioned in the paragraph before. Second objective was to live the life like a human being in a perfect manner so as to prove that a human being is not weak and is capable of achieving great things in life without going deviating from the path of Dharma. Rama went to forest and bore many many sorrows through out his avatar, with the sole motive of establishing an ideal of human beings to live by. Otherwise, if the only objective was to slay the Ravana, then it could have been done very quickly without much ado by Lord Vishnu.

Then, Emperor Dasharatha commenced his Putra-Kama-Ishti and offered the holy havisu to all the Devas by pouring it into consecrated flames. As soon as the Putra-Kama-Ishti was completed, suddenly, a great figure appeared in the fire(agni). It was huge like a mountain. It was a male figure. He was red in colour. He was dressed in red and black dress. His face was glowing brightly like a heated metal. He had a huge moustache. He had vast eyes. He was holding a golden bowl which was covered with a silver plate. He emerged out of the fire. Everyone in that assembly was astonished and spellbound. They all watched him with wide eyes. When he spoke, his voice echoed like a drum across the great Yagya Vatika. He addressed Dasharatha," This holy Payasam(a sweet dish) is created by Devatas(gods). It is the fruit of your Yagam. Receive it, you will soon be a father. Fortune and prosperity will be yours. Give this Payasam to your favourite queens and you will beget kids shortly."

Emperor Dasharatha was extremely happy to hear that news. Then, he prayfully circumabulated that figure, and reverentially received the holy payasam. The great figure vanished suddenly into thin air. His exit surprised everyone just like his enterance had surprised. Emperor Dasharatha then called his three favourite wives: Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. Kaushalya was the eldest wife. Sumitra was the second wife and Kaikeyi was the last wife and also the youngest. Dasharatha had many wives, but he called these three wives. Then, h halved the payasam and gave it to his eldest queen Kaushalya. Kaushalya received it, and consumed it. Then he halved the remaining half of Payasam and gave it to his another queen Sumitra. She also consumed it. Then, Dasharatha halved the remaining part again and gave one part to Sumitra and gave the rest to another queen Kaikeyi. Both of them, ate their share. All the queens were very happy that they would soon become mothers. Dasharatha was also delighted. People of Khosala were happy.

Meanwhile, Lord Brahma called all the Devas to his lokam(world) and instructed," Lord Vishnu will be born in a human race by the name of Rama to slay the demon Ravana. But along with Ravana, several other rakshas(demons) and asuras have to be eliminated to establish the Dharma. To aid this mighty task, Rama would require companions. So, you all have to create beings, who possess your powers, in vanara(half-human) race to support Ramachandra. I have already created a vanara named Jambavantha earlier. You all also do the same."

There are two kinds of Vanaras. One type is bears and another is monkeys. By the orders of Lord Brahma, all the Devas(Gods) created various Vanaras. A Vanara named Vali was born with Indra's powers. A Vanara named Sugreeva was born with Surya(sun)'s powers. Tara was born with Brihaspathi's powers. Gandhamadana was born with Kubera's powers. Nala was born was born with Vishwakarma's powers. Neela was born with powers of Agni. Mainda and Divida were born with powers of Ashwini devas. Sushena was born with powers of Varuna. Sharaba was born with powers of Parjanya. The mighty Hanuman was born with powers of Vayu. These Vanaras possessed the powers of Devas(Gods) who created them. For example, Vishwakarma is a divine engineer/architect who builds cities for Devas. Nala who is born with his powers has received his building skills and later builds the famous Ramasethu in Ramayana. Similarly, Brihaspathi is the celestial of Guru of Devas(Gods). Tara, Brihaspathi's son, is seen enacting the role of guide to Vanaras. Varuna(Water God) is the Lord of medicines. Sushena, Varuna's son, is also a healer/doctor. Of all these Vanaras, Hanuman(picture to the right) was most mighty of all. He is also the first among the devotees of Lord Rama. The great Hanuman possessed extra-ordinary intellect and exceptional strength. He was born with powers of Vayu. He also has a rudra amsha(a part of Rudra).

In this manner, many crores of Vanaras were created by Devas(Gods). All these Vanaras were endowed with great physical might, courage and beauty. These Vanaras had the capacity to play with huge mountains. They could jump more than 100 yojanas(1yojana is about 5-9miles). They could jump and touch the clouds with their hands. They could spar with grand elephants in forests. They could wrestle with the ferocious beasts of the jungle and kill them. They had the power to uproot huge trees. They used their nails, teeth, elbows, knees and hands as weapons to kill their opponents in a fight. They knew the use of all the astras(weapons with mantras) and shastras(weapons). They could move on earth, air and water.

