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Kaushalya was the first queen of King Dashratha, ruler of Ayodhya. She was a princess from the land of Kaushal. Maryada Purushottam Rama was born as her son. Kaushalya was sweet natured, religious and devoted to her husband. Kaikeyi and Sumitra were her co-queens.
When Ravana realized that his end was ordained at the hands of a son of Dashratha, he undertook severe penance. Pleased with him, Lord Brahma granted him a boon. Ravana asked for a boon that Dashratha ’s sperm should not yield any progeny. “So be it”, said Brahma. But Ravana ’s suspicions were not assuaged.
He came to know that the princess of Kaushal would beget a son who would kill him. She was to wed Dashratha five days later. To prove Brahma wrong, Ravana kidnapped Kaushalya, the princess of Kaushal. He put her in a manjusha (a trunk) and entrusted her to the care of a sea-dwelling whale. “When I return, you must give this manjusha (trunk) back to me”, said Ravana. “But do not give it to anyone but me.” With this warning to the whale, he returned to Lanka.
But who does not know the divine power of Brahma ’s all reaching eye! Brahma assumed the form of Ravana and asked the whale for the manjusha (trunk). Meanwhile King Dashratha was out hunting with his minister Sumantra. Ravana caused them to faint and left them on a deserted island. Just as they were finding their way back, Brahma caused the manjusha (trunk) to be placed before them. When Sumantra saw the trunk floating in front of their eyes, he opened the lid. He was shocked to see a lovely young damsel inside. “Who are you and what are you doing in these deserted parts?” he asked her.
Kaushalya then introduced herself as the daughter of the king of Kaushal land. She did not know how she had reached inside the trunk. Meanwhile Dashratha was quite taken up by the sweetly speaking young girl. His minister arranged to have the two married according to the Gandharva (celestial) rites of wedding.
Meanwhile, her sudden disappearance from Kaushal country had caused quite consternation. Sumantra went to Kaushal and narrated all the events. The king of Kaushal was happy to learn that his daughter had been married to the illustrious Dashratha, ruler of Ayodhya. He had no son of his own, so he bequeathed his entire kingdom of Kaushal to Dashratha as a dowry and Dashratha earned the title Kaushalya.
After five days, Ravana went to the whale and asked for the trunk. “But I gave it to you already”, declared the whale. Just then, Lord Brahma appeared. “You Ravana !” You wanted to prove my prophecy wrong, did you? Now see what I am capable of doing! Kaushalya is the Queen of Ayodhya, as I had declared.” Ravana crept away, shamefaced.
In another era, Kaushalya was the queen of Manu, the self-generated, and her name was Shatrupa. They both prayed to Lord Vishnu, long and hard and asked for a son as virtuous and mighty as him. It was then that Lord Vishnu blessed them and declared. “In the Tretayuga, I will be born to you as your son.”
Thus Manu and Shatrupa were reborn in Tretayuga as Dashratha and Kaushalya. They had reached middle age yet they had not been blessed with a child. On consultation with Guru Vashishtha, King Dashratha appointed Sage Shringi to perform the Putreshti Yagna (a special sacrifice to obtain a son). Agnidev (the lord of fire) appeared with a bowl of Kheer (a kind of milk pudding). The Kheer was distributed to the three queens. In due course Rama was born to Kaushalya, Bharatha to Kaikeyi and Lakshmana and Shatrughna to Sumitra. Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the other three brothers were also a part of the divine source.
When on Kaikeyi’s insistence of redeeming a boon, Rama was banished to the forest for 14 years and Vashishtha was to be crowned king instead, Kaushalya readily allowed Rama to leave. She said, obeying your mother (Kaikeyi) and respecting her wishes is your prime duty. With forbearance, she bore the separation from her only son for a long duration of 14 years. Parting from Rama however cost Dashratha his life, yet Kaushalya bore this loss too with equanimity. Such a dutiful, generous and ideal mother has become a respected role model and as the mother of Rama she attained divine bliss.
Kaushalya – Ramayana Characters