In the last couple of episodes, we were able to witness the beauty and the significance of the city of Ayodhya, which was the capital of the great Ikshvaaku Dynasty. Valmiki Maharishi had been mentioning numerous good things about Ayodhya, but at the end he says that there is just one worry for the king and amongst the people of Ayodhya – There was no successor for the kingdom, that is, King Dasharata was childless for a very long time. At this stage, King Dasharata, being worried, consults his minister Sumanthra. What was the guidance given by Sumanthra? Let’s see today!
Upon Dasharata’s request for Sumanthra’s guidance, Sumanthra recalls a story that he had heard long back from the yester kings of Sanaka and Sanathkumara. He says that, at this time when the kingdom is in a fix over who would succeed, to get a solution for this problem the king can perform an “Ishti Yaaga”. Here, “Ishti Yaaga” is a form of “Ashvamedha Yaaga” (“Ashvam” in Sanskrit means horse), wherein a horse would be let out and sacrificed in prayers for something to happen. If this procedure is followed with the prayer of wanting a son, it is called “Puthra Kaameshti Yaaga” (A prayer for the want of a son). Hence Sumanthra says to Dasharata that if he has to have a child, it’s better that he performs this “Puthra Kaameshti Yaaga”. However, he also adds that there’s only one sage in this world who can perform this ritual successfully – and that person is Sage Rishyashringa. (Rishyashringa in Sanskrit, Kalaikkotttu Munivar in Tamil). Sage Rishyashringa was the son of Sage Vibhaandaka. Once the ritual is performed successfully, an angel would appear from the heaven and offer a “Havis” (Havis can be equated to a form of a Divine Nectar) and upon offering this “Havis” to Dasharata’s wives, he would be able to have children.
Upon hearing all this from Sumanthra, Dasharata is puzzled. He again asks Sumanthra, “You’re talking about somebody by name Rishyashringa, Vibhaantaka, etc. How and where will I go and find all these people? Where are they?”. At this stage, Sage Vasishta (The “Kula Guru” of the entire Ikshvaaku Dynasty) gets up and gives the identity of Sage Rishyashringa.
“Ashtou babhoovur anisya tasya maathya yasashvinaha!
Drishtihi jayanthaha vijayaha suraastraha raashtravardhanaha!!
Ahoopo dharma paalascha sumanthraha ashtamo hasith!”
In the above verse, Valmiki Maharishi beautifully describes King Dasharata’s courtroom – He says that there would be eight ministers seated on one side and another eight “Kula Gurus” (including Sage Vasishta) on the other side. Dasharata sits among these sixteen people and all these sixteen people are experts in giving the right advice at the right time.
At this time, both Sumanthra and Sage Vasishta narrate the history of this great Sage Rishyashringa: Over a period of time, Sage Rishyashringa was born and brought up in a forest. He doesn’t know anything what happens in a kingdom and in a city. He doesn’t even know what is the taste of good food, desire, etc. He is such a staunch sage without any of these feelings in him. But once upon a time, the king of the neighboring country – Anga Desha wanted to do an offering with the help of Sage Rishyashringa in the want of rain, as his kingdom was facing an acute drought situation. So he sent a few women, who slowly seduced him and brought him to his kingdom. The moment Sage Rishyashringa’s feet touched the kingdom of Anga Desha, it began to pour down and the drought situation was completely eradicated. Thus, the king of Anga Desha was happy and he gave his daughter “Shanta Devi” in marriage to Sage Rishyashringa. Hence Sumanthra says that Sage Rishyashringa is currently living with Shanta Devi in a place, which is in the outskirts of the city of Ayodhya. (Even today we can worship this place. It is called “Shringiberipuram” wherein there is a separate temple dedicated for Shanta Devi and Sage Rishyashringa).
Upon hearing this, Dasharata is very happy. Now, what did Dasharata do after hearing this story from Sumanthra and Vasishta? Let’s wait to find out from the next episode!