Ramyan: Yuddha Kanda - Book Of War

Canto IX: Return To Ayodhya

Next morning Vibhishan came to Ram and said, "I have brought perfumed water for your coronation bath and sandal paste and silken clothes. Please accept them and make me happy".

Ram smiled and said, "You may offer all these precious things to Sugriv, for my thoughts are all with my dear brother, Bharat. The way back to Ayodhya is long and hard and the fourteen years are coming to a close and Bharat has sworn that he will take his life, if I do not reach by the end of the stipulated time".

Vibhishan said, "My Lord I will help you to reach in a single day. My brother Ravan took the aerial vehicle, called Pushpaka, from his brother Kubera. It was his prized possession. Please accept my hospitality for a few more days and then you can return to Ayodhya in this vehicle". Ram was touched by his devotion and said, "Vibhishan I am well aware of your love for me but my heart yearns to return to Ayodhya and see my brothers and mothers and the people of Kosala, who must be anxiously awaiting my arrival. Please bring the Pushpaka immediately so that we can leave at once".

The fantastic, flower-bedecked chariot, drawn by swans was brought, in readiness for their departure, and Ram, Sita and Lakshman got into it. Even though the Pushpaka was as big as a palace, Ram sat with Sita on his lap, much to her delight, with Lakshman beside him.

He looked at Vibhishan, Sugriv, and all the other vanaras and said, "You have been my true friends. I do not know in what way I can repay you for the love and devotion you have poured on me. Sugriv, please return to Kishkinda with your army. My blessings will always be with you. Angada, my dear child, I can never forget your prowess and as for you 0 Hanuman! We owe our lives to you. Now please give me leave to return to my own city. I have been in exile for so long that my heart yearns to return".

Sugriv bowed low and said, "Lord, please give us leave to come with you to Ayodhya. We promise not to indulge in any act of destruction, as we monkeys are wont to do. After witnessing your coronation, we promise to return" All the others expressed the same desire.

Ram smiled at their eagerness to accompany him and their promise to behave themselves and said, "I am delighted at the thought that I will enter my ancestral city, accompanied by those who have helped me most. Sugriv, ask your people to get in".

Now Vibhishan also requested that he and his friends be allowed to accompany him. Ram gladly gave his consent and the whole party got into the Pushpaka and still there was enough place in it for another army!

One of the most endearing things about Ram is his great love for all animals and birds. Monkeys, bears and birds wander in and out of the pages of the narrative, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Ram's love and regard for his animal and feathered friends shows another unique facet of his character.

The divine chariot could hold all of them and it rose into the air effortlessly. Celestial flowers rained from the sky as it rose up. The vanaras shouted and whooped with joy, peering over the edge at the ground below, which fell at an alarming rate.

Sita's face glowed with happiness and beauty as Ram pointed out sites of interest to her, through which they had wandered during their long and painful search. The vehicle landed on the other side of the bridge so that Ram could worship at the shrine of Shiva which he had consecrated before he set out. At that time he had made a vow to the three-eyed Lord that he would return and pay his obeisance along with his wife, Sita. After praying, Ram told Sita to have a good look at the wondrous bridge.

"There is the spot where the bridge was constructed. Now we come to Kishkinda, Sugriv's fortress".

Sita asked that the chariot may be brought down so that they could take Tara and Ruma, Sugriv's wives, as well as the wives of the other monkey leaders.

So the chariot landed and the ladies joyfully joined the group. Later he pointed out Rishyarnukha, the place where he had met Hanuman for the first time. "There is lake Pampa, filled with lotuses where I was reminded of you so painfully and where we met the old ascetic-lady, called Shabari".

"0 look Sita", he said, "There is our ashrama at Panchavati where you were so cruelly captured. We abandoned it soon after, for I could not bear to stay there without you". He remained silent for a few minutes re-living the painful scenes of that time and Sita buried her face on his shoulder and wept.

Later they passed Chitrakoota where they had spent so many happy days together and at last came to Bharadvaja's ashrama where the Pushpaka landed. The sage requested Ram to stay for the day and go the next morning, so Ram told Hanuman. "I cannot refuse the request of the sage so please proceed to Nandigrama and give Bharat all the news. If his face shows his disappointment at my return and his desire to keep the kingdom, please return and tell me. I will not stand in his way. Even the best of men may be tempted by riches, sometime or other".

Hanuman flew to Nandigrama, assuming the guise of a human being. From above, he saw Bharat, with matted locks and long beard, clad in bark and totally emaciated, for he had never paid any attention to his body for fourteen years. He had undertaken to guard the kingdom till his brother returned and he seemed to be keeping alive, only for that purpose. He looked like a brahmarishi, sitting with eyes half closed in deep meditation. Hanuman approached with all humility, for he realised that he was in the presence of a truly superior human being, one who had conquered his senses and who had no desire for worldly possessions.

He said, "0 Prince! I bring you tidings of your brother Ram, for whose sake you have donned this garb and for whose dear sake you have given up all thoughts of a happy, normal life. He has sent me in advance to tell you that he will be arriving here very soon, along with Lakshman and Sita.

For fourteen years Bharat had been waiting for this moment and when he got the news he swooned with happiness, for a few seconds. He embraced Hanuman and said, "I do not know who you are but you have brought me the happiest news I could ever hear and so you are my best friend. Many, many, years ago my beloved brother went away to the forest and all these years I have been waiting only for this moment. Tell me how I should reward you"?

Hanuman's eyes filled with tears to see such devotion. He thought, he, was the one who loved Ram more than any one else, but now it appeared that there were many, who had the same adoration for Ram. Hanuman seated himself and gave Bharat all the details of Ram's life, after leaving him. At last he said, "He has come to the ashrama of sage Bharadwaja and will be reaching here tomorrow".

