It was 05:04 in the morning; the sun rose over the mighty Ayodhya kingdom. As if on cue, everybody took turns to take a dip in the waters of the mighty Sarayu River. The holy men lifted their hands above their heads; a slow chant rippled across the calm waters, broken only by the swish-swish of the dhobis washing clothes. Everyone had just one prayer for their beloved and dutiful King Dasharatha. They prayed that a son would be born to him.
King Dasharatha flung his hook once again into the water; his body trembled as he tried to steady himself on the rock in the middle of the water. He was overcome with great sadness because he could not bear to see his wife Queen Kaushalya unhappy. After the birth of their daughter Shanta, Kaushalya had been praying for the birth of a son, but in vain.
All the wise men of the court, his advisors, his family and friends told him that for the sake of Ayodhya he had to marry again. That was the only way his kingdom would have an heir. His wife, the beautiful Kaushalya, she understood him well. He knew it hurt her but she had insisted that morning that he go to King Ashwapati to ask for his daughter to be his wife.
Queen Kaikeyi didn’t produce an heir either. Even so, there was excitement in Ayodhya once again. The two monkeys Vanar and Markat swung by the wires and jumped across rooftops. Their favourite pastime was teasing Pappu who had the most delicious sweets in his cart for sale.
Vanar jumped onto the wire and yelled, “King Dasharatha is marrying Sumitra, aren’t you distributing sweets for that,” he grabbed the yellow and round squiggly shaped sweetmeat from Pappu’s cart. “You two! Get out of here!” yelled Pappu and ran after them.
In a split second, Vanar and Markat jumped into the shop next door. They quickly took a deep breath and stood still.
“But what if the new queen, Sumitra doesn’t have a son?” said Markat, who loved King Dasharatha dearly.
“Do you think it’s some sort of a curse?” asked Vanar gobbling up the jalebi.
Perhaps it was a curse. Who knew? But none of King Dasharatha’s three wives – Kaushalya, Kaikeyi or Sumitra – were able to have a son. The most famous soothsayer of the Kingdom was summoned. He put a pipe to the ground to hear the rumblings of the Earth; she would give him some answers.
“There is a great being descending from the heavens, King Dasharatha, you will be blessed with an heir soon,” he announced, “Go to Rishyasringa, he will help you.”
The soothsayer was a wise man. He did not tell King Dasharatha the other half of the secret that the Earth whispered to him. She had told him that with the birth of an heir would come a period of great unrest for the Kingdom of Ayodhya.