Either in Grandmother’s tales or on television screens, we all have heard and watched Ramayana as we were kids. The Holy Book speaks of the victory of Good over Evil. Our knowledge of Ramayana is limited to the tales of faithful Lord Hanuman, unbeatable Lord Rama, purest of all Goddess Sita, fearless Lakshmana and the most intelligent Ravana.
The character we know nothing about is of Lord Rama’s Eldest Sister Shanta. Moreover, the cause of this unawareness is only little about her is written in Tenth Sarga of Balakanda of Valmiki Ramayana but there is no mention she is Dasharatha’s daughter.
तत्र चनीयमने तु विप्रे तस्मिन्महात्मनि |
ववर्ष सहसा देवो जगत्प्रह्लादायंस्तदा || २८ ||
वर्षेणैवागतं विप्रं विषयं स्वं नराधिपः |
प्रत्युद्गम्य मुनिं प्रीतः शिरसा च महीं गतः || २९ ||
अर्घ्यं च प्रददौ तस्मै नियतः सुसमाहितः |
वब्रे प्रसादं विप्रेन्द्रान्मा विप्रं मन्युराविशेत् || ३० ||
अन्तःपुरं प्रविश्यास्मै कन्यां दत्त्वा यथाविधि |
शान्तां शान्तेन मनसा राजा हर्षमवाप सः || ३१ ||
On the Muni reaching the city gates, Lord Indra sent showers to the kingdom of Romapada, which gladdened everyone’s heart. The rains betokened the arrive of the Rishi, so thinking Romapada went to receive the Rishi with all humility and welcomed him by offering the high seat, water for ablutions and fruits and water for consumption. He also prayed for a boon that his (Rishyashringa’s) father Maharishi Vibhandaka should not be angry with the king. Romapada then took the Rishi Kumar to the women’s quarters offered his daughter Shanta of the calm demeanor in marriage performing the rituals as prescribed.
It is Srimad Bhagavatam 9th Skanda that we get to know about her. So, time to upgrade your box of knowledge with some quick facts.
The Birth of Lord Rama’s Sister – Shanta
We come across different adaptations of Ramayana and each time we are left in astonishment as new facts are unveiled. The newfound truth is that Shanta was the firstborn of King Dasaratha and Queen Kausalya.
The Adoption and Upbringing
Shanta was looked after with all love and care. She was given all princess treatments yet, King Dashratha gave her in adoption to King Romapada. As Shanta grew she was given lessons of Veda, Warfare and Arts and Craft. With a poise and peaceful stature, she grew up to be an epitome of beauty with brains.
Why was she set off?
King Lompad was busy in a conversation with Shanta when he left the plea of a Brahmin unheard. Agitated by the insult of his devotee, Lord Indra ceased the falling of rain over the Kingdom of Anga. This was followed by a dreadful drought. On the other hand, King Dashratha needed a son who would take forward his legacy.The solution to these two problems was the performing of Yajna by a Brahmin who possessed powers that came through eternal chastity. One such Brahmin was Rishyasringa, the son of Vibhandhak Rishi who was brought up in complete isolation. He had no clue about the existence of women.To bring him so that he performs Yajna, Shanta decided to set off. Rishyasringa was bewildered at the vision of her beauty and intelligence. She gave up all luxuries and married him. At last, she succeeded in her task of bringing him and Yajnas were performed. During its recitation, it rained heavily in Anga. Afterward, Putrakameshti Yajna was performed in Ayodhya, the result of which were the four brothers, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughana.
The story of Shanta confirms to the fact that Woman indeed is a figure who isn’t afraid of sacrificing herself for her loved ones!
Adi Parva of Vashishtha Ramayana (Jnana Ramayana) also mentions the ancestry of Dashratha, his birth and the rise of his kingship.