Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Dasharatha included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Daśaratha

(Nemi). A famous king of the Ikṣvāku dynasty. He was the father of Śrī Rāma.


Descended from Viṣṇu in the following order. BrahmāMarīciKaśyapaVivasvānVaivasvata Manu—Ikṣvāku—VikukṣiŚaśādaKakutsthaAnenasPṛthulāśvaPrasenajitYuvanāśvaMāndhātāPurukutsaTrasadasyuAnaraṇyaHaryaśva—Vasumanas—Sudhanvā—Traiyyāruṇa—Satyavrata (Triśaṅku) HariścandraRohitāśvaHārīta—Cuñcu—SudevaBharukaBāhukaSagaraAsamañjasAṃśumānBhagīratha—Sṛtanābha—SindhudvīpaAyutāyusṚtuparṇaSarvakāmaSudāsMitrasaha—(Kalmāṣapāda)—AśmakaMūlaka—Khaṭvaṅga (Dilīpa; Dīrgha bāhu)—Raghu—Aja—Daaśratha.


Daśaratha was the son of Aja, of the family of Ikṣvāku, born of his wife Indumatī.*

Daśaratha’s hunt.

Once during the early part of his life Daśaratha was walking through a forest engaged in hunting. He reached the bank of the river Sarayū. It was evening and the forest was thick. He walked in search of wild animals. The night was advancing and darkness getting thicker. Then he heard a sound from the river as if an elephant was drinking water. Thinking it to be an elephant Daśaratha sent an arrow in the direction from which the sound came. Instantly he heard a man crying with pain. The king was disappointed. He ran to the spot and saw a hermit boy lying in a pool of blood beating his limbs on the ground and crying. The waterpot he had been dipping in the water lay close by. In answer to the questions of the King, the hermit boy whose name was Śravaṇa,** said, "Oh King! What wrong have I done? My parents are sitting thirsty and blind with age, in the hermitage closeby. I, their only son, was dipping the pot to take water to them, when you sent the arrow at me. So, please take some water to them in this pot and console them."

Hearing this, with tears the King drew out the fatal arrow from the body of the boy and with that the boy Śravaṇa said good bye to the world. Daśaratha took water in the pot and went in search of the hermitage in the darkness. With difficulty he found out the hermitage and as he drew near, the aged parents of the boy heard his footsteps and called him eagerly. The King, with tearful eyes told them what had happened. There was loud wailing and crying in the hermitage. According to their wish the King took them to where their son lay. Then the King made a fire and placed the dead body of the boy in it. The aged and blind parents cursed Daśaratha, "You also will die of loss of children". Then they also entered the fire and were burnt along with their son’s dead body. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Ayodhyā Kāṇḍa, Sarga 63).


Daśaratha had three wives, named Kauśalyā, Kaikeyī and Sumitrā.

Kaikeyī given a boon.

There was a great battle in the world of the gods between the asuras and the gods. According to the request of the devas, Daśaratha went to the world of the devas to help them. Kaikeyī also went with Daśaratha. In a severe fight with Śambara, an asura, Daśaratha fell down unconscious. Kaikeyī took him away from the battle-field. When he recovered the King got into the chariot and fought more fiercely than before. This time the wheel-bolt of one of the wheels of the chariot of Daśaratha slipped away. Without informing her husband of this danger, Kaikeyī inserted her finger into the bolt-hole and prevented the wheel from sliding away. The King won the battle. After the battle, when the King came to know of the services rendered by Kaikeyī, he promised her two boons. Kaikeyī told the King that she would ask for them later, when she needed them. Then they returned to Ayodhyā. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Sarga 9, Kaṃpa Rāmāyaṇa, Bāla Kāṇḍa).

Administration of Daśaratha.

The capital of Daśaratha’s kingdom of Kosala, was Ayodhyā. This city was situated on the bank of river Sarayū. Daśaratha was as famous in Ayodhyā as Indra was in the realm of the gods. There were palaces in Ayodhyā for the kings who brought tribute to stay. In short, as mentioned in Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bāla Kāṇḍa, Sarga 5, Ayodhyā was the heaven on earth.


Daśaratha had eight ministers, Sṛṣṭi, Jayanta, Vijaya, Siddhārtha, Rāṣṭravardhana, Aśoka, Dharmapāla, and Sumantra. (Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 6).

The name Daśaratha.

The real name of Daśaratha was Nemi. Once the unattackable and invincible asura Śaṃbara conquered the throne of Indra. At the request of Brahmā and the gods, this King reached heaven and destroyed the armies of the asuras very easily. Śaṃbara got angry, assumed ten shapes and attacked the King from ten points at the same time. The king confronted the ten Śaṃbaras at ten points, at the same time, and killed all of them at the same moment. Because he faced his chariot to ten points at the same time and fought with enemies on those ten points Brahmā appreciated his valiant fighting and charioteeering and gave him the name 'Daśaratha' (one who is capable of driving the chariot to ten points at the same time). Thus his original name was forgotten and he came to be known only by the name given him later. (Kaṃpa Rāmāyaṇa, Yuddha Kāṇḍa).

Birth of Sons.

Kausalyā was the first wife of Daśaratha. She was the daughter of the King of Uttara Kosala. A daughter named Śāntā was born to Daśaratha by Kausalyā. After this, no sons or daughters were born to Daśaratha for a long time.

