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The Curse On King Dasaratha

Dasaratha, the emperor of Ayodhya, died a painful death separated from his four sons – Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna. It is indeed ironic that a powerful emperor who had not one, but four valiant, and righteous sons, did not have even one of them near him, while he passed away.

Bharata and Shatrughna were already at Kekaya (near present-day Afghanistan) with Bharata’s grandfather and maternal uncle when Dasaratha had decided to crown Rama as the Prince Regent. Due to a tragic turn of events, Rama was banished to the forest the very next day by the very same Dasaratha who was under compulsion to fulfil the wish of his youngest queen Kaikeyi. Lakshmana also went with Rama and Sita.

On the sixth night after Rama left Ayodhya, King Dasaratha, seized by a wave of guilt could just not sleep. He had barely an hour back, given in to the sleep which gripped him due to his terrible mental fatigue and anxiety. It was just past midnight and the King was now wide awake, his heart grieving at the injustice he had done to his beloved Rama.

In his mind’s eye, all the events of his life were playing out and he suddenly stopped at that incident. He asked Kausalya (to whose palace he had moved after Rama left) to come nearer. With great sorrow, he started narrating that particular incident to her.

Dasaratha said, “My dear queen, when a person does good deeds, good things happen to him and the same way, when he does bad deeds, he reaps its effect, since every act, whether good or bad has its effect. Without realising this principle, if a bad deed is done, it becomes too late to make amends. I am also a victim of this and I want to relate to you an incident which happened when I was a young prince.”

Dasaratha then shared his story given below, with Kausalya.

When Dasaratha was a young prince, (when he was not yet married to Kausalya) he was a master archer and had learnt a difficult technique in archery by name “Shabdavedi”. By mastering Shabdavedi, he could hit an invisible target just by listening to the sound made by it without actually seeing the target. It was a difficult skill to acquire and Dasaratha was very proud of this skill of his. But he had never ever imagined that the expertise he had acquired would bring such a devastating result on that particular day.

Once during the rainy season, Dasaratha went to the banks of the River Sarayu, on a dark night to hunt. Hunting was a pastime of kings always. It was raining and he was thrilled to hunt in the rain. As he stood near the River Sarayu, wishing to hunt a wild buffalo or an elephant, he could hear a gurgling sound – what he thought was the noise made by an elephant drinking water with its trunk. Using his skill of Shabdavedi, he shot an arrow in the direction from which the sound came.

The very next moment, much to the shock of Dasaratha, a human voice cried out in agony. The voice said, “How could I be killed like this when I have no enemy? I came here to collect water for my parents, that too, at night. By whom have I been hit?  It is not about my death, but with me, my aged parents have also been killed, for they can never survive without my support. Which fool has killed us all?”

A terribly shaken Dasaratha realised the grave mistake he had committed. He had mistook the sound of the pot being filled up with the river water by a man to be that of an elephant drinking water.

 Horrified, he ran towards the voice,  to see a young man lying along the banks of the river, with mud and blood smeared on his body. It appeared he was an ascetic. Beside him was a pot which had rolled on the ground from which water had flowed out.

The ascetic addressed Dasaratha with harsh words. “Why did you do this to me O Prince? In what way did I hurt you to deserve this fate?  I was going to carry water to my old parents who are both blind. They are  very aged and totally dependent on me and now you have hunted me, who was their only support….”  Shravan Kumar, the young man, was now speaking with great difficulty due to the pain he was suffering on account of the arrow which was embedded in his chest. He continued, “My parents will be orphaned without me and they do not even know that I am dying.”  Shravan Kumar stopped talking, writhing in pain.

Dasaratha, overcome with shame and guilt, fell at his feet pleading with him to be forgiven.

Shravan Kumar could not be pacified and after a while, told Dasaratha to take the pot after filling it with water and give it to his parents who were waiting with thirst at their Ashrama which was some distance away from the river. He also said, “O Prince! Please tell my father what you did and please ask for forgiveness as he may curse you in his anger. Please also remove this arrow from my chest so that I may die in peace.” Struggling in pain and tossing and turning on the ground, he also then told Dasaratha how to reach the Ashram where his parents were waiting.

A reluctant Dasaratha obeyed  and removed the arrow which had pierced into the Shravan’s  heart after which Shravan died almost immediately. Then, with a heavy heart, Dasaratha proceeded to the Ashrama with the pot of water in his hands trembling with fear and guilt.

Shravan Kumar’s parents, were an old blind couple looking like feeble old birds whose wings were clipped. They were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son at the doorway of the Ashrama. They were impatient as their son had gone a long time back to fetch them water. So, upon hearing Dasaratha’s footsteps, mistaking Dasaratha for their son, they called out to him in endearing words to give them water without delay.

Dasaratha, mustering enough courage, told them who he was and broke the tragic news to them. The couple were dazed on hearing what Dasaratha said.  With tears bathing his face, Shravan’s father spoke, “If you hadn’t admitted your guilt, my anger would have caused your head to explode to a hundred or thousand pieces. Lead us to our son.”

Dasaratha witnessed heart-rending scenes as the couple wailed piteously for their son and performed his last rites offering water as Tarpana. Still unable to reconcile with what had happened, Shravan’s father turned to Dasaratha and cursed him, “I’m suffering the pain of separation from my son on account of your ignorance! I curse you therefore to meet your end due to grief when you are separated from your son!!”

Saying thus, the couple threw themselves into the funeral pyre of their son which was burning brightly. They gave up their lives too.

Dasaratha stopped. As he ended the story, his eyes were over-flowing with tears. “The fruit of that thoughtless action of mine has now come upon me Kausalya!” said he overwhelmed with the fear that death was approaching him fast. Queen Kausalya and Queen Sumitra (who was with them ) could not control their feelings and wept too. The incident had stunned them and they could not react. Dasaratha lay there, lamenting his fate, and slowly his senses disappeared one by one and his life ebbed out that tragic night.

The Sun of the Ikshwaku clan had set.


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  1. Usha

    Retold nicely, VIdya, it is truly well written. Tugs at my heart.

  2. Lalithambal

    Nicely written

  3. Dorai Chandrasekaran

    Story well written, thanks for sharing.

  4. R. Latha

    well narrated vidhya.

  5. Chandrasekaran Rajasekaran

    Eventhough many of us know this story, the selected words and the way of narration of this incident with their feelings stunned me. I have heard from upanyasam that after last rites and dharpana to their son shrsvana, two miracles happened. Immediately after rites is over their son was appeared with golden thejas in a Devaloka vimanam along with Indhran. This is one miracle. And his blind parents were able to see him sitting in the vimanam. They asked him what is this. He told that he is going to swarkam. Again parents asked how it happened and what punya karma you did. Sravana replied that he knew nothing father and he did not perform any Pooja punaskaram . If any punya karma will be there that will be only doing service to you only ie his parents. Then after cursing Dhasharatha they threw themselves into fire. Thanks. Rajasekaran.

  6. Chandrasekaran Rajasekaran

    Yes. I bow my head to your feet for your service Mam. May God bless you for well health and all wealth Mam. Thank you.

  7. Roshani

    but where it is mentioned in ramayan?

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