Setting the Scene for Ravana’s downfall.
Lord Rama was born to destroy Ravana.
However, there were several other ideals that Sri Rama had to set.
Firstly, the events that unfolded in Ayodhya had to be natural.
This was because, in no way, could the events unfold as purely divine events, unfolding under supernatural conditions.
Therefore Itihasa chose two characters namely Devi Kaikeyi and Sri Rama’s father King Dasharatha as the primary characters which would finally lead to the banishment of Sri Rama.
Otherwise what was the need, in normal circumstances that Sri Rama, the perfect human, to go hunting for demons in the forest, if he had the option to live in Ayodhya comfortably.
A curse on King Dasharatha became the primary cause for future events to unfold.
Then, a seemingly unconnected curse on Devi Kaikeyi became the basis of an impending curse on the kingdom of Ayodhya.
The most visible cause for Sri Rama’s banishment was the Two Boons of Devi Kaikeyi, which she asked from King Dasharatha.
The first being the coronation of Bharatha as the King of Ayodhya and then the 14-year banishment of Sri Rama.
In this article, we shall look into the two curses of Queen Kaikeyi and King Dasharatha that became the basis of the future banishment of Sri Rama.
Queen Kaikeyi Saves Dasharatha
Queen Kaikeyi saved King Dasharatha’s life at the time when the king’s chariot was falling apart at the time when the spindle of one of the chariot wheels was being ripped off.
Devi Kaikeyi put her finger at the center of the wheel to keep the wheel attached to the chariot. Queen Kaikeyi had accompanied King Dasharatha to the battle against the Rakshasas.
How did Kaikeyi get the strength to withstand the pressure of the chariot that was racing with such force?
The answer is related to an event connected with the childhood of Queen Kaikeyi.
A Sage curses Young Kaikeyi
A sage cursed Queen Kaikeyi when she was still growing up.
She insulted the sage out of childish misdemeanors.
When Kaikeyi pleaded with the sage to forgive, claiming innocent misdoings.
So, the sage relented.
He had already cursed Kaikeyi that her family would shun her because of a future event that was about to take place in her life.
Yet the sage later blessed her, that her hands and fingers would become like steel and will prove useful to her, as per the demand of time.
King Dasaratha grants boons to Kaikeyi
This was the reason why Kaikeyi could keep the wheel of the chariot glued to the vehicle, which could have otherwise given way and would have cost the life of King Dasharatha.
This was at the time of this crucial battle between the gods and demons.
King Dasharatha came to know of how the queen had saved his life at the crucial moment of the battle.
He immediately agreed to grant two boons to the queen.
Kaikeyi responded, “Oh King, I shall keep these two boons pending and will ask you to grant them to me when I feel it necessary.”
The undoing of King Dasharatha was already round the corner.
One of the triggers that finally undid him, were the two pending boons of Kaikeyi, which was to cost his life.
But there was a precursor to the boons that he offered to Kaikeyi without much thought.
Dasharatha proceeds towards his Undoing
In fact, that was the main cause for his ultimate fall.
This event was an unfortunate one that cast a blotch on the illustrious background of King Dasharatha.
This happened many years prior to the battle between the gods and the demons.
King Dasharatha once entered the thick forests on the banks of the Sarayu river for a hunting game.
None could compete with him, in the art of archery.
He had the ability to build a bund of arrows capable of stopping the flow of the mighty Sarayu river.
During that game, he hunted down many innocent animals.
Story of Shravan Kumar
Around that time, a young boy named Shravana Kumara carried the load of his old and blinded parents.
He passed that way.
He put each parent in a basket, tying each to an end of a bamboo pole.
This was because he could not afford transport.
So, he lifted the pole holding it on his shoulders with one parent in front of him and the other to his back.
This was the “kavar” (कांवर) arrangement, popular in ancient India.
Shravan Kumar was heading towards Kashi, Benaras.
Shravan Kumar stops to quench his Parent’s thirst
The journey was long and tiring.
It was peak summer.
He decided to rest his parents for a while.
The basket restrained the movement of the old couple.
They sat in a very uncomfortable position through the long journey.
He kept the kavar down and headed towards the banks of the Sarayu to refresh himself as well as get some water for his thirsty parents.
Shravan Kumar leaned forward and prepared to take some water.
He put some water into his mouth and gargled.
He then bent forward to dip his hands once again into the water.
The “Shabda Bhedi” arrow finds its mark
The sounds appeared to be some animal gurgling water on the rivers, probably trying to refresh itself from the afternoon heat.
The King was looking forward to a hunting game in all this.
The water gurgle gave a feeling to the king that an animal was certainly at the banks of the river which was satisfying its thirst.
It is a well-known scriptural dictum that “All living beings deserve protection”.
Yet here was an illustrious king who entertained himself by killing animals.
He could not see the creature who was at the banks of the river but could certainly hear the sound.
The king was well trained to bring down anything by merely shooting in the direction of the sound.
“Shabd Bhedi Baan” (शब्दभेदी बाण) is the art of shooting down a game, by letting an arrow in the direction of the target’s sound.
The king let his arrow go in the direction of the gurgling sound.
The arrow found its mark.
However, the thoughtless arrow pierced Shravan’s heart.
Dying Shravan informs Dasharatha
He cried “Ah… What sin have I committed for being knocked down so mercilessly?”
His shrieks reached the ears of the insensitive King Dasharatha.
Naturally, this took him aback.
He never dreamt that his arrow would shoot down an innocent human being.
So, he ran towards Shravana and wept, remembering his crime time and again.
He helped the agonized boy lying in the waters near the river bank.
The king carried the boy out of the waters.
He held Shravan on his lap close to his chest.
Shravan Kumar was in great pain.
The boy was certain that he could not hold on to his life for very long.
He narrated to King Dasharatha about himself and his old blind parents.
Shravan then asked the king to relieve him of his pain.
The king removed the deeply thrust arrow from the young lad’s heart.
No sooner did he pull the arrow out, Shravan Kumar breathed his last.
Finally, Dasharatha Gets Cursed
This event devastated the King.
He made a promise within himself that he would never hunt again.
Never would he resort to the art of releasing an arrow without knowledge about the target.
On knowing that they had lost their son, the old couple wept inconsolably.
They asked the king to light up a pyre for their son.
Shravan Kumar had given his parent’s details to the King.
The King went to Shravan’s waiting parents and tried to offer them water.
However, by the demeanor of the King, the blind couple could sense that something was wrong.
Shravan’s parents pressed the King to reveal the facts.
As Dashratha consigned Shravan’s body to flames, the old couple also entered the flames to join their son on his final journey.
Before they entered the pyre, they cursed the King, “ Just like we are dying, unable to bear the separation from our son, you too shall perish out of attachment to your son.
Your son shall not be with you in your final moments.
You will die dissatisfied, pining for your son.
This shall happen if our love for our son is true.”
Thanks for reading!