Meanwhile, in Ayodhya, Emperor Dasharatha who had divided the divine payasam and distributed it to his queens was waiting eagerly for the birth of his kids. Yagam was completed and Dasharatha returned to his palace. All the visitors who wore the dresses gifted by Dasharatha went back to their native places pleased with the hospitality of the Emperor. Never had they seen such a grand Yagam and such hospitality. All of them, only had praises for Dasharatha.

One year passed after the Yagam. Then, in Chaitra(an indian month) month on the navami(ninth), at Karkataka lagnam Punarvasu nakshatram(an indian astronomical time) when five astronomical planets like Kuja, Chandra, Surya..etc were at their high point(supposedly an auspicious time according to Jyotishya/astronomy), Sri Maha Vishnu himself, who is worshipped by the whole universe, was born to the blessed Queen Kaushalya as the eldest son of the mighty Emperor Dasharatha. At his birth, all the Devas(Gods) rejoiced and made auspicious sounds to convey their happiness. Both the mother Kaushalya and her son were glowing with a divine splendour.

Sri Rama Jai Rama Jai Jai Rama Rama.
Sri Rama Jai Rama Jai Jai Rama Rama.
Sri Rama Jai Rama Jai Jai Rama Rama.

Then, Queen Kaikeyi gave birth to a son who would be later named Bharatha. Later, two sons were born to Sumitra. Thus Rama was born first, then Bharata, then Lakshmana and lastly Shatrughna. Emperor Dasharatha had become a proud father of four young princes. His face was adorned with a grand smile. His heart was leaping with joy. The royal retinue, ministers, guards, servants, maids,...everyone was filled with happiness. Devas(Gods) in the Heaven were joyously celebrating the birth of Lord Vishnu. They showered flowers from the skies on this auspicious occassion. Apsaras(divine dancers) gyrated to the divine music. Divine drums were blarring from the skies. Everyone in the Kingdom of Khosala was happy and overjoyed. People of Khosala were celebrating as if a child was born in their own homes. The streets were filled with festivities. Even the visitors and tourists joined in. Dancers danced, actors entertained, and singers sang. There were celebrations at every nook and corner of the kingdom. The new father Dasharatha donated and gifted away many crores of milch cows and vast riches to the needy and deserving.

Eleven days after the birth of the babies, Dasharatha requested the kula guru(teacher of family) and purohith(priest) Vashishta Maharshi to bestow suitable names on the newborns. Vashishta Maharshi named the eldest son as Rama. Jai Sri Ram.

The Maharshi gave the name Rama so that it is easily pronouncable to all and sundry. The name had the power to take away the troubles of the people. Rama is made of two beeja(seed) aksharas(alphabets): Ra and Ma. One is agni(fire) beeja akshara and the other is amrutha beeja akshara. One beeja aksharam is from Ashtakshari maha mantram : Om Namo Bhagvate Vasudevaya(Vishnu mantram) and one beeja askharam is from Panchakshri maha mantram: Om Namah Shivaya(Shiva mantram). This name thus derives great power which can give immediate relief to anyone who utters it. Vashishta Maharshi took great care so that the name is easy for everyone to pronounce it. Thus the name Rama came into existance. After naming the son of Kaushalya as Rama, Vasishta then named the eldest son of Sumitra as Lakshmana. He named the son of Kaikeyi as Bharata. And the youngest child of Sumitra and Dasharatha was named Shatrughna.

जय श्री राम !
( Jai Sri Ram )

गा भवानि गायत्री काली लक्ष्मी सरस्वती

जरजेश्वर श्यामल ललित दशा
( Ganga Bhavani Gayatri Kali Lakshmi Saraswati |
Rajarajeshwari Bala Shyamala Lalita Dasha || )

कर चरण कृतंवा कर्मा वाक् कायजंवा,
श्रवण नयनजं वा मनसंवा आपराधं,
विहितम अविहितं वा सर्वं एतत् शमत्स्व,
शिव शिव करुणाब्धे श्री महादेव शंबो

 ( Kara charana kritamva karma vak kayamjam va,
shravana nayanajam va manasamva aparadham,
vihitama avihitam va sarvam etat shamatsva,
shiva shiva karunabdhe sri mahadeva shambo | )

To be Contd...(Next Episode is Introduction of Vishwamitra and killing of Tataka)

1 comment:

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