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The Death of King Dashratha and the Return of Bharat

Ram went to bid farewell to his loved ones. His mother, Kausalya, was deeply distressed. Ram did not know with what words he would explain the situation to his wife, Sita. As it turned out, she solved the problem herself. She was absolutely clear that her place was with her husband wherever he may go. Ram tried to dissuade her from accompanying him describing the dangers, the deprivation and discomfort of their life ahead. It was not a life for a delicately nurtured princess. But Sita had made up her mind and there was no way that she would allow Ram to leave Ayodhya without her. In as great a show of solidarity, Ram's brother, Laxman, decided to leave the comforts of the palace and accompany his brother, in some way to shoulder the burden of the hard life that lay ahead. So this threesome bravely went forth into the unknown.

King Dashratha became a shadow of his former self after Ram's departure. His heart was heavy with sorrow and he lost interest in life itself. His body grew feeble and his breathing laboured and faint as his life slowly ebbed away. The whole kingdom of Ayodhya was plunged into a state of mourning when King Dashratha died. 

Now, prince Bharat had been away during this time of turmoil and was unaware of these terrible developments in Ayodhya. He was summoned back to Ayodhya on his father's death. On his return, he was shocked by all that had taken place in his absence. He was furious with his mother and blamed her for King Dashratha's death and for banishing his two beloved brothers.

He stated that he had no wish to be the ruler of Ayodhya. He believed that this was Ram's birthright that had been wrongfully denied to him. He announced that he would call Ram back from exile to reign in Ayodhya and go into exile for fourteen years himself. 

Bharat set out from Ayodhya at the head of a huge procession of citizens to look for Ram and persuade him to return to Ayodhya to take his rightful place as king. After several weeks, they finally found Ram. Bharat fell at his feet, begging him to return to Ayodhya. But Bharat's words fell on deaf ears. Ram was firm in his denial. He said that it was his duty to keep his father's word and honour even if it involved staying in exile for fourteen years.

Bharat agreed to return to Ayodhya on one condition. He said that he would rule in name only for fourteen years. The true king would be Ram. Bharat would place Ram's sandals on the throne of Ayodhya that would serve as a reminder to the people as to who was the real monarch. The sandals would remain in this position till Ram's return. As for Bharat, he would forego the comforts of royalty and live as a hermit in a mud hut till his brother's return.  

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