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Shringiberapuram, Sage Rishyasringa & Shanta Devi - Sri Ramanin Padhayil

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Krishna in Geeta says what pleases him offered - bhakti, bhaavam, prema, love. Rama made friends with Guha in Sringiberapuram. Guha was simple, ignorant of elaborate rituals, however with splendid devotion for Rama and Sita. There is a temple here for Rishyasringa and Shanta devi. To reach this temple, one has to climb a lot of stairs to reach the shrine room. Now let us see who is Shanta Devi? in the below story.

King Dasaratha, before he had his four sons – Rama, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrugana had a daughter – Shantha. Shantha's mother was Kausalya – Dasaratha's first wife.

King Dasaratha had a very close friend – Romapada, the King of Anga. Now Romapada loved children very much, he was unfortunately childless.

Romapada once came and talked to Dasaratha, 'Dasaratha! I have a favour to ask you!'

Dasaratha wondered what such a great king could want from him. 'Go ahead Romapada! What do you have in your mind?'

Romapada looked at Dasaratha and at Queen Kausalya and felt slightly ashamed but continued, 'I have no children of my own. I love children very much. You probably know that. Dasaratha and Kauslaya looked at each other wondering where this was going as Romapada continued, 'Your daughter Shantha.... She is so sweet and cute' Romapada said a little desperately, 'Look, I know I cannot be as good a parent as you But will you please give your daughter in adoption to me'

Romapada looked at Dasaratha and Kausalya with a little desperation. Kausalya was deeply astonished that Romapada would ask Dasaratha to give his only child in adoption. But then she realized that Romapada had figured that Dasaratha had three wives and he would have plenty more children. However Kausalya was troubled to give her only child in adoption did not seem right. She then looked at Romapada once more. The more she looked at him the more she felt that he was a man driven to desperation. Romapada would not have come here unless he felt he had no other choice.

Kausalya looked out of her palace window and glanced at Shantha playing in the garden. She saw the king also studying Shantha with hungry eyes. She was moved with pity. The man actually needed her daughter. She realized. She turned to Dasaratha who was looking troubled and nodded her head and smiled. Dasaratha widened his eyes wondering whether he had understood his wife correctly. To give up his only child in adoption.

Dasaratha spoke to Romapada, 'King why don't you just rest here. I will talk with my wife and come back' Romapada did not even hear Dasaratha. He was just looking at Shantha as he nodded his head. Dasaratha and Kauslaya went into their inner room, 'Queen Kausalya!' He said as soon as they entered inside the room, 'You don't mind giving your only daughter in adoption'

Kausalya spoke softly, 'Dasaratha, did you see that man's face when he saw Shantha! We can have plenty more children if we want to. But Romapada genuinely loves Shantha. And Shantha also loves Romapada very much. I think she will be happier there.'

Dasaratha knew that his wife had a very good judgement and spoke only after considering all the sides of a problem. Slowly Dasaratha nodded his head. He went outside and saw that Shantha had finished playing and was coming inside the palace. She ran inside her parent's room and when she saw Romapada she squealed with delighted and ran to him. Romapada hugged Shantha.

Dasaratha knew that his wife had told him the right thing. He came outside and saw Shantha sitting on Romapada's lap talking with each other and giggling. 'Father!' Shantha said as she looked at Dasaratha and Kausalya come out of the room.

Dasaratha came towards the young child and looked at Shantha, 'Shantha! Do you like King Romapada...'

Shantha smilled and hugged Romapada once more, 'Oh yes! He is my favourite...'

Dasaratha asked softly, 'Would you like to go and live in Anga with him...'

Not understanding what he was asking, Shantha squealed with delight, 'You mean I will live with him...That is so nice....'

Romapada understood that Dasaratha was willing to give Shantha in adoption to him. He bowed to the king and queen. They performed the ceremonies and soon gave Shantha in adoption. Shantha was too young to understand much of the 'adoption'. The only thing she understood that she was going to live with Romapada henceforth....Her parents had told her that she would always come and visit them whenever she wanted....

Shantha happily went off with Romapada. There Romapada kept her so happily that soon she forgot almost everything about Kausalya and Dasaratha. For her Romapada was her father....The kingdom prospered and everyone was very happy.

When Shantha grew up to be a beautiful girl, fame of her beauty and intelligence spread all around. Unfortunately at this time a great famine struck the kingdom of Anga. Rains failed and the crops were down. The kingdom was almost in doldrums...

Wondering what to do, the king was talking to his minsters, when they told him about the sage Rishyasringa. The minister told King Romapada, 'Rishyasringa was the son of Sage Vibhandaka.' [In Sanskrit Rishyasringa name means 'the boy with horns on his head']

King Romapada asked, ' Vibhandaka? The son of Sage Kashyap? How could he have a son with horns in his head?'

The minister continued, 'Sir! Rishyasringa's mother is a deer sir! That is the reason, he has horns in his head....'

The king nodded, 'But how would he solve our problems?'

