Rama, the epitome of virtue and righteousness, embodies qualities that make him an ideal leader for humanity to emulate. His unwavering commitment to dharma (righteousness) serves as a guiding light for leaders and individuals alike. Rama's exemplary sense of duty, integrity, and self-discipline sets a high standard for ethical conduct, emphasizing the importance of moral principles in leadership. His ability to navigate complex moral dilemmas with wisdom and fairness showcases the qualities of a just and empathetic leader. Rama's humility, compassion, and respect for all beings, regardless of their social status, exemplify inclusivity and egalitarianism.
The time arrived when Rama, the crown prince of Ayodhya, had to leave for the forest for fourteen years. This pivotal event in Rama's life occurred due to his father King Dasharatha's promise to his wife Kaikeyi. Kaikeyi, manipulated by her maid Manthara, asked two boons from Dasharatha: the coronation of her son Bharata as the king and the exile of Rama for fourteen years. Bounded by his sense of duty and respect for his father's word, Rama willingly accepted the exile. His brother Lakshmana couldn’t bear the separation. Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna are the four brothers whose unwavering commitment to their principles and sacrificial nature exemplify the ideals of dharma. Among them, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna stand out as epitomes of selfless sacrifice, each displaying unique qualities that contribute to the glory of Ramayana.
Lakshmana, the loyal and devoted younger brother of Rama, showcased unparalleled sacrifice throughout. His unconditional love and commitment to Rama lead him to willingly accompany his brother into exile, forsaking the comforts of the palace. When Rama was leaving for the forest, Lakshmana wanted to accompany him. Rama advised him saying that at that moment when Bharata and Shatrughna would not be in Ayodhya, it would be his duty to wipe the tears off the eyes of their parents and take care of the kingdom. That should be his dharma. If he didn’t follow his dharma, then he would have no place in heaven. But Lakshmana very politely stated, “O my Lord! I don’t know any heaven or hell. I only know you. My dharma is not related to this world or to the world beyond, its only to you. You are my dharma and my karma. You are my master and I am your servant. If you order, I will have to obey. But my question is who practices the dharma-the living or the dead? What can the dead do? The dead neither do anything virtuous or evil. The moment you leave Ayodhya, my soul will leave this body and follow you. The dead body that will fall here won’t be able to accomplish anything because Lakshmana is only the body whose soul is Rama.”
The dharma observed by Lakshmana is considered greater than Rama’s. Rama’s voice choked on listening to the words of Lakshman. He understood that Lakshman might fall down dead there if he forced him further. So, he asked Lakshman to get the blessings of his mother.
Lakshmana’s mother Sumitra stood at the door, elated, to bless her son. Tears of joy ran down her eyes as she blessed him saying, “Rama is going on exile to the forest only for you, to give you the opportunity to serve him. It is not anyone’s fault, neither your father’s nor Kaikeyi’s. This is the Lord’s mercy on you. Remember one thing my son: Just as the day comes into being only in the presence of the sun, wherever there is Rama, that place becomes Ayodhya. From today the forest is Ayodhya and Ayodhya is the forest for you. Feel the presence of your father in your elder brother Rama and my presence in Sita. Go, follow your brother. My blessings are with you.”
During the exile, Lakshmana's sacrifice took on a more tangible form as he served Rama and Sita, forgetting about his own existence. He built them shelter, stood guard to protect them from any potential harm and faced numerous challenges in the dense forests. His sacrifice was not just physical but also emotional, as he endured the hardships of the wilderness without complaint, putting his own comfort and desires aside for the sake of Rama's mission. The most significant act of Lakshmana’s sacrifice was witnessed during the battle with Indrajit, the powerful son of Ravana. Aware of the formidable opponent he faced, Lakshmana willingly accepted the challenge and entered into a fierce duel. Despite being grievously wounded, he remained resolute in his duty, refusing to retreat until he ensured Rama’s safety.
Lakshmana's sacrifice is a testament to the selfless love and loyalty he harbours for Rama. His actions serve as an enduring example of brotherly devotion and sacrifice in the face of adversity, contributing significantly to the moral fabric of the Ramayana.
… to be continued