The story of Ram begins many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya, the capital city of the kingdom of Kosala in what is now northern India. Kosala was ruled by King Dasaratha, a wise and good king. Under him Kosala was a rich, peaceful and prosperous country. Dasaratha had three queens - Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra.
King Dasaratha and his queens had no children. So they decided to hold a great sacrifice, asking the gods for children. Their wish was granted and soon the queens gave birth to four sons - Ram the eldest, Kaushalya's son, Bharat, Kaikeyi's son, and the twins Lakshman and Shatrughn, the sons of Sumitra.
When Ram was old enough, he married the beautiful princess Sita, daughter of Janak. Janak was the ruler of the kingdom of Videha. To win her hand, Ram strung and broke the great bow of Shiv, which no one else could do. Lakshman married Urmila, Sita's younger sister. Sita's cousins, Mandavi and Shrutakirti were married to Bharat and Shatrughn.
The four princes and their wives continued to live happily in Ayodhya with their father king Dasaratha and his three queens. But Dasaratha was growing old, and finding the strain of kingship hard to bear. He decided to appoint Ram to rule as Regent.
Kaikeyi, Bharat's mother, had an evil maidservant called Manthara. Manthara convinced Kaikeyi that if Ram became Regent, he would deprive her of her status of favoured queen, and kill her son Bharat. In panic, Kaikeyi demanded that Ram be exiled to the forest for 14 years, and that Bharat be made Regent.
Ram, Prince of Kosala, contd...
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