The Ramayana/Book II/Canto XXI: Kaus'alyá Calmed

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto XXI: Kaus'alyá Calmed

While thus Kaus'alyá wept and sighed.
With timely words sad Lakshman cried:
'O honoured Queen I like it ill
That, subject to a woman's will,
Ráma his royal state should quit
And to an exile's doom submit.
The aged king, fond, changed, and week,
Will as the queen compels him speak.
But why should Ráma thus be sent
To the wild woods in banishment?
No least offence I find in him,
I see no fault his fame to dim.
Not one in all the world I know,
Not outcast wretch, not secret foe,
Whose whispering lips would dare assail
His spotless life with slanderous tale.
Godlike and bounteous, just, sincere,
E'en to his very foemen dear:
Who would without a cause neglect
The right, and such a son reject?
And if a king such order gave,
In second childhood, passion's slave,
What son within his heart would lay
The senseless order, and obey?
Come, Ráma, ere this plot be known
Stand by me and secure the throne.
Stand like the King who rules below,
Stand aided by thy brother's bow:
How can the might of meaner men
Resist thy royal purpose then!
My shafts, if rebels court their fate,
Shall lay Ayodhyá desolate.
Then shall her streets with blood be dyed
Of those who stand on Bharat's side:
None shall my slaughtering hand exempt,
For gentle patience earns contempt.
If, by Kaikeyís counsel changed,
Our father's heart be thus estranged,
No mercy must our arm restrain,
But let the foe be slain, be slain.
For should the guide, respected long,
No more discerning right and wrorg,
Turn in forbidden paths to stray,
'Tis meet that force his steps should stay.
What power sufficient can he see,
What motive for the wish has he,
That to Kaikeyí would resign
The empire which is justly thine?
Can he, O conqueror of thy foes,
Thy strength and mine in war oppose?
Can he entrust, in our despite,
To Bharat's hand thy royal right!
I love this brother with the whole
Affection of my faithful soul.
Yea Queen, by bow and truth I swear,
By sacrifice, and gift, and prayer,
If Ráma to the forest goes,
Or where the burning furnace glows,
First shall my feet the forest tread,
The flames shall first surround my head.
My might shall chase thy grief and tears,
As darkness flies when morn appears.
Do thou, dear Queen, and Ráma too
Behold what power like mine can do.
My aged father I will kill,
The vassal of Kaikeyí's will,
Old, yet a child, the woman's thrall,
Infirm, and base, the scorn of all.'
   Thus Lakshman cried,the mighty-souled:
Down her sad cheeks the torrents rolled,
As to her son Kaus'aly?spake:
   'Now thou hast heard thy brother, take
His counsel if thou hold it wise,
And do the thing his words advise.
Do not, my son, with tears I pray,
My rival's wicked word obey,
Leave me not here consumed with woe,
Nor to the wood, an exile, go.
If thou, to virtue ever true,
Thy duty's path would still pursue,
The highest duty bids thee stay
And thus thy mother's voice obey.
Thus Kas'yap's great ascetic son
A seat among the Immortals won:
In his own home, subdued, he stayed,
And honour to his mother paid.
If reverence to thy sire be due,
Thy mother claims like honour too,
And thus I charge thee, O my child,
Thou must not seek the forest wild.
Ah, what to me were life and bliss,
Condemned my darling son to miss?
But with my Ráma near, to eat
The very grass itself were sweet.
But if thou still wilt go and leave.
Thy hapless mother here to grieve,
I from that hour will food abjure,
Nor life without my son endure.
Then it will be thy fate to dwell
In depth of world-detested hell.
As Ocean in the olden time
Was guilty of an impious crime
That marked the lord of each fair flood
As one who spills a Br?maa'a blood.' [1]
   Thus spake the queen, and wept, and sighed:
Then righteous Ráma thus replied:
'I have no power to slight or break
Commandments which my father spake.
I bend my head, dear lady, low,
Forgive me, for I needs must go.
Once Kaudu, mighty saint, who made
His dwelling in the forest shade,
A cow--and duty's claims he knew--
Obedient to his father, slew.
And in the line from which we spring,
When ordered by their sire the king,
Through earth the sons of Sagar cleft,
And countless things of life bereft. [2]
So Jamadagní's son [3] obeyed
His sire, when in the wood he laid
Hia hand upon his axe, and smote
Through Renuká his mother's throat.
