When Ayodhya Faced A Depopulation Crisis
Lakshmana had walked in while Sita and Rama were having a conversation. He knew that Rama was following Dasharatha and Kaikeyi’s order and was about to go to 14 years of exile but now even Sita was going to go with him. Hearing this, Lakshmana said, “I shall come with you. With this great bow in hand I shall clear the difficult forest path for you. O Rama, without you, this royal life means nothing to me”.
Upon hearing these words Rama tried to dissuade Lakshman from joining him and Sita but Lakshmana was adamant. “You had asked me earlier itself to be with you,” said Lakshmana. “Now why are you stopping me?”
Earlier, Rama had told Lakshmana that when he (Rama) would be crowned as the king of Ayodhya they would have to shoulder the responsibility of the empire together. Now, Lakshmana had made it clear. Empire or Exile he was there for Rama.
Now, one must notice that Rama agreed to go to exile to uphold the value imparted upon him. He had to do right by his Dharma. Sita decided to go along with Rama because it was considered as her duty to follow her husband and be with him through the ups and downs. Lakshmana, however, had no such duty or order to abide by. He was in his full youth and yet ready to sacrifice his comfortable & lavish life solely because of his love for his elder brother Rama.
Then came the time to pack things for their 14 years long exile but all they took were simple ascetic clothes and their Bows and Astras. They kept little to take but gave away a lot to scholars and sages. To Sage Valmiki’s son and his wife, they gave away jewels and many precious stones. To other scholars too, they gave away trunks filled with gems, books, stones and precious jewels. Next, Rama paid the workers of his palace advanced wages for the next 14 years.
When Rama was distributing things amongst his close fellows, there came an old Rishi named Trijat. He seemed to be in a miserable condition. He asked Rama to give some money to him too. To which Rama replied that he would only help the Rishi if the latter showed him how far the latter could throw the stick he was holding. But then Rama immediately laughed and said that he was just joking and gave away a herd of cattle to Rishi Trijat.
This small side story shows us how Rama had not lost his temper. He was neither angry nor sad. He was not wallowing in self pity. He was calm, steadfast and focussed on planning the next steps.
Having given away all of their wealth, Rama and Sita along with Lakshman got out of their palace to meet Dashratha and take his leave. Word was already out that Rama had been subjected to exile. People were shocked and devastated. The streets were packed with citizens mourning the exile of their most beloved leader--Rama. Their pain was akin to the torment of creatures living in a pond that dries up in the summer heat. They said that if Rama leaves, they will leave too. “Wherever Rama goes that forest itself will be our city and let this city be deserted by us become a forest. Let Kaikeyi rule over these deserted and dilapidated homes, drained of wealth and foodgrains, covered with dust and infested by rats.”
The fate of Ayodhya was about to be the same as that of the Janapads of Malad and Karush. Tataka’s atrocities in Malad and Karush had driven people away and brought desolation to the once wealthy and vibrant town. The people of Ayodhya were willing to give up their homes only to be with Rama.
Upon reaching the palace, Rama asked Sumantra to go inside and inform the king that they sought his audience. But the distraught Dashratha did not call them in immediately. Although he was emotionally down Dasharatha was still an astute ruler. He knew that this conversation could not be done in private courts but in public. For what he had to say must be understood clearly by everyone.