Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
Around twenty years back I was sitting with my maternal grand-mother while I read a P.G.Wodehouse book and she was watching a really antiquated version of the Ramayana on television. I think it was in black and white, a movie that would have made Shri Ram wince in embarrassment and pray for mother earth to open up and swallow Him into Her womb.
Anyway, a scene came about where Sita Maa’s family astrologer was grimacing while reading Lord Rama’s astrological chart. Sita Maa’s dad was pleased as punch that his daughter was going to marry Shri Ram but the astrologer had a distinct resemblance of a constipated camel. The astrologer kept shaking his head and said that though this chart was phenomenal in various aspects and that Shri Ram’s chart showed all indications of Him being an Avatar and His Jupiter was placed in an excellent house but Saturn was placed in a malefic position and the position of Mercury signaled great sufferings ahead. Whoever married Shri Ram would have to undergo great suffering and there was separation indicated and great hardship for husband and wife. It was a great chart but for the wife of Shri Ram, this chart sucked big time.
My grand-mother nodded her head in resignation and said rather unpleasant things about the astrologer and the course of destiny in general and I chuckled as I found the book and the great melodrama ensuing on television rather funny.
But Lord Rama’s life including His leaving His body was anything but funny. It was like some Greek tragedy. Sent to exile due to the insistence of an insecure step mother, He wasn’t present when His father breathed his last; a heart broken king and father, who died not having his sons with him. Then the hardships of exile followed for over a decade. Then His divine wife gets kidnapped by a fellow with ten heads. Lord Rama is shattered and weeps and laments for a long time, showing that even God in human form is not exempted from suffering and heart break. War ensues. He nearly loses His loving brother but thanks to Hanumanji revives His brother back from the dead. Rescues His wife and comes back to His rightful kingdom. Then an idiot of a dhobi says nasty things about Maa Sita and Lord Rama who first and foremost is the King and has to see to the welfare and unity of His kingdom, instead of whacking the dhobi, sends Sita Maa once again into exile. Years later His two sons fight against His army. He recognizes them, meets His wife, but once again a tussle ensues in His mind between the role of a King and husband and father. Maa Sita invokes Mother Earth to open up and take Her into Mother Earth’s womb. Years pass and Lord Rama realizing that His children and His brothers and their children are settled, wants to now go back Home. He walks into a river and is never seen again. If God has to go through such agony, He needs a more genial script writer.
Anyway, Lord Rama’s life has always fascinated generations as there are three hundred versions of the Ramayana.
There are versions of the Ramayana in Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. China, Tibet, Japan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines and ancient Iran when Persia existed have their own versions of the Ramayana. The oldest version of this Indian epic poem is known to be have originated from Sage Narada who through spiritual power transmitted this epic tale to Sage Valmiki. Most of us are aware of Sage Valmiki’s version of the Ramayana.
Lord Rama in the Jain scriptures is one of the sixty-three divine people, known as Salakapurusa. Rama being a Jain doesn’t indulge in violence thus it is left to His brother Laxman to kill Ravana and both of them have no other option but to go to hell due to the violence they indulged in. Rama becomes a Jain monk and attains liberation while Maa Sita too becomes a Jain nun and attains moksha. In one Jain version Lord Rama had around eight thousand wives with Maa Sita being the principal wife while in another version it is said that Lord Rama had three wives while in exile and in another Lord Rama had four wives.
In the Buddhist version of the Ramayana Lord Rama and Maa Sita are brother and sister and there are no wars in the Buddhist version and no main antagonist like Ravana too. Strangely after the exile is over Lord Rama and Maa Sita get married.
Lord Ram is revered by countless but then there are others who question Him not only as an Avatar but also the decisions He took as a human being.
We need to understand that Lord Rama may or may not have known that He was Lord Vishnu’s Avatar but the fact is that in all probability He never realized that He was an Avatar. Knowing and realizing and living in that realization are three different things. Most of us are aware that we are not the body and that we occupy the body and that we are the Spirit in the body but how many of us live in that realization? We all know that we are going to drop this body and only carry forth with ourselves our karma, but how many of us live a life based on this knowledge? Thus Lord Rama exhibited the normal emotions which we all feel. He went into depression, suffered deeply, wept when Maa Sita was kidnapped, went through tremendous guilt, allowed the weight of being a King over rule His logical mind as a man and a husband. We need to understand that He never doubted the purity of Maa Sita and in fact asked Her to prove Her innocence by going through the test of Fire, the Agnipariksha, in order to convince one and all of Her purity and innocence so that the gossip mongers and the slanderers and the petty minded people in His kingdom would shut up. He was their King and a particular pertinent requirement of being a King was to make sure that those who the King ruled over lived in harmony amongst themselves and not in conflict with themselves or the one who ruled over them. Lord Ram thus first and foremost was a King and as a King He had a dharma to uphold and certain obligations to fulfill. He had to make certain His subjects lived in harmony. He took the decision where Maa Sita was concerned not as Rama the husband but Rama the King. He lived in a different era. Not our times where one need not care a flying ostrich about what people thought about you but what one believed to be true and right for oneself. Also Lord Vishnu had to come down on planet Earth due to certain curses that had to fructify. Being separated from His beloved was one of the curses. Karma had to enfold. There was no other way out.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. For the last days of Lord Rama we shall focus on Sage Valmiki’s version. It is considered the original and the oldest version and this Ramayana which we know of is Sage Valmiki’s.
