.DASARATHA AND PLAN FOR PROGENY- COUNSEL OF THE DEVAS
Dasaratha ruled the kingdom from Ayodhya. He was a vedavit, scholar of vedas, loved by his subjects and so valiant that Devendra sought his help in fighting against the asuras. He was athiratha, capable of fighting with 10000 rathis, warriors in chariots. Since he had all people in his control by his good qualities he is called rajarshi.He was equal to Kubera and Indra in riches and power. Thus Valmiki describes Dasaratha. 'Thaam pureem cha mahaathejaa raajaa dasaratho mahaan shashaasa shamithaamithrah nakshathraaneeva chandramaah. ' He was as pleasing to all as the moon is to the stars.
Dasaratha, besides his eight ministers , also had sages like Vasishta and Vamadeva to advise him and lived his life accrding to dharma, thus qualifying himself to become the father of Rama , the embodiment of dharma. Dasaratha had everything but one, that is a progeny. He consulted the sages and his ministers and decided to do Asvamedha yaga and the sages and brahmins blessed him that he will get sons through the sacrifice, 'sarvathaa praapsyase puthraan , you will get sons' because a man is not called putravaan having only one son, 'ekaputrah na putravaan.'
Dasaratha made arrangements for horse sacrifice, asvamedha, which was, in those days, a grand affair and only chakravarthis could afford to do it. A horse well decorated and laden with riches is sent to all countries with an army and whoever reveres it are supposed to accept the sovereignty of its owner and those who resist its course are conquered. When the preparations were in progress Sumanthra , who was the charioteer and the minister of Dasaratha, told him to call Rsysrnga and make him conduct the sacrifice. Sumanthra said he had known this from the sages who were told by Sanatkumara that Dasaratha will be getting sons through this act.
Rsyasrnga was a munikumara , the son of Vibhaandaka whom his father brought up with care without any sensual desire touching him. Hence he was a pure soul. The king of Anga, whose land was suffering with draught, was told to bring Rsyasrnga whose padasparsa will bring rain.. He sent young girls to entice him in his father's absence and he was brought to Angadesa and there was abundant rain. The king gave his daughter Shantha to him in marriage.
Hearing about Rsyasringa Dasaratha went himself to Angadesa and requested Rsyasringa to come to Ayodhya. It is said that Shantha was actually the daughter of Dasaratha and was given in adoption to Romapaada, king of Angadesa..Rsyasringa accepted the invitation and came to Ayodhya. Dasaratha performed the Asvamedha yaga with all the rshis and brahmanas and asked Rsyasrnga to perform putrakameshtiyaga for him to get sons and Rsyasrnga agreed..
The devas who assembled ready to receive the havirbhaga of the sacrifice to be performed, entreated Brahma to do something to destroy Ravana who was tormenting the world and devas , arrogant with the power of his boons from Brahma that he will be indestructible by devas , gandharvas, yakshas, dhaanavaas and raakshasaaas. Brahma reassured them that he never included human beings in his boon and that fact should be utilised now
In the meanwhile the Lord Narayana Himself came there in anticipation of their prayer in His earnestness in dushtanigraha and sishata paripalana.Govindarajar comments beautifully the sloka that mentions the arrival of the Lord which we will see later, along with the lovely verse from Kamban about the same.
Valmiki Ramayana - Bala Kanda in Prose Sarga 16
Vishnu agrees to incarnate as human and selects Dasharatha as his father. And when Dasharatha is performing the Vedic ritual called putrakaameSTi a deity called praajaapatya purusha arises from the sacrificial fire to give a golden vessel of divine dessert to Dasharatha for distribution among his queens to beget progeny. The three queens on consuming that dessert conceive their children.
Later when the Omnipresent Narayana is thus nominated by best gods, and though he knows the outcome, he gently spoke these words to gods in this way.
The name Vishnu indicates his all pervading Omnipresence in all beings, sessile or mobile: vyaapitvaat sarva bhuuteSu vishnuH iti abhidhiiyate. This is one of his thousand names, called Vishnu sahasra naama , each name elucidating his attributes.
"What is the idea to eliminate that demon's chief Ravana, oh, gods, adopting which strategy I will have to eliminate that thorn in the side of sages?" Thus Vishnu asked the gods.
Asked thus all the gods said to that sempiternal Vishnu, "on assuming a human form, eliminate Ravana in a war. Oh, destroyer of enemies, he that Ravana undertook a vehement ascesis for a long period, thereby the creator of worlds and the first born one Brahma, felt gladsome of his ascesis. Satisfied with his ascesis Brahma gave boon to that demon that he shall have no fear for his life from many kinds of beings, excepting humans, because that demon indeed slighted humans earlier at the time of bestowing boon.
"Thus, on getting boon from the Forefather Brahma he has become arrogant and torturing the three worlds, and he is even abducting women. As such, oh, enemy destroyer Vishnu, his elimination is envisaged through humans alone." So said gods to Vishnu.
On hearing that speech of gods said that way, he that kind-hearted Vishnu then chose Dasharatha as his father in human world.
During that time the great resplendent king and an enemy subduer Dasharatha is performing putrakaameSTi ritual, desiring progeny as he is sonless.
On taking a decision Vishnu took leave of Forefather Brahma, and vanished while he is still being extolled by gods and sages.
Then, from Fire of Altar Dasharatha's ritual there emerged a greatly vigorous and energetic Divine Being with an unparalleled resplendence, called yajna puruSa. He is clad in black and red garments and his face is red and his voice resembled the drumbeat. His moustache and hairdo are soft like that of a lion's mane. And he is endowed with auspicious features and decorated with divine ornaments, in height he is like a mountain peak, and in valiance he is like an imperious tiger.
