HERITAGE SHELF: RAMAYANA




CHAPTER I

THE CONCEPTION



TO the north of the Ganga was the great kingdom of Kosala, made fertile by the river Sarayu. Its capital was Ayodhya, built by Manu, the famous ruler of the Solar dynasty. From Vaalmeeki's description of the capital of Kosala, it is clear that ancient Ayodhya was not inferior to our modern cities. Even in ancient India city civilisation had reached a high level. 
King Dasaratha ruled the kingdom from the capital city of Ayodhya. He had fought on the side of the Devas, and his fame spread in the three worlds. He was the equal ofIndra and Kubera. The people of Kosala were happy, contented and virtuous. The land was protected by a mighty army, and no enemy could come anywhere near.
It contained forts with moats around them as well as many defensive instal~ations, and true to its name, Ayodhya defied all enemies. (Ayodhya means that which cannot be subdued by war).
Dasaratha had eight wise ministers, ever ready to advise him and execute his orders. Great sages like Vasishtha and Vaamadeva and other Braahmanas taught the dharma and performed rituals and sacrifices. Taxes were light and punishment of crime was just and inflicted according to the capacity of the wrong-doer. Surrounded by the best counsellors and statesmen, the King's splendour shone as the rising sun.
Many years rolled smoothly by. In the midst of all this prosperity Dasaratha had one regret; he had no son.
 
One day in early summer he thought of performing a horse-sacrifice for progeny. He consulted his religious masters and, on their advice, got Sage Rishya-Sringa to perform the yaaga.
The yaaga was a grand affair and the invitees included many of the kings of the day. It was no easy thing to perform yaagas. The location and erection of the sacrificial platform had to be attended to in detail strictly according to prescribed rules. There were experts whose guidance was sought in arranging things. It meant the building of a new camp-city, capable of accommodating tens of thousands and providing hospitality and entertainment for the invitees who included the princes and sages of the land. In short, yaagas in those days were something like our present-day State-sponsored big scale conferences and exhibitions. 
When all arrangements were complete the ceremonies were set in motion strictly as enjoined by the Shaastras. Contemporaneously with the yaaga in Ayodhya, there was a conference of the Devas in heaven. The Devas complained to Lord Brahma that Raavana, king of the demons, drunk with the power acquired by the boon granted to him by Brahma, was causing them untold misery and hardship. They represented to Brahma: "It is beyond our capacity to subdu~, conquer or kill Raavana. In the security of your boon, he has grown wicked and insolent and ill-treats all, even women. His desire is to dethrone Indra. You are our only refuge and it is' for you to devise a method by which Raavana can be slain and his despotism ended." 
Brahma knew that he had granted to Raavana the boon prayed for by him that he should be

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