At this juncture Lomapāda, the king of Aṅga who was the class-mate and a great friend of Daśaratha, came to Ayodhyā on a friendly visit. He also had no children. So he entreated Daśaratha to give Śāntā to him as a foster-daughter. Thus he took away Śāntā to Aṅga. Lomapāda gave Śāntā in marriage to Ṛṣyaṣṛṅga a hermit. (See under Ṛṣyaśṛṅga).

As Kausalyā was childless Daśaratha brought as his wife Kaikeyī the daughter of the King of Kekaya and sister of Yudhājit. Still no children were born to them. He was much disappointed. At last he married again and brought Sumitrā the princess of Kāśi. Of these three, Kausalyā was the chief wife.

Though he had three wives, Daśaratha still remained childless. The King and his queens spent their days in sorrow for a long time. The King remembered the curse he had incurred when he was young. The curse was that as they had died with sorrow at the death of their son Śravaṇa, the same thing would happen to me. So he believed that sons would be born to him.

He performed several devotional acts to get children. Finally he gave up all kingly pleasures and began to lead an ascetic life. He built a temple for his own use and consecrated the idol of Mahāviṣṇu in it. Then entrusting the administration of the Kingdom to his ministers he and his wives engaged themselves in daily devotion and meditation in the temple. Then the King decided to perform the sacrifice of Putrakāmeṣṭi (sacrifice for getting children) by the hermit Ṛṣyaśṛṅga under the guidance of Vasiṣṭha. The King informed Ṛṣyaśṛṅga of his decision. Ṛṣyaśṛṅga could not refuse the King’s request as the king was his father-in-law. Moreover Lomapāda and Śāntā also requested the hermit to comply with the desire of Daśaratha. So Ṛṣyaśṛṅga came to Ayodhyā and the sacrifice of Putrakāmeṣṭi was begun. The air vibrated with the recitation of mantras (spells and incantations) and the Veda Sūktas. The hermit uttered the divine spell of Putrakāmeṣṭi and offered oblations in the sacrificial fire. Then a wonderful and luminous figure came out of the fire with a pot containing a pudding of ambrosia, and placed the pot before Ṛṣyaṣṛṅga and then disappeared in the sacrificial fire. When the wonderful figure disappeared, Ṛṣyaśṛṅga took the pot of pudding and gave it to Daśaratha with prayer and incantations. Daśaratha received the golden pot and in accordance with the instruction of the hermit, divided the pudding between his first wife Kauśalyā and second wife Kaikeyī, both of whom gave half of their share to Sumitrā. Thus the three wives ate the divine pudding and by and by all of them became pregnant. Kauśalyā and Kaikeyī gave birth to a son each and Sumitrā gave birth to two sons. The son of Kauśalyā was called Rāma, the son of Kaikeyī was named Bharata and the sons of Sumitrā were called Lakṣmaṇa and Śatrughna. (Kaṃpa Rāmāyaṇa, Bāla Kāṇḍa).

The boon of Śani (Saturn).

Astronomers are of opinion that famine will occur in the world for the period of twelve years, when the planet Śani (Saturn) comes into the orbit of Rohiṇī (a star). But now the planet Saturn does not come into the orbit of the star Rohiṇī. There is a story in the Padma Purāṇa, which states that this happened so because of a boon Śani had given to Daśaratha.

During the regime of Daśaratha the planet Śani approached the orbit of Rohiṇī. Experts in astronomy said that the earth would be ruined by famine etc. if Śani cleft the star Rohiṇī. Hearing this Daśaratha took his bow and arrows, got into his chariot, and started for the firmament. He travelled for one lac and a quarter of yojanas (leagues) and reached the hind part of Rohiṇī, which is beyond the sun. Adorned with golden garments and a golden crown studded with jewels, seated on a golden chariot decorated with precious stones, and a lofty flagpost and yoked with horses of the colour of swan, the king shone in the sky as a second sun. He drew the bow-string right upto his ear and placed in it the arrow of destruction. When the devas and the asuras saw the arrow of destruction they began to tremble with fear. Śani came to Daśaratha and fell before him and said that he would grant any boon to the King, and requested him to recall the arrow of destruction. Daśaratha told Śani that he only wanted Śani not to come to the orbit of Rohiṇī. Śani agreed. From that day onwards Śani has never entered the orbit of Rohiṇī. (Padma Purāṇa, Uttara Kānḍa, Chapter 34).


Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa with Sītā went to live in the forest. Sumantra who accompanied them up to the river Ganges, returned to the palace. By then Daśaratha had fallen down filled with grief. He had never recovered from that state of unconsciousness. At the time of his death Bharata and Śatrughna had been away in the kingdom of Kekaya and Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa in the forest. Thus the curse he incurred in his younger days from the aged hermit, the father of Śravaṇa, was fully realized.

Daśaratha appears again.

Rāvaṇa was killed in the battle. Sītā was tested in fire and found sinless. Rāma accepted her, seeing that her conjugal fidelity was not marred. At this time Śiva appeared before Rāma in a divine aeroplane. Daśaratha was seated in that plane clad in pure garments. He took Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa into his lap and embraced them. He blessed them and Sītā who was standing with folded hands. Then Daśaratha disappeared. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Yuddha Kāṇḍa, Sarga 122).

*) It is stated in Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 274, Stanza 6 that 'Ilabilā, was the name of the mother of Daśaratha.

**) In Agnipurāṇa Chapter 6, it is stated that the name of this hermit boy was Yajñadatta.

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