In the north of India long ago was a rich and wonderful city, Ayodhya, capital of the kingdom of Kosala. The noble warrior King Dashrata ruled over the kingdom wisely. He was respected by friends and enemies alike and life in Ayodhya was peaceful and happy.
Only one dark cloud marred life for King Dashrata, he had not been blessed with an heir. He had three wives but still no son and he was now an old man. Dashrata prayed, above all else, for the gift of a son.
The gods had reason to hear King Dashrata's prayer. Far to the south on the island of Lanka was an evil kingdom ruled over by the most wicked demon of all, Ravana. That evil ten-headed demon had been granted a boon by the gods, that no god or demon would be able to end his life. Now Ravana and his evil horde rampaged through heaven and earth the gods had come to regret the granting of that wish. It would take no ordinary man to kill Ravana, what were the gods to do? It was then that Lord Vishnu came forward and offered to come to earth in human-form to rid the world of Ravana.
King Dashrata stood before his sacrificial fire offering up his prayer and the gods saw how to enact their scheme. A giant messenger appeared to Dashrata through the smoke and flames bearing a gift from the heavens. The messenger gave King Dashrata a golden pitcher with a silver lid; it was filled with celestial food to be fed to the king's three wives.
Dashrata rushed off to his first wife, Kaushalya, and made her eat half of the food. He then divided the other half between his other wives, Sumitra and Kaikeyi.
The gods had answered King Dashrata's prayer; Kaushalya gave birth to a beautiful son, Rama. Sumitra had twin bows, Lakshmana and Shatrughna, and Kaikeyi gave birth to a son, Bharata.
The boys grew to be brave and strong, and were devoted to each other. Lakshmana was inseparable from his elder brother, Rama, and Shatrughna and Bharata were always to be seen together.