In course of time, Dasaratha's sons were born Rama of Kausalya and Bharata of Kaikeyi. Sumitra gave birth to twins, Lakshmana and Satrughna. She had drunk the divine payasam twice.
In proportion to the quantity of payasam drunk by the respective mothers, the sons are traditionally considered to be parts of Vishnu. Rama was thus half-Vishnu. But such calculations have no meaning, as it is impossible to measure the Infinite arithmetically. Sruit tells us that even a fraction of the Supreme Being is whole and complete by itself.
"Om Poornamadah Poornamidam Poornat Poornamudachyate Poornasya Poornamadaya Poornamevavasishyate."
"What is whole, this is whole; what has come out of the whole is also whole. When the whole is taken out of the whole, the whole still remains whole."
Dasaratha's four sons were given all the training prescribed for princes. Rama and Lakshmana were specially devoted to each other and so were Bharata and Satrughna. We can imagine that this special attachment arose out of the way the divine payasam was divided among the King's wives. Dasaratha was happy to see his four sons grow up strong, virtuous, brave and lovable and with all other princely qualities.
One day as the King was contemplating his sons' matrimony, ushers rushed in to announce that the great Sage Viswamitra had arrived to see him. Viswamitra was held in awe by all as the most powerful among rishis.
Viswamitra's arrival at Ayodhya was unexpected; and King Dasaratha stepped down from his throne and advanced a few paces respectfully to receive the sage.
Viswamitra was a king who attained sainthood through terrible austerities. He had long ago exhibited his spiritual powers by starting to create another Brahma and a rival universe. He had gone as far as the creation of new constellations, but was prevailed upon to stop by the entreaties of the alarmed gods.
Viswamitra, while he was king once went out with his army and chanced to visit Vasishtha's ashrama. The rishi cordially welcomed his royal guest and his huge entourage and extended to them all hospitality so sumptuous that the King wondered where all the rich abundance came from in a forest hermitage.
Questioned by him, Vasishtha called his cow Sabala and explained that she was the fountain of unfailing plenty.
Expressing gratitude to the sage, King Viswamitra said: "You must give me this cow as she would be more useful with me than with you. Such things of power and wealth by right belong to the King."
Now Vasishtha could not part with the divine cow. He gave many reasons and asked the King not to press his request. But the more unwilling Vasishtha was to give the cow, the more eager the King became to possess her.
Failing in his efforts to tempt or persuade the sage to part with the cow, Viswamitra became angry and ordered his men to seize the cow by force.
Sabala could not understand why she was being roughly handled and she was unwilling to go away from the sage and his ashrama. Shedding tears, she wondered how she had offended Vasishtha that he should stand by and look on while she was being dragged away. The cow easily put to flight the soldiers and sought refuge at the feet of the sage.
Moved by the piteous appeal of his beloved cow, who was like a younger sister to him, the sage said: "Bring forth soldiers to resist Viswamitra's men."
Sabala instantaneously did so, and the aggressors were soon worsted. Wild with rage, Viswamitra got into his chariot and, taking up his bow, rained arrows on the soldiers brought forth by the cow, but their strength was inexhaustible, and the royal forces suffered utter defeat. The sons of Viswamitra now chose Vasishtha himself as their target, only to be reduced to ashes.
Defeated and disgraced, Viswamitra then and there entrusted his kingdom to one of his sons and proceeded to the Himalayas to perform tapas, directing his devotions to Lord Siva to gain power with which to subdue Vasishtha.
So firm and steadfast was Viswamitra in his austerities that Lord Siva was pleased and appeared before him. He asked the king what his object was in performing tapas.
Viswamitra replied: "If you, Umapati, are satisfied with my tapas let me be blessed with divine arrows and be master of every weapon."
"So be it," said Siva, and gave Viswamitra all the weapons available to the Devas, Gandharvas, Rishis, Yakshas and the Demons.
Swelling with pride like the ocean, Viswamitra considered Vasishtha as already vanquished. He straightway made for the abode of the sage. Frightened at the fearful sight of the onrushing Viswamitra, Vasishtha's disciples and the animals in his ashrama ran helter-skelter.
Hit by the fire-weapon of Viswamitra, Vasishtha's ashrama was reduced to cinders.
Vasishtha regretted the turn of events, but determined to end the haughtiness of the erstwhile king, he faced him calmly with his Brahmadanda (holy staff) in hand.
Mad with rage, Viswamitra shot at him all the divine weapons he had acquired, but they were quenched as they approached the rishi's staff and were absorbed by it.
Viswamitra had but one more weapon in his armory, and that was the most powerful of all, the Brahmastra. As he hurled it against Vasishtha the world became wrapped in gloom as in some huge eclipse, and the very immortals trembled with fear. But the terrible astra itself was merged in the rishi's staff, making both it and the holy man glow with the glory they had absorbed.
Viswamitra stood dazed. Openly accepting defeat, he said: "Of what use is the Kshatriya's might in arms? With but a staff in his hand, this Vasishtha has nullified all my weapons. Lord Siva has indeed fooled me. There is no alternative for me but to become a Brahma Rishi like Vasishtha." So saying, he withdrew from the field of battle and proceeded south for more rigorous tapas.
For years and years Viswamitra went through terrible austerities. Pleased with his perseverance, Brahma presented himself before him. Advising Viswamitra that, as a result of his tapas he had risen to the position of a rishi among kings, Brahma vanished from the scene.
Viswamitra was disappointed that all his penance could get him only the status of Raja Rishi. Not content with anything but the highest the rank of a Brahma Rishi, he subjected him self to still more rigorous austerities in order that he might be acknowledged an equal of Vasishtha.