There once lived a king whose name was Dileepa. Dileepa was taught by the great Sage Vasishta and he was quick learner. He mastered the art of warfare, diplomacy and state administration in no time. Dileepa then became the king of Ayodhya. He was a just king and was loved by all. There was peace and prosperity in his kingdom and the people loved him. Dileepa was also courageous and valiant.
King Dileepa looked after his subjects like they were his own children. However the King and his Queen Sudhakshina had one worry. The king was getting old and he had no children. The King was worried that no one would look after the kingdom after he was gone...
So he and his wife went to Sage Vasishta. Sage Vasishta was the royal sage-teacher of the Dileepa's kingdom. He was a Brahmarishi [the person who has attained the highest level of knowledge]. King Dileepa felt that if anyone could solve his problem, it was Sage Vasishta.
King Dileepa knew that he could not take his entire army to see the sage as it would disturb the peace of the ashram. So he and his wife alone went to the see the Sage.
The sage was very happy on seeing King Dileepa and his queen. He welcomed the royal couple and gave them fruits and milk. After the king and the queen had eaten, Sage Vasishta asked, 'Dileepa, what a pleasant surprise! You have come after such a long time and that too without your army or your personal guards. You look worried...Is everything all right in your kingdom....?'
Dileepa shook his head and said, 'Nothing is wrong with the kingdom, sir! With people like you to guide me, I seriously do not think anything can go wrong...'
Sage Vasishta smiled at the king for his flattery . 'Then...what is the reason Dileepa?' He asked gently. The king looked at Sudhakshina who nodded her head encouragingly. The king drew a deep breath and continued, 'Sir! It is just that...With my wife's help, I have done my best to take care of my people as a king...But...'
Sage Vasishata nodded his head as Sudhakshina took up and started speaking, 'Sir! What will happen to our kingdom after us sir...' She said with anguish, ' We do not have any children, who can become the ruler after us...'
King Dileepa looked at the sage and said, 'We cannot just leave our people without a ruler sir! We need to have a child and train the child to rule the kingdom well...'
Queen Sudhakshina looked at the King and then at the sage and said, 'We have not knowingly caused any harm to anyone, but then we are still childless. We want to know the reason for this sir...'
Sage Vasishta nodded his eyes and closed his eyes. In his mind's eye, he replayed everything he knew about the King. Then with the help of his Brahman Shakti [The Force around us] he came to know what was wrong...He opened his eyes as King Dileepa and Queen Sudhakshina looked eagerly at the Sage. The Sage smiled a little sadly, 'It is true King and Queen...You have lived an exemplary good life... But....'
The King and the Queen frowned and looked at each other and looked at the Sage. The Sage said, 'Dileepa, do you remember going to the heavens once to help Indra during a battle...'
The King frowned and nodded, 'Yes sir...'
The sage said, 'While you were there, the cow Kamadhenu was there near Indra's palace...'
The king spoke flabbergasted, 'I never knew that...'
The Sage nodded, 'Yes! That is the problem...You see Kamadhenu was there and you ignored her...She felt that you deliberately ignored her...'
The king shook his head anxiously, 'No....'
The sage nodded his head and held up his hands, 'Peace!' as the King immediately fell silent. 'It is because of Kamadhenu's curse, you are childless...'
Queen Sudhakshina gasped looking at the king in alarm. She then turned to the Sage, 'Sir! My husband would never do such a thing purposely...'
Sage Vasishta said patiently, 'I believe you, my Queen...But Kamadhenu was very angry...Hence the curse...'
Queen Sudhakshina looked at the sage, 'Is there any way the curse will be lifted?'
Sage Vasishta smiled as his eyes twinkled, 'As a matter of fact, yes!' Both the king and queen looked at the sage with surprise as the sage continued, 'Kamadhenu has a daughter – Nandini, she lives here in my ashram...' The king and the queen looked around and did not see any cow as the sage continued, 'She is right now gone to the Kingdom of Varuna....' The king and the queen looked unhappy as the Sage continued, 'She is expected any minute...In fact...' The Sage said with delight, 'Look there she is! Nandini is coming back...'
The king and the queen looked eagerly as they saw a majestic cow entering into the ashram. The Sage continued, 'King Dileepa and Queen Sudhakshina,' He said formally, 'Take care of Nandini, like you would look after your own child... I am sure that once you take care of Nandini, she would remove her mother's curse...
The King and the Queen both looked at the Sage and fell on his feet. The sage blessed them.
The royal couple then went to see Nandini, in her cow shed. They fell on the Nandini's feet and the king said looking at the cow with love, 'I will look after you...Nandini...as well as I have looked after my own subjects...'
