Episodes from the Ramayana – Chapter 1

King Dasratha and Queen Kausalya: Father and Mother of Lord Rama

King Dasaratha illumined all quarters of the Palace in the City of Ayodya. Like the rays of the rising Sun, he had the intrepidity and skill of ten charioteers rolled into one and so, the name Dasaratha (The-ten-chariot hero) was appropriate. No one could stand up against the onrush of his mighty chariot! Every contemporary ruler, mortally afraid of his prowess, paid homage to his throne. The world extolled him as a hero without equal, a paragon of virtue, a statesman of highest stature.

Ravana, the Rakshasa King of Lanka, heard of Dasaratha and his fame. He was so filled with envy that he determined on a sure plan to destroy him, by means, fair or foul.

Ravana thought, “Dasaratha is a youth of marital age now; if I so contrive that he does not marry at all, Him or no child of his can kill me. It will make my safety doubly sure”, he thought within himself! Looking about with the aid of his Rakshasa skills, he discerned that there was a great likelihood that Dasaratha will wed the daughter of the King of Kosala. So, he decided to put an end to that princess! He entered the Kosala kingdom stealthily in disguise and kidnapped the princess. Placing her in a wooden box, he cast it over the waves of the sea.

Ravana could not see the truth that nothing can ever happen without the concurrence of the Divine Will. God willed otherwise: the box was carried by the waves on to the shore. The place where it landed was a fine recreation area. The next day, Sumanthra, the Prime Minister of Dasaratha happened to visit the place on a quiet holiday, to be spent in discussing within himself the problems of the State. His eyes fell on the box; he retrieved it and opened it. He was surprised to find in it a charming girl, with attractive shining eyes and a halo of divine splendour. Sumanthra was overcome with pity; he spoke soft and sweet to the girl, “Little one! How did it happen that you were placed inside this box?”

She replied, “Sir, I am the princess of the Kosala kingdom; my name is Kausalya. I am not aware how I came inside this box nor who placed me in it. I was playing with my companions in the palace gardens; I do not remember what happened to me.” Sumanthra was moved by her simple and sincere statement. He said, “Such barbarian stratagems are resorted to only by Rakshasas; they are beyond the ken of men! I shall take you to your father and place you in his hands. Come with me! Let us go without delay.”

Sumanthra placed her in his chariot and proceeded to Kosala, where he restored her to the King and recited before the Court the details known to him.

The King too, interrogated Sumanthra in various ways. He discovered that he was none other than the minister at the Court of Dasaratha, Emperor of Ayodhya, and that his master was still unmarried. He was filled with joy at the discovery. He said, “Minister! You brought back to me this child of mine, saving her from destruction. So, I have resolved to give her in marriage to your master himself. Please inform the king of my offer.” He honoured Sumanthra with due ceremony and sent him with the Court Priest and appropriate presents.

Sumanthra told Dasaratha in detail all that had happened. In order to confirm his acceptance, Dasaratha sent with the Court Priest of Kosala his own Court Priest with gifts of auspicious nature. The date and time were fixed; Dasaratha proceeded to the Kosala capital accompanied by a magnificent array of elephantry, chariotry, cavalry and infantry. The paean of music which marched with him reached the sky and echoed from the horizon. The marriage of Dasaratha and Kausalya was celebrated with resounding grandeur and splendour.

The land was filled with wonder and delight. The festival lasted three days; the populace were treated to music, drama, dance and other forms of entertainment. Night and day were packed with excitement and joy.

On the fourth day, Dasaratha started back for Ayodhya, with his queen and courtiers; they entered the City amidst the acclamation of the people. His subjects exulted at the marriages of the King; they danced in the streets and shouted “Jai” “Jai” till their throats got hoarse. They lined the streets to see their Queen; they sprinkled rose-water on the roads by which they came and welcomed them waving flames of camphor.

Dasaratha resumed his royal duties and ruled the realm with love and care. Often, he went with his consort, on excursions into the forests, and spent his days happily. But, as time sped through days, months and even years, the shadow of distress darkened the face of the King. For, the pang of being childless saddened him……

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