Dashrath Passes Away
The grief of being apart from his son for fourteen years was too much to bear for Dashrath, and soon after Rama departed, Dashrath breathed his last.
After crossing the river Ganges, Rama, Lakshman and Sita disembarked. Sumant had departed in grief, after requesting them to return with him to Ayodhya as per Dashrath's pleas. The three were now accompanied by Nishadraj. Nishadraj had welcomed them into his home the previous night, but Rama had refused to enter, saying that he was in exile and was to live like a hermit. The three then changed into ascetic robes, and took leave of Sumant before crossing the river. Rama requested Nishadraj to go back as well, but Nishadraj refused, requesting Rama to let him stay with them at least for a few days, to help him through his journey in the forest. Rama agreed.
The four of them carried on until they reached the dwellings of Sage Bharadwaj. Sage Bharadwaj was a renowned rishi and had a multitude of followers, who would visit his ashram to hear his talks. He was also a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. When Rama came to visit him, the sage too tried to persuade Rama to return to Ayodhya, but Rama again stated that he would not do so. Sage Bharadwaj's followers all came to pay their respects to Rama.
Rama spent the night at the ashram, and the next morning sought the sage's permission to leave. Bharadwaj's followers too insisted on accompanying Rama through the forest! Bharadwaj sent four of his followers to accompany and look after Rama, and gave Rama his blessings.
The party then journeyed for a while longer, until finally Rama requested them all to return to their homes. He also took leave of Nishadraj, who departed unwillingly. The three of them then set off on their own.
In the meanwhile, as Dashrath lay in bed in Ayodhya calling out to his son to come back to him, he remembered an incident that had happened many many years ago, and realised that he was about to breathe his last, pining for his son in the same manner as was foretold. And true enough, when Sumant returned to Ayodhya, Dashrath had passed away.
Many years ago, King Dashrath had gone deer hunting in the forest. He saw something move that he mistook to be a deer, and fired an arrow. To his dismay, he heard a human voice cry out in pain. Dashrath rushed to the spot and saw a young lad, Shravan Kumar, lying on the ground, badly wounded and bleeding. Shravan then told Dashrath that he had been taking water to his parents, who were old and blind, and he requested that Dashrath deliver the water to his parents and give them the news that their son was no more. So saying, Shravan Kumar passed away.
A grief-stricken Dashrath then took the water to the blind parents, who had been waiting for the return of their son. He broke the news to them, and begged them for forgiveness. The heartbroken parents then told Dashrath that just as they will now die pining for their son, so too will Dashrath lose the son he loves most, and will die pining for him.
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