Long ago, nobody knows when, in the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya, there ruled a powerful but noble and wise king, King Dasharatha. He belonged to the Raghu dynasty where "keeping promises was cherished as more important than life itself". It was all too well known a fact that his forefathers had sacrificed their lives for upholding the path of righteousness and truth - Dharma.
Story of Child Shravana
Once during his youth, this king Dasharatha went for hunting. He was expert in archery. He had also acquired a peculiar gift of hitting the arrow even in the dark or blindfolded at the sound of the movement of the target or the prey.
On the fateful day, as it happened, the king could not hunt any animal. He was tired and was bit dejected and irritated at this failure. Just then, from a distant pond there arose the sound, as if some animal were drinking water. The king could not directly see who was there, but he guessed that it must be some animal- his hunting prey! The usually well balanced mind of the king thought for a while to reach the pond and then hunt down the prey. But the king was so much tired that he decided to use his skill of hitting the arrow at the sound and finish his job. He put the arrow on the bow, waited for the next sound to reach his ear, and hit the target in a flash.
And what a tragedy! The arrow did hit the target, but the cry which tore the peace and tranquility of the jungle was not of an animal, but of a young boy! The kind heart of the king melted like the butter over fire.
Disturbed, he rushed to the pond and saw, as feared, a young boy fatally wounded with his arrow in the chest. Tears flowed down the eyes of the king. He took the boy in his lap, put a few drops of water in his mouth to wet his drying lips, and inquired: "O, young one, what brought you to this lonely place? Are you alone or, are there any co-travelers with you? What a grave mistake I have committed! How can I rectify this now?"
On hearing the king spoke thus, the boy pacified the king and said:
"O, King, I am a Brahmin boy. My name is Shravana. My parents are old and blind. I am taking them to pilgrimage all over this noble land of Bharata (India). I carry them on my shoulders in huge baskets attached to the bamboo with the ropes (kawad in our dialect). My parents are waiting at some distance for me. I was here to fetch water for them. I am their only support. Now I am worried that they may not survive after hearing the news of my death. I am also not sure whether you can help them because sooner or later they would come to know that you are responsible for all this. O, noble king, please take me to them as I am afraid my life-force may leave the body any time now."
With these words of great remorse and pathos, the young Shravana died in the lap of the king.
Confused and with heavy heart, tortured by the thought of the ignoble deed for which his impatience and indiscretion were responsible, the king slowly went to the old parents. He put the body of the Shravana in front of them. The sensitive ears of the father immediately guessed that something was amiss.
Said the old man: "Who is there? Surely these heavy steps are not of son."
The king replied, "O, noble Brahmin, you are right. I am king Dasharatha."
"Where is my son, O king. What has happened to him?", inquired the mother.
With great sorrow and heavy heart the king narrated the unfortunate event that led to the sad death of their son. Hearing this tragic news the mother collapsed there only, never to come back to life again. The father, under great agitation and distress, thus cursed the king:
"O King, you have indiscriminately killed a Brahmin boy. Our sorrow cannot be described in words; our son was our only support. You have left us with no choice but to die. You have separated us from our most beloved son. I send a curse to you, O king, that you shall also die experiencing the pain and suffering of separation from your son." Soon the old man also left his body for good.
What could the king do, but shed tears and return back to his palace! Years passed by and the king started forgetting this sad incidence in his life about which he did not mention to anyone including his three wives.