By Rukmini Devi Dasi

“The throne is yours, Bharatha. All yours.” The words dripped from Kaikeyi’s lips like sweet poison, enchanting yet deadly. She held the world in her hands and was handing it to him, gift-wrapped. Only a fool would walk away. Did it matter that her delicate fingers were steeped in blood and tears? His father’s blood and the tears of all of Ayodhya?

Power, such a seductive thing. It begins when we are infants and learn that a shrill cry can get you immediate attention. First we cry because we need something. Then we cry because we want something. Soon we cry just because we know we can. A younger, weaker sibling has to do what we tell them to – we borrow power from our strength. When the skinny girl finds her curves she realises that a look in the right direction and a casual flick of her hair can turn the biggest chunks of muscle into putty – she borrows power from her beauty. A frustrated father, worked to the grind by a condescending boss, lashes out at his wife and kids. Although he feels impotent at work, he claims power in the fact that he provides. Power games rule our lives.

There were credible reasons as to why the throne was Bharatha’s for the taking. He was completely ignorant of his mother, Queen Kaikeyi’s diabolical plan of using the old boons that her husband had given her in gratitude. She demanded that he banish his eldest son, Rama, and install her own son on the throne. And King Dasaratha, bound by his own words in duty and honour, consented and instructed his ministers to enthrone Bharatha. It was a helpless and painful decision for Dasaratha that drove him to his grave, but it was never Bharatha’s doing. Now the kingdom was vulnerable without a leader. It would be dishonourable to desert his people. For the good of all, not for his own selfish pleasure, Bharatha needed to assume power.

Like the scent of blood in shark infested waters, power incites an almost irresistible hunger. Often it is under the guise of good intentions, like a political activist that flaunts promises of free education and a better life for all as long as you help lift the crown unto his (or her) head. Can someone genuinely use power for the greater good without succumbing to the magnetic pull of selfishness?

Bharatha did what few would have the guts to do. Rama, who was the rightful heir, was robbed of the opportunity to rule. The glory of his dignified acceptance of fate and unhesitating execution of his father’s wishes has lived millennia. Yet it is “easier to forsake a delicious prep that’s forcibly taken of your plate than to resist the temptation of one that is within your legal reach” (Game of Life, Shattered Dreams). Bharatha’s glory is, in this regard, even greater than Rama’s. He not only resisted the sovereignty of the planet but was appalled by it. Not for a heartbeat would Bharatha sit on that throne. Bharatha saw only Rama as the rightful King and he led all of Ayodhya to the forest to bring Rama back. Yet upon finding Rama, he was in an even greater predicament. Rama was adamant not to return. Nothing would convince him. And worse still, Rama wanted him to rule!

And rule he did but dressed in tree bark and the matted locks of a mendicant. He ate only roots and fruits, lived in a hut on the edge of the city and ruled. Every day he would go to the shoes of Lord Rama that he had placed on the throne and report the affairs of the state. It’s said that power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. But Bharatha was an incorruptible king. The power never became him. His fixation was the Absolute Truth, Lord Rama, and the throne was merely the instrument for Bharatha to serve Him.

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