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The Story of Asmanjas – The Eldest Son of King Sagara

The tale of Asmanjas, the eldest son of King Sagara, is an intriguing narrative found in the Bengali version of the Ramayana. This story weaves elements of devotion, divine intervention, and complex human emotions.

King Sagara's Devotion and Divine Blessing

King Sagara of Ayodhya was a revered monarch, but his reign was marred by the absence of an heir. Driven by his desire for children, Sagara decided to retreat into the forests to meditate and pray fervently. His devotion was directed towards Lord Shiva, the powerful deity known for granting boons to his devotees. After rigorous penance, Shiva appeared before the king, pleased with his devotion. Sagara expressed his wish for many sons, and Shiva, with a knowing smile, blessed him with a prophecy: the king would be the father of sixty thousand sons. Elated, King Sagara returned to his kingdom with renewed hope and joy.

The Birth of Asmanjas and the Sixty Thousand Sons

King Sagara had two wives, Sumati and Kesini. In due course, both queens conceived. Kesini gave birth to a handsome and intelligent son named Asmanjas. In contrast, Sumati gave birth to an unusual mass of flesh, from which sixty thousand sons miraculously emerged. Despite the oddity of their birth, these sons were welcomed with great pride and celebration by the king.

The Curse of the Devas

King Sagara, overjoyed with his progeny, began to boast about his sixty thousand sons. His excessive pride and arrogance did not go unnoticed by the Devas (divine beings), who were irked by his hubris. In their displeasure, they cursed that Sagara's sons would meet an untimely and tragic death, casting a shadow over the king's happiness.

Asmanjas' Rebellion and Banishment

As the sons of Sagara grew, they occupied much of the king's attention. Meanwhile, Asmanjas, the eldest, focused on his education and spiritual growth. During his studies, Asmanjas realized that Vishnu, another principal deity in Hindu religion, was the ultimate truth. This profound understanding inspired him to renounce worldly life and seek spiritual enlightenment. However, being the eldest son, Asmanjas was expected to stay and fulfill his duties towards the kingdom.

Frustrated by his circumstances, Asmanjas devised a plan to liberate himself. He began to behave in ways that would provoke the ire of the people and his father. He pushed his brothers into ponds and rivers, broke pots of women carrying water, and set fire to people’s goods. His actions caused great distress among the citizens, who soon approached King Sagara with their grievances.

Furious and disappointed, Sagara saw no option but to banish his troublesome son. Asmanjas, who had anticipated this outcome, left the kingdom gladly, finally free to pursue his spiritual journey.

The Legacy of Asmanjas

Despite his controversial actions, Asmanjas’ legacy continued through his son, Anshuman. After the tragic demise of Sagara's sixty thousand sons, it was Anshuman who embarked on a quest to find them. This search eventually led to the descent of the sacred river Ganga to Earth, which purified the souls of the deceased sons, granting them salvation.

The story of Asmanjas reflects the complexities of duty, familial expectations, and the quest for spiritual truth. It highlights the struggles between personal desires and societal responsibilities, and how divine interventions shape the destinies of individuals and their families. The tale serves as a poignant reminder of the virtues of humility, the consequences of pride, and the enduring power of devotion.