Bharata requests Rama to return as King
After completing the funeral rites for Dasaratha, Bharata called Sage Vasishta and the elders and told them: "According to the custom of our House, the eldest son has to succeed my late father as king. With all respect to you,I have decided to go to the forest and bring Rama back to Ayodhya with Sita and Lakshmana and crown Rama as the king. Let us all start for the forest now."
With the help of Guha, Bharata and his retinue crossed the river Ganga and finally reached Bharadwaja Ashram to meet Rama. Bharata left his retinue behind and, accompanied only by Vasishtha and a few other elders, walked towards the ashram with humility and met the rishi Bharadwaja. After he learned the purpose of Bharata's visit, the sage told him: "Rama is dwelling on Chitrakoota hill. Stay here today. To morrow, you can go there."
He then told Bharata to bring the large retinue he had left behind. When they all arrived, he used his mantra-power to arrange residence and a great feast for them!
The following morning Bharadwaaja said to Bharata: "At a short distance from here runs the river Mandaakini. On its banks is a forest with Chitrakoota hill to its south. On the slope of the hill in a hut your brothers and Seeta are dwelling." And he explained in detail the way they should follow.
Lakshmana saw Bharata and his army coming. He thought Bharata was coming after becoming king to kill Rama and wanted to meet and fight with him. Rama calmed Lakshmana and said: "It is wrong of you to think ill of Bharata and speak such harsh words about him. I am certain he is coming now to give the kingdom to me and take me back to Ayodhya." Lakshmana agreed and was ashamed that he thought badly about his brother Bharata.
As he neared the hut, Bharata saw Rama with matted locks of hair on his head dressed in the bark of trees; Sita and Lakshmana were by his side, dressed in a simple manner. He sprang forward to the spot where Rama was seated. He could utter no word, beyond "Brother," and fell at his feet, and sobbed.
Rama embraced him, and kissed him on the head, and said: "Brother, why did you leave our father's side and come all this way into the forest?" Bharata replied: "When you left Ayodhya for the forest and before I returned from Kekaya, our father gave up his life, slain by the grief of separation from you. Do not give way to sorrow. Perform the obsequies of our father; this will satisfy his spirit."
The Princes, with Seeta and Sumantra went to the river and offered libations for the peace of the departed soul of the King. After other customary ceremonies, they returned to the cottage where the three queens had by then arrived with Sage Vasishta.
Bharata, in the presence of all, pleaded with Rama to return to Ayodhya and become the King. But Rama refused, saying:
"Our father the King gave you kingship after him and he ordained for me life in the forest. What right have we to alter or reject his plans? Far from being wrong, it is your duty to rule the land. And I too shall do my duty." When Bharatha continued to press Rama to return, Rama told Bharata his unalterable decision. "I cannot possibly disobey my father's word. You will please me by not persisting in trying to persuade me. Satrughna is there to help you in ruling, as Lakshmana is here to help me in forest life. With Lakshmana by my side, I lack nothing. Let us all four do our father's will."
Finally, the wise Vasishtha suggested a solution for the problem: "O, Bharata, rule the kingdom under Rama's authority and as his deputy. No blame would attach to you then and the pledge would be kept." Bharata then told Rama: "Brother, you are my father and my God. Your least wish is my dharma. Give me your sandals. That token of yours shall reign in Ayodhya till you return. And for fourteen years I shall stay outside the city and discharge the King's duties in your place, paying reverent homage to your sandals. At the end of that period, you will return and accept the kingship."
"So be it," answered Rama; he placed his feet on the sandals and handed them to Bharata who prostrated himself on the ground, accepted them and put them on his head. Bharata and his retinue then returned to Ayodhya.