Ms. Priya Setu
In the kingdom of Kosala ruled King Dasaratha of Ishwaku dynasty. Ayodhya was its capital. Under the able stewardship of the ruler the kingdom flourished and prospered. The proof of the pudding is that he managed to have three wives Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra and keep them all happy too !
In administering the country, he was ably assisted by a council of 8 Ministers (too small by today's Indian Standards). Sage Vasishta and Sage Vamadeva were there to guide the King and his Ministers. The people of Ayodhya were very happy and contended and there were no hassles of inflation/taxes/savings/loan burdens/subsidies, etc.
Do you mean to say that the king and his subjects were leading an utopian life?
No not really. The king had everything except off springs. This worry increased as his age and it reached a flash point. The king sought the advice of Sage Vasishta and his council of Ministers and decided to perform the Aswamedha yaga. Meanwhile the Devas had a problem.
Yes, Yes. Devas historically have been running into problems with rakshasas who are bestowed with boons from one of the Trimurhtys and when they cannot handle on their own they escalate their problems to the Trimurthys. It is also funny in a way as it is one of the Trimurthys who give away boons to the rakshasas and enable them to harass the Devas.
Coming to the problem on hand, Ravana ten headed demon (imagine just a one headed human being is tough to handle) was troubling the Devas. He had a boon from Brahma that he cannot be harmed or killed by the Devas.
So the Devas went to Brahma and told him that his boon to Ravana has turned out to be a nightmare for them and cried for his help. Brahma told them not to worry. God always thinks of the future when he acts. When he granted the boon to Ravana, Brahma would have known of the repercussions and the thought of the solution too. You see that is what we lesser mortals do not understand and think that we are smart. In fact every one who asks a boon thinks that he/she is smart. But God always wins.
Let me narrate an anecdote here.
A mosquito went on a penance and God pleased with the penance appeared before the mosquito and offered a boon. Mosquito thinking big of itself wanted to ask the Lord that if it bites anyone they should die. But what it asked the God was "SHOULD DIE WHEN I BITE" and the Lord said "thathasthu" The mosquito meant that the target should die but failed to bring out clearly and Lord's boon was that the mosquito would die whenever it bites anyone!!!! A boomerang. Now you know what happens to mosquitos when they bite.
Likewise, Ravana too had left some gaps in his request. He did not include human beings (Ha!!! You see those days how harmless our forefathers were!) and monkeys and bears as his enemies. So Brahma suggested that they all would request Lord Vishnu to assume the form of human being and do the needful. According to their request, Lord Vishnu launched " Operation Destroy Ravana " and all the plans were clearly chalked out and phase 1 of the operation is the Balakanda which is the birth of Rama and his brothers.
Back in Ayodhya king Dasaratha performed the Aswamedha yaga followed by the Putra kameshti yaga. A divine form appepared and offered an urn containing payasam and requested Dasaratha to give it to his wives upon which they would conceive. It so happened that Kausalya and Kaikeyi each had one portion while Sumitra had two portions. The king was happy and waited patiently for the birth of children.
12 months had passed since the queens had taken payasa. According to Hindu Dharma before a child dwells 3 months in the father and 9 months in the mother's womb. On the month of Chaitra during Shuklapaksha and Navami thithi the 3 planets were in a very auspicious position and the Lagna was Karkata. The planet Guru was raising with the moon and the star was Punarvasu. At this auspicious time the Lord was born to Kaushalya. The Lord had taken on the form of a human to put an end to all evil and benefit mankind. When the next star Pushya rose, Kaikeyi gave birth to a son and when the next star Ashlesha appeared Sumitra gave birth to twins. King Dasaratha was overjoyed at the birth of his 4 sons, the people of Ayodhya rejoiced at the birth of the princess and the Devas in Heaven rained flowers (probably the laser shows and fire works of those days) At last the person who would relieve them from the rakshasas had taken birth. The 4 sons of Dasharatha were all the Lord of His amshas. Kaushalya's son RAMA was the Narayana Himself, Kaikeyi's son BHARATH was the shanka of the Lord, Sumitra's son SHATRUGHNA was the Chakra and the other son of Sumitra LAKSHMANA was Adhisesha.
RAMA was the embodiment of all virtues and was like the ocean calm and serene on the outside and deeply rich in knowledge inside. Lakshmana was like the bubble on the water ever ready to burst; but he was Rama's second self who lived his whole life for Rama. Even as infants , Rama and Lakshmana were inseparable. It was as if there were 1 life in 2 bodies.
BHARATHA was like a candle selfless, sacrificing in nature and always obedient.
SATRUGHNA was a very learned and a compassionate person (Like the ones you see today wearing specs and carrying books in hand where ever they go)
The children grew up right royally and were learning all the tricks of the trade ( of the right kind) They were all adept and skillful in archery, etc. If they were to be today they might have won some medals for India in archery, fencing etc. in the Asiad and Olympics !!!
As years passed by one fine day Sage Viswamitra came down to Ayodhya to visit Dasaratha. Dasaratha with all humility welcomed the Sage to his court, inquired about his work and gave his word that he will do anything to please the Sage. (This is where the difference between a human and the God's word comes in) Dasaratha realised this on more than one occasion as you will see in a short while.
Sage Viswamitra said that he was performing a yaga at his ashram and the demons were frustrating him by disturbing the yaga. So he requested Dasaratha to let him take Rama and Lakshmana with him to guard the yagna and kill the demons so that the yaga could be completed successfully. Dasaratha was shocked. This was like a bolt from the blue. He told the Sage that Rama and Lakshmana were too young to do such a work and he offered his own services and that of his huge army.
