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For many Hindus, The Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa has become a way of life. But for Rāma himself it is the Śruti and Smṛti that have guided every step and every move of his life.

One instance where the Smṛtis and dharma śāstras are consulted for a fact-check is when Bharata decides to fast unto death unless his demand that, Rāma return to and rule Ayodhyā, is met.§

Bharata says:

अनाहारो निरालोको धन हीनो यथा द्विजः |
शेष्ये पुरस्तात् शालाया यावन् न प्रतियास्यति || २-१११-१४

I shall remain lying down in front of Rama's hut without food or drink and depriving myself of light until he returns to Ayodhya, like a Brahmin who is a destitute (lies down at the door of his creditor).

Rāma replies:

ब्राह्मणो ह्य् एक पार्श्वेन नरान् रोद्धुम् इह अर्हति |
न तु मूर्धा अवसिक्तानाम् विधिः प्रत्युपवेशने || २-१११-१७

A brahmana may lie down on one side in order to obstruct a willful debtor in this world. But, it is not befitting for a warrior-class.

Rāma goes on to say:

एतच् च एव उभयम् श्रुत्वा सम्यक् सम्पश्य राघव |
उत्तिष्ठ त्वम् महा बाहो माम् च स्पृश तथा उदकम् || २-१११-२३

O the mighty armed Bharata! Having listened to their testimony and mine, reflect on the matter carefully. Rise and touch me and drink water.

Questions:

  1. Which Smṛtis or dharma śāstras, that give a brāhmaṇa the adhikāra to fast unto death to collect his debt, is Rāma referring to above?

  2. Why does Rāma ask Bharata to touch him? Does any Smṛti say that a person who just committed a sin or has initiated an adhārmic action can undo the effects of the act by simply touching a dhārmic person?


§ I suspect it is this incident that has inspired Mahatma Gandhi and continues to inspire today's politicians to go on a fast to force the ruling party to give in to their demands.

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Here is a partial answer addressing only the following question-

2 Why does Rāma ask Bharata to touch him? Does any Smṛti say that a person who just committed a sin or has initiated an adhārmic action can undo the effects of the act by simply touching a dhārmic person?

It is said that sins can be transmitted by touch in Treta, when Rama and Bharatha lived.So,it seems,by touch, Rama can take some of Bharatha's sins if not all.

Now,how much amount of sin can be taken in that way ,i can't answer for sure.Probably he can take a whole lot of sins because he is God himself.

  1. " In the Krita sin is incurred by one who converses (with a sinner) ; in the Treta by one who touches (the sinful man) ; in the Dvapara by taking the sinner's food ; in the Kali by a (sinful) act (alone).(Parashara Smriti,Chapter 1,Stanza 26).

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