That great ritual being personally brought a big golden vessel carrying it with both of his hands as if he would personally handle his own wife, which vessel is made from the molten gold and covered with a silver lid, and which appeared to be crafted out of a divine illusion, since it is dazzling like sun and glowing like the tongues of flame, and that vessel is full with the divine dessert.
That divine person on observing king Dasharatha said these words "oh, king, you may know me as the being sent by Prajapati." There after, king Dasharatha greeted that divine being with palms adjoining and said in reply, "oh, god, welcome to you, and what shall I do for you?"
Then again, that divine being sent by Prajapati said these words, "oh, king, now you have obtained this dessert in golden vessel as you have propitiated gods.
"Oh, tigerly king, take this dessert prepared by divinities, this is a blessed dessert that enriches progeny and health. Oh, king, let this be consumed" saying so he further said, "for which purpose you have performed this ritual that childbearing will be fructified in your wives by bearing sons, hence give this among your eligible wives." So said the divine being to Dasharatha.
Agreeing to that the king wholeheartedly took that god-given golden vessel full with divine food. With high ecstasy Dasharatha revered that Ritual Being, the Prajapati Purusha or yaj~na purusha , an astonishing and delightful being in his appearance, and performed circumambulations around him.
On obtaining that dessert prepared by gods then Dasharatha is highly gladdened like a pauper obtaining unforeseen wealth.
On completing his work of giving the golden vessel with dessert then that divine being who is astonishing by his form and highly glowing by his physique, disappeared then and there itself.
Lit up with beams of happiness Dasharatha's palace chambers shone forth like the autumnal sky brightened with moonbeams. Then Dasharatha on entering palace chambers spoke this to queen Kausalya, "Receive this dessert to beget your son."
This divine dessert is meant for the 'eligible' queens, as informed the Ritual Being and also in order to maintain the divinity of Ram's birth. In the context of seed and field, the field has no equal importance to the seed biija kshetra nyaya . Hence the seed is divine in the form of dessert and fields are therefore shall 'be eligible' for the seedling. As such the First Queen and Empress Kausalya is being addressed firstly, and given firstly.
The king then gave half of the dessert to queen Kausalya, and he gave half of the half, i.e., one fourth to queen Sumitra. And to Kaikeyi he gave half of the remaining half, i.e., one eight of the dessert, with a desire to beget sons. Then thinking for a while gave the remaining, i.e., one-eighth portion again to queen Sumitra. Thus, the king distributed the dessert to his wives differently.
This is a much-discussed distribution by the traditionalists. Adhyatma Ramayana, a treatise that postulates god-hood to Rama, gives a well-constructed argument about these shares of dessert and the resultant births of the four brothers, viz., Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna, in accordance with these shares. In its simplest terms and as contained in these verses, queen Kausalya got half of the dessert as an Empress, paTTa mahiSi. Sumitra gets one-fourth in the first round and after a rethink by Dasharatha, she gets another one-eighth portion. Kaikeyi gets only a one-eighth quantity. Thus, Kausalya gives birth to Rama, Sumitra to Lakshmana and Shatrughna, and Kaikeyi to Bharata. The quantum of apportionment of the dessert does not make Rama all-powerful or Bharata the least. Since the Absolute is indivisible into parts, the dessert that is divided is not to be taken as the divided Absolute, but a kind of medium through which the incarnation is made possible.
There is another declination enquiring whether the incarnation of Rama is full or partial, puurNa avatara or artha avatara... Rama is Vishnu Himself while Bharata and Shatrughna are his disc and conch-shell, while Lakshmana is the thousand headed snake aadi sesha on whose coils Vishnu reclines. The whole dessert is divine and parts of it do not signify and inter-divided god-hoods. Hence, the apportionment of the desert is done in order to keep up the hierarchy of the queen-hoods and their status. Throughout this magnum opus Rama never said that he is god or an incarnate of god, but called himself, nimitta maatra a casual relation to the course of events. Should Rama be the incarnation of the Almighty Himself, he has little or no necessity to incarnate the weaponry along with him. They are at his beck and call at any time. Thus, Rama is neither a half nor one-fourth incarnation of the Absolute nor a dividend of the whole, but an incarnate of the virtuously ideal personality of Vishnu, maryaada purushottama Rama.
Incidental to this apportionment of the dessert, the aspect of eldest son is also studied. Rama is the first-born and thus the eldest. This is because the dessert is given to queen Kausalya in the first instance, and half of the whole vessel. She immediately consumed to lionise her share and as an Empress. Sumitra waited a while till apportionment is complete. Kaikeyi got her portion but waited till her elder sister Sumitra completes her drink. In the meanwhile Dasharatha thought a while, as said in the verse, and gave Sumitra another one-eighth part. Sumitra then consumed her two parts. Later Kaikeyi drinks her dividend.
On getting the dessert all of those best ladies of the king, whose hearts are exuberant with happiness, deemed it as a reward. Then on consuming dessert those best ladies of the king whose resplendence then vied with that Fire and Sun became pregnant after some time.
A synecdochic expression to indicate that Sun and Fire, the enliveners of living beings, pratyaksha naraayaNa are there in those wombs and their resplendence is shining out of mothers bodies.
Then on seeing his queens with confirmed pregnancies Dasharatha regained his lost heart for sons, and he is gladdened like Vishnu, who will always be gladsome when worshipped by gods, namely Indra and others, as well as by the assemblages of great souls, sages.