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Introduction To Shringiberapuram - Sri Ramanin Padhayil

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The 17th episode of Sri Ramanin Padhayil began with the below verse:

namah kodanda hastaya sandhikruta sharaya cha
khanditakhila daityaya ramapayan nivarine

Meaning: I bow down to the bow-wielding Rama, armed with incisive arrows, the subduer of all asuras, he who wards off all my difficulties.

Rama’s first journey, along with his brother and constant companion Lakshmana, is with the sage Viswamitra to protect his ashram from being harassed by demons. Why he would turn to two adolescent boys to do this perilous task when King Dasharatha offers himself is a very significant question. I think this is best answered by seeing the result of this journey: Rama comes back with a wife! This, then is the journey into adulthood. We have already covered all these places in our previous articles.

Now we are entering into the important phase of epic Ramayana i.e. the second journey of Lord Rama. Rama’s journey proper begins when he is banished to the forest for fourteen years. Dasaratha is forced to do this by his queen, Kaikeyi. He is forced to do this because of a boon he has bestowed on Kaikeyi. The story is that during a war, Kaikeyi was with Dasaratha in his chariot (highly unlikely!), and saw the wheel slipping off. She inserted her finger into the hole in the axle, and held the wheel in place. As a reward, Dasaratha granted her two boons which she kept in abeyance. Significantly, this becomes the root cause of Rama losing his throne and having to live in the forest for fourteen years, because these are the boons Kaikeyi asks for.

Sri Kulasekhara Alwar was thrilled with Ramayanam related themes and hence he focussed on Sri Ramachandran in number of his Thirumozhis. Below is the verse from Perumal Thirumozhi 9.2 & 9.3 which tells us the Dasaratha's sorrow over the thought of his dear son, Raghavan entering the forest to fulfill the vow.

Vevvaayen vevvurai kettu irunilatthai vendaathe viraindhu venri
Maivaaya kaliru ozhindhu therozhindhu maavozhindhu vaname mevi
Neyvaaya vel nedungann nerizhaiyum ilangovum pinpu poga
Yevvaaru nadandhanai yem iramaavo yemperumaan yenseykene

Meaning: My Raamaa! Listening to my cruel words from this mouth and not desirous of ruling the kingdom, leaving all the strong mountain like horses, elephants, chariots, that can enable you to attain victory effortlessly, you proceed towards the forest immediately along with large, spear like eyed Sita Piraatti and the darling younger brother. How did you dare proceed to the forest? How did you choose to go to the forest? Forsaking all those affectionate citizens of Ayodhya, how did you go? How did you walk through the rugged paths with Sita? Oh my master! What will I do? You are the savior of mankind.

Kollanai vel varinedungan kosalaithann kulamathalaai kunivil yendhum
Mallanaindha varaittholaa valvinaiyen manamurukkum vagaiye karraai
Mellanaimel munthuyinraai inru inippoi viyankaana maratthin neezhal
Kallanaimel kanthuyila karranaiyo kaakutthaa kariya kove

Meaning: Oh Rama! The darling son of Kosala kulam - the lineage of Kowsalya, long eyed lady! The Lord with strongest shoulders carrying the divine bow! Even this mahaapaapi’s stone heart gets melted at you. Kaakustha! Dark coloured handsome one! My Master! How can you, who had spent all the earlier years sleeping on royal soft beds, sleep now in the forest under the shade of the trees on the bed made of dry leaves and rocky stones?

Kaikeyi stood firm and refused to yield. Dasharatha fainted and lay on the floor the rest of the night. The next morning, Sumantra, the minister, came to inform Dasharatha that all the preparations for the coronation were ready. But Dasharatha was not in a position to speak to anyone. Kaikeyi asked Sumantra to call Rama immediately. When Rama arrived, Dasharatha was sobbing uncontrollably and could only utter "Rama! Rama!"

Rama was alarmed and looked at Kaikeyi with surprise, "Did I do anything wrong, mother? I have never seen my father like this before."

"He has something unpleasant to tell you, Rama," replied Kaikeyi. "Long ago your father had offered me two boons. Now I demand it." Then Kaikeyi told Rama about the boons.

"Is that all mother?" asked Rama with a smile. "Please take it that your boons are granted. Call for Bharata. I shall start for the forest today."

