“You pose to be more attached to Rama than anybody else. But can you prove that your devotion is true and sincere?” enquired Sugreeva.
Hearing this, Hanuman remembered Rama and Sita and then tore off his chest with his nails. Sugreeva was amazed to see images of Rama and Sita therein. Everybody present there could not help praisingHanuman.
Sugreeva was so impressed that he said, “You are an embodiment of all noble values. Your devotion to Rama is unequalled. So, I free you from all the bonds. You may stay here if you so desire.”
Thus began the Ram Rajya where everyone was happy. People co-operated with one another and they observed the rules of religion and society. Nobody suffered in any way. Nor did anyone die an untimely dearth.
People were free from disease and poverty. Pain and ignorance were not there at all. Men as well as women remained absorbed in virtue and so they were noble and mannerly. The strong and the weak lived in affection. Even birds and animals loved one another. The soil gave rich crops and plants bore delicious fruit and beautiful flowers.
Rivers carried sweet water and the hills were rich in precious stones. That age was the Golden age of the history of mankind indeed. People were happy and prosperous.
Rama had a sublime daily routine. Having a bath in the Saryu early in the morning, he sat for this prayers. Then he had sermons from his preceptor Vasishtha on matters of religion, worldly life and the duties of an ideal ruler. He always had his meals in company with his brothers.
Then coming to the court, Rama attended to his state-affairs. He loved his subjects from the core of his heart. So, he used to give interviews to common people daily to know their troubles. Then he took steps to redress them as early as possible.
The saints and hermits living in the vicinity of Ayodhya often visited Rama’s capital. Seeing the people enjoying the blessings of Ram- Rajya, they felt so happy that sometimes they felt like leaving off their forest life and settling in Ayodhya.
Rama used to hold his court in the everning as well every day. The spies informed him of all the happenings and of the roubles of the people. One day a spy came to the court as usual and bowing low before Ram, he stood silent on one side. Seeing him silent, Rama suspected that something wrong had happened. So, he said to the spy, “Don’t be afraid at all. Say whatever you want to say without any sort of hesitation. I want to know whether any of my subjects is in trouble.”
“My Lord! I want to be excused.” Saying so, the spy again became silent as if his tongue were not ready to say what he wanted to say.
Seeing him silent again, Ram said, “Why don’t you tell the news you have brought? Is it unpleasant news? Say what it is. I am impatient to know it.” “Your majesty! A washerman, while reproaching his wife, was saying something improper regarding our queen,” said the spy in a faltering voice.
Ordered to say everything in detail, the spy said, “Sir, during the course of my daily round, I passed by the house of a washerman. I heard the harsh words which the washeman was speaking to his wife. Hearing them, I stopped short and set my ears to what he was speaking.”
“Say everything clearly,: said Rama.
“Your Majesty! Somebody had misled the washerman’s wife and he had taken her way. When she returned the next day, she told everything to her husband who flew into a rage and said, “You unfaithful bitch! I am an ordinary man, I am not so great as Rama who has accepted his wife Sita even after she remained in Ravana’s custody for such a long time. Get lost at once. There is no room for you here.” Saying so, the spy became silent.
”What happened then? Did the washerman allow her to remain there or not? Asked Rama serenely.
“No, sir; he turned her out,” replied the spy.
Rama dismissed the court and retired to his palace with a heavy heart. The words of the washerman regarding Sita pinched him like anything. Having given a cool thought to the entire matter he said to himself, “For the upkeep of the religious and social principles, I will have to part company with Sita. But it is essential that the veracity of this happening be proved before taking any step.”
So, Rama asked his soldiers to investigate whether the happening in the washerman’s house was true or not.
The report submitted by the soldiers supported what the spy had said.
Rama could not sleep in peace at night. He remained restless all the night through. When his three brothers came to greet him the next morning as usual, they found him sad and dejected. Rama’s pale looks and gloomy mood stunned his brothers. They all suspected something ominous to happen.
After some time Rama addressed Lakshmana in a serene voice and said, “Take Sita with you at once and leave her in the forest.”
“Brother! What is the matter after all? What is her fault? Why have you decided to leave her? asked Lakshmana.
“That is God’s will, brother. What I have said, is for the good of all. If my order is violated, I shall end my life.”
Hearing Rama’s words, the three brothers stood dumb as statues.
Then collecting courage, Bharata said with folded hands, “Brother! I am a man of ordinary wits but you are omniscient. I would like to know, “Can a fish live away from water? Can a crop grow without rain? And can Sita survive in separation from you now?”
“You are right, Bharat. But I am not only a son, brother and husband, but a ruler also. And a ruler has to live up to the expectation of his people. Saying these words, Rama told his brothers what thewasherman had said to his wife. To keep Sita in the palace will amount to a slur on our exalted dynasty. I have got to save it from this slur.”
