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The 4th Widow of AyodhyA-Part 5 of 8

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Apr 30 1997 - 23:55:45 PDT

                 THE FOURTH WIDOW OF AYODHYA (continued)
                      ---------------------------

When the two scions of the AyodhyA dynasty reached the steep banks of the
River Godavari a large herd of spotted-deer was already at the watering sites.

The sky'd suddenly turned to a dull-bluish hue, the first faint sign of
approaching day-break. The air was fresh with the scent of neem and sandal
groves rimming the hills rising above the gorge. Creepers, vines and exotic
herbs were sprouting all around the spot where Rama and Lakshmana arrived.
It was a scene of vibrant greenery blurred by wild floral splendour and by
the silvery cascade of waters rolling down grey, glinting cliffs.
Morning-birds, the bees and butterflies, too, were all readying themselves
to welcome the first rays of the great, fiery orb.  

The spot Rama and Lakshmana arrived to perform their "dharnur-mAsa"
oblations  was also roughly the precise area where the River Godavari exited
from the difficult upper terrain of the Deccan-ranges to begin her gradual
descent into the broad plains on the eastern seaboard of the Ghats. She
wound her way along an estuarine journey and finally entered the sea many
hundreds of fertile miles away. 

"How beautiful they look, Lakshmana, the deer !", exclaimed Rama as they
stopped at the water-edge and watched the graceful creatures wading in the
cool waters.

"Pity, they'll become aware of our presence any moment now and they'll all
scamper away in a trice", said the Lord of AyodhyA a little wistfully.

Surely enough a doe perked up its pretty head and looked at them with large,
frightened eyes. And then instantly the entire herd climbed out of the river
and vanished amidst the muffled trampling of wet, slender and grace-filled
hoofs.

The forest was silent again ...but for a busy colony of bees, up in the
trees somewhere, humming away.

Rama felt a stab of pain plunge his heart: a numbing sense of nameless loss.....

"This place brings back memories of boyhood days at the Sarayu, Lakshmana,"
he said in a voice Lakshmana thought trembled a little.

Lakshmana wasn't so sure if Rama was really speaking the truth about the
memories of the Sarayu. More than the idyllic Godavari reminding Rama of the
Sarayu, Lakshmana thought, it may well be the vanished herd of lovely
spotted- deer which may have aroused in his bother's mind a flood of
bitter-sweet memories ...of a spouse lost...of beloved SitA more graceful
and more lovely than even the forest doe....

Lakshmana possessed an instinct that unerringly fathomed his dear brother's
heart; and now he felt a part of the burden of grief inside Rama's heart
overwhelm his own. And it seemed to crush him with its unbearable weight.

"I'm going into the water first, Rama," he said hurriedly as if wanting to
change the subject of unpleasant memories and moods.

"Alright, brother, you go further up-stream and finish washing. I'll bathe
here. But be quick about it. We must finish the ritual-bath before sunrise,"
said Rama. 

Lakshmana scurried away up-stream and retired to his ablutions on the river-
side.

He sank into the cool waters of the Godavari and gasped. The clear stream
enveloped his body in a tight embrace of maternal intensity. He felt the
strong current wash his hair, his chest, his strong legs.... he felt a
thrill of sanctity run through his body.... a sensation that seemed to
instantly lift his dispirited soul, like a wave, a leaf , a cloud ....and
point it towards the hope of a new day ... to a shining light at the end of
a tunnel of despair ....a light as radiant, cheerful and welcome as the rays
of ascendent sun ....

After the ritual-bath, Lakshmana offered worship to the Sun-god and to the
Spirit of Gayatri and felt immediately lightened in spirit!

It was as if the mysterious Power of Compassion, -- that Spirit Rama'd said
presided over the holy month of "dhanur" -- that spirit'd entered into the
river waters and washed away the grim, guilt-worn cares of his soul as
completely as flash-floods of the Godavari, in a fierce monsoon, were known
to deluge bunds without a trace !!

Lakshmana felt a strange cheerfulness bubbling up rapidly in his heart! It
was the cheer of good hope... of promise and faith within ....that whatever
failure and pain filled his life...they'd all soon vanish... it was all
going to be over somehow...and soon, too!!

He rushed towards Rama, his beloved brother, to share with him his mood of
new-found optimism !   
             ----------------------------------------------------
(to be continued)

sudarshan