Ram was about to leave Ayodhya to live in exile in jungle for fourteen years. Kaikeyi had asked Dasharath in one of her two wishes that Ram go in exile (vanavasa) for fourteen years. The question is why did Kaikeyi ask for fourteen years in exile for Ram? Why not fifteen, why not ten or twelve for that matter. Why specific fourteen years and what is it’s significance? Back then, in Ram’s time, that is ‘Tretayuga’, an average life span of a man was considered to be that of a hundred years, give and take a few years. The entire life was divided into seven parts which, if calculated, came to a little over fourteen years a part. These parts or divisions were called ‘yog’ then. One ‘yog’ can be translated as one period or one stage of life. There were different functions to be performed in every ‘yog’. Every stage of life was lived according to defined rules. Of course, they were not rigid about stated fourteen years per stage, lines sometimes differed according to circumstances.
1st yog: Contrary to popular belief that a child was sent to Guru’s Ashram (abode) to study at an early age of eight or nine, one school of thought believes that a child stayed with parents for the first thirteen-fourteen years of his life, that is, first yog. During this period, when he was seven-eight, Guru came to his house to give him initial knowledge and for them (Guru and shishya) to get acquainted so that when the time came for shishya to go and live with his Guru, both were well acquainted with each other.
2nd yog: At an age of about fourteen a child went to his Guru’s Ashram, boarded and studied there, be it science (vignan), maths (ganit), politics (rajniti), economics (arthashashtra), war strategies (yudhaniti) and religion (dharma) etc. A child studied there for eight to ten years depending upon his grasp and power to absorb his Guru’s teachings. He remained there for another four –five years to serve his Guru and his family in exchange for the knowledge gained, till he was about twenty eight and till his Guru permitted him to go.
3rd yog: In this period a child, now grown into a man, returned to his parents and immediately got married with his parents’ find and started his ‘grihasthashram’. In this period, the man was fully involved with his family life, business life (vanijya) or service life (nokri) as the case may be, till he was forty two to forty five years of age. Here he also extended his family.
4th yog: Here, in middle forties, while still involved with family and work, man started to think about more involvement in meditation (dhyana) and prayers (prarthana) then earlier. He mentally prepared himself to leave everything to his children at the end of this yog, that is, around fifty eight years of age.
5th yog: Now he retired from active life, leaving everything and all to his off springs. He spent more and more time in meditation, charities and social activities.
6th yog: At this stage, past sixties and in early seventies, he left everything behind and went to stay in jungle (vana), lived in a hand built Kutir (mud house), mainting a very pure and simple life and few needs. Even if he stayed with his family, he stayed detached (alipta) to everything and every happening around him and spent most of his time remembering and worshiping God, preparing for the final journey.
7th yog: Now, in mid eighties, if he was still alive, he definitely went to stay in solitude, stopped intake of food and took Samadhi at an appropriate time.
I have read about this conversation between Ram and Ravana after Ram crossed the sea to Lanka with the help of his monkey warriors, in some obscure magazine which interested me. Contrary to popular belief that after reaching Lanka, Ram and Lakshman in particular, had verbal war with Ravana, challenged each other to prove their might, the exchange of words between the two sides was rather unchallenging, if not polite, for both sides knew what or who the other was. And I believe it is more likely.
The first thing Ram did upon reaching Lanka, was to settle his army for war and immediately set upon the task of cooling Laxman down with his words of wisdom on war. Laxman was not prepared to wait for strategic decisions and planning, was eager to have it out with Ravana as Ravana had dared to kidnap the woman whom Laxman worshipped as his own mother. Ram, aware that Laxman was nowhere near Ravana’s cunning and skills, asked him (Laxman) to tackle others and leave Ravana to him as it was now a personal matter between him and Ravana. Ravana too was in the battle field with his army. Since war was imminent, both sides knew there was no point in challenging and daring each other.
Ravana: “Hey Ram, I bow my head to your courage that you managed to cross the ocean and reach here. Now, what are you waiting for? I will let you have the first strike.”
Ram: “I am a Khatriya (warrior). Though you are in the wrong and a culprit, I will give you first opportunity to strike. You will not have another.”
Ravana threw his arrow which Ram easily avoided. His next was intercepted and destroyed by Ram’s. Now was the time for Ram to strike. Still he hesitated.
Ravana: “Hey Dashrathputra, I know you are brave. I fail to understand the reason of your hesitation.”
Ram: “O Lankapati, war is inevitable. The result of this war too is known. I am thinking about this sea of human army.”
Ravana: “What about it? How can I set your mind at rest?”
Ram: “Hey Dashanan, the enmity is between you and me. Thousands of people on both sides will be killed.”
Ravana: “So? It happens in war.”
Ram: “It could have been avoided. Only if you had listened to Vibhishana and Hanuman, we could have avoided this massive destruction.”
Ravana: “O great soul, this is not a combat, this is war. I wonder that a man with your wisdom is having such weak thoughts.”
Ram: “It is not that, O master of knowledge, I too was wondering what prompted a wise and knowledgeable person like you to commit such a heinous crime, knowing the out come?”
Ravana: “Hey Ram, the deed is done. It cannot be undone. I have made my first move. It is now your dharma (duty) to fight.”
Ram: “Yes Lankeshwar, you are right. Fight I shall. But it is so unbecoming of you. Moreover, I was thinking about men in your army. They will perish without any fault of theirs.”
Ravana: “They are warriors. It is their job to fight. It is their destiny.”
Ram: “True. But I dislike unnecessary destruction.”
Ravana: “Ram, you forget they are Rakshshas (demons).”
Ravana: “Hey Purushottam, it is their destiny. I will let you know something you don’t probably know. Have you ever seen or even heard of a Rakshasha dying a natural death? Or dying of an old age? Rakshasas get killed by Manushyas, human beings. Even gods like Indra cannot kill us. Only men from Prithvilok can. All Rakshasas ever born get killed by men. We are cursed, it is our destiny. I am a Rakshasa and so are they. So stop worrying about them, I prey, carry on with your dharma and fight. You and I are only following what is written in our fate.”
And war does happen. Ravana is killed with all his relatives. But that is another story.