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Story Of Birth Of King Bhagiratha

In the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya, a series of remarkable events unfolded that would eventually lead to the birth of King Bhagiratha, a pivotal figure in Hindu mythology.

After the death of his grandfather, King Sagara, Anshuman ascended the throne of Ayodhya. His reign, however, was short-lived as he soon renounced his royal duties to retreat into the forest. There, he devoted himself to penance and prayers, seeking the descent of the sacred River Ganga to purify the souls of his ancestors. Unfortunately, his efforts proved futile, and he passed away in the forest, just like King Sagara.

Anshuman's son, Dilip, succeeded him as the king. Despite his earnest attempts to secure an heir, he remained childless. In a bid to fulfill his father's unaccomplished mission, Dilip too ventured into the forest, leaving his two queens behind in Ayodhya. He engaged in severe penance to invoke Ganga, but his prayers remained unanswered. Dilip also met his end in the forest, childless and despondent.

The death of King Dilip without an heir troubled the gods profoundly. According to divine prophecy, Vishnu was destined to incarnate in this royal lineage as the son of King Dasharatha. The gods, concerned about the disruption of this prophecy, appealed to Shiva for intervention.

Heeding their plea, Shiva descended to Ayodhya. Through his divine blessings, one of Dilip's queens conceived. However, the birth was far from ordinary. Instead of a child, she gave birth to a formless mass of flesh, causing shock and dismay in the palace. In the dead of night, the queens, desperate and fearful, abandoned the mass on the banks of the River Sarayu.

The following morning, the sage Ashtavakra, known for his body bent in eight places, arrived at the Sarayu for his daily ritual bath. As he walked along the riverbank, he accidentally stepped on the discarded mass. Curious and slightly irritated, he examined it and spoke: "If this is a cruel prank, may the perpetrator be cursed. But if this is a deformed child, may he attain the divine form and grace of Vishnu."

Miraculously, the mass of flesh transformed into a handsome young boy right before the sage's eyes. The queens, who had been watching from a distance, rushed to embrace the boy, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. They prostrated before Ashtavakra, thanking him for the miraculous transformation, and took the boy back to the palace.

This miraculous child was named Bhagiratha. He would grow up to undertake the arduous task of bringing the River Ganga from the heavens to the earth, thereby redeeming the souls of his ancestors and cementing his place in the annals of history as a revered king and a devout seeker of dharma.

This story is found in the Bengali version of the Ramayana known as Krittibasi Ramayan.