Rama did his pranams to his revered father, Dasharatha, and to his stepmother, Kaikeyi, and then left the room. Dasharatha was in shock. He painfully asked his attendants to move him to Kaushalya's apartment. He was waiting for death to ease his pain.

The news of Rama's exile spread like a fire. Lakshmana was furious with his father's decision. Rama simply replied, "Is it worthwhile to sacrifice your principle for the sake of this small kingdom?"

Tears sprang from Lakshmana's eyes and he said in a low voice, "If you must go to the forest, take me along with you." Rama agreed.

Then Rama proceeded to Sita and asked her to stay behind. "Look after my mother, Kausalya, in my absence."

Sita begged, "Have pity on me. A wife's position is always beside her husband. Don't leave me behind. Ill die without you." At last Rama permitted Sita to follow him.

Urmila, Lakshamans wife, also wanted to go with Lakshmana to the forest. But Lakshmana explained to her the life that he plans to lead for the protection of Rama and Sita.

"If you accompany me, Urmila," Lakshmana said, "I may not be able to fulfill my duties. Please take care of our grieved family members." So Urmila stayed behind on Lakshmana's request.

By that evening Rama, Sita and Lakshmana left Ayodhya on a chariot driven by Sumatra. They were dressed like mendicants (Rishis). A huge crowd of people from Ayodhya followed Rama’s chariot, appealing to him and even the horses to stop and return to the city. Rama addressed the unmanageable crowd, reminding them that he had to fulfil his father’s wishes. He urged them to return and show the same love, affection and allegiance to Bharata, the new Yuvaraja (Crown Prince). But the crowd could not be persuaded. Finally, Rama stopped the chariot and the three of them descended and went on foot. The people followed.

Suddenly the river Tamasa appeared before them and Sumantra unyoked the horses to let them graze. Rama spoke to Sita and Lakshmana and they decided to end the first day of their exile on the banks of the river Tamasa and spend the night there. Rama and Sita lay on a bed of grass prepared by Lakshmana while the latter and Sumantra kept vigil during the night.

Rama woke long before dawn and told Lakshmana that he could not allow the large mass of his faithful countrymen to follow him and deter him from what he had to do. They should therefore yoke the horses to the chariot and move far away from the people before they woke up. The chariot was prepared by Sumantra and they crossed the river to its southern bank. Rama then decided on a ruse to deceive the people into thinking that he had returned to Ayodhya. Sumantra was to ride the chariot north towards Ayodhya and then return stealthily without leaving tracks. The people, upon waking up, would notice the chariot’s tracks leading to Ayodhya and would be tricked into returning to the city. Sumantra carried out the plan and when he returned, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana got into the chariot and travelled southwards. The journey into the forest began. Having travelled for a pretty long distance, Rama crossed Vedasruti, Gomati and Syandika rivers. They travelled deep into the forest, passing several cities, villages and streams before reaching the southern boundary of the kingdom of Kosala. Then, facing Ayodhya with folded palms, Rama pledged that after completing his period of exile, he would return to Ayodhya to be reunited with his father and mother.They left Kosala far behind and reached the city of Shringiberapura on the banks of the Ganga and decided to spend the night there.

Verse from Bhagavad Gita:

patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah

Meaning: If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.

In the worship, we try to offer something to the Lord. In our lives, we offer to someone what he needed. so that we can get favours from him. Here, the Lord is not in need of anything. In fact, He is the owner of all. So even if we offer, we are only presenting His own property. In such a case where is the need for offering with very costly materials? He is not waiting for us to worship Him with golden flowers. We find today many religious ceremonies like, say, Sudarsana Homam, etc., are unaffordable to many. Then, how are they to worship the Lord with such actions prescribed in Vedas? The Lord answers in this sloka. A leaf [patram] or any flower [pushpam] or any fruit [palam] or mere water [thoyam], is enough. Are we to offer water in golden or silver vessels? No. A mud pot or if nothing s available, offer clean water in the hands! The Lord sees bhakti alone and not what we offer!

Guha, the ruler of the Shringiberapura, having been informed earlier by his hunters of Rama’s impending arrival, came to welcome Rma and Lakshmana. Guha, a close friend of Rama had prepared a lavish feast for his guest and requested Rama to treat this city as his own and to spend the fourteen years of his exile there if he wanted to. Rama embraced Guha and thanked him for his great affection and hospitality but declined all that was offered to him by his good friend for he had sworn to lead the life of a tapasvin (renunciate) and live off the jungle. He had only one request of Guha and that was to take care of the horses which were his father’s favourites.

