The crowd grew to a murmur as their Prince ascended to the Palace grounds and into the city. They formed a circle around him as he lifted his hands, as a sign for them to be silent and hear what he had to say.
“For fourteen years, we’ve been mourning the death of my father, the Late King Dasharatha. For fourteen years, we’ve been mourning the loss of his two sons and daughter in-law. But today, today we rejoice.” Prince Bharatha spoke with a voice of a thousand thunders.
“Today, the son of Ayodhya returns from exile. Our Rama, will walk through the very streets you see before you. Our king, King Rama returns today!” as he said that, the crowd bursts into a cheer. There were sounds of trumpets and conchs being blown, sounds of bells and drums being beaten as the crowd bursts into songs of their king.
For five hours the crowd along with the ministers in the palace and Prince Bharatha stood with bated breaths, watching the gates of Ayodhya, waiting for the return of their king. The sun set allowing the moon to take charge as the darkness spread over the kingdom. But the people of Ayodhya were prepared for the night, for the women quickly worked in unison and lighted the ghee lamps that were strategically placed along the path leading to the Palace.
Then just when the day was about to end, three figures were seen walking slowly to the gates. The guards stood to their grounds, not allowing them in. Who are these people? Prince Bharatha walks over to the gates and exclaims to the strangers, “Behold! Who might you three be? Show me yourselves for the night is still dark. Light this space!” As per Bharatha’s command, his servant comes over with a lamp and shines it at the strangers.
Bharatha peers through the gates, despite the light, he still could not make out the strangers. “Who might you three be? Begone! For we await the arrival of our king and queen!”
A chuckle is heard and then a soothing voice, “Bharatha, it is I, Rama.”
Bharatha rubs his eyes and peers again, “Impostor! My Rama never looked like that.”
The figure, with matted hair, a long beard, stinking from head to toe, with dusty orange robes laughed along with his companions, who like him were equally filthy and haggard looking.
“I’ve been living in the forest in exile for fourteen years, what do you expect? Let me in O Brother.”
Bharatha observes Rama and then his other brother Lakshmana and then finally at Rama’s wife, Sita. She too, like Rama, was badly sun burnt, dirty looking, her hair all over the place, stinking from head to toe, smiled at Bharatha.
“My Queen! My King, my Brother! Forgive me! Forgive your Brother!”
Bharatha instructs the guards to open the gates and quickly rushes out to hug all three of them. By then, a crowd had gathered, witnessing the spectacle before them. Whispers could be heard as the crowd were deeply troubled. “This can’t be our king. He was never this ugly.” “What ever happened to him? They’re impostors I tell you”
“Silence!” Bharatha yelled. “I want everyone to make way, bring a chariot! Get the flowers ready, blow the conchs, sound the music, ring the bells, beat the drums, get singers and musicians! Our king has returned!”
Rama held Bharatha’s shoulder, “All that is not necessary my dear brother. We left this kingdom, fourteen years ago without pomp and show, and we plan on returning the same.” With that, Rama holding Sita’s hand, along with Lakshmana by his side slowly walked past onlooking crowd, along the lighted pathway into his palace to claim his throne that was always rightfully his.
The king had returned.
HAPPY DIWALI in Advance.