Episodes from the Ramayana – Chapter 3

The Sons

The Queens finished the Ceremonial Bath (as advised by Vasishta); they entered the Palace Shrine where the altar of the Family Deity was: Vasishta completed the ceremony of worship. The payasam (food) that the Divine Person presented was then placed in three golden cups. Then, Vasishta called Dasaratha in and said, ‘Raja! Give these cups to your wives – first to Kausalya, next to Sumitra and last, to Kaika’. The King acted as ordered. The Queens held the cups and bowed at the feet of Vasishta and Dasaratha. Then, Vasishta directed that they should partake of the payasam, only after touching the Feet of Rshyasrnga, who officiated at the Yaga.

The Queens went back to their palaces. Kausalya and Kaika kept their cups safe in the shrine itself and went among their maids to dry their hair. Meanwhile, Sumitra stepped on to the terrace, and, keeping her cup on the short balcony wall, she dried her hair in the sun, thinking all the time on her peculiar plight: “She was the second Queen! The son of the eldest queen will ascend the throne, as of right; the son of Kaika, the third Queen can ascend the throne according to the promise made by the King at the time of his marriage with her!” But, Sumitra wondered. “What will happen to the son I would get? He will be neither here nor there. Why have a son at all, to suffer as a nobody without status and sovereignty? It is far better that a son is not born than be born and get neglected.”

But that was only for a moment. Soon she reconciled and felt that what God decides must happen; no one can stop it. She remembered that it was the command of her guru and the order of the King; so, she went towards the cup, determined to eat the contents, when suddenly, an eagle flew in from somewhere and whisked it off in its beak, far, far into the sky.

Sumitra repented for her negligence of the precious payasam; she felt that the King would be very upset if he came to know of the mishap. She could not decide on her next step; she went straight to her sister Kausalya and related the whole story to her. Just then, Kaika too came there with the golden cup, after tying up her dried hair. The three were very loving to each other, like sisters bound by one single thread of affection.

So, to avoid breaking the saddening news to the King, they had another golden cup brought and Kausalya and Kaika poured into it a portion each from their own share, so that all could take their seats together in the shrine. They ate the payasam, while Rshyasrnga was pronouncing his blessings and other elders and scholars were chanting auspicious Vedic hymns. The Queens then sipped sanctifying water and prostrated before the altar; they bowed at the Feet of Rshyasrnga and proceeded to their own palaces.

Time rolled by; news that the queens were pregnant spread among the people. The bodies of the queens took on a shining complexion. The ninth month arrived, maids and nurses awaited the happy event and watched over the queens with vigilant care. Meanwhile, they came to know that Kausalya had the pains of labour; they hastened to her palace; while on their way, they learnt that she had delivered a Prince! On the second day, Kaika gave birth to a son. The glad tidings filled the entire palace with joy. The next day, Sumitra had the pangs of labour and she gave birth to twin sons.

Auspicious signs were seen everywhere. The happy news filled all with immeasurable joy. The earth covered herself with green; trees blossomed all over! Music filled the air. The joy of Dasaratha knew no bounds. While for years he was immersed in agony that he did not have even a single son, the birth of four sons gave him indescribable satisfaction and happiness.

The King invited priests and gave them gold, cows and land gifts in plenty. He arranged for the distribution of money to the poor, and of clothes; besides he gifted houses for the homeless. He gave food to the hungry. Wherever one cast his eye, he could see people acclaiming the happy event, shouting jai jai. The subjects gathered in huge assemblies to express their joy in music and dance. ‘We have now princes in the royal line’, they prided themselves; they were more exhilarated now than when they themselves had sons born to them. Women offered worship to God in gratitude for this act of grace, for they were sure that the birth of the sons to their King was a signal act of divine mercy.

Dasaratha invited the guru of the royal dynasty, Vasishta, to the palace and according to his suggestion, he got a learned astrologer to write down the horoscopes of the new-born. He announced to them that the child of Kausalya was born at a most propitious moment – Uttarayana (the Divine Half-year), Chaitra month, the bright fortnight, the ninth day, the Punarvasu star, Monday, Simhalagna, (the zodiacal sign of the Lion) and the abhijith period (the period of Victory), when the world was resting happily, when the weather was equable (neither hot, warm nor cold). Kaika’s son was born the next day – Chaitra, bright half, tenth day, Tuesday gandhayoga. The third day were born the twins – Chaitra, bright half, eleventh day, Aslesha star, Vriddhiyoga. These details were communicated to the astrologer and he was asked to chart and write the horoscopes in consonance with science and inform the king of his inferences there from.

