After serving Nandini, the divine cow, King Dileepa and his Queen Sudhakshina had a son – Raghu. Raghu was handsome and inherited the qualities of both his parents. He learnt the art of warfare and diplomacy and was adept in the Vedas. His teachers were proud of him. Raghu was such a skilled warrior that his Guru specifically called Dileepa and praised Raghu’s fighting prowess.
Dileepa and Sudhakshina were very happy and proud of their son. Immediately after Raghu completed his education, Dileepa made Raghu the crown prince. Raghu was given more responsibilities in the state administration. Dileepa and Sudhakshina was thrilled to find that Raghu showed the same flair for administrating the kingdom.
Before handing over the kingdom to his son, Dileepa had one more wish to fulfill. He talked to Sudhakshina that evening, ‘Sudhakshina! I know it is time to make our son the king and retire to the forests…’
Sudhakshina however sensed that her husband had some other ideas, ‘Dileepa! Before we go to the forests, I think it is best if we fulfill all our desires…After retiring we cannot come back…’ Dileepa looked at Sudhakshina with understanding eyes and was glad that he had such a wonderful wife. He cleared his throat, ‘I want to…to do…a hundred Ashwamedha Yagnas…before…’
Sudhakshina smiled. She looked at Dileepa, ‘I don’t think there is anyone else in the whole world who has the right to do the Yagna more than you. You are a good king, a good man and people are very happy under your rule…Trust me,’ Sudhakshina said looking at Dileepa with pride, ‘You deserve to complete the 100 Ashwamedha Yagnas.’
Dileepa’s eyes shone with pride. Indra was the only person who had completed a hundred Ashwamedha Yagnas till date….
And so it started. As part of the Ashwamedha Yagna, a horse was allowed to roam anywhere around out the world. If the horse went inside another kingdom, the king of the other kingdom either had to fight with the army of the king performing the yagna or accept the supremacy of the king.
Dileepa had a strong army. Now he exercised its full use during the Yagna. Most of the kings were willing to accept the supremacy of the great king. However there were some kings who wanted to fight. Dileepa’s army fought with them and were victorious all the times. This way Dileepa completed 99 Ashwamedha Yagnas.
Before the hundredth Yagna was to start, Sudhakshina spoke to her husband, ‘Dileepa! This is the hundredth Yagna…’
Dileepa frowned. He had completed 99 Yagnas because of the support of his wife. His army was doing a good job…Why then would his wife have any doubts especially at the dawn of the final Yagna…Dileepa however had no doubts that his wife had something very important to say…He looked at her questioningly as Sudhakshina continued, ‘Dileepa! Its just that Indra is the only person who has completed a 100 yagnas…’ Dileepa nodded as Sudhakshina continued, ‘And Indra is a God…We are just humans….Do you really think Indra would like it if a mere human were able to complete a hundred yagnas….’ Sudhakshina finished hesitatingly.
Dileepa looked at Sudhakshina for a long time, ‘You think, Indra may create some hurdles so that I do not complete the yagnas?…’
Sudhakshina nodded as Dileepa looked outside the palace window at the morning sun. He could see the priests and the others were busily preparing for the yagna…
He slowly turned to his wife, ‘Raghu!’ He said as if it was the answer to all his prayers. ‘Raghu!’ He repeated as his looked at his wife, ‘This time Raghu will lead the army…He is old enough and remember what his guru told us when he completed his education…’
Sudhakshina slowly nodded. But she was anxious also. She was after all a mother too…Beut she remembered how proud the Guru had been while explaining what a good warrior Raghu was…If anyone could match up to Indra’s might it was Raghu…
Dileepa asked his guard to bring the crown prince there. Raghu was attending to work of the yagna, when the guard called him. Raghu immediately left and found his father and mother looking at him with peculiar expressions in their face. His father was looking at him as if he was the answer to all his prayers. His mother was looking at him with part worry and part pride. Raghu bowed to his parents and waited for his parents to talk.
His father spoke first, ‘Son! The final yagna starts today…’ Dileepa took a deep breath. ‘Your mother and I feel that this yagna…could be very…’ Raghu watched as his father fumbled for words. Raghu looked surprised and looked at his mother. Sudhakshina spoke, ‘Son! I think Indra would not like it if your father completed this yagna…I think he would create a lot of problems…’
Raghu looked at his mother and slowly nodded his head. What she said was not only possible, it was probable…highly probable…He nodded his head again to himself, ‘Father! Mother! Please give me the permission to lead the army…I think I…’
He saw his parents look at him with pride and realized that they had also wanted the same thing! He looked at them with a smile, as they blessed him.