“whoever said such words for Sita is sure to go to hell,” said Lakshmana. “Come what may my brother. Go and carry out my order,” said Rama. “I am here to obey you, brother.” Saying so Lakshmana set out to the forest in a chariot with Sita in it.
Reaching the thick of the forest, Lakshmana requested Sita to get down. Sita complied with the request, but she felt frightened to see the dreadful forest on all sides and said, “Lakshmana! There is no hermitage even anywhere around. This dense forest is the abode of fierce wild animals. Why have you brought me here?”
“Respected Sister-in-law! Your husband Rama has ordered me to leave you here in this forest and I can never violate his order, you know.” replied Lakshmana in a faltering voice.
Hearing these words, Sita fell down senseless. As soon as Lakshmana advanced to give her support, a divine voice said, “Lakshmana! Leave her here and rush back to Ayodhya. She will survive.”
Hearing this, Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya leaving Sita lying there.
Coming to herself, Sita looked around but she could see no sign of Lakshmana and his chariot. She said to herself, “Have I been sent to this forest with Lakshmana so that you may get rid of me? I have already suffered a lot. Even death is not ready to accept me.” Thinking so, she began to bewail bitterly.
By chance, Saint Valmiki happened to pass that way. Hearing Sita bewail so bitterly, he came to her and said, “Who are you, my daughter? Why are you here alone and why are you weeping like that?”
“I am Sita, daughter of King Janak of Mithila and queen of Rama, the ruler of Ayodhya, O Saint??? Saying so, she related her woeful take to the saint.
Hearing Sita’s tale of woe, Saint Valmiki could not make out the reason of sending Sita to the forest by her husand Rama. So, he asked, “My daughter! Let me know the reason behind your expulsion.”
“But I myself do not know, O fatherly saint. My husband’s younger brother brought me here in a shariot and left me here when I was lying unconscious under the shock of being expelled fro no reason.”
Then the saint retorted, “You father, Janaka, has been my disciple. So, you are quite safe, my daughter. Shed all worry and sorrow. Have patience, your husband shall come one day in person to take you. Come with me to my hermitage and stay there.”
The saint gave Sita useful and consoling sermons and took er to his abode.
Sita mad e Saint Valmiki’s hermitage her home. Daily in the morning she sat before the saint to have sermons. She was leading a very simple life full of righteousness.
In due course of time, Sita bore two sons. Hearing the news, Saint Valmiki came there and said to the women who were present there, “The one who has been born earlier should be cleaned with grass (Kush) while the other with the remnants of the reaped crop (lav). And accordingly, the elder should be named Kush while the younger should be named Lav.”
So the twin sons of Sita came to be named Kush and Lav respectively.
The twins began to grow up there at the hermitage. They called their mother – Vandevi (forest goddess). In due course of time, they began to get education from Saint Valmiki himself. This they began to grow up living in discipline and serving the saint with profound devotion.
The saint composed a song narrating Sita’s woeful tale and made both her sons to memorise it.
The twins used to sing this song in a melodious voice without knowing that this song was about the story of their own mother and the name – Rama – mentioned in the poem was of their own father. The song depicted the story right from Rama’s swayamvara to the expulsion of Sita.
The saint, now, started giving them education in the use of arms and weapons and the tactics of warfare. Both the brothers became awfully expert in the use of bow and arrows. So, they grew up to be talented, courageous and fearless warriors. Not only this, they learnt many artifices in archery which few other archers knew. Saint Valmiki was himself a great archer. So, he trained them in the skill of archery to exceptional extents.
Observing the mastery that the twins had acquired in the use of bow and arrows, the saint’s joy knew no bounds indeed. On the one hand, he felt proud of them as his pupils and on the other, he felt delighted to think of the exploits that they were to do in the time to come. The saint could foresee the coming events through his supernatural premonition.
One day, Rama accompanied by his prime minister, Sumanta, and his three brothers went to the hermitage of Saint Vasishtha. Bowing low before the saint, Rama said with folded hands, “Revered Preceptor! I have done a number of Yajnas, so to say. But my subjects are insisting on a horse-sacrifice Yajna (ashwamedha).”
“May your desire be duly fulfilled, Ram” Saying so, the saint said to Bharata, “My son! Go and start preparations for the horse-sacrifice Yajna.”
“I’m here to obey you, sir,” Saying so, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna left he hermitage.
When the preparations for the Yajna were over, Rama and Saint Vasishtha inspected them and they felt very pleased to see the arrangements that the three younger princes had made. They praised their efforts and blessed them.
Now Rama summoned a number of messengers and gave them certain directions. Then they were sent to various kings and rulers with a view to informing them of the forthcoming Yajna. Not only this, some messengers were sent to request the celebrated saints of the day to come and grace the occasion. It was done in consultation with Saint Vasishtha.
