Lakshmana stared at the sleeping form of his beloved elder brother and his sister-in-law. They seemed dead tired as they slept in the rough forest ground. Looking at them Lakshmana felt a strange agony in his heart. Rama and Sita…The people who were going to rule one of the greatest kingdoms in the world….sleeping unprotected in the bare forest ground….If Lakshmana had not been there in the forest with his brother, he would never have believed that this was even possible….
Lakshmana thought back of Urmila, Sita’s sister and his wife, whom he had left behind. Her anguished face on seeing him leave…
‘Please….Sita is going with her husband, Rama! Why can’t I do the same?’ Urmila had demanded angrily.
Lakshmana had taken her aside and made her sit down on the bed. ‘I…I know….it is very wrong to leave a wife and go away alone. But I want you to be here….’
‘Why?’ Urmila asked close to tears, looking confused.
‘I want you to stay here and look after father and our mothers….’ Lakshmana said quietly.
‘But…’ Urmila started angrily.
‘Please…hear me out! I am going to the forest, because I want to take care of Rama…Taking care of him is my life’s purpose….’ Lakshmana said with a quiet pride in his eyes. ‘If I take you along with me….How can I take care of my brother all the time?’
Lakshmana saw his wife as she angrily opened her mouth to protest. But she closed her mouth and properly saw him….Probably she realized that Lakshmana could not exist without Rama and that there was no point in stopping him…. Out there in the forest, where there were wild animals, dangerous monsters, Urmila realized that her husband would need to have his wits around him if he were to protect himself and the others. If Urmila went along, her husband’s attention would be divided and he would have to take care of her safety also….
Urmila looked at Lakshmana and mutely nodded her head. ‘OK!’ She said in a chocked voice. ‘I will stay behind…’
It was at that minute Lakshmana realized that his wife was also special….She had a quiet strength in her and he did not doubt, not for one second, that she would wait for him till the end of the fourteen years, here in the palace. He smiled as he looked at her tear-filled eyes….
Lakshmana smiled as he thought of the day…a warm feeling filling him.
There was a slight change in the breeze and Lakshmana saw Rama move in his sleep. His brother looked so…..Lakshmana just could not find a proper word for his brother…..A man born to be king….It was at that minute that Lakshmana made a fierce promise to himself. The armies of Ayodhya are not there to look after them, but I am there. And I will look after them through day and night….
Lakhsmana felt his vision blur as he looked around panicking slightly. He turned and saw a fierce bright light. He was about to pull out his weapon when his vision started getting more burred. Alarmed, he saw a beautiful Goddess stand before him.
‘How will you do that warrior?’ The Goddess asked.
‘Do what?’ Lakshmana asked looking confused.
‘Look after them day and night!’ The Goddess said clarifying.
Lakshmana looked totally confused not understanding the question of the Goddess. He was feeling extremely blissful, the same state he felt before every sleep…He squinted as he stared at the Goddess.
The Goddess smiled. ‘I am Nindra, the Goddess of Sleep! How can you hope to protect Rama and Sita, day and night? You are a human…you also need to sleep!’
Lakshmana fiercely fought the growing sleeping sensation in his eyes. ‘NO! I won’t sleep! I need to….’
The Goddess smiled sadly. ‘Every living creature needs to sleep….There is no exception!’ The Goddess looked sad. Suddenly her eyes brightened. ‘Unless…!’ The Goddess was however looking skeptical.
Lakshmana grabbed at any chance he had. ‘Unless what….Whatever it is I will do it….’
Nindra Devi shook her head. ‘It is not something you can do….It is something that needs to be done for you….’
Lakshmana frowned looking at the Goddess. ‘You have to find someone….’ The Goddess continued. ‘Someone who is willing to sleep for you….all the fourteen years that you are in the forest….That person would sleep for you and you will never feel the need to sleep or get tired….But whom would you find who would be willing to do that….’
Lakshmana smiled without meaning to. Even before the Goddess had finished the question, Lakshmana knew the answer to that question.’Urmila!’ He breathed heavily.
The Goddess looked enquiringly at Lakshmana. ‘Urmila would be willing to do this for me!’ Lakshmana did not doubt it, not even for one minute, that Urmila would do this for him….’Please go and ask her. She would be willing to make this….sacrifice!’ Lakshmana knew that that was exactly what Urmila was doing and she would do it for him happily….
Goddess Nindra went to Urmila. Lakshmana had correctly judged his wife…Urmila happily accepted the responsibility given to her. It is said that Urmila slept her husband’s share of sleep through the fourteen years that her husband spent in the forest. That is why almost very little is said about her during the fourteen years of exile.
However Urmila’s acceptance had far more reaching consequences than just help Lakshmana protect Rama.
Ravana, Rama’s nemesis had a son Meghanand [he is called Indrajit, because he had defeated Indra, the king of the Devas] Meghanand was almost invincible in battle because he had a boon that only a person who had not slept for fourteen years could defeat and kill him….When Urmila had agreed to the condition of Goddess Nindra and took her husband’s sleep, she had given her husband a powerful chance to defeat the invincible Meghanand.
And during the battle between Rama and Ravana, Lakshmana was the one who killed Meghanand, which truly turned the battle in favour of Rama and his army, in their fight for getting back Sita.