Ramayana highlights the importance of Lord Rama’s sandals.
Despite persuasion from Bharata, Sage Vasishta, priest Jabali and others, Lord Rama firmly declined to return to Ayodhya. Bharata was disheartened by Rama’s decision. Sage Vasishta found a solution to the problem and said “O Bharata, rule the kingdom under Rama’s authority and as his deputy. No blame would attach to you then and the pledge would also be kept.”
Then, Lord Rama took Bharata on his lap and told him, “Brother, look on the kingdom as my gift to you. Accept it and rule it as our father wished.” Bharata replied, “Brother, you are my father, Guru and God. To fulfill your wish is my dharma. Here are the sandals which are inlaid with gold. I beg you to stand on it for a moment and sanctify the same so that they can bear the burden of ruling the kingdom. This token of yours shall reign in Ayodhya till you return, and for fourteen years I will dress like a renunciate, wear coarse bark of a tree, wear matted locks and deer skin. I will wait for you to return. During these 14 years, I shall stay outside the city of Ayodhya, in Nandigrama and discharge the King’s duties in your palace, paying reverent homage to your sandals. I will place your sandals on your throne and they will rule the kingdom as your symbol. I will serve you merely as your representative. At the end of the exile period, you will return and accept the kingship.”
“So be it… Tathastu” answered Lord Rama.
Saying thus, Lord Rama placed his sacred feet on the sandals and handed them to Bharata who prostrated to Rama. Bharata reverentially placed them — the Padukas, the Holy Sandals on his head and circumambulated Rama thrice (pradakshina clockwise) and ascended the chariot to head towards Ayodhya where the coronation of Lord Rama’s sandals would take place.
Upon returning to Ayodhya, addressing the assembly, Bharata said, “This kingdom is Rama’s. For the time being, he has asked me to be in charge. My revered brother has appointed me as the guardian of this country. On my brother’s throne I have installed his sandals, His Paduka. His sandals will rule the kingdom.” Saying thus he bowed down to Lord Rama’s sandals and spoke again. “To me these are the Holy Lotus Feet of my brother. The white umbrella which indicates royalty, will be held above them. These Sandals will inspire me to walk on the path of dharma and never swerve from it. Deriving my authority from them, I shall do my duty as a king’s representative. I shall stay in Nandigrama and fulfill my duties. One day, I will see them adorning my brother’s feet, and on that day I will find my peace of mind.”
Accordingly, Bharata stayed in Nandigrama and with the help of ministers ruled the kingdom as a religious duty. He would speak to Lord Rama’s sandals on various happenings in the kingdom and report every matter to them as though he was reporting to Lord Rama Himself. The Padukas or Sandals gave him deep insights and wisdom to be able to efficiently rule the kingdom in a righteous manner until
Rama’s return after completing his forest life or vana-vaasa.
Rama did his penance in the forest for fourteen years and all the time Bharata too did his penance at Nandigrama, near Ayodhya, drawing the powers of will, action and wisdom (that is required to rule the kingdom) from Lord Rama’s Sandals.
“Indeed the Guru along with Guru’s sandals provides protection against great calamities, diseases, evils, disturbances, fears and sins. So let us turn towards him with utmost veneration,” concludes Lord Shiva.
Excerpt from The Force of Nirvana by Shri Shri Nimishananda