After a simple meal, Rama and Sita lay down to sleep while Lakshmana, Sumantra and Guha guarded them. Guha made a bed for Lakshmana and requested him to sleep too while Guha and his men kept guard, but Lakshmana, the devoted brother, declined. He lamented the fate that had befallen Rama, Sita and his parents back in Ayodhya. Guha was deeply touched by Lakshmana’s devotion to his brother. The next morning Rama told Lakshmana to request Guha to prepare a big, sturdy boat to cross the river. Guha’s men got the boat ready and Guha helped Lakshmana to load the boat with their weapons. Sumantra stood before Rama awaiting further instructions. Rama placed his hand on Sumantra’s shoulder and said that there was no further need for a chariot and he should return with it to Ayodhya. Rama spoke to Sumantra who was in tears, telling him that it was his duty to take care of his aged father and to serve him in every way. He was to convey to the king that neither Rama, Sita nor Lakshmana was unhappy about having to leave Ayodhya and live in the forest. After fourteen years they would return to be reunited. He was also to convey their love to Kausalya.

Sumantra could not contain his grief and moaned about how tragic it would be to return to Ayodhya in an empty chariot, but Rama urged him to return as an empty chariot would convince Kaikeyi that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were indeed in the forest. She would then end her harassment of the king and install Bharata as the Yuvaraja. Rama then turned to Guha to take leave. He requested for some milk of a particular tree to make his hair into a tangled mass or ‘jada’. Now, made up like tapasvins, the three of them got into the boat and Guha’s men took them across the river. Soon they reached the southern banks of the Ganga. The boat was sent back to Guha. The three of them then entered the forest, Lakshmana in front, Sita next and Rama in the rear.

All the above narrated incident took place in Shringiberapura. Place of Guha Sakhyam. Sri Rama stayed for one day at this place. Sri Rama considered Guhan as HIS own brother. Guhan helped Sri Rama to cross the river Ganges.


Ezhai Ethalan keezhmagan ennaa
thirangi marravar kinnaruL suranthu
'maazhai maanmada nokkiyun thozhi;
umbi embi'en Rozhinthilai, uganthu
'thozha Nneeyenak kingozhi' enra
sorkaL vanthadi yenmanath thirunthida,
aazhi vanna!nin adiyinai yadainthen
anipo zhilthiru varangaththam maane

This Guhan incident is well brought out also by Thirumangai Azhwar yezhai, yethalan, Keezhmagan- ennaadhu irangi...
what a beautiful line!

Lord Ramachandran- hugged Guhan and said, "ninnudan aivaranom - with you, we have become five brothers..
What a quality! Sowseelyam! (ability to mix freely with those much below one's status and level)

Guhan- illiterate and immersed in sensual pursuits; always kills (being a hunter); born in low caste; Still, You did not look down at him; You showered Your grace on him; and also said to him, further, -This darting, deer eyed Seetha is your friend; this younger brother is your brother too"- Not just that. He added that You are my friend; the fifth brother (in our family). (Kamban says "Guganodum ivaranom.)

Such a Sowseelyam ! We can see this Sowseelyam in three key places - one is in Guhan's place (Shringiberapura) on the banks of river Ganga. Let us see the other two places, when we reach there.

Sringaverapuram is a beautiful place, full of ramaneeyam. We all will feel like coming to this place. What is that we understand from Ram's friendship with Guhan. Should we go and seek HIM or will HE come and embrace us. Need to understand a story of monkey and cat. The baby monkey holds firmly the mother monkey while jumping from one tree to another. If the baby monkey does not hold properly it will fall down. The mother monkey cannot do anything. On the other hand, the cat when it walks carrying the kitten in its mouth and the whole responsibility lies on the cat to safeguard the kitten. Kitten is free without any pressure. The cat holds the kitten properly. Lord Ram came to meet Guhan and Guhan got Perumal's friendship and kadaksham. But on the other hand Bharatha came to meet Rama. The purpose of his visit was not a success. So the truth is that GOD attempts to reach us and all we need to do is just accept it and not stop it or hinder it. This does not mean that we should not go to temple. Ram the great person - accepts Guhan as his brother. We should all understand about manithaneyam. One atma and another atma is equal. This is what Ram is explaining here.

In our next article, let us the see all the places and temples located in Shringiberapura.


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