'Sir! Vibhandaka brought up his son in the forests near Anga!' The minister said calmly, 'Till date, Rishyasringa has never seen any women sir! The entire forests does not have any women or girls...Rishyasringa has not even seen another human other than his father sir!'

The king was stupefied that such a person could even exist! He nodded for the minister to continue. The minister cleared his throat and continued, 'Because...because Rishyasringa never had any distractions of any kind....he keeps meditating all the time...He has immense powers of meditation sir! He is so pure that wherever he goes...rains will follow...' The minister said earnestly.

The king frowned and nodded. He dismissed his court and then talked with Shantha in private, 'Shantha! You heard what the minister said...Any ideas?'

Shantha nodded, 'We could send the courtesans of our country...' [Courtesans were women who were trained in various arts, music and were very beautiful women....] 'Rishyasringa has never seen women...I think looking at them would make him feel different....Father!...' Shantha said resolutely, 'This Rishyasringa, once he comes to our country....I...I...' She said looking down and shyly, 'If he is willing and if it is ok with you, I would like to marry him....' Romapada was startled and happy at the same time. He slowly nodded as Shantha continued, 'I think such a man is great! And besides Sage Vibhandaka may be very angry if we bring Rishyasringa here...'

'So your marriage is one of the best ways of keeping Vibhandaka from getting more angry...' Romapada said softly. Shantha nodded but did not say anything.

Shantha called in the best courtesans from the kingdom. She told them all about Rishyasringa. 'Avoid sage Vibhandaka at all costs! He is dangerous! If he finds you with his son....He may curse you...' The courtesans nodded their head. Princess Shantha then asked the architects of the kingdom to built a huge ship. The ship was filled with beautiful plants, trees and flowers. In the middle was a ashrama to make it look like a hermitage.

At last the courtesans went afloat towards the forests near Anga. The courtesans got down and observed the Sage Rishyasringa and his father. They saw that they had a routine. In the afternoons, Sage Vibhandaka went into the deeper forests to meditate, whereas Rishyasringa stayed behind in the ashrama to tend the fire and clean the place.

The courtesans agreed that the afternoons was the best time to approach Rishyasringa.

The very next afternoon, after Vibhandaka had left the hermitage, one of the courtesan came forward and went into the ashrama. Rishyasringa looked at the woman and was amazed. He had never seen any human being other than his father. He always thought all of them were strict and stern like his father. But this person was ….beautiful.

Assuming that the woman was also a rishi like him, Rishyasringa came forward and welcomed the woman. He gave her some fruits from the hermitage and talked with her for long....She gave him some food that she had brought from the ship. Rishyasringa ate it and was delighted as it was very different....Not like the tasteless food he ate everyday....

The woman however remembered that she had to hurry back as Sage Vibhandaka would be back any minute.

She told Rishyasringa, 'I have to go back home, I have to do the agnihotra puja....'

Rishyasringa felt an urge to meet the person again, 'When...When will we meet again....' He asked innocently.

The courtesan laughed, 'Probably tomorrow....' She left immediately. Rishyasringa was deep in his thoughts and had not cleaned up the ashrama and had not even tended the fires.

Sage Vibhandaka came home and was surprised to find his ashrama untidy and his son looking like in a daze. Wondering what had happened, Sage Vibhandaka asked Rishyasringa, 'Son! What happened? You have not even done your work...Is something wrong...?' He asked anxiously.

Rishyasringa spoke in a daze, 'Father! A rishi came in today. But...But...But he was nothing like you and me....He had beautiful long hair...He smelt differently....a divine perfume....He had lots of flowers in his hair and he talked with me...Listening to him talk made me want to listen to him again and again...'

Hearing to the description given by Rishyasringa, Sage Vibhandaka knew that a women had been here. He became more and more angry and finally in a fit of anger told his son, 'Son! That was no sage! That was a demon! The demon was sent to take away all the powers of your meditation....Next time you see the the demon away....'

'But father....' Rishyasringa said a little desperately.

Sage Vibhandaka put his foot down. 'We are not discussing this any further....Do not let the demon come near you...'

Rishyasringa was crestfallen. But he could not understand the reactions of his father. He did not think the sage who had come meant him any harm...Why was his father behaving like this....

The next day Vibhandaka decided to go and see the woman himself to drive her away. He left the ashrama early in search of the woman. However what the sage did not know was that the courtesan was near the ashrama waiting for Vibhandaka to leave. As soon as Vibhandaka left, the courtesan came forward. Rishyasringa was thrilled on meeting the courtesan again. He almost jumped with joy and came forward to meet her.

However before the courtesan could say a word, Rishyasringa spoke in a whisper, 'Look we have to get out of here...My father told me you were a demon....I do not think he would like it if you keep coming here....Will you take me with you to your ashrama?'

The courtesan could not believe her ears! Rishyasringa was ready to come with her so soon...She nodded and they left the ashrama and made for the huge ashrama in the ship. Rishyasringa was thrilled on seeing the beautiful hermitage, which looked nothing like the wild place he lived in. He went inside the ashrama.

The courtesan's and Rishyasrringa set sail and soon they all reached the kingdom of Anga.

