Ayodhya was a magnificent city on the banks of the river Soraya in Kosala kingdom. It had wide roads, huge buildings, beautiful parks and glittering shops. The people of the city lived a happy and contented life as they were ruled by a noble king called Dasharatha, who cared for his people very deeply.
King Dasharatha had three wives—Kaushalya, Sumatra and Kayseri. Kaushalya was the eldest queen. Though the king loved all his queens deeply, it was Kaikeyi, his youngest queen, who was his favourite. But in spite of leading such a good life, Dasharatha was still unhappy. This was because he had no children. He was getting old and had no son to ascend the throne.
Unable to see the king being sad, the sages advised him to perform a Yugna and pray for children. Heeding to their advice, he performed the Yagna. Pleased with him, ‘Agni’ the Fire God, emerged out of the firepit, handed over a cup containing sweetened milk to the king and told him, “O King! This kheer is the nectar of life. It was prepared by the Gods in heaven. Distribute it among your wives. You will soon be blessed with sons/’ Dasharatha was delighted. He thanked Agni for this boon. He then gave Kaushalya half of the kheer. He divided the remaining kheer into two portions and gave one portion to Sumitra and the other one to Kaikeyi.
Subsequently all the three queens gave birth to sons. Kaushalya gave birth to Rama, after which Bharata was born to Kaikeyi and later on Sumitra gave birth to Lakshmana and Shatrughna. King Dasharatha was very happy and so were the people of Ayodhya. With great joy, they celebrated the birth of the four princes. Dasharatha loved all his sons but Rama was his dearest. He was very fond of his handsome, eldest son and could not bear to be away from him even for a moment.