Rama was very much a historical figure who ruled from Ayodhya a few thousands of years ago. The details of the line of kings before and after Rama are available in olden texts. The kings associated with some of the places have a bearing on the names of those places even today.
The lineage until Rama is given in Valmeeki Ramayana.
39 kings were there in the lineage before Rama. But counting from Ikshvaaku, the founder of the Ikshvaaku dynasty, there were 34 kings before Rama. This lineage is told by Vasishta, the Kula Guru, at the time of Rama's marriage, as it was the custom to present the lineage of forefathers to the assemblage of dignitaries and the people of the bride's household.
This lineage takes into account only the eldest of the family who inherits the throne. King Sibi comes in the lineage of siblings and not the first born. In lineage comes Chola varman who founded the Chola dynasty in the South. Taking the name from Sibi, the Cholans called themselves as Sembians.
The kings who succeeded Rama are given in Raghu Vamsa by Mahakavi Kalidasa.
24 kings are mentioned after Rama in Raghu vamsa which was named after King Raghu, the ancestor of Rama who made military expeditions to all parts of Bharat. He went to the west, to the region of Indus river and far beyond and conquered the lands there.
He went to the east India, then turned south and from there he went along the west coast of India and reached back to his place. King Raghu has thus established his rule throughout Bharat varsha. According to Kalidasa, Rama is the great grand son of Raghu. He starts the narration from king Dileepan and then goes to Raghu.
Raghu's son was Aja. In the narration of Aja's marriage, there comes the description of swayamvar of Indumathi. Aja takes part in the Swayamwar and wins her hand. The interesting piece of information for us in this part of Raghu vamsa is that the Pandyan king also took part in the Swayawar!
There is a detailed description of that king in Raghu vamsa. The bride's friend Sunanda who introduced the kings said of the Pandyan king as one who had rich lands. If the princess chose to marry him she would have only his land as her co-wife (other wife of the king). By a specific mention like this, it is implied that the Pandyan kings were the up-holders of Eka patni vratham.
Another interesting piece of information is that the Pandyans had won over Ravana. Ravana had bought peace with the Pandyan kings. This information is also found in the copper plates unearthed at Sinanmanur which lists down the name and feats of Pandyan kings.
However there is confusion over the time periods here. Victory over Ravana is mentioned at a place where Rama's grandfather was seeking his bride. Rama was 2 generations away from that time and was yet to be born. But Ravana's early tiff with Pandyans finds a mention there.
I think the Kavi had added up the information that happened later. While composing the verses in praise of the kings who participated in the swayamwar, he had cobbled up the valiant feats connected with the king's dynasty and attributed them to the king in focus.
Rama's grand father Aja marries Indumati in the Swayamwat. His son was Dasaratha to whom Rama was born.
From Dileepan to Rama, the lineage is not completely told by Kalidasa as Valmeeki does.
But Kalidasa explains what happened after Rama's times.
Let us see what happened to the sons of Rama and his brothers.
All the brothers had 2 sons each.
Bahu-shruta – becomes the king of Mathura.
Subahu – becomes the king of Vidisha
Bharatha and his sons:-
Then Rama made over the country named Sindhu to Bharata with full sovereign authority, at the message of Yudhajit, the maternal uncle of Bharata. [15-87 Raghu vamsa]
Note here that what is now being told as the bastion of Dravidians was originally ruled by Bharatha! His maternal uncle's home is in Kekaya and the route to go that place is described in Valmeeki Ramayana. That route goes through Indus, Baluchisthan and crossing across Bolan pass and then reaching the fringes of Caspian sea. Kekaya was somewhere in today's Kazhaksthaan. We can expect archeological proof of "Aryan" in Kazhaksthaan soon which was actually the home town of Kaikeyi.
Kalidasa proceeds to say that in the Sindhu region Bharata conquered the Gandharva-s in battle and compelled them to take up lutes forgoing their warlike weapons. [15-88] The Gandharvas are semi-divine beings who are the heavenly singers and musicians. They were the dwellers in the country known by the name of Sindhu i.e. the country situated on both sides of the river Indus. The Gandharvas were forced to go back to their hereditary profession of musicians (says Kalidasa)
I will write about the Gandharvas in the upcoming posts, but for the time being, let me say that Gandharvas belonged to today's Kandhahar which was the home town of Gandhari, the mother of Kauravas. Bharata's route to Kekaya in Valmeeki Ramayana goes through Kandhahar. Perhaps Bharata was keen on conquering the places en route his maternal country. It is mentioned on valmeeki Ramayana that Bharatha's grandfather and uncle sent along with him a contingent of warriors on his way back to Ayodhya ( when he was called back on the death of Dasaratha) presumably to protect him from attacks by the kingdoms on the way. When he got a chance, I think Bharata made sure that no opponent was there on the way to Kekaya. The entire Indus region stretching up to Kazakhstan's border was thus already under occupation by Bharata. The Dravidian occupation does not match with the history of Bharath.
Now about Bharatha's sons.
Taksha and Pushkala were given to the sons of Bharata.
Taksha is Taxila and Pushkala is Peshawar.