As soon as Rishyasringa reached the kingdom of Anga, the heavens opened up and the rains fell. The king and Shantha were thrilled. The people were happy! King Romapada came forward and offered Rishyasringa his daughter in marriage.
Sage Rishyashring looked at Princess Shantha and realized that she was even more beautiful than the courtesan. Talking with her he realized that she was extremely intelligent and strong. Sage Rishyashringa decided that he would be willing to live with her for the rest of his life...

Both of the them lived happily in the kingdom of Anga.

However Vibhandaka was very angry. He figured out that this must be the work of the king of Anga and set out towards that place.

However Romapada and Shantha were prepared for this. They knew that Vibhandaka would become very angry. As Vibhandaka came closer to the kingdom, he found a herd of healthy cows waiting for him as a gift from his son Rishyasringa! The sage was surprised. His anger cooled down a little. As he went even more forward, he found more such gifts awaiting him! As Vibhaandaka reached the capital of Anga, he had almost cooled down. He reached the palace gates and there found his son with his beautiful and intelligent daughter-in-law.

Wearing a crown in his head, Rishyashringa looked like the Lord of the Heavens. Vibhandhaka felt calm and peaceful looking at them.

Shantha and Rishyashringa came forward and fell at the sage's feet. The sage felt proud on looking at them and felt no anger. He blessed the couple and went back to the forests!

However the story of King Rishyasringa does not end here. He had one more work to finish before he retired again to the forests. He was in a way responsible for the birth of Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Shatrugana...

After Shantha married Rishyashringa and both of them stayed with her father King Romapada, and the Kingdom of Anga flourished. Rishyashringa had collected immense powers of penance and because of this the country of Anga was prosperous and happy.

However now trouble was brewing in the kingdom of Ayodhya. King Dasaratha – Shantha's biological father was having a problem. He had given his only daughter in adoption. He had three wives – Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, but he had no children to carry on the kingdom after him!

King Dasaratha was worried. He could not concentrate on the affairs of the kingdom. It was at this time that Sumantra, Dasaratha's minister came and talked to him. 'Your majesty! You do not seem well...You look worried and unhappy...Is there anything I can do to...' Sumantra looked at the king waiting for him to explain.

King Dasaratha drew a deep breath and said, 'Sumantra! I have nothing to hide from you...I have tried to be a good king...' Sumantra vigorously nodded his head, as Dasaratha continued, 'But I will not stay young forever...I will need to pass on the affairs of my kingdom and retire....But what can I do? Whom do I give the reins of my kingdom...I ….'

Sumantra held up his hands and smiled with a twinkle in his eyes, 'Your Majesty! The answer to your question lies with Shantha...'

Dasaratha was enraged, 'I have given Shantha in adoption to Romapada...I cannot...'

Sumantra smiled and said, 'Your majesty! Hear me out! Shantha is now married. She is married to a great sage by name Rishyashringa...'

Dasaratha listened attentively as Sumantra continued, 'Sage Rishyashringa is very powerful and has lots of powers of penance... In fact he is so powerful that it was because of him that the famine of the Anga kingdom came to an end...'

Dasaratha slowly nodded his head as he heard Sumantra, 'So you are saying we invite him and Shantha here?'

Sumantra nodded and said, 'Yes your majesty! I have heard of a yagna called as the 'putrakameshti yagna'... It is yagna performed for getting children...It is not an easy yagna to perform...But Rishyashringa with his power would be able to perform the yagna...'

Dasaratha's eyes lit up as he spoke almost joyously, 'So you are saying that I should invite Rishyashringa here and ask him to perform the putrakameshti yagna for me?'

Sumantra nodded and Dasaratha was looking at him happily.

Immediately King Dasaratha went to the kingdom of Anga and requested his friend King Romapada, to send Shantha and Rishyashringa with him to Ayodhya for performing the yagna.

Both Rishyashringa and Shantha gladly came with Dasaratha. Deep inside Rishyashringa realized that this was the actual reason he had been brought out of the forests by Shantha. He started preparing for the yagna earnestly.

As he possessed immense powers of penance, Rishyashringa was able to perform the difficult yagna with ease. At the end of the yagna, Agni, the God of the Fire emerged from the fire.

He called out to Dasaratha, 'Here take this payasam,[pudding] Dasaratha!' Saying this the Deva handed over King Dasaratha a golden pot. 'Divide the contents among your wives. You will have the children, you have always wanted...' Dasaratha bowed to the Deva as he vanished.

After the Deva had vanished, Dassaratha deeply thanked Rishyashringa and Shantha for their help. Rishyashringa felt like he had finished the work for which he had been brought out of the forest. Both he and Shantha retired to the forests near Anga and Rishyashringa began his penances and meditation again.

It was after taking the payasam, that Dasaratha had four sons - Ram, Bharat, Lakshman and Shatrughan...
Ram was born to Kausalya, the first wife and Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharat. Sumitra had twins - Lakshman and Shatrughan. How Sumitra alone had twins is another story, which has been covered in our previous articles.


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