King Dasaratha, before he had his four sons – Rama, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrugana had a daughter – Shantha. Shantha's mother was Kausalya – Dasaratha's first wife.
King Dasaratha had a very close friend – Romapada, the King of Anga. Now Romapada loved children very much, he was unfortunately childless.
Romapada once came and talked to Dasaratha, 'Dasaratha! I have a favour to ask you!'
Dasaratha wondered what such a great king could want from him. 'Go ahead Romapada! What do you have in your mind?..'
Romapada looked at Dasaratha and at Queen Kausalya and felt slightly ashamed but continued, 'I have no children of my own.....I love children very much...You probably know that....' Dasaratha and Kauslaya looked at each other wondering where this was going as Romapada continued, 'Your daughter Shantha....She is so sweet and cute....' Romapada said a little desperately, 'Look....I know I cannot be as good a parent as you....But will you please....give your daughter in adoption to me....'
Romapada looked at Dasaratha and Kausalya with a little desperation. Kausalya was deeply astonished that Romapada would ask Dasaratha to give his only child in adoption. But then she realized that Romapada had figured that Dasaratha had three wives and he would have plenty more children. However Kausalya was troubled...To give her only child in adoption did not seem right....She then looked at Romapada once more. The more she looked at him the more she felt that he was a man driven to desperation....Romapada would not have come here unless he felt he had no other choice....
Kausalya looked out of her palace window and glanced at Shantha playing in the garden. She saw the king also studying Shantha with hungry eyes. She was moved with pity...The man actually needed her daughter...She realized. She turned to Dasaratha who was looking troubled and nodded her head and smiled. Dasaratha widened his eyes wondering whether he had understood his wife correctly...To give up his only child in adoption....
Dasaratha spoke to Romapada, 'King why don't you just rest here...I will talk with my wife and come back...' Romapada did not even hear Dasaratha. He was just looking at Shantha as he nodded his head. Dasaratha and Kauslaya went into their inner room, 'Queen Kausalya!' He said as soon as they entered inside the room, 'You don't mind giving your only daughter in adoption...'
Kausalya spoke softly, 'Dasaratha, did you see that man's face when he saw Shantha! We can have plenty more children if we want to...But Romapada genuinely loves Shantha....And Shantha also loves Romapada very much...I think she will be happier there....'
Dasaratha knew that his wife had a very good judgment and spoke only after considering all the sides of a problem. Slowly Dasaratha nodded his head. He went outside and saw that Shantha had finished playing and was coming inside the palace...She ran inside her parent's room and when she saw Romapada she squealed with delighted and ran to him. Romapada hugged Shantha.
Dasaratha knew that his wife had told him the right thing. He came outside and saw Shantha sitting on Romapada's lap talking with each other and giggling. 'Father!' Shantha said as she looked at Dasaratha and Kausalya come out of the room.
Dasaratha came towards the young child and looked at Shantha, 'Shantha! Do you like King Romapada...'
Shantha smilled and hugged Romapada once more, 'Oh yes! He is my favourite...'
Dasaratha asked softly, 'Would you like to go and live in Anga with him...'
Not understanding what he was asking, Shantha squealed with delight, 'You mean I will live with him...That is so nice....'
Romapada understood that Dasaratha was willing to give Shantha in adoption to him. He bowed to the king and queen. They performed the ceremonies and soon gave Shantha in adoption. Shantha was too young to understand much of the 'adoption'. The only thing she understood that she was going to live with Romapada henceforth....Her parents had told her that she would always come and visit them whenever she wanted....
Shantha happily went off with Romapada. There Romapada kept her so happily that soon she forgot almost everything about Kausalya and Dasaratha. For her Romapada was her father....The kingdom prospered and everyone was very happy.
When Shantha grew up to be a beautiful girl, fame of her beauty and intelligence spread all around. Unfortunately at this time a great famine struck the kingdom of Anga. Rains failed and the crops were down. The kingdom was almost in doldrums...
Wondering what to do, the king was talking to his minsters, when they told him about the sage Rishyasringa. The minister told King Romapada, 'Rishyasringa was the son of Sage Vibhandaka.' [In Sanskrit Rishyasringa name means 'the boy with horns on his head']
King Romapada asked, ' Vibhandaka? The son of Sage Kashyap? How could he have a son with horns in his head?'
The minister continued, 'Sir! Rishyasringa's mother is a deer sir! That is the reason, he has horns in his head....'
The king nodded, 'But how would he solve our problems?'
'Sir! Vibhandaka brought up his son in the forests near Anga!' The minister said calmly, 'Till date, Rishyasringa has never seen any women sir! The entire forests does not have any women or girls...Rishyasringa has not even seen another human other than his father sir!'
The king was stupefied that such a person could even exist! He nodded for the minister to continue. The minister cleared his throat and continued, 'Because...because Rishyasringa never had any distractions of any kind....he keeps meditating all the time...He has immense powers of meditation sir! He is so pure that wherever he goes...rains will follow...' The minister said earnestly.
The king frowned and nodded. He dismissed his court and then talked with Shantha in private, 'Shantha! You heard what the minister said...Any ideas?'
Shantha nodded, 'We could send the courtesans of our country...' [Courtesans were women who were trained in various arts, music and were very beautiful women....] 'Rishyasringa has never seen women...I think looking at them would make him feel different....Father!...' Shantha said resolutely, 'This Rishyasringa, once he comes to our country....I...I...' She said looking down and shyly, 'If he is willing and if it is ok with you, I would like to marry him....' Romapada was startled and happy at the same time. He slowly nodded as Shantha continued, 'I think such a man is great! And besides Sage Vibhandaka may be very angry if we bring Rishyasringa here...'
'So your marriage is one of the best ways of keeping Vibhandaka from getting more angry...' Romapada said softly. Shantha nodded but did not say anything.