This article is written by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar of Coimbatore
Human beings are social animals. They thrive on relationships. Without one’s relatives, man finds himself lost in this wild jungle of samsara. These relationships are of many types-some are natural and some are acquired. While some are permanent, some are temporary. Some people are with us throughout our lives, while some others enter it late and leave it early. Some depend on us, while we depend on some others. There are relationships characterised by depth and sanctified by sincerity, while there are others, which are just not worth the name.
Though relationships there are many, that subsisting between brothers is something exceptional and unparalleled.It is one of the associations we are blessed with at birth. Brothers grow up together, sharing the excitements of juvenile exploration and discovery, sharing the pangs of growth, often sharing food and fun. They share fights too and the bittersweet reconciliation that follows. Fortunate indeed are those blessedwith brothers. We have this on the authority of no less a person than Sri Raghunandana, who says that marital relationships could be found aplenty and we could always cultivate other associations too, but the bonds of brotherhoodare rare and difficult to acquire-
“dEsE dEsE cha kaLathrANi dEsE dEsE cha bAndhavA:
tamtu dEsam na pasyAmi yatra bhrAthA sahOdara:”
Though there have been many illustrious brotherhoods (like Sri Krishna and Sri Balarama,the PAndavA brothers, the asurAs HiranyAksha and Hiranyakasipu, etc.) characterised by love and affection, that between Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana is something unique and unparalleled in the history of mankind. The depth of emotion andlove they display towards each other, their sticking together in the face of overwhelming adversity, their complementary nature in everything, their identity of thought, word and deed-all these are exceptional and serve as a role model to mankind till today.
No one would dispute the profundity of the relationship between any husband and wife, and more so the Divine Couple. It is a testimony to the bonds of Sri Rama’s brotherhood with Sri Soumithri, that even Sri Sita feels compelled to remark, much in the fashion of an ordinary, jealous spouse, that Sri Lakshmana is dearer to Sri Raghava than Herself—
“mattha: priyatarO nityam bhrAthA RAmasya Lakshmana:”
Thereare indeed valid reasons for Sri Janaki’s jealousy-
1.While Sri Lakshmana had been enjoying Sri Rama’s company right from childhood (“BalyAt prabhruti susnigdha:”), it only after Her marriage that Sri VaidEhi comes into contact with Sri Dasarati. The memory of all those years of lost bliss keeps rankling in Her mind.
2.SriValmiki too makes a subtle distinction between the standing of the Divine Consort and Sri Lakshmana, vis a vis Sri Raghunandana. While Sri Mythily is only likened to His life (“nityam prANa samA satI”), Sri Lakshmana is said to be verily Sri Rama’s life (“Bahi: prANa ivApara:”).
3.Additionally, though Piratti is supposed to be an inseparable adjunct of the Lord (“agalakillEn irayum endru alarmEl magai urai mArba!”), in Ramavatara, She had to endure long spells of separation from Sri Dasarati, first when Ravana abducted and imprisoned Her in Asokavanam, and again when She went into exile while being pregnant, ostensibly due to the idle gossip of an ignorant washer man. In contrast, Sri Lakshmana never leaves his brother’s side, whether in Ayodhya or in the inhospitable jungle.
4. Sri Rama’s own words prove Sri Mythili’s apprehensions (about Sri Lakshmana being dearer to Sri Rama than Herself) to be true. When He witnesses Soumitri prostrate and unconscious, bound by Indrajit’s nAgapAsa, Sri Raghava is beside Himself with grief and blames Himself for having got His dear brother into a war, all on account of Sita. He laments,” Of what earthly use would it be to me, if I were to retrieve Sita at the cost of Lakshmana’s life? Any number of Sitasmay be found on this earth, but not a brother of the calibre of Lakshmana. If the unthinkable happens and Lakshmana never wakes up from his slumber, these VAnarAs would surely witness me taking my own life!”—
“Kinnu mE SItayA kAryam kim kAryam jIvitEna vA
sayAnam yOtha pasyAmi bhrAtaram yudhi nichitam
sakyASitA samA nArI martyalOkE vichinvatA
na Lakshmana samO bhrAtA sachiva: sAmparAyika:
parithyakshyAmyaham prANAn vAnarANAm tu pasyatAm
yadi panchatvam Apanna: SumitrAnanda vardhana:”
5. Sri Rama makes such a song and dance about taking Sri Vaidehi along for the vanavAsa, trying to frighten Her with vivid descriptions of the terrors of the jungle. It is only after She hurls a barb at Him about His being afraid of taking Her along and incapable of protecting Her, that He relents.
Comparatively, Lakshmana is easily able to convince his brother to take him along, adding one more reason for Sri Sita’s justifiable jealousy.
Sri Lakshmana is admittedly the younger of the brothers. However, we find him displaying maturity beyond his years, especially when Sri Rama is overcome with emotions, and nursing Him back to normalcy with soothing words of wisdom. In an apparent reversal of role, Sri Lakshmana often acts as the elder brother. Acknowledging this, Sri Sita tells Maruti that Lakshmana takes such good care of his brother that the latter never feels the absence of His dead father, whenever Lakshmana is around-
“Yam drishtvA RAghavO naiva vrittham Aryam anusmarEt”
Sri Rama too admits that Lakshmana takes the place of His father by his exemplary conduct, so much so that Dasarati never longs for His father, with Lakshmana compensating more than adequately–
”BhAvagyEna kritagyEna dharmagyEna cha Lakshmana!
TvayA putrENa dharmAtmA na samvritta: pita mama”
The Shastras lay down that the elder brother is to be adored and respected as one’s father himself-“JyEshtta bhrAtA pitru sama:” Sri Lakshmana adhered to this dictum in letter and spirit. His mother too, while wishing him well on his departure to the jungle in Rama’s company, tells him to behave towards Rama as he would towards Dasarata, and to consider Sita verily as his mother-
“RAmam Dasaratam viddhi, mAm viddhi JanakAtmajAm”.
Sri Sita is all praise for Lakshmana carrying out this injunction faithfully, while acknowledging that Lakshmana regards them (Rama and Sita) verily as his parents-
“Pitruvat vartatE RAmE mAtruvat mAm samAcharan”.
Sri Lakshmana’s devotion to his sister-in-law and his absolutely blemishless conduct towards Her is brought out in the Kishkindha Kanda, when bidden by Rama to identify the jewels cast off by Sri Janaki while being carried away by Ravana. Sri Lakshmana pleads his inability to identify any of the ornaments worn on any part of Sri Sita’s tirumeni, except those adorning Her feet. This is because while in Her presence, he never lifts his eyes from her tiruvadi
“nAham jAnAmi kEyUrE nAham jAnAmi kundalE
nUpurE tu abhijAnAmi nityam pAdAbhivandanAt”
Since he worships Her tiruvadi, Sri Lakshmana is conversant with the noopuram adorning Her feet, but not with any other ornament, since his rectitude doesn’t permit him to lift his eyes upwards.
More of the brother later… To be continued in part-2