Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Ayodhya

Ramayana


From [Rama:1.3-1.8].

Long ago, King Dasharatha, descended from Ikshvaku, of the Surya (solar) dynasty, ruled over the kingdom of Kosala, from his capital city of Ayodhya. The city was flanked by the river Sarayu and had been built by Manu, the son of Surya, who founded this kingdom. Kosala was one of the richest kingdoms in the world, and Ayodhya was its most beautiful city. The citizens in the world. Its citizens knew no hunger, there were no beggars on the streets, and merchants prospered under the benevolent rule of King Dasharatha.

The King was very an illustrious warrior and maintained a strong army, led by able generals. All cities in the kingdom were well garrisoned and fortified, and people lived without any fear of invaders. Of all the cities in Kosala, Ayodhya was the most well defended. The King was a patron of arts and dancers and musicians thrived in his kingdom. Vedic scholars were highly honored and in the areas where they lived in the city, they could be seen worshiping the ritual fire with chants from the Vedas. Dasharatha himself was a great scholar, well versed in the ancient scriptures and the knowledge contained in the Vedas.

The people loved their King for he was just. In return, Dasharatha protected his people as a father protects his children. He was ably assisted by his intelligent crew of eight ministers. They were Dhristi, Jayantha, Vijaya, Surashtra, Rashtravardhana, Akopa, Dharmapala and Sumantra, who was also his charioteer. A Brahmana named Vamadeva and the sage Vasishta were Dasharatha's priests. They were assisted in the conduct of rituals by other Brahmanas, namely: Suyajna, Jabali, Kashyapa, Gautama, Markandeya, Deerghayu, and Katyayana.

It would appear that the King led a perfect existence, but a great sorrow was weighing on his mind. Despite having three wives, he was issueless. As per the scriptures, a man without a son cannot hope to attain the blessed regions obtained by his ancestors, so the King desired issue for spiritual reasons also. He was alone in his royal chambers, pondering over his predicament. He concluded that only divine intervention can provide him with sons. He then called a council of his ministers.

Dasharatha said to them, "I will soon be old and feeble. The one wish of my heart is for a son to succeed me. Alas, despite our daily prayers, all three of my queens have not been blessed with children. I have decided to perform the Ashwamedha Yagna (Vedic Horse-sacrifice ritual) to obtain issue. What do you all think of that idea?"

All his councillors were in agreement that this was an excellent idea. Vasishta spoke, "Let the preparations for this ritual commence at once. O King, order that a suitable horse be selected from your excellent stables and released as the ritual-horse. I have no doubt that this sacrifice shall be successful and you obtain brave sons as a result. Let the ritual hall be constructed on the northern bank of the Sarayu. It is a sacred place, worthy of the noble ritual."

The King said, "O Guru, please supervise the preparations for this ritual yourself. As you know, this is a very difficult sacrifice to perform. The Brahma Rakshashas (a class of demons who were Brahmanas before their transformations into a demon. They are said to feed on scholarly Brahmanas) shall be prowling about, and shall seize upon the smallest irregularity in the proceedings. If any errors occur, I the Yajaman of the sacrifice will be ruined. So let the utmost care be taken."

Sumantra, one of Dasharatha's ministers and his charioteer, stood up and said, "Sire, with noble Vasishta to supervise this ritual, its success is assured. Long ago, the sage Sanat Kumara foretold that you will obtain issue when Rishyashringa, the son of sage Vibhandaka conducts the Ashwamedha sacrifice. At present, this Brahmana is residing in the kingdom of Anga, as a guest of the King, his father-in-law. If you obtain him as your Ritwik(chief-of-ritual), your purpose shall be assuredly achieved."

Dasharatha said, "I would like to know the story of Rishyashringa. How was he born? How did he become the son-in-law of the King of Anga?"

Sumantra then narrated the legend of Rishyashringa to the court in detail. After hearing it Dasharatha said, "I shall go in person to invite this excellent Ritwik to conduct my Ashwamedha ritual. The King of Anga is a relative of mine and I have not visited him for some time, so it will be an excellent opportunity to see him also. Let preparations be made for my journey."

With these words, the King left the assembly and the council came to an end. Preparations were begun for the journey of the royal family to the Kingdom of Anga.

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Last Modified At: Thu Nov 25 16:55:20 2004