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The second boon which Queen Kaikeyi asked from King Dasharatha was- Sri Rama's exile to Dandaka forest and live the life of an an ascetic.The details are as under:-

यो द्वितीयो वरो देव दत्तः प्रीतेन मे त्वया || २-११-२५

तदा दैवासुरे युद्धे तस्य कालोऽय मागतः |

Now, the time has arrived for the second boon given by you affectionately then in the battle between celestials and demons.

नव पञ्च च वर्षाणि दण्डकारण्यमाश्रितः || २-११-२६

चीराजिनजटाधारी रामो भवतु तापसः |

Rama has to take refuge in the forest of Dandaka for fourteen years and let him become an ascetic wearing rags, deer skin and matted hair.

Why did Sri Rama(avatar of God Vishnu) carry bow and arrow while going on exile when Sri Rama was required to live the life of an ascetic, as per the boon?

  • Obvious answer is for self protection of family from wild animals and wild men (RAkshasa). Also being Kshatriya, he might have needed weapons for hunting deers etc. for the food purpose. – iammilind May 28 '18 at 3:32
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    let's go one step further, why did Rama not leave behind his paduka which he clearly got in the kingdom, and which is not mentioned in the shloka as an allowed item to take? why did Rama not stay only in Dandakaranya, why did he travel to various kshetras, which are not mentioned in the shloka as allowed places of travel? the purport of the boon was that he not be in the kingdom and he not take up any other kingdom which can pose a threat to ayodha where Bharatha was supposed to rule. as long as that rule is satisfied, it doesn't matter whether Rama took kodanda or paduka. – ram May 28 '18 at 16:24
  • Sri Rama could not live like an ascetic....as that would have violated Swadharma.That is also supported by BG 2:35...as explained in the answer. – Uday Krishna May 28 '18 at 17:01
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To facilitate the coronation of Bharata and to ensure a reign of fourteen years, queen Kaikeyi asked the following boons from king Dasharatha:-

All arrangements have been made to undertake Rama's coronation. Let my Bharata instead be coronated on this occasion itself. Rama has to take refuge in the forest of Dandaka for fourteen years and let him become an ascetic wearing rags, deer skin and matted hair.

Sri Rama loved and worshipped Queen Kaikeyi like his own mother.Sri Rama went on exile to fulfill the boons asked by Queen Kaikeyi.

But, Sri Rama could not have lived exactly like an ascetic during his exile, due to his Swa-dharma.As explained in scriptures, Swa-dharma is our personal dharma, which is the dharma applicable to our context, situation, maturity, and profession in life. This swa-dharma can change as our context in life changes, and as we grow spiritually.

This rule is explained in Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter-3, verse 35:-

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् |

स्वधर्मे निधनं श्रेय: परधर्मो भयावह: || 35||

Translation

It is far better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty, though tinged with faults, than to perform another’s prescribed duty, though perfectly. In fact, it is preferable to die in the discharge of one’s duty, than to follow the path of another, which is fraught with danger.

Verse 47, Chapter 18 of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, is also highlighting this rule, and is relevant in this context:-

श्रेयान्स्वधर्मो विगुण: परधर्मात्स्वनुष्ठितात् |

स्वभावनियतं कर्म कुर्वन्नाप्नोति किल्बिषम् || 47||

Translation

It is better to do one’s own dharma, even though imperfectly, than to do another’s dharma, even though perfectly. By doing one’s innate duties, a person does not incur sin.

Sri Rama's Swa-dharma was - to always destroy evil and protect righteousness(uphold Dharma).Advice given by Maharishi Vishwamitra to Sri Rama:-

Do your duty as a Kshatriya, the ruling class, and protect virtue and eradicate vice

The bow and arrow, were divine instruments for actualization of Swa-dharma.

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