The deeds of these and more beside.
Peers of the Gods, my steps shall guide,
And resolute will I fulfil
My father's word, my father's will,
Nor I, O Queen, unsanctioned tread
This righteous path, by duty led:
The road my footsteps journey o'er
Was traversed by the great of yore.
This high command which all accept
Shall faithfully by me be kept,
For duty ne'er will him forsake
Who fears his sire's command to break.'
Thus to his mother wild with grief:
Then thus to Lakshman spake the chief
Of those by whom the bow is bent,
Mid all who speak, most eloquent:
'I know what love for me thou hast,
What firm devotion unsurpassed:
Thy valour and thy worth I know,
And glory that appals the foe.
Blest youth, my mother's woe is great.
It bends her 'neath its matchless weight:
No claims will she, with blinded eyes,
Of truth and patience recognize,
For duty is supreme in place,
And truth is duty's noblest base.
Obedient to my sire's behest
I serve the cause of duty best.
For man should truly do whate'er
To mother, Bráhman, sire, he sware:
He must in duty's path remain,
Nor let his word be pledged in vain.
And, O my brother, how can I
Obedience to this charge deny?
Kaikeyí's tongue my purpose spurred,
But 'twas my sire who gave the word.
Cast these unholy thoughts aside
Which smack of war and Warriors' pride;
To duty's call, not wrath attend,
And tread the path which I commend,'
Ráma by fond affection moved
His brother Lakshman thus reproved;
Then with joined hands and reverent head
Again to Queen Kausályá said:
'I needs must go--do thou consent--
To the wild wood in banishment.
O give me, by my life I pray,
Thy blessing ere I go away.
I, when the promised years are o'er,
Shall see Ayodhyá's town once more.
Then, mother dear, thy tears restrain,
Nor let thy heart be wrung by pain:
In time, my father's will obeyed,
Shall I return from greenwood shade.
My dear Videhan, thou, and I,
Lakshman, Sumitrá, feel this tie,
And must my father's word obey,
As duty bids that rules for aye.
Thy preparations now forgo,
And lock within thy breast thy woe,
Nor be my pious wish withstood
To go an exile to the wood."
Calm and unmoved the prince explained
   His duty's claim and purpose high.
The mother life and sense regained,
   Looked on her son and made reply:
'If reverence be thy father's due,
   The same by right and love is mine:
Go not, my charge I thus renew,
   Nor leave me here in woe to pine,
What were such lonely life to me,
   Rites to the shades, or deathless lot?
More dear, my son, one hour with thee
   Than all the world where thou art not.
As bursts to view, when brands blaze high,
   Some elephant concealed by night,
So, when he heard his mother's cry,
   Burnt Ráma's grief with fiercer might.
Thus to the queen, half senseless still,
   And Lakshman, burnt with heart-felt pain,
True to the right, with steadfast will,
   His duteous speech he spoke again:
'Brother, I know thy loving mind,
   Thy valour and thy truth I know,
But now to claims of duty blind
   Thou and my mother swell my woe.
The fruits of deeds in human life
   Make love, gain, duty, manifest,
Dear when they meet as some fond wife
   With her sweet babes upon her breast.
But man to duty first should turn
   Whene'er the three are not combined:
For those who heed but gain we spurn,
   And those to pleasure all resigned.
Shall then the virtuous disobey
   Hosts of an aged king and sire,
Though feverous joy that father sway,
   Or senseless love or causeless ire?
I have no powcr, commanded thus,
   To slight his promise and decree:
The honoured sire of both of us,
   My mother's lord and life is he.
Shall she, while yet the holy king
   Is living, on the right intent,--
Shall she, like some poor widowed thing,
   Go forth with me to banishment?
Now, mother, speed thy parting son,
   And let thy blessing soothe my pain,
That I may turn, mine exile done,
   Like King Yayáti, home again.
Fair glory and the fruit she gives,
   For lust of sway I ne'er will slight:
What, for the span a mortal lives.
   Were rule of earth without the right?'
He soothed her thus, firm to the last
   His counsel to his brother told:
Then round the queen in reverence passed,
   And held her in his loving hold.


  1. The commentators say that, in a former creation, Ocean grieved his mother and suffered in consequence the pains of hell.
  2. As described in Book I, Canto XL.
  3. Parasúráma.