Receiving the invitation, a number of kings and rulers arrived at Ayodhya to take part in the Yajna. They included Sugreeva, Vibhishana, Jamvant, Nala Vishwamitra also reached the site of the Yajna.
King Janaka, on being informed, marched to Ayodhya along with his four winged army and a large number of saints including his royal priest Shatananda. Bharata was gien the responsibility of entertaining the guests.
Directed by his Preceptor, Rama got prepared a gold image of his wife Sita because Saint Vasishtha had tomd him that no Yajna is considered to be complete until and unless the wife sits on the left of the husband, the performer of the Yajna. Everybody who was present on the occasion praised the gold image of Sita.
Two thousand scholarly Brahmanas were deputed to recite the mantras. Also a beautiful white horse was decorated profusely and brought to the site of the performance. Thus the Yajna was started in the month of magha (January) and Rama made offerings of Yajna material to the sacred fire as instructed by the priests.
After the completion of the Yajna, the horse was brought near the sacred fire and necessary worship was performed. Than a tilak was put on the fore-head of the horse, also, a declaration was hung from its saddle –
“Rama, the ruler of Ayodhya, claims superiority to all the kings. Any on who likes to defy this claim, should catch the horse and invite a war from the master of horse. If the claim is acceptable, a yearly tribute should be sent to Rama.”
Then taking out an invincible arrow from his quiver, Rama handed it across to Shatrughna and said, “Brother! Accost this horse and return after winning all the kings.”
“I’ll do the needful, brother.” Saying so, Shatrughna took the arrow.”
Deputed for the over-all victory, Shatrughna proceeded on this mission along with the Yajna-horse and a strong contingent of soldiers with him. The force included four thousand horses, two thousand chariots and elephants, a large number of campers, entertainers and dancers.
Shatrughna was given special instructions not to rouble anybody anywhere during the journey until and unless somebody comes forward with defiance of the declaration hung from the saddle of the Yajna-horse.
The first encounter took place between Ram’s force and Lavnasur, a very powerful demon chief, who had defeated gods, Nagas and a number of kings of his area.
Shatrughna besieged the capital of Lavnasur who came out with a large army to face Shatrughna. A fierce battle followed. Seeing Lavnasur killing the Koshala soldiers, Shatrughna shot Rama’s invincible arrow at him and he fell down dead on the ground. As a result, his soldiers ran away and victorious Shatrughna proceeded forward.
The news of lavnasur’s defeat and death broke the pride of other headstrong rulers and all of them accepted the over-lordship of Rama without taking courage to any sort of opposition.
Shatrughna went on marching forward extending Ram’s sway on every region he passed through.
Now Shatrughna entered a dense forest. The white horse was being followed by Rama’s army under Shatrughna. It was the very forest where Saint Valmiki had his hermitage and where Kush and Lav lived along with their mother.
When the twin brothers saw the white horse, they liked it very much. Lav said to his brother, “Kush! Look at that horse. How fine it is! I feel like catching it and keeping it for our daily rides.”
“All right; let us catch it.” Saying so, Kush advanced to catch the horse. Lav followed him closely too. Both the brothers caught the horse and tied it to a nearby tree. Then they read the declaration hanging from its saddle and burst into peals of laughter.
In a short time, Rama’s soldiers came there searching for the horse. Seeing it tied to a tree, they flew into a rage but considering the twins to be just boys, they did not express their anger in any way. One of the soldiers said, “Boys! This horse is not meant for you. You seem to be very good children. Leave it; it is ours. Certainly, you are born to very noble parents.”
Kush retorted, “Why after all, Read the declaration. If you want the horse, be ready for a battle. Win us and take away the horse. If you don’t have the guts to do that, rush back to your king.”
The soldiers advised them, “Boys! You are still very young. To exchange arms with you is not proper for us. So, be wise and return the horse. It is in your interest.”
“Don’t you feel ashamed to beg? Don’t you feel, it is disgraceful for a warrior to beg like that?” retorted Kush.
Finding the twins stubbornly defiant, the soldiers were beside themselves with rage. They advanced towards them with a view to chastise them.
Seeing this, Lav shot arrows that pierced the bodies of many of them and they fell down. Others ran in fear to Shatrughna who asked them in surprise, “Why do look so frightened? What has happened? Where is the horse?”
“Two jungle boys have caught the horse and tied it to a tree, sir. They have wounded many of our soldiers with their arrows. We have run back to inform you that these boys seem to be very brave warriors,” replied the soldiers.
“Come on with me. Let me see those boys. I would like to see how brave they are.” Saying so, Shatrughna set out to the place where the horse was tied.