The Sarayu flows in the darkness, bereft of its constant companion in the sky. Laxmana and me, sat by the ghat listening to the river, deep in thought. Laxmana wants me to go south with the armies, he is angry at father for suggesting Bharatha’s name. I am perturbed at this turn of events, we need a new king by dawn and a new warrior.
The Caucuses had a bigger announcement to make earlier in the night. There was an apocalyptic vision by a venerated seer in Himalayas. The seer predicted the doom of all kingdoms from Vindhyas upto the Gandharas, which meant the end of powerful dynasties like Kosalas, Mlechas, Kekayas and the Aryavarthis.The end would be after fourteen years when the Pulastyas of Lanka – the strongest empire on earth, led by their Emperor, the poet-warrior Ravana marches into these holy lands. It wouldn’t just be the end of dynasties, Ravana would replace everything – our way of life, our Gods and the way we see it.
The Caucuses were virtually shaken and had taken some hasty decisions. Their decision was to unite all of north under the joint command of the Caucus seniors through Rajasooya, to face the threat from the south, which meant Kosala would be merged with the other kingdoms and there would not be a fifty seventh king in the Sun dynasty. Father brokedown and lost his senses on hearing this. He was terrified at the spectre of the Sun dynasty ending while he was in charge, he couldnt fight against the mighty Caucuses – so he pleaded. The Caucuses made it clear that unless one of the princes takes up the impossible task of killing Ravana, Ayodhya would be annexed. Father agreed to it. I thought he would suggest my name but he chose Bharatha instead. He loved me so much.
Killing Ravana was impossible , but thinking about it was not. His was the richest empire in the world with mightier weapons and gigantic soldiers. He lived in his island kingdom with golden walls, somewhere in the south and that was all I knew. Killing him will be difficult, very difficult. But as the eternal rebel, sage Vishwamitra had told me, every empire will fall one day. If I get hold of Ravana that very day, I’ll kill him.
Yesterday night my intention was to invade the south with the four limbs of the army, but for this new mission an army will be of no use. Ravana would crush any army movement across the blue mountains of the south. Laxmana and me influenced the Caucuses through Bharatha’s uncle, the Kekaya king, who himself was happy that Bharatha wouldnt have to go. The Caucus announced its final decision on fathers proposal, they wanted me,the eldest son and heir to the throne, to go to the forests in the south and kill Ravana within fourteen years or the Kosala kingdom will be annexed.
I am leaving Ayodhya again. This time with Laxmana and Sita, who insisted on coming. Father said he would die if he parted with me. I felt sad on leaving the old man alone. I am his strength in this old age, but I’m undertaking this task like Bhageeratha to preserve his Dharma. It is the duty of a son to walk the distance his father could not cover. It is a son’s duty to complete the journey.
Dressed in plain clothes, the men and Sita leave Ayodhya. Dasharatha dies in pain uttering his son’s name.