Dasaratha’s wives :
Dasaratha is best known to us as Sri Rama‘s father through Valmiki’s Ramayanam. He had three queens, Kausalya of Kosala, Sumitra (of Kasi, I think) and Kaikeyi of Kekeya (Pakisthan). Other than this he had 300 wives. When Sri Rama left Ayodhya for his exile, he bowed to all his mothers, his real mother Kausalya and and all the other queens and wives of his father.
Theirs was the Ikshavku dynasty, derived directly from Vaivasvata (Satyavrata) Manu, the son of Vivaswan, Surya Deva, who were originally from Andhra- Dravida. While this branch settled in Ayodhya, the main branch continued in Andhra. (I have read a post on the internet from a person who is from this Ikshvaku Kula).
His family priest, guru and rshi was Vasishtha Maharshi. Vasishta had been with them from the time of Satyavrata Manu and the Matsya Avataram. Vasishta spanned the following seven generations of the Iksvakus Vaivasvata Manu, Ikshvaku, Kakutstha, Raghu, Aja, Dasharatha, Rama, and was very old, by the time, young Sri Rama was his student. Vasishta was the rshi of many Vedic Mantras which his great grandson Vyasa collated into the Rk Veda.
Janaka’s proposal to Dasaratha : (68th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition):) The manthris travelled for 3 days and nights from Mithila to Ayodhya, resting on the way because their horses were tired. There they saw the aged Dasaratha who looked like a Deva. They conveyed to Dasaratha that Raja Janaka in front of an Agnihotra (Sa agni hotra purah krutah), with due respect and using sweet words had enquired after Dasaratha’s welfare and the welfare of his advisors and subjects. They quoted Janaka on his resolve to give his daughter as a ViryaSulka and how so many kings had failed and had to be sent back. They finally submitted to Dasaratha that Sri Rama had broken the famous bow of Rudra and that Janaka wanted to give Sita to Rama in marriage and that Viswamitra and Satananda (the son of Gauthama and Ahalya) agreed with this decision.
Dasaratha then spoke to Vamadeva (one of the Vedic Rishis) and Vasishtha and other mantris and said “My sons and the Viswamitra are in Videha. Janaka has decided to give his daughter to my son after seeing his Virya. Let us go to Mithila, the capital of Videha at once, without any delay”. All the rishis and mantris agreed with Dasaratha and they decided that the journey would begin the next morning. Janaka’s mantris spent that night at Ayodhya.
Dasaratha and retinue reach Mithila: (69th Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition)) The next morning, Dasaratha talked to Sumantra and made arrangements for the journey. He took gifts of precious stones and his army of 4 divisions (horse, chariot, elephant and infantry – caturanga bala). The brahmanas, Vasishtha, Vamadeva, Jabali, Kasyapa and the long lived Markandeya (Dirgha-ayu) preceded him. It took them 4 days to reach Videha. King Janaka received them with delight and honour and said “At the end of tomorrow morning’s worship (Yagnya), let us celebrate the wedding, O King!” Dasaratha said, “It is the giver who decides the gift, we shall do as you say, O Janaka”. Janaka slept happily having prayed for his daughters.
Vasishtha asks Urmila for Lakshmana: (70th and 71st Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition)) The next morning, Raja Janaka sent for his brother Kusadhwaja to come from Sankasya – post-haste! Kusadhwaja came at once and them the brothers called upon the best of the mantris Sudamana to invite Dasaratha and his people to the court. Dasaratha and the others came and Dasaratha named Vasishtha as the spoke person for the Ikshwakus. Vasishtha then described the *Ikshwaku lineage and at the end suggested that Janaka’s daughter Urmila be given in marriage to Laksmana at the same time as Sita was given to Sri Rama. On hearing about Kusadhwaja’s daughters, Vasishta asked that Mandavi and Srutakitrhi be given in marriage to Bharata and Satrughna respectively.
(* I tend to think that the Ikshavku lineage in the Valmiki Ramayana was doctored later under pressure from Kshatriyas, I think that the lineage given in the Agni Purana is more accurate, because no one thought it was important enough to modify.)
72nd Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition): King Dasaratha also expressed his joy at the alliances, and took leave of the assembly so that he could perform the sraaddha karma in the evening. Next morning he performed the Godana ceremony for his sons and gifted 100,000 cows with their horns decorated by gold, and bell-metal milk vessels, to the brahmans for the welfare of each of his sons.
Kaikeyi’s father wants to see Bharata: (73nd Sarga of Balakanda, Valmiki Ramayana (Gita Press Critical Edition)) On the day of the Godana ceremony, Kaikeyi’s brother Yudhajit (the prince of Kekeya) arrived at Mithila. He told Dasaratha that his father was very eager to see Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi and his own grandson, so he sent Yudhajit to Ayodhya. There he heard that Bharata and others were at Mithila so he rode out to Mithila. Dasaratha welcomed him.
After this the weddings took place.
Encounter with Parasurama : After the wedding of Sita and Sri Rama, Viswamitra left for the Himalayas. Janaka showered Dasaratha, his sons-in law and his daughters with gifts. The gifts included cows, horses, elephants, chariots, gold, pearls and corals. He then took leave of Dasaratha and left for Mithila. Suddenly there was a solar eclipse, a big gale, trees fell, birds shrieked and the deer ran right. Vasishtha interpreted these as a mixture of bad and good omens. Other than the rishis, Dasaratha and his sons, everyone lost their consciousness…
When Parasurama challenged Sri Rama, Dasaratha did his best to dissuade him. Like every doting father Dasaratha always saw Rama as someone that he needed to protect. Sri Rama succeeded in over coming Parasurama and he left respectfully for the Mahendra hills.
After Parasurama left, Dasaratha ordered his army to move quickly. They reached Ayodhya where the streets were sprinkled with sweet smelling water (so that the dust would not rise), the streets were decorated with flowers and auspicious trumpets and other instruments were being played to welcome them.
(Valmiki Ramayanam Ayodhya Kanda (This Version) 1st sarga) Bharata left for his maternal uncle’s house (kekeya – pakisthan) taking with him the sinless and powerful Satrughna. He was treated with love by his grandfather Ashvapati and his uncle Yudhajit. They thought of their father Dasaratha everyday. The illustrious (Mahateja) Dasaratha also thought of Bharata and Satrughna who were comparable to Indra and Varuna.
While Dasaratha loved all his sons, he always liked Rama the best. Rama was like Swayambhu (the self-born). Vishnu himself was born as Rama in order to kill Ravana. Rama of the limitless brilliance (Amita – Tejas), with his mother Kausalya (the princess of Kosala ), looked like the best of the Devas, Indra, the Vajrapani (who holds the Vajra in his hand) with his mother Aditi.
Rama was most handsome and brave. In virtues, he excelled his father Dasaratha. With a desire to see Sri Rama installed as a king during his life time, Dasaratha invited all the leaders (kings and chieftans of Kosala) and sought consensus for making Sri Rama, Yuvaraja (Crown Prince). Then Arrangements were made for Sri Rama’s coronation as a crown prince and Dasaratha sent for Rama to tell him about his coronation. After the assembly Dasaratha met Sri Rama privately to discuss austerity and precautionary arrangements for the coronation.
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