As usual, Dasharatha came to Kaikeyi's palace in the evening. As she
had decided before, she asked for a boon and when the emperor readily agreed, she asked
that Rama be sent to the forest in exile. No amount of his pleadings with her could change
her mind; and finally it was decided that Rama should be exiled to the forest.
Kaikeyi sent for Rama and in the presence of Dasharatha told him of the decision.
Lakshmana was also present there and felt that his aunt's desire was utterly mean. Does
her son Bharata also wish to become the ruler? Who knows? No wonder if he is nourishing
such a desire. But what a fool our father is! Enamoured by his junior consort, he agrees
to banish such a fine son, Rama, man of noble qualities, to the woods and anoint Kaikeyi's
son. What sort of a father is he? Lakshmana was choked with a feeling of anger against his
father and the aunt.
Rama, promptly followed by Lakshmana, went to Kausalya to inform her of his going to
the forest. The mother did not want him to go. Supporting her, Lakshmana said: ' Devi, I
agree with you. There is no reason for Rama to be exiled. Blinded by his ardent love for
his junior queen, the old man has lost his senses and taken a foolish decision. Should
Rama go because of that? None is displeased about Rama. He shall not go. I oppose it. I am
going to thrash the old man! If elders lose their sense of wisdom to judge what is right
or wrong, it is not improper for the young to teach them a lesson. Let Rama stay here and
be crowned, I will see what anybody could do about it."
Some hope was kindled in Kausalya and she told Rama: "My dear son, consider w hat
he says. Don't think of going. Remain here and become the king."
But Rama wouldn't agree and told Lakshmana: "Brother, our father is elder to all
of us. It is our duty to obey his word. Neither the mother nor you or myself can forsake
our duty. Consider that fate has ordained that I should go to exile to the forest. Our
aunt has loved me just as her own son. Now she wants me to go away to the forest. It is
God's will. Please understand that." Lakshmana replied: 'Fate! Only the weak take
shelter in that word. The strong face their situation boldly and achieve their objective.
My arms here are not pieces of mere adornment. This bow is not an ornament. This sword is
not a stick nor are my arrows. I possess these four weapons to crush our enemies. Crush
them I will!" Rama then told him: "Be assured that I have no intention to leave
the path of Dharma for the sake of riches." Lakshmana couldn't know what to do and
told Kausalya: "Mother, if Rama goes to the forest, I too will go with him. If he
wants to jump into a fire, I will do so before him. It is my vow." Listening to all
this talk, Kausalya realised that it was inevitable that Rama should go in exile and told
him: "All right. There is no other way. I give you my blessings. Come, receive the
ceremonial blessing and then leave." She recited sacred hymns invoking God's blessing
for her son and wishing him well. Rama returned to his quarters with Lakshmana.
At the residence, Rama talked to his wife Sita. She had no objection to his going to
the forest, " but you should not leave me and go. I will also come with you."
When it was decided that the couple would go, Lakshmana said: "If you two are going,
I will also come with you. I will attend to your needs and stand guard. Brother, allow me
to come." Rama then said: "Lakshmana, understand the position here. Father is
very old and has become a pawn in the hands of our aunt. If both of us go, our mothers
here will be suffered a lot. No, you better remain here and look after them."
Lakshmana replied "The situation here does not warrant my looking after the mothers.
Our elder aunt has her own income. Bharata is frankly afraid of you and he will look after
our mothers well. You agreed for my coming with you when you were talking to your mother
and now you says'. Don't you believe me?" That was only Lakshmana's
understanding. What he had actually said was that if Rama went to the forest, he would
gladly go with him; if he wants to jump into the fire, he would do so before him. Rama did
not object to his brother's remarks, which meant that he had no objection to Lakshmana
accompany- Ying him. He told Lakshmana: "Go and get ready to leave. Send for Guru
Vashishta's son and others and we will distribute amongst them the jewelry, clothes and
other possessions of all the three of us and we will leave the town. Proceed."
Their possessions were accordingly distributed. Devoid of princely riches and robes,
and ornaments, they went to meet Dasharatha. Rama told his father: I am leaving for the
forest. Your daughterin-law insists on coming with me. Likewise Lakshmana.
I have agreed for their wish. Please bless us." The three paid their obeisance to
their mother and began their journey.
Before leaving, as Lakshmana went to see his mother Sumitradevi to seek her blessings,
she told him: "You probably were born to lead a jungle-life. Go son. Have full faith
and respect for Rama. Consider him as Dasharatha and Sita as your mother. Think that the
forest is Ayodhya. I wish you well. Go and come back." The nobility of Sumitra
instilled in Lakshmana a sense of total devotion and duty towards Rama and Sita. It is
this devotion that made him renowned as a brother of matchless qualities.
On their way to the forest, the party reached the outskirts of a town on the banks of
river Ganga, where Rama's friend, boatman Dasharaja Guha lived and spent the night there.
Rama slept under a treeshade and Sita too slept on the bare ground. Seeing this, Lakshmana
was overcome with grief. However, he did not go to sleep and kept vigil throughout the
night. Guha pleaded with him to get some sleep and lie would keep guard. Lakshmana refused
to do so and he and Guha spent the night awake talking about Rama. In the morning, Rama
and Lakshmana applied gum to their heads and did the hair into bun as per the custom of
those who lead life of renunciation in the forests. Guha got his boat ready and took them
other side of the river. The three co their journey.
Rama and Sita walked in the front and Lakshmana, equipped with his bow and arrows,
followed them. Rama was worried whether Lakshmana would lose his nerve and told him:
"My dear brother, we now begin to experience life in the forest. You should be
fearless and bold."
But that was only an elder brother's concern. The younger had no worry at all. He was
only feeling sad about the plight of his brother and sister-in-law who had to lead this
forest-life now from the princely lives they were leading.