Ramam Dasaratham viddhi …

Ramam Dasaratham viddhi
Maam viddhi Janakaatmajaam

These are two lines from what became a very famous farewell given by a mother to her only son who was about to proceed to a life in forest for fourteen years assisting his exiled elder brother and spouse. The passage is from the celebrated Indian epic in Sanskrit, Ramayana. This work of about 20,000 stanzas is one of the longest in world literature, and its literary quality is acknowledged by great scholars of several generations as sublime. Of all the stanzas, the one that begins as above has been chosen as the most touching as well as being significant. The author of the epic poem, Valmiki, is considered ‘aadikavi’, the first of poets.

The context for the present lines was the aborted preparations for the coronation of Rama, the crown prince, as the legitimate successor to King Dasaratha of Ayodhya. But one of the King’s three wives, the enchanting Kaikeyi, demanded her husband the King to crown her son Bharata, the second in line, instead of Rama, the eldest. Since Rama is the darling of the people and a mature person of great wisdom, Kaikeyi wanted to safeguard the interests of her son by getting Rama exiled for fourteen years into far away forests. The old and weak King had no other go than yielding to the uncompromising second queen. Thus was aborted Rama’s coronation to the extreme disappointment of the entire populace of the country. Rama gave up all his royal garments and dressed in simple garbs for his life in the forests. Sita, his wife, and Lakshmana, his youngest brother, chose to accompany Rama to the forests. It was a moment of highly charged emotions, and Rama, Sita and Lakshmana went to the King, the queens and others to take leave of all of them.

After taking leave of King Dasaratha, Queen Kausalya and Queen Kaikeyi, the exiled three approached Queen Sumitra, the third queen and the mother of Lakshmana. The mother in Sumitra, was overwhelmed by the wisdom of Sumitra the Queen. Her great sagacity and culture expressed themselves in these words: “Think of Rama as your father Dasaratha, and Sita as me. Look upon the forest (where you are now going to live) as Ayodhya. Farewell to you, and let your journey be a blessed one!” This is what we have seen at the beginning: “Ramam Dasaratham viddhi......” And see here all her words to her son, as in Valmiki’s Sanskrit:

     “Ramam Dasaratham viddhi, maam viddhi Janakaatmajaam

      Ayodhyamataveem viddhi, gaccha taatha yatha sukham.”

The advice given to Lakshmana underscores the traditional Indian customary practice of how to save the elder brother and his spouse. It also stresses how a younger son should behave in situations where his elders are there. What is highlighted here is self-surrender in service to his elders. Love, affection, sincerity, sacrifice and such other the underlying values. Scholars have pointed out that the most touching and the most significant of the stanzas in Ramayana is this one.