Among the many characters in the Ramayana, that of Bharata evokes admiration and sympathy. Because of Kaikeyi's unjust request to Dasaratha, Lord Rama is banished to the forest. But Dasaratha, on his death bed, forbids blameless Bharata from coming close to him.

Bharata is away at the time of Kaikeyi's scheming, but he is rejected by his father for no fault of his. He bears, along with his mother, the blame for Rama's banishment. Bharata is innocent, yet his dying father has no thought to spare for Bharata, said Kurichi Sreenarayanachariar in a lecture.

Can there be greater punishment for a son than to be rejected by his own father? Can there be greater punishment for a son than to know that his father's last thoughts of him are negative ones?

Even Kausalya is unable to resist blaming Bharata, when he returns to Ayodhya. She tells him that he has plotted everything neatly, and accomplished what he wanted.

The cruel words hurt Bharata, who says that had he indeed plotted against his brother, then he should suffer whatever punishment comes to those who commit the most serious sins.

He gives a list of many such sins. Bharata's list of heinous sins should be an eye opener to us. He says that if he has sinned against Rama, then he should suffer what a person who does not share with others, who betrays confidence, who is ungrateful, who abandons his wife, who disrupts a puja and so on, suffers.

Rama refuses to come back to Ayodhya, when Bharata asks Him to. So Bharata returns to Ayodhya with Rama's sandals, in place of Rama. Bharata, more than anybody else in the Ramayana, is burdened, for he is burdened with unjust blame, burdened with the kingdom he doesn't want to rule, burdened with separation from his beloved brother Rama.

That Bharata would be the one to take on the mantle of kingship, is indicated early on in Valmiki's epic.

Valmiki says that Kausalya and Sumitra were given the porridge, but when it comes to Kaikeyi, Valmiki says, Dasaratha gave her the porridge so that she would bear a son.

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