Shravan Kumar is a historical character whose short and poignant life is depicted in Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic.
Shravan Kumar was a young boy of fifteen with parents who were blind. Ever since he was young, he cared for them. He took his responsibility most seriously and had even denied himself the joys of childhood and boyhood.
His parents wanted very badly to go on a pilgrimage. Shravan Kumar knew of their desire. However, he also knew that they were too old and weak to make the journey on foot. For some time, he thought about the problem. Finally, he arrived at a solution. He made two bamboo baskets and tied these to the two ends of a pole. He put his parents in the baskets. Balancing the pole on his shoulders, he set off carrying his parents on their pilgrimage.
Shravan Kumar bore his burden cheerfully and the three of them visited many holy places. However, one day, misfortune struck them.
It was getting dark and Shravan Kumar left his parents at a safe spot in a forest and went to fetch food and water for them. Just as he was filling his water pot at a stream, an arrow struck him! He cried out in pain and fell to the ground. Hearing his cry, a man rushed towards him. He was none other than King Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya. It was he who had, by mistake, shot the boy with the arrow.
Hearing the water pot being filled, the king had assumed that it was deer drinking water. King Dasharatha was a skilled archer who could shoot perfectly in any direction by his keen sense of hearing. King Dasharatha was shocked and dismayed to find that he had shot a boy instead. He deeply regretted his carelessness.
Shravan Kumar who was badly wounded, recognised the king and was puzzled as to why he had shot him. Shravan Kumar remained calm as the king explained his mistake. He expressed regret that he would no longer be able to see nor serve his parents. He told King Dasharatha that he was worried as there was no one to look after them. He requested the king to bring them some water and explain to them what had happened to him. The king removed the arrow from Shravan Kumar’s body and the boy died.
Shaken by the turn of events, King Dasharatha mustered some courage and brought water to the old couple. When they heard of their son’s sudden death, they wept uncontrollably. In their anger and despair, they cursed King Dasharatha that like them, he too would die in anguish of being separated from his son. The anguished parents died.
Many years later, King Dasharatha suffered the effects of the curse. He had to exile his favourite son, Rama, to fourteen years in the forest. Unable to bear the anguish of this separation, the king died. In fact, although he had four sons, none of them were with him when he passed on.