The citizens of Ayodhya loved all the four young princes of the realm, but they took special pride and pleasure in the eldest, Rama, as indeed, did the king, his father. Rama was an extraordinary person. Nature had been lavish in her gifts to the young prince. Not only was he handsome of stature and mien but even at this young age he was a fully enlightened being. The discourse given by sage Vasishta had been comprehended in its essence by him alone and he shone amongst the rest as a diamond in the midst of pebbles. Not only was he possessed of great physical beauty but his manners were also charming. He had a keen intellect and could be tender and sympathetic when the occasion merited it. Though he was soft and kind with the weak and the poor, he could also be stern and inflexible when it came to wrong-doers. Always self controlled and ever immersed in the Self, he was equable of temperament, never flared up in anger nor gave way to unseemly mirth. In fact, he was a paragon of all virtues, yet he was never puffed up with pride or arrogance, accepting everything as the gift of God.
For twelve years after his marriage, Rama led a carefree life enjoying the company of his charming wife and learning to handle the multifarious affairs of the state. It was at this time that Kaikeyi's brother came to take Bharata for a holiday to his home and Bharata left with
Shatrugna to his maternal uncle's abode.
Seeing his son Rama so full of noble qualities, king Dasaratha felt that it was his duty to install him as heir-apparent as soon as possible, for he himself was getting weak and old. Having once decided on this, he was in a desperate hurry to get it over. He consulted his ministers and decided on a day for the installation. Invitations were sent to all the kings but by a strange twist of fate, the king forgot to send invitations to two of his closest relations - his father-in-law, the king of the Kekayas and his son's father-in-law, king Janaka. Had the former been invited, Bharata and Shatrugna would naturally have accompanied them and the whole course of the story would have changed. By the time Dasaratha became aware of the omission, it was too late to send for them. Whether this omission was intentional or accidental, we cannot say. He consoled himself with the thought that they would hear the delightful news soon after.
There in the assembly of all the kings and prominent citizens of the city, Emperor Dasaratha proclaimed his intention of crowning his son Rama as Prince Regent, the following morning. The most auspicious time was chosen by the astrologers, when the planet Pushya was in ascendance. All the kings acclaimed the decision as a wise one.
He then turned to his Guru Vasishta and asked him to get everything ready for the installation on the following morning, for the function
was to start at break of dawn. The minister Sumantra was sent to escort Rama to the Assembly. Rama was the cynosure of all eyes as he walked into the hall with his stately gait. He prostrated before his father who, in turn, embraced him and bade him be seated on a special seat. He then apprised him of the honour in store for him on the morrow. Rama
was neither elated nor displeased by this pronouncement, but took the news calmly as was his nature. He returned to his own palace, cheered by the populace who had thronged to the palace gates, as soon as they heard the news.
The Assembly now broke up and the King retired to his own quarters. Thereupon he again sent his minister Sumantra to fetch Rama. The king was feeling agitated, since he had been told by the astrologers that he was passing through a very bad time, which might even end in his death, so he was anxious that Rama's installation should take
place without delay. Moreover he had remembered that at the time of his marriage with Kaikeyi, he had promised his father-in-law that her son would become king after him. He was frightened that if Bharata happened to be present at the time of the installation, he might demand his rights.
When Rama arrived, he told him that he should observe a fast along with Sita for the duration of the night and should keep vigil on a seal of darbha grass with a stone for a pillow. Rama agreed to everything and returned quickly to his own palace to give the news to Sita, but she was not to be seen. He went to his mother's quarters and found both Sita and Lakshmana's mother Sumitra with Kausalya. She had heard the news and was praying for the well-being of her son. Rama was blessed by his mother and Sumitra. He turned to Lakshmana and invited bin] to share the good fortune which was to come to him on the morrow After this he retired to his own apartments with Sita.
News of the impending coronation had spread like wildfire and people from all over the suburbs started pouring into the city of Ayodhya, excited at the prospective event, to which everyone looked forward with great joy since Rama was loved by all. Decoration of the city commenced immediately.
Thus ends the first Canto called "Impending Coronation" of the Ayodhya Kanda in the glorious Ramayana of the Sage Valmiki.