When it comes to Ramayan, It was not only the life of Shri Ram which was full of challenges in the preservation of Dharma, but his entire ancestor lineage who always stood up for Dharma and faced many challenges in life. In this genre, the story of King Aja, who was the father of Maharaj Dasarath is an interesting one.
Born as the son of Raghu, Aja mastered all the arts and sciences under the guidance of his gurus and grew up to be a humble prince and a courageous warrior like his father. He was coveted by many princesses but he had his heart set for the princess of Vidarbha, Indumati. Indumati was in reality an Apsara named Harini, who was cursed by Rishi Trinabindu for disturbing his penance. Thus she was born in the royal family of Vidarbha. When Indumati grew of age, her brother Raja Bhoj announced the swayamvar and invited Aja. On King Raghu’s advice, Prince Aja left for Vidarbha with his aides.
On their way, they camped on the banks of the Narmada River. A wild elephant bathing in the river made its way into the camp and wreaked havoc. To scare the elephant, Aja aimed and shot an arrow at its forehead. Instantly, the elephant turned into a Gandharv. He praised and thanked Aja for relieving him from his curse and in return taught Aja the Sammohana Vidya, a hypnotising skill.
Prince Aja thanked the Gandharv and went to the swayamvar. Many suitors assembled there paled before Aja’s beauty and began doubting themselves of being selected. Indumati entered the hall followed by her dear friend Sunanda introducing each king with his name and skill. When they reached Prince Aja, however, Indumati stood rooted to the spot struck by Aja’s grace and beauty. Realizing her mind was set of Aja, Sunanda helped Indumati garland Prince Aja. A delighted Raja Bhoja performed the marriage of Indumati and Aja with great pomp and splendour. Aja and Indumati then left for Ayodhya.
Jealous of the marriage, the dejected suitors planned to abduct Indumati and waylaid Aja on his way back, but were not match for Aja ‘s strength and power. Aja fought ferociously and used the Sammohana Vidya against his enemies. His enemies became stupefied and couldn’t move. A victorious Aja blew his conch and returned to a rejoicing Indumati and his friends, and resumed the journey to Ayodhya. Raghu embraced his son and blessed the couple. Sometime later, Raghu crowned Aja king and retired to the forest. Like his predecessors, Aja was a wise and just ruler. In due course, Indumati gave birth to a son, who was named Dasarath.
One day, Aja and Indumati were strolling in the garden, when a garland adorning Rishi Narad’s musical instrument fell from the heavens on Indumati. She collapsed on the spot, lifeless, thus relieved from her curse and reached heaven. Although Aja was devastated, he took up the responsibility to train his son in all the Vedas and Sastras and make him a warrior as powerful as him. Later he crowned Dasarath as the king of Ayodhya and left for the heavenly abode.
Aja stands as an example for responsibility of a father who raised his child Dasarath as a good person and made him capable of being a king needed for the righteous Ikshwaku clan.