Bharat and Shatrugna made haste to prepare for Ram's arrival. The city of Ayodhya which had been like a dead city all these days suddenly blossomed to life. Once again banners and streamers flew from the battlements. Musicians re-strung their silent veenas. The trees burst into bloom and the streets were sprinkled with rose water and fried rice and decorated with auspicious signs. Once more the fountains started to play and the streams to run, and sounds of laughter and rejoicing floated in the air. Citizens donned their best clothes, which had been locked away in their chests for fourteen years and the whole city waited in anticipation for the arrival of her rightful Lord. The royal path leading from Nandigrama to the city was decorated with auspicious patterns, traced with coloured powder and sprinkled with rose water. Ram's sandals were kept on top of a caparisoned, white elephant, with the white umbrella of sovereignty held above it. Bharat and Shatrugna followed, accompanied by thousands of citizens. Just then the Pushpaka reached the sacred village of Nandigrama. It hovered for some time in the air so that Ram could point out the various landmarks to the excited vanaras.

"There is Ayodhya, the city of my fathers and citadel of the kings of the solar dynasty. I here is the river Sarayu which holds the land of Kosala in its embrace and there is my dear brother Bharat who is saluting me from below".

The vehicle landed gently and the brothers rushed towards each other. They had been parted for fourteen years and the reunion was tender and brought tears to the eyes of the vanaras. Bharat took the sandals which were the virtual rulers of the state and placed them lovingly on his brother's holy feet and prostrated before him and said, "I give you back the kingdom which was given to me, to look after. It was a great burden on me but I have guarded it carefully. Today, my mother's name has been cleared and I have atoned for her sins. Please allow us to conduct the coronation which should have taken place fourteen years ago".

Ram agreed and all the brothers shaved off their matted locks and had a ceremonial bath and dressed themselves in clothes befitting princes of the realm. Sita was dressed lovingly by Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. Kausalya also kindly dressed the hair of the wives of the vanaras, who were highly delighted by this royal treatment.

Sumantra brought the chariot and Ram and the others ascended and proceeded to the city. The citizens went mad with joy at seeing Ram. Sugriv was requested to reside in Ram's own palace, along with his wives. He sent his people to all the oceans and rivers to collect water in golden pots for the approaching coronation. The ministers requested Vasishta to take charge of the coronation.

Vasishta made Ram sit on the jewelled throne of the lkshvakus with Sita at his side. All the great sages poured the consecrated waters brought from all the sacred rivers and seas of the land, in golden pots, over Ram's head, to the accompaniment of sacred Vedic chants. Shatrugna held the beautiful white umbrella over his head, while Sugriv and Vibhishan stood on either side and waved the royal yak-tail fans. There was joy and beauty everywhere. Ram gifted many cows and horses to deserving Brahmins. To Sugriv he gave a golden necklace and decorated the strong arms of Angada with bracelets. He gave Sita the precious pearl necklace sent by Indra as well as many other extraordinary gifts. He presented all the vanaras with many gifts. Only Hanuman was left out. Turning to Sita he said, "Why don't you give a gift to one who has all the qualities which you think a great hero should have, like fidelity, truth, skill, courtesy, foresight and prowess as well as a good intellect. Look round and present your necklace to such a one".

Sita took out the precious necklace of pearls which Ram had given her and without a moment's hesitation, she gave it to Hanuman. He looked at it carefully and smelt it and bit it and scratched it and put it to his nose and his ears, he then threw it off, as being a worthless gift. Sita was amazed at this monkey-like behaviour on the part of one, whom she loved so much and who had done so much for her.

She asked him to explain this act of his and he replied, "To me the only thing worthy of respect is the name of Ram. If something does not have it, I feel it is worthless. I looked at the necklace to see if his name was written anywhere, then I smelt it, to see if his perfume was in it and I bit it to see if it contained anything of his inside but there was nothing. This is only an ordinary pearl necklace and what use is such a thing to a monkey! My lady, I am, of course, proud that you have chosen me as a fitting recipient for the honour of getting a gift from you, but please forgive me for not wearing it".

The audience was astounded by this statement and asked him, "Hanuman! What about your own body, does it have anything of Ram?".

So Hanuman asked Sugriv to keep his ears to his chest and to his wonder, Sugriv heard the continuous chanting of Ram, Ram, in his heart. As if to stop an end to all dispute, it is said that this great devotee of Ram, split his chest open and to the astonishment of all, there was Ram enshrined within. Ram embraced him warmly and placed his blessed hands on the wound, which healed miraculously at his touch.

The coronation was the glorious finale of the saga of Ram and Sita. There was no one in the whole of Ayodhya who had not been presented with some gift. Even the hunchback Manthara got a present. The whole day long the people and the monkeys ate and drank to their heart's content. That night for the first time in fourteen years, Lakshman slept in the arms of his dear wife Urmila.

After a stay of a month, Sugriv and the others returned to Kishkinda and Vibhishan to Lanka. Hanuman, however, opted to stay on with Ram for he could not bear to be parted from him. Ram offered the position of Yuvrajto Lakshman who refused the honour, so he crowned Bharat instead.

Ramarajya or the rule of Ram, is famed over the whole world as being a glorious one. There was no disease or unhappiness and no one died an untimely death. Wild animals did not trouble the people and there was plenty for all. The land flourished and the people were happy for they worshipped Ram as god incarnate. There was no avarice and no greed, for everyone had all that they could wish for.

Thus ends the ninth Canto called "Return to Ayodhya" of the Yuddha Kanda in the glorious Ramayana of the Sage Valmiki.

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