Chapter VIII - King Dasaratha decides on the horse-sacrifice
Unfortunately, the King though resourceful and righteous, did not have a son. A son was needed to maintain the clan. The King badly grieving. He thought deeply. He came up with the idea to perform the customary Aśvamedha[i] sacrifice to be blessed with a son. He consulted his Ministers and the other wise men. He made up his mind to proceed with the task. He summoned the Counselor Sumantra and ordered him to collect all priests and the family preceptors quickly. Sumantra strode along and invited all scholars like Suyajña, Vāmadeva, Jābāli, Kāśyapa and the family priest Vasiṣṭha. King Daśaratha greeted them respectfully and spoke these sincere words:
“Because I am not blessed with a son, I have decided to host a horse sacrifice ritual for the purpose. I wish to host the ritual as prescribed by the scriptures. Kindly guide me such that I might succeed in this effort!” The assembly led by Sage Vasiṣṭha expressed their happiness and roared in joy “Well said!” They told: “O’ King, let the requisite materials for the sacrifice be collected and let a piece of land be selected on the northern banks of the River Sarayū. Let the horse be released. You would certainly receive your intended desire. It is gratifying that such noble and religious ideas did occur to you!”
The King was very happy to hear the words from the wise men. Being joyful and anxious, he ordered the Ministers to assemble the prescribed materials. He ordered: “Let the sacrificial horse be released along with the escorting priest. Let the sacrificial ground be selected on the northern banks of the River Sarayū. Let the propitiatory rituals be conducted as prescribed in the scriptures!” Then he alerted: “this sacrifice is doable by any King, but no errors should be committed during the performance. There would be many wicked priests who would like to spoil the sanctity by looking for minor omissions! When the sacrifice is not done according to the rules, the performer faces peril. Hence the sacrifice should be completed with the proper procedures. I have full confidence in your skills and capability!”
“So, be it!” the Ministers responded. The priests and the wise men echoed the same response. The priests took leave of the King and returned to their residences. The King addressed the Ministers again: “Let the ritual as prescribed by the priests be completed with due care!”
The King returned to the palace and conveyed the message to his wives. He said “I plan to perform a sacrifice for the sake of obtaining a son. Let me request you to prepare yourself to participate!” Hearing the pleasing words from their husband, the lotus-like faces of the queens glowed as lotus flowers recover at the end of winter!
[i] Horse sacrifice is a massive Vedic ritual, designed to fetch desired results.