After the ceremonies had started, much to the surprise of the army, their young crown prince lead them. All the soldiers had seen the young prince fight and felt it an honour that he was leading them…
Sudhakshina’s fear were totally justified. Indra, the king of the Gods was indeed worried…He had tried creating small hurdles in Dileepa’s yagna. However Dileepa had always managed to overcome them. Besides had gotten complacent. He did not think that a mere human would ever be able to complete one yagna, let alone a hundred! If Dileepa completed the last yagna, he would become as powerful as the king of Gods…that was something that Indra could not accept…A human as his equal…No! That could not be allowed to happen…
So Indra came to earth. He came to the place where the horse was roaming. He waited patiently as the army rested for the night. As the army was sleeping for the night, Indra turned invisible and stole the horse. He transported the horse with him to the heavens…
The next morning Raghu woke up with a feeling of dread. He could not shake out the feeling that he had missed something when he was asleep…He was about to get up and go out of his tent, when he saw a guard running towards his camp with fear in his face. Raghu knew something was wrong…horribly wrong. The guard came inside and hurriedly greeted the prince, ‘Prince! The horse….!’
Raghu did not wait for the guard to complete his sentence. He pushed the guard aside and ran to end of the soldiers tent. The horse was gone….Raghu stared with disbelief. How on earth did anyone take the horse, crossing all of them…. Raghu bent down to study the tracks. He saw the tracks of the horse and ..nothing else…
Raghu looked desperately around…He was dejected when he heard a tinkling of bells…Raghu smiled though he was desperate. He could recognized that tinkle anywhere….Without turning his back he knew that Nandini was behind him. Nandini, the divine cow whom his father and mother had served. Nandini because of whom he was born! Nandini often came to visit Raghu. Raghu could not explain it, but he loved Nandini as much as he loved his mother…
He turned and bowed to Nandini. He realized Nandini’s coming was not a coincidence. Nandini smiled at him. Raghu ‘saw’ in his mind’s eye, what had happened to the horse…
Raghu pursed his lips angrily…His mother’s suspicions were true…That coward Indra had taken the horse when they were asleep in the middle on the night! Raghu seethed with rage…He was going to teach Indra a lesson.
Raghu with the help of Nandini took his army to the heavens. Thanking Nandini Raghu took his army and challenged Indra to a fight
Indra was surprised by the daring of Raghu. Indra was however ready. A terrible battle ensued between them. Indra fought and to his surprise found the young prince pretty much his equal! Any move that Indra made, Raghu countered and fought back!
In the end, Indra yelled, ‘I did not want to, but you leave me with no choice! I am going to use my Vajrayudha against you…’
Raghu’s army shivered when they heard this….This was the great Vajrayudha which had brought down the Vritrasura. It was one of the most powerful weapon known to humans….
Raghu snorted, ‘Indra! Just because you are the king of Gods, you think you can scare me! Do what you can, I am not retreating without the horse!’
Indra was surprised! Till date nobody had even dared to fight against him…Now this boy was willing to fight him inspite of his powerful Varayudha! Indra felt a grudging respect for the boy…He somehow felt that there would be no pride in winning over such a boy…He pulled up flag of truce and stopped fighting.
Raghu looked suspiciously. But is was custom to stop fighting when the other side put up a truce.
Indra wanted to meet him in person. Accompanied by his guard, Raghu met Indra. Indra looked at him with respect, ‘Raghu!’ Indra said without any preamble, ‘You are the bravest person I have ever seen….I do not wish to fight you…’
Raghu looked surprised as Indra continued, ‘You are fighting for the horse, ask for anything else and I will give you…Anything other than the horse…’
Raghu pondered over some time. Raghu did not mind fighting…But he realized that his men were afraid. They could not fight against the Vajrayudha…What could he ask…other than the horse….
Raghu looked at Indra and spoke, ‘If you cannot give me horse, make sure my father gets the fruits of the completion of the Ashwamedha Yagna! Let it be known that Dileepa completed a 100 Ashwamedha yagnas…’
Indra looked at the determined boy and realized that nothing could change his mind…Indra nodded his head…Dileepa now got the fruits of completing a hundred yagnas.
Raghu had done the impossible! He had made sure his father had the results of the completion of the Ashwamedha yagna. He returned home a triumphant man!. His army joyously spread his stories all over the kingdom. Dileepa embraced his son. Sudhakshina blessed her son.
The whole kingdom was happy as Raghu was crowned as their king. After this Dileepa and Sudhakshina retired to the forests, a happy couple, completing all their wishes.