Despite the deadly blow dealt by Kaikeyi, Ram was unmoved. His life had turned upside down but without a single lament he went about doing what had to be done to depart for the forest. He first went to meet his mother Kausalya. Kausalya had no inkling of this calamity that had befallen, and so she was all ready for the coronation, resplendent in a white silk saree.
Upon seeing Ram, she hugged him dearly and said, ‘Son, may you live long and may you always follow the path of righteousness.’ – ‘Dattamasanmalabhya bhojanena nimantritah.’ Offering a seat, she asked him to eat something. A true mother! Amidst all this excitement, she wants to make sure that her son has eaten properly. But Ram declined and told her what had happened with Kaikeyi and Dasharath.
Remember, the same news had sent Dasharath into shock. Now when Kausalya heard it she too collapsed on the ground like the branch of a Sal tree in the forest hacked by an axe. She was struck with a deep heart piercing sorrow. Her heart pained so much that she wondered how come it did not break into pieces? She spoke of the many insults that Kaikeyi habitually heaped on her. And now surely that would only become worse. She asked Ram to take her along and started sobbing inconsolably.
Lakshman, who was present as always by Ram’s side,then spoke. Note that we hardly know much about Lakshman from what Valmiki has told us so far, but that shortcoming is made up for with this explosive monologue by Lakshman, ‘I do not think that Ram should give up the kingdom’ – ‘viparitashya vrudhashya vishayishcha pradharshitah nrupah kimiva nabruyachchadhyamanah samanmadha.’ – ‘The king has become old. He is now overpowered by passions and has developed a perverse nature. Infatuated with Kaikeyi he can speak anything. Why should Ram go into exile ? He has done no wrong. It is grossly unfair to him. Even his adversaries cannot find fault with him, then how can his own father abandon him ? How can a son accept the words of such a father who has become immature and childish in old age ?’ ‘Yavdev na janati kashidarthamimam narah. Tavadev mayaa sardhama aatmasthyam kuru shasanam.’ – ‘Before this news gets out, take control of this empire! I will help you. Who would dare challenge you ? And if they do, I will kill them, I will kill them all, even if it means that there is not a single person left in Ayodhya.’ ‘Nirmanushyamimam sarvaamayodhyam karishyaami’ – ‘And as for Dasharath, we ought not to hold back because he is our father. Even a guru, if he strays from the path of righteousness must be punished. If our father stands against us he ought to be imprisoned or even killed.’
Lakshman had just stated his intention of taking over the empire by force and killing their own father if it came to that, their father, Kausalya’s husband. Kausalya then said to Ram, ‘You heard what your brother said, now do what you think is appropriate. Just as you must abide by your father’s wishes likewise you must abide by my wishes too. And I forbid you from going to the forest. What Kaikeyi has said is against dharma. Your dharma is to stay here, and if you still go away I will stop eating and give up my life. My death will be on you.’ Ram tried to explain his thinking to a mother wallowing in sorrow and to a brother boiling with rage. Ram gave many precedents to argue that abiding by one’s father’s wishes is the highest dharma and in his case Dasharath was – ‘gurushacha raja cha pita’ – his guru, king and father. And interestingly, we know that it was not actually Dashrath’s wish that Ram be sent off. In fact the very thought that Ram would go away was killing Dasharath but he was helpless.
Ram had to go not because Dasharath wanted it so but because of his promise to Kaikeyi. And for Ram, breaking the king’s promise was not an option. And so he said, ‘Na tena shaknomi pitu pratinyamimam na kartum sakalam yathavat’ – ‘It is not possible for me to do anything but execute the promise in every way.’ ‘Nasti shaktih piturvaakyam samatikramintu mama’ – ‘It is not within my powers to transgress the words of my father.’ But still this is just so unfair to Ram. Why do bad things happen to good people ? When life takes a difficult turn why me ?