Shravan Kumar belonged to the time when King Dashratha ruled Ayodhya. He was born of poor and blind parents, but they had brought him up remarkably well. He was strong healthy and honest, and he had a good character. He bore sincere love and respect for his parents. He was also a great devotee of God. Everyday he worked hard to make his parents as comfortable and happy. In his leisure time he prayed to God and attended to his poor, blind and aging parents.
One day his parents told him that they had be- come quite aged. They, therefore, wanted him to take them to the various places of pilgrimage : this could make them fully satisfied and give them abundant peace of mind. It is a typical Hindu belief that a pilgrimage to the various shrines and holy places under- taken in old age, purifies the soul and takes one nearer to one’s Maker ere the icy hand of Death touches one. To a Hindu mind nothing is more precious, than becoming one with the great Maker of this Universe.
In those days means of transport were scarce and costly, and Shravan Kumar could not afford to hire- them. He, therefore, decided to place his parents in two baskets and carry the baskets on his shoulder to the places of pilgrimage. He took a strong bamboo- stick, at its two ends he tied the two baskets with strong ropes, and placed his father in one of the baskets and his mother in the other. Carrying on his shoulder this bamboo stick with a basket at either end, Shravan started on the pilgrimage.
After having visited a few places of pilgrimage, he found himself on the banks of the sacred river Sharayu. Pleased with the beautiful scenery around. he decided to take a little rest there, with his parents. Shravan then placed the baskets in the shade of a tree.
And after describing the beauties of the scene to his blind parents, he told them that he wanted to take a dip in the river Sharayu- The bath was sure to re- fresh him. His parents asked Sharavan to take his bath leisurely: they also asked him to fetch them pitcher of water from the river, for they were feeling thirsty.
Shravan went to the river and had his dip. Now he had to fetch drinking water for his parents, and so he dipped a pitcher into the water. As the pitcher was getting filled, there was that peculiar bubbling sound caused by the air escaping from within.
At that precise time. King Dashratha of Ayodhya. who was on a hunting expedition, happened to be near the spot. Hearing the bubbling sound, the King thought that it was caused by a deer drinking water in the river. Dashratha stood silent for a while and only with the bubbling sound to guide him carefully took aim and shot his arrow. Indeed the arrow hit the target with precision, but the King was astonished to hear the pain-stricken screams of a human being instead of the painful cry of a dying deer. Shravan had become the target of the King’s arrow. Injured fatally, he lay screaming in a pool of blood.
The King came to the spot and saw the ghastly mistake he had committed. He repented for his hasty action, but it was too late. He then placed Shravan’s head on his lap, and tried to elicit some information about himself. Shravan Kumar told him that he would be dying in a few minutes, but he felt sorry for his blind parents, who were resting in the shade of the tree, waiting for him to quench their thirst. He. Therefore, requested the King to attend to his old, blind parents. Soon Shravan breathed his last.
Now the King; had to perform the duties of Shravan. He lifted the pitcher and brought it to Shravan’s parents and raised it up to the lips of the blind old man. The King did not utter a single word for fear of revealing the stark reality. But the parents would not take water till they heard the familiar voice of their beloved son. So they asked:
“0 dear son. why do you not speak today? Are you angry with us because you have to toil so much to serve up?”
At last King Dashratha had to tell them all that had happened. The parents were unable to bear the grief as their beloved son was no more. They told Dashratha that they could not live in this world with- out their son. They cursed the King that he, too would meet his death caused by the sorrow of separation from his son just as what had happened to them. Shortly afterwards both the parents passed away.
Many years passed, and Dashratha had four sons. The eldest son was Rama. In due course. Dashratha began preparing to crown Rama as the King of Ayodhya so that he could retire to the jungles and live there a peaceful life praying to God. Now Dashratha had given two boons in the past to his wife Kaikeyi. Rama’s step-mother. She insisted that the King grant her the boons before crowning Rama. The King hesitated, but had to concede in the end. She demanded that Rama be sent to the forest for fourteen years and her son Bharat be crowned as the king of Ayodhya. The shock of the thought of fourteen years’ separation from his son, Rama was so great that Dashratha instantly collapsed and died. And thus the curse of Shravun Kumar’s parents came true.
Each wrong is avenged, and each labour rewarded in the grand scheme of things. The story of Shravan bears this out, even as it underlines another great truth, that none, not even the king who rules over the land can escape the consequences of his action. Of course there is the question of time, but what is time when things are viewed in terms of the Infinite ?
In ancient India, there once lived a sage named Shantunu and his wife. Both were very old and blind. The couple had a young son named Shravan. Shravan had devoted his life to serving his blind parents. He took care of each and every wish of his parents. Shravan’s whole life centred around serving his parents.
Once his parents said to him, “Son, we are old and do not have much time to live. Before we die we wish to go on a pilgrimage to Bharat’s holy places.” Shravan agreed at once to fulfill their wish. He made a kavad, a special carrier, for his parents. He carried the kavad on his shoulder and they left on the pilgrimage. Shravan was so devoted to his parents that he did not feel their weight. A few months later, they reached the outskirts of Ayodhya, the holy birthplace of Shri Ramchandra Bhagwan.
Shravan’s parents were very thirsty. Shravan put the kavad on the ground. He took a waterpot to fill the river Saryu flowing nearby. As he bent down to fill pot, an arrow pierced his chest. King Dashrath had hit him by accident. The king was in the forest hunting for a deer. In the fading light of the dusk he mistook Shravan for a deer because of the gugling sound from the pot. As soon as the arrow hit him, Shravan cried out in agony. Dashrath realized his mistake and he ran to the young boy. Shravan was lying in a pool of blood. He was hit badly in the chest. Dashrath was immensely pained at the sight and asked forgiveness.
Shravan told him, ” My old parents, are very thirsty. Please take this water to them and quench their thirst.” After saying this he died. Dashrath took the water to the blind couple. He told them about his mistake and about their dear son’s accidental death. The parents were very sad to hear this and wished to be taken to Shravan. Dashrath carried the kavad and took them to the body. The old couple grieved at their son’s death. Dashrath bowed at their feet and begged for forgiveness.
Shravan’s Father said, “King, we do not want to curse you, as the power to curse is only in God’s hands. But we can see your future. As we shall die shortly longing for our son, you too shall die longing for your son.” Soon they died, longing for their dear son. The couple’s words later turned out to be true for Dashrath. He, too died, longing for his son Shri Ram.