'Me too...' said the Queen.
The king and the queen stayed behind in the ashram. They sent word to their ministers that they would be staying in the ashram and asked their minsters to look after the affairs of the kingdom.
In the morning, the king and the queen woke up early. The queen worshiped the cow. The king then set out with the cow as the queen cleaned the cow shed. The king then washed the cow and took her out to graze. Though he was king, Dileepa did not mind grazing a cow. In fact he enjoyed it. The King felt proud that his wife who was the princess of Magadha before she had married him, did not mind cleaning the cow shed.
King Dileepa then followed the cow everywhere. He made sure that Nandini was well fed. King Dileeppa slept where the cow slept, ate when the cow ate and took very good care of it.
When the king and Nandini returned to the ashram, the queen once again worshiped the cow and took good care of it till it slept for the night....
Twenty-one days passed like this...On the twenty-second day after Queen Sadhakshina finished her prayers, the king and Nandini set out. However this time, the cow did not go by the usual way. She went inside another forest and did not just stop there. She went deeper and deeper inside the forest. Dileepa was on alert, as he followed the cow.
There was a very beautiful tree, where Nandini stopped. She started grazing there. King Dileepa was just admiring the beauty of the forest, when he heard a loud roar. The king's eyes widened when he saw a ferocious lion aim for Nandini. The king tried reaching for his bows and arrows and surprises! - he could not even lift his arms. The king looked even more surprised, when the lion spoke to him, 'King! Go back! It is my duty to protect this tree! I will kill this cow, who is hurting this tree...'
The king was numb with astonishment and spoke slowly, 'Who are you? What is happening?'
The lion spoke again, 'This tree is Goddess Parvati's favourite tree...She gets very upset, if any one hurts this tree, so she sent me here to protect this tree...Now this cow has come here and I will kill it...'
The king was still unable to reach for his weapons, spoke slowly, 'Please do not do that....' The king said desperately, 'It is my job to protect this cow...Nothing should happen to it...Please forgive the cow, if she has caused any damage to the tree..please...'
The lion shook his head, 'No...King, you forget...I am a lion...It is my job to hunt other animals...If I just let every animal which comes to me, go away...How am I supposed to eat...'
The king thought fast and spoke, 'Listen lion, king of the jungle...listen to me...You want some food, I am here.. let the cow go..You can eat me instead...' The king said earnestly.
The lion almost laughed, 'You will sacrifice yourself for a cow?...'
The king nodded, 'I am a king...I protect...not just people, I protect everyone, who comes to me for protection...This cow is my responsibility...Please eat me instead, let the cow go...'
The lion looked puzzled at the king and spoke again, 'King Dileepa listen to me...Sage Vasishta would not be unhappy, if you told him that I had eaten the cow...You can still walk away from all this...'
The king firmly shook his head, 'Please take me and let the cow go...'
The lion looked at the firm king and finally nodded, 'OK...King..I will eat you and let the cow go...' The lion was about to pounce, when the king closed his eyes. He knew it was over...But he was not too worried...He had done the right thing..He knew Sudhakshina would understand...She would rule after him...The king's only regret was that their kingdom did not have an heir...But the there was nothing he could do about that now...
The king opened his eyes, when he felt a garland on his neck. Surprised he opened his eyes to find that the lion was gone...It had just disappeared. The king turned around alarmed looking for Nandini and saw her calmly looking at him with a smile on her face.
The king breathed normally and sighed...He had to get Nandini home fast.... The king found that he was also able to move. That was when Nandinii spoke...
'I am pleased with your devotion...king...Your sense of duty astounds me...You were willing to sacrifice yourself for anybody under your protection...I am pleased with that...'
The king looked baffled as Nandini continued, 'Everything that you saw here, was a maya – an illusion created by me to test you....I am pleased to say, you passed...'
The king looked eagerly at Nandini as she smiled, 'Yes! Go home with your queen, Dileepa. My mother's curse is gone...You will have a son, which the whole world will look up to...'
The king bowed to Nandini. They went to the ashram that evening, where the king told everything to the queen. They worshiped Nandini. The next day with the permission of Sage Vasishta, they left for their kingdom...
Sudhakshina gave birth to a fine son – Raghu. Raghu was also a fine ruler and great man, just like his father...Raghu had a son by name Aja, Aja's son was Dasaratha. Dasaratha had four sons – Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan – the heros of the Ramayana. Raghu, the son of Dileepa was such a great man, that the whole dynasty was named after him...Even now, Ram is sometimes called as Raghuvamshi which means from the ancestry of Raghu...