Lakshmana's two sons Angada and Chandraketu became the rulers of KAra-patha kingdom. [15-90]
Kusha was made the king of Kushavati, on the Vindhyas.
Lava was made the king of Sharavati.
The end of Rama
All the people of Ayodhya joined Rama in leaving the earthy plane. All of them entered the river Sarayua and had jala Samadhi. The city wore a deserted look after their exit.
As told by Kalidasa:-
Having placed Kusha, who was like the goading-rod to his elephant-like hostile princes, in Kushavati; having placed Lava, who drew drops of tears of joy by his witticisms from the eyes of the good, in Sharavati, that firm-minded Rama with his younger brothers and with the fire-tray carried in front of him started for the North while the inhabitants of Ayodhya precipitately leaving their homes followed him out of devotion to their lord. [15-97, 98]
While there arrived a heavenly aircraft for himself, that kind-hearted one to his adherers Rama made the Sarayu River as staircase to heavens for his followers who wish to discard their earthly forms and ascend to heaven. [15-100]
Since the concourse of people seeking a plunge was great at that spot it looked almost like go-pratam, a line of closely packed cows swimming across, and as a consequence became celebrated as a sacred spot under that name, go-pratara, on this earth. [15-101]
What happened after the exit of Rama?
The sons of Rama and his brothers were in their kingdoms assigned to them at the time of Rama's exit. None of them knew what happened at Ayodhya. But Rama's son Kusha could not sleep well at that night. The goddess of Ayodhya, pained by the exit of all her subjects appeared before Kusha (in dream?) and begged Kusha to return to the old capital, Ayodhya. The next morning Kusha announced the vision of the night, and immediately set out for Ayodhya with his whole army. Arrived there, King Kusha quickly restored the city to its former splendour.
He married Kumudavati and had a son Athithi from her.
The lineage after Rama:-
7) Kshema- dhanva
12) unnAbha (this name was because his naval was very deep, and he appeared almost like Vishnu)
15) vyuShitAshva (on account of his having quartered his soldiery and horses on seacoasts)
18) kausalya (son)
21) puShya, (devotee of the great sage Jaimini.)
22) dhruva-sandhi (killed by a lion while hunting)
23) sudarshana, ( an year old when his father died)
24) agnivarNa (indulged in pleasure life.)
With this, Kalidasa ends Raghu vamsam.
This king AgnivarNa did not have any issue from any of the women he enjoyed and died of diseases of his bad habits.
But Kalidasa says that his queen was pregnant at the time of his death and was made Regina on behalf of unborn son.
Scholars are of differing opinion on why Kalidasa ended abruptly. There is an opinion that there must have been a remaining part of Raghu vamsa which was lost.
But according to me, looking at the lineage and the description about the kings by Kalidasa, there are some interesting features.
The kings 21 generations before Rama and 21 generations after Rama have had a successful and highly respectful life. There had never been immoral behaviour reported in them or in their kingdom. There were no unnatural or premature deaths. The kings had lived full life and been just rulers. There had been no invasions or rivalries reported.
In the above list of the kings who succeeded Rama , until Pushya, the 21st king, the narration contains nothing other than good things. The 22nd king was killed by lion while he was on a hunting expedition. His son was only a year old then. The name of the king Dhruva sandhi itself seems to indicate a shift to another era! I am thinking of the probable connections of this name to yuga / era classifications. I will write them later.
From Dhruva sandhi onwards, the descendants were of lesser quality. Perhaps due to this deterioration noticed further, Kalidasa stopped the narration with agnivarNa.
Similarly 21 generations before Rama ( as given by Valmeeki) Sagara was the ruler. His sons had an unnatural death at the curse of sage Kapila. River Ganga was brought to give salvation to them. Where they attained their salvation is the Setu at Rameshwaram. (please read my old posts on this topic)
In Sagara's father's times, sibling rivalry was first noticed in the lineage. The practice was to pass on the throne to the eldest son. But the other sons and relatives fought for the throne in Asita's period. Asita lost the throne. When Asita died, his wife was pregnant. Sagara was born to her and with the guidance of sage Chyavana he fought with the detractors and got back the throne. He exiled them to the fringes of Bhratha varsha. They were called as Mlechas as they were ordained to follow non-vedic life. They occupied what is now Assyria, Iran, Iraq etc. Assyria derives the name from Asita in whose honour Sagara fought and won.
After Sagara the lineage went on smoothly and with great honours. This constituted 21 generations before Rama.
Similarly 21 generations after Rama the lineage was smooth and highly moralistic. Such a status changed only after 21 generations.
This coincidence makes me connect this to the oft told dictum that one is connected with 21 generations before and after. Rama coming at the centre of this line- up makes me think that the best conduct for 21 generations would result in the birth of a supreme person (su-putran) as Rama. Likewise Rama's in-thing will get manifest for 21 generations after him.
The lineage before Rama as given by Valmeeki:-
5- Manu (Manu is the earliest Prajaapati -"manuH prajaapatiH puurvam")
6- Ikshvaaku (first king of Ayodhya)