In the Central Hall of the palace, Rama sat surrounded by several friends known for their humour and talks in lighter vein. Prominent among them were Vijaya, Madhumatta, Kashyapa, Mangala, Kula, Suraaji, Kaaliya, Dantavakra, Sumaadha and Bhadra. They were all delighted with the turn of events leading to Rama adorning the Ayodhya throne and winning the admiration of all citizens. The purveyors of news and the tale-bearers were in a hilarious mood.
At this juncture, Sri Rama felt like knowing the pulse of public opinion about happenings in Ayodhya, towns and villages.
“Bhadra!” elicited Rama from the last-named above, “What is the special tale that people relate to talk about me, Sita, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna, besides mother Kaikeyi? If the king’s actions happen to detract from the charms of dharma, he will be subject to criticism in his land and in all ashrams where the Rishis and Munis reside. It is common for people to indulge in critical discussion of all possible mistakes and bad deeds of the king.
“Maharaja!”, said Bhadra in answer to Rama’s questions, “The citizens have been talking very well of you. They have been in fact praising you in glowing terms about your achievement in killing Ravana.”
“Bhadra!” intervened Rama, “Be frank about what the people say whether their talk is pleasant or unpleasant to hear or auspicious or inauspicious to know. If their reaction is favorable, I shall get along with those policies acceptable to them. If on the other hand, they are unfavourable and discountenanced by them, I shall give up those acts. Without fear or favour, you may freely give expression to all your views. I am particularly interested in knowing clearly from you what public criticism or various allegations are being levelled against me.”
Bhadra, persuaded by Rama, to spell out the truth, started to convey the opinions of the people about the Rama’s achievements in general and the royal family in particular.
“Maharaja!” he said, “In every street and square, shop and gardens, the good and bad words emerging from the lips of all, I shall tell you. They are talking about the bridge across the ocean and the wonderful achievements following that – something no king, devata or rakshasa had done in the past.
Ravana, who proved the undoing of the devas, rakshasas, yaksha’s and gandharvas in any encounter, met his death with his army men and forces at your hands. Those who surrendered, they say, surrendered to you. But there is one remark here. Although you killed Ravana and brought Sita back to the palace, they have been commenting that you did not display any mental anguish about Sita’s character nor any suspicion
Hatwaa cha Ravanam sankye
Aamarsham prishtataha Kritwaa
Swaveshma punaraayat. (U; Ka Sar: 43, Sl. 16)
What kind of happiness, they question could you ever get from reunion with Sita especially after Ravana abducted her to Lanka forcibly putting her on his laps. He had kept her, they say, only at his palatial garden. Moreover, he had kept her for a number of days under the control of rakshasis. They ask why you did not subject her to any accusation. Taking that as a precedent, they talk in derogatory language that they would be forced to tolerate similar things in the matter of their wives too. For whatever the king does, the people follow suit. Maharaja! These in essence are the various comments indulged in by the people in towns and villages.”
Rama taken aback
Rama felt very sad, taken aback by the strange revelations from Bhadra. “Beloved ones!” he said, “What is your opinion in this matter? Tell me how far this is true.” He wanted corroboration form others.
They all fell flat in prostrations at Rama’s feet and said in a humble tone, with folded hands. “There is absolutely no doubt it. Evametat na samshayaha. It is true that people have been talking in this vein.”
Sri Rama was in no mood to elicit any further information or solicit further opinion of those around him. He dismissed them.