Several centuries have passed, yet some of the epics in Sanskrit and Tamil are deeply etched in the mind and memories of people, cherished even today and sails through generations after generations either by word of mouth stories or in print form. They include famous five epics in Tamil, known as Panchakavyas (meaning five epics) like ‘Silapathigaram’, ‘Manimegalai’, ‘Kundalakesi’ ‘Valayapathi’ and ‘Seevaga Chinthamani’, and Maha Kavyas(meaning Great epic) like Kalidasa’s ‘Kumara Sambava’ and ‘Raguvamsa’ in Sanskrit, ’Keerarjuneeya’ by Bharavi, ‘Sisupalavatham’ by Magar and ‘Naishatha charithra’ by Sri Harsha, all composed either in Devanagari or in Sanskrit languages.
Raghuvamsa basically traces the roots of the great lineage of Lord Rama commencing with his earliest antecedents and his descendants and encapsulates the principal events in the life of each one of the main players of the dynasty. Thus Raghuvamsa unfolds the dynasty to which Rama belonged and whose lineage originally emerged from the Solar Dynasty in which Ikshavaku was first born on earth to establish Ikshavaku lineage, which later earned the name Raghu Vamsam (lineage) i.e generations of Raghu. It was from the period of Raghu, one of the key Kings in Ikshavaku lineage, that the Ikshavaku dynasty came to be called Raghu Dynasty or Raghu’s lineage. It becomes clear from Raghuvamsa, that the saintly Sages like Vashishta and Kaushika lived even before Rama was born on earth.
The greatest poet and dramatist of any epoch, Kalidasa’s life and history is mired in mystery and is sketchy. Historians speculate that Kalidasa may have flourished in the sixth century B.C. Legent has it, Kalidasa, grown up without even formal education is said to have received sudden and extraordinary gift of wit mastery in Sanskrit with the grace of Goddess Kali of Ujjain. Numerous works have been attributed to his authorship, works excelling the works of other masters in the field of literature done in Sanskrit language. Every one of his compilations were masters of their own. More than this nothing is known with certainty about the life of Kalidasa. It is intriguing that even scholars have no answers to what prompted Kalidasa to compose Raghuvamsa and the period when it was composed.
It is widely believed that the epic in original as composed by Kalidasa, period of compilation believed to be tenth century, consisted of 25 Cantos out of which only lesser than 19 Cantos are available and the rest reportedly unfound till date. Also the compilation ends abruptly at one point, without stretching to the successors who ruled in the said lineage. Therefore details on the antecedents or decedents as contained in the missing six Cantos still remain mystery. It is very interesting to note that prior to the compilation of Raghuvamsam, no other work in any languages mentioned the life and history of Rama’s clan. It therefore raised an interesting and unanswered question as to how in such a situation Kalidasa was able to compile Raghu’s lineage in such detail?
Another important aspect that adds credit to Raghuvamsa has been that the epic as composed by Kalidasa in the 10th century has been translated into Tamil language for the first time in the 15th or 16thcentury, that too by a Lankan Tamil King named Arasakesi, in holy alliance with Singai Pararasasegaram, the then Emperor of Jaffna in Lanka, who ably supported Arasakesi in all aspects of translation. Also it is stated that the said work of Arasakesi in Tamil was first released in the Courtyard of Raghunatha Nayak, Emperor of the then state of Tanjore in Tamilnadu. This therefore strengthens the belief that both India and Lanka may have thrived together at one point of time in history. Also the very fact that more compilations in the language of Tamil has been found in several parts of Lanka suggests that both Tamilnadu and the southern parts in Lanka may have been ruled together by several Kings belonging to Tamil race and therefore the first translation of Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsam in Tamil by a King in Lanka has not surprised the scholars.
The unspelt and hidden moral message of Raghuvamsa has been that when the Universe was created by the Supreme Brahman, it was doomed that Maha Vishnu, one of the Trinities shall incarnate in ten forms on earth to destroy the evil forces at different periods of time. Out of the ten forms, Vishnu shall incarnate as Parasurama, Brahmin by birth in his 6th form to destroy the Kshatriyas in revenge, in seventh, he shall incarnate as Rama to destroy Ravan, a Brahmin by birth, and later to incarnate as Gautama Buddha to uplift the downtrodden to crush the domination of higher castes on them. Though Brahman initially created four varnas (division) in the name of caste namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra, in order to establish that none of the divisions are either inferior or superior compared to others and all are equal before Brahman or Supreme, the drama with ten incarnations have been staged with Vishnu incarnating in different divisions of the society in which each ones’ supremacy in different periods of time has been projected. Kalidasa’s work mentions in brief Vishnu, Rama and Parasurama revealing this aspect.
