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Book I: Bala Kanda or The Book of Youth

When King Dasharatha of Ayodhya performs a Putrakameshti Yajna, the sacrifice for progeny, a purusha (a divine being) emerges from the holy fire and offers a pot of payasam milk sweet and instructs Dasaratha to distribute the dessert to his three wives, the Queens Kausalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi, in accordance with the status of each. However, there wasn't enough payasam for Sumitra , so Kausalya and Kaikeyi give portions of their dessert to her. As a result, Queen Kausalya gives birth to the oldest son, Rama. Bharatha is born to Queen Kaikeyi, and twins, Lakshmana and Shatrughna, are born to Queen Sumitra. When the princes are young boys, the sage Vishwamitra visits King Dasaratha and asks him to send Rama and Lakshmana to protect him from demons who have been disturbing his sacrifice ritual. Reluctantly, King Dasaratha agrees, and Rama and Lakshmana are sent to live with Vishwamitra for the latter's protection. The brothers meet with many an adventure, and the sage trains them in the dharma, or path, of the prince-warrior. As the brothers fulfill their duties, the sage is pleased with them and bestows upon them various heavenly weapons.

Toward the end of their stay with Vishwamitra, they receive an invitation to King Janaka's kingdom of Mithila on the occasion of his daughter Sita's Swayamvara, in which she will choose her future husband. A competition is held in which princes and heroes from numerous kingdoms vie to display their prowess and win her hand. For many years, the unwieldy divine bow Shiva Dhanush has been idle because no one was strong enough to lift it, and King Janaka challenges the suitors to bend and string it. After all the suitors fail, Rama succeeds in mastering the bow, not only effortlessly bending and stringing it, but also breaking it into two pieces. He wins the hand of Sita, and after a sumptuous wedding attended by the illustrious from both heaven and earth, he returns with her to Ayodhya. Sita is the incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi and, in her worldly form, becomes the ideal helpmate and consort to Rama. Together they live the life after which all persons on earth model their own.

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