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Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:35 pm

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For twelve years Ram and his brothers helped their father to rule Ayodhya. One day, King Dashratha decided that he had become old and did not want to bear the burden of running the kingdom any longer. He felt that it was time that Ram took over the reigns as the crown prince. He summoned all his ministers and courtiers and announced that he had decided to put Ram on the throne as the ruler of Ayodhya. Everyone was in agreement because Ram had shown himself to be noble, wise and kind. More importantly, the people of Ayodhya loved him. The king ordered that preparations be made for a grand coronation.

Excitement and anticipation filled the air in Ayodhya. The streets were washed and strewn with petals. Houses were decorated with colourful pennants and lamps were lit. The wandering minstrels sang of Ram's noble exploits and people poured into the city from the four corners of the kingdom to see the coronation of their beloved prince Ram.

But a dark cloud appeared on the horizon in the form of the evil Manthara, Kaikeyi's handmaiden who had been at the queen's side from the time she was an infant. On seeing the festive preparations, Manthara hurried to Kaikeyi's bedchamber to whisper poisonous words into her ear. Manthara told Kaikeyi that once Ram was crowned the ruler of Ayodhya, Kaikeyi would lose her favoured position in court. She would be in a subordinate position to Kaushalya, Ram's mother who would treat her worse than a slave. She reminded Kaikeyi that it was the Queen Mother that held the power and put the idea in her head that her son Bharat would make as good, if not a better ruler than Ram.

Kaikeyi was convinced and she decided to take action before it was too late. Now, Kaikeyi had once saved King Dashratha's life on the battlefield. As a gesture of appreciation, King Dashratha said that he would grant her two wishes. Kaikeyi had not taken him up on the offer at that time. However, she felt that this was a good opportunity to remind the king of his promise made years ago. She told the king that her two wishes were that her son, Bharat, be crowned king and that Ram be sent into exile for fourteen years. The king was heartbroken. He begged Kaikeyi to make any other demand but this. He reminded her that the law of the land said that it was the eldest son who should succeed his father. But Kaikeyi was unbending. The king, being a man of his word, had no choice but to comply with her wishes.

When Ram heard of the king's decision he did not demur. Ram calmly accepted that it was his lot to leave Ayodhya to live the simple existence of a hermit, not to return for fourteen long years. Ram was so noble that he did not hesitate to sacrifice his place as king to a younger brother. It was clear that his father's honour was of greater importance to him.

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