The Return of the King

Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa and Sīta return to Ayodhya on the puṣpaka vimāna of Rāvaṇa Malwa, 17th century

Bharata, upon hearing from Hanumān that Rāma was on his way to Ayodhya, was overjoyed. Hanumān relays that: ‘‘Nothing can prevent you from seeing Rama tomorrow on the auspicious day of the moon’s conjunction with the constellation Pusya. For, having once more reached the Ganges, he is staying there with sage Bharadvaja.’’ — To which Bharata replies, with delight in his heart, “At long last, indeed, my fondest wish has been fulfilled.’’

Bharata expresses his elation to Śatrughna, who was similarly delighted, and gives instructions to prepare Ayodhya from Śri Rāma’s arrival.

‘‘Let pious men worship all the divinities and the shrines of the
city with fragrant garlands and musical instruments. And let the king’s wives and his ministers, the soldiers, the army troops and their womenfolk go out to see Rama’s face, which is like the hare-marked moon.’’

When powerful Śatrughna, slayer of enemy heroes, had heard those words of Bharata, he commanded his many thousands of conscripted labourers:
“Level the road — depressions, rough places, as well as smooth areas — from Nandigrama onward, sparing only the roadside shrines. ‘Have some men sprinkle the whole ground with ice-cold water, and then have others strew it everywhere with parched grain and flowers. Let them raise flags all along the main road in our splendid city, and let them beautify their houses starting at daybreak. Let hundreds of men strew the broad royal highway with garlands, festoons, and loose blossoms and with fragrant powders in five colors.”
Given their orders, great chariot-warriors went forth swiftly in their chariots along with thousands of rutting elephants adorned with gold, while others went forth with bull- and cow-elephants with golden girths. Next, all of Dasaratha’s wives went forth mounted in carriages, placing Kausalya and Sumitra at their head. The thundering of the horses’ hooves, the rumbling of the chariot wheels, and the din of conches and war drums seemed to shake the very earth. Indeed, the entire city went forth to Nandigrama.

Thus did great and righteous Bharata, together with his counsellors, set forth to meet Rama. He was surrounded by eminent brahmans, the leaders of the caste guilds, and merchants, as well as by his ministers, who held garlands and sweets in their hands. To the sounds of conches and bheri drums, he was lauded by panegyrists. Deeply learned in righteousness, he bore his noble brother’s sandals on his head and carried with him a white umbrella festooned with white garlands, and a pair of white yak-tail fly whisks adorned with gold and fit for a king. He who had been earlier downcast and was still emaciated with fasting and clad in garments of barkcloth and black antelope skin was now filled with joy upon hearing of his brother’s return.

Looking about him, Bharata said these words to the son of Pavana: ‘‘I hope you have not fallen prey to the typical flightiness of monkeys. For I do not see the noble Rama Kakutstha, the scorcher of his foes.’’
When these words had been spoken, Hanuman said this to truly valorous Bharata, informing him of the reason:
“They have reached those trees that, through the grace of Bharadvaja, are always in fruit and flower, dripping honey, and resounding with intoxicated bees. For such, scorcher of your foes, was the boon granted to Rama by Vasava. And this was the hospitality, complete with every desirable thing, that was offered to him and his army. One can hear the fearsome racket of the excited forest-dwelling monkeys. I think the monkey army must be crossing the Gomati River. Look at the cloud of dust that has been kicked up over toward the Valukini River. I think that the leaping monkeys must be crashing their way through the lovely forest of sala trees. And there in the distance one can see the bright celestial flying palace Puspaka, which looks like the moon and was created by the mind of Brahma. Through the grace of Kubera, bestower of wealth, great Rama obtained this celestial flying palace, as swift as thought, after killing Ravana together with his kinsmen. In it are the two heroic Raghava brothers, together with Vaidehi as well as Sugrīva of immense blazing energy and Vibhisana, the lord of the raksasas.”

Then a great clamor of joy arose reaching to the heavens, as the women, children, youths, and elderly cried out, ‘‘There’s Rama!’’
The men got down from their chariots, elephants, and horses and, standing on the ground, gazed at Rama, who, in his flying palace, resembled the moon in the sky. Cupping his hands in reverence and facing Raghava, Bharata joyfully honored Rama with a fitting welcome.

In that flying palace, which Brahma created with his mind, the elder brother of Laksmana, with his long and wide eyes, looked as splendid as a second Indra, wielder of the vajra. Then Bharata humbly praised his brother Rama, who stood atop the flying palace, like the sun, maker of day, on the summit of Mount Meru. After warmly greeting Laksmana, Bharata, scorcher of his foes, respectfully saluted Vaidehi and, in great delight, announced his name. Next, the son of Kaikeyi embraced Sugriva, Jambavan, Angada, Mainda, Dvivida, Nila, and Rsabha. Next, Satrughna respectfully saluted Rama and Laksmana and, afterward, humbly worshiped Sita’s feet.

Then Rama approached his mother, who was so disconsolate and drawn with grieving, and, bending, he clasped her feet, soothing her heart.

Then, taking Rama’s sandals, Bharata, who knew righteousness, himself placed them on the feet of the lord of men.
Folding his hands in reverence, Bharata said to Rama, “Here, your majesty, is your well-guarded kingdom, which I have now given back to you. Today the purpose of my birth has been accomplished and my most cherished wish fulfilled, in that I see you returned to Ayodhya once more as king.”

Source: The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki by Robert P. Goldman and Sally J. Sutherland Goldman

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