However the aspects besides, Raghuvamsa reveals how Vishnu had to sail through several interwoven sequences of events before incarnating as Rama and what length of period he had to travel on earth sailing along with each of the events. This thus further reveal another important aspect involved, that what Kalidasa produced was not just a simple document, but much remains beyond. One has to accept that Kalidasa must have been divine blessed and thus was able to absorb the life story of lord Rama, lest the divine aspects of Rama would have remained unknown to the society.
Though Raghuvamsa bares the lineage of Rama, unless one deeply read the web of sequences that include the origin of his race, how his race initially known as Ikshavaku dynasty later came to be known as Raghuvamsa, series of events occurred before the Supreme incarnated in a particular form for fulfillment of a particular task doomed etc, the epic cannot be fully cherished.
As per the mythological story in Vishnu Purana, Lord Brahma first created King Daksha out of his thumb. Sun God was son of Daksha and Aditi Daksha’s wife and mother of Sun God. From Sun was born King Manu to establish Sun Dynasty or Suryavamsa (or Solar Dynasty) initially. Bhageerath who brought Ganges to earth, Saintly sage Vashishta, King Harichandra who always held promise to be sacrosanct, Emperor Sibi in an act of compassion even to plants, placed his chariot by the side of plant Jasmine to enable her creep on it, and great King Sagara were some of the important personalities belonging to Suryavamsa
In Thretha Yuga, Ikshavaku, grandson of Sun God was enthroned as Emperor of Ayodhya on earth which lay on the banks of river Sarayu with Koshala as the capital city, and the successive Kings who sat on the throne in his Kingdom were came to be called Ikshavaku dynasty. Though the Ikshavaku dynasty originated from the Solar race, since Ikshavaku was sent to earth to rule, his lineage was called Ikshavaku Dynasty instead of Solar Dynasty.
Scholars opine that prior to Rama, in all 118 Kings ruled the Kingdom under Ikshavaku Dynasty , Rama being the 58th amongst them. It was after the reigning of a key King namely Raghu, great grandson of King Dilipa who occupied the first throne in the Ikshavaku race, that the title Ikshavaku Dynasty disappeared and came to be called as Raghuvamsa (Raghu’s race).
Birth of Raghuvamsam-
King Dilipa: First in line
Vaivachutha was son of Adithya, who descended from the first King of solar dynasty Manu, son of Sun God and their lineage was originally called Ikshavaku Dynasty. Many Kings ascended and descended in Ikshavaku lineage, the one most important King amongst them King Dilipa who sprang like Nectar in the Milk Ocean. Dilipa was highly pious and benevolent, fathomless in mind and manners, patient and generous, loved and honored by his folks and whose glory other kings despaired to reach. Though in throne he surpassed the fame of those kings existed around, but unfortunately Dilipa was unblessed to have a son to succeed him. The Royal King’s wife was Sudakshina and the greatest among the sage of Sages, Vashishta, their chief preceptor (Kula Guru or chief priest as they say).
Worried, they were unblessed in the issue of a heir to succeed in the lineage of Ikshavaku, they went to their Raja guru Vashishta to seek his counsel on this vexed issue. Dilipa and Sudakshina bowed before the saint and clasped his feet in reverence after which Dilipa spoke ‘Great saint, our mentor, you have been like a beacon to us and guide us whenever and wherever needed. Your blessings are the strength of our prosperity and sans of your blessings, we would have been mere dust. We receive sufficient and timely rainfall to cheer the drought consumed crops. My subjects have neither fear nor pain from evils. Holy sage, we owe all these credits to your patronage and your continued guidance keeps us rule the state free of suffering. Yet holy protector, like agony in ecstasy, in the midst of air of prosperity, childless state of ours torment us forbidding offer of even ‘Pinda dhaan’ (Sacrificial food offering) to our ancestors for we are childless. Denial of Pinda Dhaan shall attract their curse and impede our path to Heaven. Oh, master, needless to proclaim our generosity to our subjects granting all they need and lend our helping hands in their helplessness. What harm have we done for our childless state distressing our heart? Help us our protector, be compassionate and bless us rid off this distress state, no matter how we shall pay for this debt’.
Sage Vashishta said ‘Dilipa, the cause of your pain is your own, unwittingly committed a sin in the past for which you earned the curse from Divine Cow Kamadenu. Once in the past, while returning from Heaven, impressive of a pleasing offspring from your queen, you failed to pay obedience to the Divine Cow Kamadenu and hurriedly passed by her side neglecting her. Enraged by your act of indifference, Divine Cow released a curse in agony that for the unbearable insult heaped on her, you shall remain childless till you purge your sin by paying due reverence to her posterity’. Her curse is the cause of your present state and the womb in your spouse remains dry till now’ thus concluded the sage.