He tried to convince the Sage but Sage Viswamitra would not let up. The sage was losing his patience and told Dasaratha that he was going back on his word. Dasaratha was in really confused state ( the difference we were talking about a few minutes ago) Dasaratha had never been away from his children and if Rama and Lakshmana were to go with Sage Vishwamitra and that too to kill the demons in the forest he cannot even talk to them (if it were to be this age he might have given them a mobile to carry with them!) He was not sure how long the separation would be.
Sage Vasishta who knew too well about Vishwamitra's hidden agenda asked Dasaratha to let the boys go along with the great sage. Sage Vishwamitra, to start with, was a king and attained the status of Brahma Rishi after going through trials and tribulations. He is credited with creating Trishanku heaven and so on. The sage had the power to awaken the Lord. He could see the past, present and the future. He initiated the Lord in his mission to fight the evil and restore dharma. Even today in most of the temples in India, the Lord is awakened through sage Vishwamitra's hymn - Kaushalya Rama Poorva Sandhya Pravarchathe ............
The king realised the underlying truth apologized to the sage and accepted to send Rama and Lakshmana with him. After seeking the blessings of all elders the 2 brothers set out along with sage Vishwamitra to the rishi's ashram. On their way to the ashram, the sage narrated stories of valour to Rama and Lakshmana. It was at this time that the rishi taught them the powerful mantras Bala and Atibala, the daughters of Brahma which would help them fight hunger, thirst and fatigue in their long journey as well as when they would fight the demons. The journey took them past many ashrams and the 2 princes took the blessings of all the rishis.
As they crossed river SARAYU, they entered a forest and Rama's first encounter with a demoness occurred. A huge E.T. sized Tataka appeared on the scene and tried to harm the 3 of them. Under Vishwamitra's instructions Rama fired an arrow at the demonness and killed her. No sooner had Rama done this, the devas rained blessings on him. Pleased with this success of Rama Sage Vishwamitra promised Rama that he would give even greater weapons to defeat any enemy as the rishi knew that Rama's work was far from complete and was still to deal with the powerful Ravana and his demons (obviously there were no restrictions on transfer of military technology or arms control)
The 3 of them reached Siddhasharma --the place where Lord Narayana had taken the Vamana Avatar. Since the yaga Vishwamitra was performing was for the good of mankind, he chose this ashram as it was a place where everyone's wishes were fulfilled. Sage Vishwamitra commenced the yaga. After 5 days of quiet, suddenly on 6th day demons Maricha, Subhahu and their cronies appeared and attempted to disrupt the proceedings. Rama used the Manav astra against Maricha which carried him to a distance of 100 yojanas and threw him into the sea. But it did not kill him. Then with the Ageney astra and the Vayav astra Rama put an end to the other rakshasa Subhau and his battalion.
The yaga was completed successfully and there was great joy in the hearts of all the rishis. Sage Vishwamitra praised Rama for his display of courage in killing the rakshasas who had always tried to interrupt this yaga. The 3 finally left the forest and headed for Mithila. On the way they passed the Gautama ashram, which was once occupied by the great rishi Gautama and his beautiful wife Ahalya. Ahalya had once sinned and so Rishi Gautama had cursed her to remain a stone unseen by anyone till Rama set foot in the ashram. the ashram would then be sanctified and Ahalya would be cleansed of her sin and then regain her form. Thus when Rama and Lakshmana entered the ashram, Ahalya was released from her curse.
Soon they reached Mithila where the King Janaka was performing a yaga. He was pleased to see the rishi and welcomed him with great honour. The king was curious to know who the 2 young men with were. The sage introduced Rama and Lakshmana as the sons of King Dasaratha. The king stated that he had a daughter Sita gifted to him by Bhoomadevi and he was on the lookout for an alliance. To win her, all one had to do was to lift the bow of Mahadeva and string it (how things have changed! These days men dictate in the marriage market) The king also mentioned that no man had shown the strength even to lift this bow. Everyone right from devas, asuras, yakshas, gandharvas, kinnaras and even rakshasas were unable to lift the bow. Sage Vishwamitra asked Rama to attempt to string the bow. Rama sought the blessings of the rishi and all elders and with no effort whatsoever, hoisted the bow from its casing and started to string it. As he did so the bow snapped into 2 and fell down. First,there was disbelief, then everyone stood and praised Rama. King Janaka, overwhelmed at this sight, sought the permission of the rishi and sent messengers to Ayodhya to inform the monarch about Rama's deeds and as to how he had won the hand of his daughter Sita.
Dasaratha was happy beyond words and wasted no time and made arrangements to leave for the wedding. On reaching Mithila, the kings- Dasaratha and Janaka also decided the wedding of Lakshmana to Urmila the 2nd daughter of Janaka; Bharatha and Shatrughna were to be married to Mandavi and Srutakiti--the 2 daughters of Janaka's brothers. The weddings took place on the Uttara Phalguni nakshatra.
SITA KALYANAM VAI BHOGAME ; RAMA KALAYANAM VAI BHOGAME
SITA KALYANAM is a LOKHA KALYANAM and it is sacred to every one's heart. It is said that whoever reads or even hears Balakanda with devotion and sincerity will be benefited. Unmarried girls will find no obstacles in their marriage, childless people will be blessed with children and attain heaven on mortality.
In conclusion let us repeat the name of Rama thrice--with our minds filled with joy and love. By repeating His name, all our sins are destroyed and miseries are terminated. The single name of Rama dries up the whole ocean of the world process.
JAI SHRI RAM