It is said that Lord Rama ruled for over eleven thousand years and He ruled wisely and performed various prayers and yagnas for the benefit of not only His people but for all mankind. He made sure that His sons and the children of His brothers were made to rule various parts of His large empire. He was loved and served by His brothers and Hanumanji till the very end. Lord Rama realized that His time had come to leave the body. He awaited Lord Yama, the God of death to come and release Him of His physical body but He was certain that till Hanumanji was present with Him, Lord Yama would not dare to come to Lord Rama. Nobody could harm Lord Rama due to Hanumanji’s presence.
Thus it has been argued by scholars that if Hanumanji was present how did Lord Yama come to take Lord Rama to the world beyond?
One version is that Lord Rama had to trick Hanumanji by distracting Hanumanji in a manner that Lord Yama could come and take Lord Rama away. The other understanding is that Lord Rama convinced Hanumanji and left for the heavenly abode.
So it is said that when Lord Rama knew His time had come to leave His physical body He had to distract Hanumanji in a manner that Lord Yama could enter the city of Ayodhya and meet Lord Rama. So one day Lord Rama slipped one of His rings into a crack of the palace floor and requested Hanumanji to go and retrieve it. Hanumanji had the power to enlarge or reduce His body as per His wish. He reduced His body and entered the crack but no sooner had He entered the crack in the floor when He realized that it was a passage and the entry to a tunnel that led way underneath the earth. Some say it led to Patal lok, the underworld while some say it led to Nag Lok, the land of Serpents. Most consider it to be Nag Lok. Hanumanji met Lord Vasuki, the king of serpents. He told Lord Vasuki that He had come down to retrieve Lord Rama’s ring. To Hanumanji’s surprise there was a mountain of rings. Hanumanji wondered as to how would He ever retrieve Lord Rama’s ring from the countless rings already lying around. He picked up a ring from the innumerable rings and to His amazement and joy He realized that it was His Lord’s ring. He was overjoyed. But when He picked up the next ring to His surprise He realized that even the second ring belonged to Lord Rama and so did the third and the fourth and so did all the rings lying around belong to Lord Rama. He looked at Vasuki and the Lord of serpents smiled and told Him that in each life cycle a ring is dropped into a crack in the floor of Lord Rama’s palace. Each time this happens, Hanumanji comes to retrieve the ring. Each time Hanumanji finds the ring but alas that is the time when Lord Rama leaves His body as Lord Rama cannot leave His body if Hanumanji is present with Lord Rama. This has been happening countless of times. Innumerable times Lord Rama has come to the world and gone through His life in a similar way. Each time Hanumanji has served Lord Rama. Every time Lord Rama has had to distract Hanumanji so that He can drop His physical body. This has been happening for eons and will continue to happen for time immemorial. This was in a way Lord Rama’s way of telling His beloved Hanuman that death of the body is inevitable. Even Gods have to leave Their body. All had to die including Hanumanji’s beloved Lord Rama. This is how in one version, Lord Rama distracts Hanumanji and drops His body or goes heaven bound or walks into the Saurya river and merges with His higher Avataric self.
The other version is that one day a Sage enters Ayodhya and insists on meeting Lord Rama. Lord Rama recognizes the Sage as the Lord of Death. He has been awaiting Him for a while now and is relieved that it is time to drop His physical body. His beloved Sita isn’t with Him. His brothers and their children and His children are well taken care of and ruling their various regions well. Ravana has been killed. His purpose on the physical plane was done with. Thus this is the perfect time to leave the physical body.
The Sage or Lord of Death meets Lord Rama and tells Him that nobody should disturb Them while the meeting went on. They should be left undisturbed and whoever disturbs the meeting, should be executed. So Lord Rama tells His brother Laxman to stand outside the door and not to let anybody in and whoever interrupts the meeting will have to pay the price with his or her life.
