As age began to catch up with King Dashratha, he felt that the time had come to hand over the responsibility of the empire. For years he had devoted himself to the welfare of the people, but now he felt weary and was finding it difficult to carry on this heavy burden of duty. No one was better placed to succeed him than Ram. Ram had already demonstrated through his conduct as a prince that he was the most qualified candidate for this role in every respect.
In Ramayana Valmiki says “In archery there was no one who could match him. He is an expert in leading and commanding the troops. Whenever he goes into a battle he never returns without defeating the enemy. He is a great warrior in every way, in fact the greatest of them all. And though he is overwhelmingly mighty, he is never proud of his strength. On taxation and administration, he knows the right means of generating revenue for the state and the right way of expending the resources. On people skills, in demeanour and speech, he is always pleasant. He is ever grateful to those who have done a single good deed, but does not carry the grudge of even a hundred offenses. He is highly adept at attracting and retaining the right individuals and in controlling or removing those who create problems. He is most persuasive in debates and discussions, taking people along and not demanding subservience. With regards to what we call extra-curricular activities, he is an expert in the instruments used for entertainment and sport and is proficient in music too. Ram is always righteous, true to his words and free from envy. He possesses a sound character with forbearance, gentleness and a sense of gratitude. He has attained control over his senses.
In the first two sargas of the Ayodhyakand, Valmiki has described in fascinating detail why Rama was the right choice to succeed Dashratha. He talks about Rama’s physical presence, how he exuded power and grace at the same time. He also mentions very interesting behavioural traits. For instance Rama would go up to people and initiate a conversation and not rely on his stature and wait for them to come up to him. From his lengthy descriptions if we are to distil the essence of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, it is this – everything he did was driven by prajapalan, or welfare of the people and well-being of all. For most people self-interest comes first, then interest of the near and dear ones and finally if at all the interest and well-being of the society. We usually worry about rules and the right thing to do only to the extent we are forced to do so. For priorities were inverted. His foremost commitment was to the people, his personal interest was simply absent from any of his decision making. He knew that society’s long-term interest could only be secured through Dharma i.e. righteousness and truth.
While it was perfectly clear that Rama was the perfect candidate, it was not up to him to simply appoint Rama and thrust his decision on everyone. Dasharatha had to consult all the stakeholders who were going to be affected by the decision. So he convened a meeting of a parishad or council of other Kings as well as citizen representatives of other janapadas. To the parishad he proposed Rama’s name and said “If you are in favour of my proposal, kindly give me your consent. If not please advise what other course of action I should take. Although I favour this proposal, please do consider if some other option would bring greater good. Deliberations by the unbiased result in a better outcome”. The members of the parishad were unbiased, without any conflict of interest.’
Interestingly, the King of Kekaya, Kaikeyi’s father and Bharata’s grandfather, and King Janak of Mithila, had not been invited. This gathering was not meant to merely rubber stamp a decision already taken, but to arrive at the right choice for succession. The parishad members had internal deliberations and then came back and announced their decision to Dasharatha. Indeed they wholeheartedly endorsed Rama’s name, but upon hearing their decision Dasharatha feigned ignorance and asked them why they were so keen to see Rama ascend the throne. Was he, Dasharatha, not doing a good enough job? Dasharatha wanted to be sure that they had arrived at this decision for the right reasons. The representatives said that the people of all lands wished to see Rama being crowned as Yuvraj. They gave many reasons for their decision, but it is telling what they said first – In this world, Rama is the very embodiment of Satya. This was the Rama the people had chosen.