Then, Dasaratha prayed to Vasishta to fix the auspicious time for the naming ceremony of the children. The family guru sat still for a few seconds lost in meditation: he saw revealed in his yogic vision the future years; rousing himself from that vision, he said: “Maharaja! Your sons are not just ordinary mortals. They are incomparable. They have many names; they are not human; they are divine beings who have assumed human forms. They are divine personalities. The world’s good fortune has brought them here. I consider it a great chance that I could officiate at the naming ceremony of these divine children”. The King fell at the feet of Vasishta in thankfulness for this favour and the guru left for his hermitage.

The astrologer approved the day for naming the babies and started writing down the list of materials that had to be kept ready for the ritual. He gave the list into the hands of the chief priest and left, loaded with the presents that the King granted him. Dasaratha had invitations written for the ceremony, and sent them to the feudatory rulers, the nobles, courtiers, sages and scholars throughout his empire, addressing them as befitted their rank and status. The messengers who carried the invitations were either ministers, court pundits, officers or Brahmins, their status being suited to the rank and status of invitees.

Ten days passed. The City of Ayodhya was brightened and beautified, and made most charming to the eye. The melody of music filled the air and spread over the length and breadth of the kingdom, making people wonder whether celestial angels were singing above. Fragrance was sprinkled on the streets. The city was overflowing with visitors. The Sages and the Courtiers could enter the inner apartments of the palace and no others. The rest, whether prince or peasant, had separate quarters arranged for them. They had erected seats in the courtyard of the palace to seat all the guests and invitees. They were accommodated there so that they could watch the Naming with all its attendant ceremonials.

Very soon, music rose from the Durbar Hall; the chanting of Vedic hymns by Brahmins could be heard; the  three Queens entered the elegantly decorated Hall, with the babies in their arms. They shone like Divine Mothers carrying the Gods, Brahma Vishnu and Shiva. The bliss and the splendour that pervaded their faces were beyond man’s powers of description.

As soon as the people noticed their entry, acclamations of ‘Jai’ rose from their hearts. Women waved auspicious lamps before them. Three special seats had been placed there for them. Kausalya took her seat first, followed by Sumitra and Kaika. Emperor Dasaratha sat by the side of Kausalya on her right.

The Brahmins started the ceremony, with due attention to detail. They lit the sacred fire and poured oblations with the recitation of appropriate mantras. Rice grains were poured and spread on golden plates; soft silk cloth was spread on the rice; then, the babies were placed on the cloth by the mothers. The child of Kausalya stared at Vasishta as if he was a familiar acquaintance! Vasishta was overwhelmed with joy; he shed tears of joy; he had to wipe his eyes and control himself with much effort; then, holding a few grains of rice in his hand, he said, “King! The child born to promote the joy of Kausalya will do the same for all mankind. His virtues will bring solace and contentment, joy and happiness, to all. The Yogis and seekers will find in him a great source of joy. Therefore, from this moment, his name will be Rama, “he who pleases”. And, the sages welcomed the name as very apt and meaningful. They exclaimed, “Excellent, Excellent!”

Then, Vasishta gazed upon the twin children of Sumitra. The elder one, he felt, would be a hero, a stalwart fighter, and endowed with vast wealth. He knew that he would take delight in the service of God; that service would be for him like the very breath of life. So, he chose the name Lakshmana for him. His younger brother, Vasishta knew, would be a formidable destroyer of enemies, and withal a contented follower in the footsteps of his elder brothers. He therefore blessed him with the name, Satrughna, (the slayer of enemies).

Later, he gazed on the child that was the source of Kaika’s joy. That child, Vasishta knew, will fill all hearts with love and joy; he will amaze all by his unbelievable adherence to Dharma; he will rule over his subjects with great compassion and affection. So, he gave him the name, Bharatha (he who rules). The people were happy when they heard the guru speak on the glorious future of the children; they were filled with love for the princes and called them from that day as Rama, Lakshmana, Satrughna and Bharatha.

10 Responses to "Episodes from the Ramayana – Chapter 3"

Featuring Recent Posts Wordpress Widget development by YD