The Sage then speaks to Lord Rama informing Lord Rama that as He has performed all His duties it is time to return to the land of Lord Vishnu, Vaikunta. Maa Sita had returned, Ravana was killed, His brothers and their children and His children were all settled. Lord Rama had performed His duties nobly. All the curses which had necessitated the suffering of Shri Rama and Maa Sita had come to pass and endured and experienced. The planets had done their work. Now it was time to drop the body.
While Lord Rama and the Sage were in deep conversation, outside another Sage approached brother Laxman and demanded to meet Lord Rama. This Sage was none other than Sage Durvasa, a Sage notably known for His short temperedness. If history has shown us anything it is that one never messes around with Sages and Rishis. For all Their spiritual advancement for some reason They choose not to have control over Their anger. Laxman pleaded with the Sage that Lord Rama was in no way to be disturbed but the Sage wanted to hear none of this. He threatened Laxman that if He was not allowed to see Lord Rama His curse would lead to the destruction of Ayodhya, all the residents of Ayodhya and also lead to the destruction of Shri Ram’s entire lineage. I guess this was Time playing out Her cards as what are the odds of Sage Durvasa entering the palace exactly at the same time when Lord Rama insisting on not being disturbed. Thus either Sage Durvasa was only playing out a karmic role or maybe just needed an intensive course in anger management. Either way, brother Laxman was in a mother of all jams. Either he disobeyed his brother who he loved more than his life or he let the curse of the Sage destroy Ayodhya, its inhabitants and the entire Raghu clan. Knowing that Lord Rama had all His life lived for the wellbeing of His folk and for the safety and prosperity of Ayodhya, he had no option but to disobey his brother. He opened the door and interrupted the meeting, knowing very well that it would be the end to his physical life. He would rather die than let his brother’s order not be obeyed. After letting Sage Durvasa inside, brother Laxman not wanting Lord Rama to go through the great turmoil of ordering for his death, walked towards the Sarayu river, entered into it and was never seen ever again. Yogis and scholars say that as Lord Rama is Lord Vishnu and Lord Rama’s physical time had come to pass, it was inevitable that Laxman too had to leave his physical body as Laxman is none other than Lord Vishnu’s Ananta Shesha or Sheshanaga. Lord Vishnu rests on Sheshanaga who has descended twice in human form. First time as Laxman, the brother of Shri Rama and the second time as Balarama, the brother of Shri Krishna. So, if Lord Rama who is the Avatar of Lord Vishnu had to drop His physical body and take on His Higher Self, that of Lord Vishnu, it was imperative that He had His Sheshanaga awaiting Him. Thus, Laxman or Lakshmana had to drop His body before Lord Rama ascended to the Heavens to take His rightful place.
Lord Rama heard of His dearest brother having dropped his body. With Maa Sita no more and now even His beloved brother gone, He knew His time on Mother Earth had come to pass. He approached Sarayu river where He was followed by all the inhabitants of Ayodhya, along with His two brothers, Bharat and Shatrughan. The divine monkey clan, who in reality were Demi Gods, too followed Lord Rama. It is said by some that both the brothers, along with the Demi Gods in the form of the monkey clan walked into the river Sarayu never to be seen again. Some say that Lord Rama did not give permission to His brothers to follow Him as He wanted them to rule Ayodhya and other regions along with the sons.
Hanumanji too wanted to follow Lord Rama into the river as He could not live without His beloved Rama but Lord Rama made Hanumanji promise Him, that till there was one being in the world who prayed to Lord Rama and who sought Lord Rama’s help, Hanumanji would remain on Mother Earth to help that one being. Till there is somebody who remembers Lord Rama, Hanumanji will remain on Mother Earth, to serve His beloved Rama.
Be blessed always.
Pallavi Thakur, https://www.speakingtree.in/al- lslides/end-of-satyuga
https://ww-w.google.co.in/search?q=how did lakshman die&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjrwK7Ogvbi- AhWFWX0KHfxTCFw4ChDVAigHegQICh- AI&biw=1366&bih=654
https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/21293/what-were-th- e-reasons-for-suffering-of-lor- d-rama-and-devi-sita
https:- //www.astrogle.com/astrology/h- orscope
https://hinduism.stac-kexchange.com/questions/8164/d- uring-his-lifetime-did-rama-kn- ow-that-he-was-a-god
https://hi-nduism.stackexchange.com/quest- ions/21293/what-were-the-reaso- ns-for-suffering-of-lord-rama– and-devi-sita
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha