Rama’s acceptance of Lava and Kusha
by Dr. Mukul Shri Goel
Rama waits for a few years before accepting his twin sons, Lava and Kusha, who are brought up by Devi Sita in the forest and train with Rishi Valmiki, the original author of the Ramayana. According to Valmiki’s version of the story, Rama first meets his sons when they sing his praise in his courtroom in Ayodhya. After hearing the full storyline of the Ramayana from their mouths, Rama recognizes that they are his own children. According to another narrative, the one in the Padma Purana, Rama recognizes Lava and Kusha when they show their valor by defeating his army, led by Shatrughna, in a battle. He then invites them to his castle, where the twins sing his biography on Valmiki’s guidance and mesmerize the entire kingdom.
The acceptance of Lava-Kusha is similar to the acceptance of Ganesha by Lord Shiva. As the Shiva Purana says, Ganesha, created by Parvati from turmeric paste, had to fight a battle with his own father, Shiva, before being accepted as his son. Just like Ganesha, who defeated Shiva’s soldiers and all major gods, Lava-Kusha defeat their father’s army and generals. Ganesha, in spite of getting beheaded later, won the war solely due to his devotion to Parvati, his guru and mother, who had given him a divine club to fight the opposition . Similarly, Lava and Kusha win their battle solely because of their devotion to their mother, Sita, and their guru, Valmiki.
So, why does Rama, like Shiva, not recognize his sons as soon as they are born? Does the all-knower really not recognize them? By delaying the acceptance of his own children, Rama probably makes his grace fair to Dhruva and Prahlada, his child-devotees of the past, who had been accepted by him, in the form of Vishnu, solely because of their bhakti, not because of their birth in royal families. In order to sit on the lap of Bhagavan Rama, Lava and Kusha too have to show their worthiness to the universe. And this worthiness can only be displayed by the power of their bhakti.
In Bhakti Yoga, whether we, as spiritual beginners, recognize Rama and his divinity is least important. In fact, no beginner knows Rama. And even after turning into a realized saint, we may not fully understand him. Though Lava-Kusha were trained by Valmiki, who knew Rama more than any other rishi, they did not recognize Rama and their relationship with him while learning the Ramayana that was composed and taught by their guru. They found that Rama was their father only after their yoga of bhakti progressed and Rama decided to accept them as a result of their devotion. The twins successfully reached Rama through their firm trust in their guru, who had already become Rama-immersed by continuously chanting his name. This mode of spiritual advancement strengthens a major principle of devotional spirituality: A guru who is connected to Brahman and can connect a jiva to Brahman is also to be trusted as Brahman.
In the second version of the story, Lava-Kusha win the battle against their father’s army because of their immovable faith and trust on their mother and Valmiki, who are both devotees of Rama. They continually remember their guru during the battle and obtain weapons from their mother, who also happens to be parashakti. As a result, even the undefeatable Shatrughna, an incarnation of the Sudarshan chakra, faints, though he is later revived by Devi Sita’s grace. In this divine play, Lava-Kusha do not know their relation to Rama when they block the horse from his ashwemedha yajna to trigger the war. Yet, the situation sets a stage to indirectly test their devotion to their guru and Sita-Rama, in which they are fully victorious.
Interestingly, during this short war, Hanuman shows up to meet Rama’s sons and have some fun. Hanuman does not take any time in recognizing the twins. Because Hanuman’s grace is essential for the fruition of Rama-bhakti, Hanuman blesses them for acceptance by Rama. Out of his own grace, Hanuman voluntarily gets himself tied in the battlefield to support Lava-Kusha. His divine play reconfirms that no Rama devotee in the world can achieve dharma or moksha without the support of Hanuman.
Though the divine plan that Shiva designed to test Ganesha’s devotion was slightly more challenging than that made for Lava-Kusha, it must have been quite easy for Ganesha, for he is not human but divine — an incarnation of Krishna himself . Ganesha’s test had an additional step, in which the trishul was flung upon him by his own father. Though he could have stopped the trishul with his club, he chose not to because of his immeasurable devotion for his mother, who always presides as the deity of Shiva’s trishul . When Ganesha, who was fighting only to follow his mother’s order, displayed the height of his bhakti by getting himself voluntarily beheaded by Shiva’s trishul , he won Shiva’s affection along with the highest place in the universe. Shiva, through this divine play, also made his son omkar-shaped .
After Rama “recognizes” his children, they no longer get to live with their mother, who then returns to Prithvi (Mother Earth) to leave the material world. In the midst of a tragedy, one can allegorically say that once Goddess Sita hands over individual souls to Rama, the Supreme Soul, her self-selected role as the nourisher, protector, and guide for souls on earth, who all happen to be her children, concludes. But the good part is that she continues to shower her grace on all beings as parashakti.
 Ganesha’s club had been invoked with all shakti that exists – including that of Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Kali.
 The Brahmavaivarta Purana holds that Ganesha is none other than Krishna.
 This event is similar to the one in the Ramayana, where Hanuman gets himself tied by the Brahmastra only to show respect to the deity of the weapon.
 A traditional story says that Shiva had attacked Ganesha from behind. But from a spiritual viewpoint, we can argue that Ganesha, being omnipresent, could have seen the trishul from any direction.
 Even in modern pictorial representations, Ganesha is shown to be omkar-shaped due to his elephant-shaped head.