Sravana's Katha

In whatever form it is said, there seem to be truth in the statement
You reap what you Sow

Sant Tulsidas in his Ramcharitmansa made reference to Sravana's Katha in the following chowpie:

bilapata rao bikala bahu bhamti /
bhai jaga sarisa sirati na rati //
tapasa andha srapa sudhi aie /
kowsillia saba katha sunaie//
Raja Dasaratha on learning from Sumantra that Rama, Latchmana and Sita had continued into exile, he restlessly wailed and felt the night would never end. In this agony, Dasaratha remembered the curse of the blind ascetic couple .. Sravana's parents. And, this he related to Kowsillia.
Details of this srapa by the blind couple, however, is told at length in Ayodhya Kanda, Canto 63-64, in the Ramayana of Valmiki

This section of the Manasa relating to Raja Dasaratha's death is perhaps the most widely read in most homes following the departure of loved ones, but few readers and listeners alike have been able to escape the trickling of tears, no matter how much one tried. In so many ways the happenings of the Ramayana relate directly and indirectly to the daily lives of people, that one becomes engrossed as the reader chants the following Doha:

Ram ram kahi ram kahi
Ram ram kahi ram /
Tanu parihari raghubara biraha
Rau gayeu suradhama // 155//

Raja Dasaratha lay gasping for breath as he cried: "Ram, Ram" and again "Ram" and yet again "Rama, Rama!" and finally "Rama" as the last remaining breath departed from his body, in grief and pain and agony brought about by Rama's separation.

And yet as agonising and grievous that this was, Dasaratha knew during these last moments that he too was paying off a debt .... a debt he had inherited by his own action, though accidental.

Just minutes earlier he revealed to his wife, Kowsillia an act of his that had brought agony and pain and eventual death to a blind old couple. This act had remained cooped in Dasaratha bosom .. either deliberately or he had forgotten.

As a young man, Dasaratha , highly skilled in the use of weapons including the bow and arrow had gone towards banks of Sarayu hunting for game. As the sun was about to set for the night, he hard a distance sound which he believed to be the trumpeting of a wild elephant. Skilled at hitting an invisible mark by the source of the sound, Dasaratha shot an arrow and immediately a human the yell in pain.

Shocked ... scared too, Dasaratha rushed to the spot from where the cry came and before him, a young hermit lay at the edge of the Sarayu river with a arrow protruding from his chest and a pitcher partly filled with water dangling from a string at his side.

The young hermit barely able to speak, prompted: "please sir, take this water to my parents .. they are blind and helpless. Do tell them what has happened." And as he pointed the way to his parents, Sravana slumped and died. Dasaratha quickly grasped the pitcher and went off in search of Sravana's parents but he wondered ... who are they and what are they doing in the midst of this forest?

Sravana Dilemma

Before falling prey to Dasaratha's arrow, Sravana lived in a village with his blind parents and wife. He had a job in the village and went out to work each day while his beautiful wife did the house chores and took care of his parents, but somehow Sravana found that his parents who were ageing, did not appear as cheerful as they used to. And added to that, they seemed weak but neither of them complained about anything.

One day, however, Sravana felt like sitting and eating with his parents. Usually, he would have his parents eat first. As they sat down, the wife brought Sravana's taria ... brass plate ... with kitchree topped with ghee and went back to the kitchen to fetch the food for his parents. Sravana felt it a good jesture to put his plate of food before his mother and as hers' came, he took it.

Sravana's mother on tasting the kitchree, unexpectedly cried out that she had not tasted such food for a very, very long time. Taken aback, Sravana tasted his mother's food which he had taken and could not believe the awful taste. Quickly he tasted his father's food and was shocked that with all his effort, his parents were treated so miserably. To remove all doubt he tasted the food before his mother and realised the diference ... that was what he was accustomed to.

Sravana questioned his wife who was hesitant to explain so he went into the kitchen but there saw a single pot in which the food was cooked ... for sometime, Sravana was mystified, but then a closer look and there was the pot with two compartments.

So hurt was Sravana that without another word to his wife, weaved two baskets and placed each parent in one and hung the baskets ... tied on each end of a staff ... over his shoulder and set off towards the forest.

It was on this journey to take his parents far away as possible from the village that they became very thirsty. Sravana hung the baskets on the branch of a tree ... away from the wild animals of the forest ... and went to fet a pitcher of water.

Dasarath had no difficulty in locating the blind aged couple who were calling to their son, but Dasarath did not answer. Instead he just filled their lota with water and gave it to them. Sravana's mother again and again pleaded "speak to me son, tell me something. Why are you silent what is wrong" and to Dasarath these words were like arrows to his heart.

"How do I tell them that their son has died ... worse still, that I shot him, accident or not", Dasarath tried to reason but eventually gave in and having told them who he was, related what had happened.

The blind and helpless couple could not restrain their emotion and convinced Dasarath that they be burnt on the pyre ... not uncommon at that time ... with their son.

Dasarath obliged and while they were on the pyre, they pronounced the curse that Dasarath would
"die in grief for the loss of his son"

Dasarath was troubled about what had happened moreso than the srapa ... curse ... since, he thought "how could that be .. I have no sons, in fact no children" and with this he consoled himself that the curse could not affect him and realising that there was nothing more he could do for Seavana or his parents, he returned to his palace.