Reading Guide. As he dies, Dasharatha has a revelation: he remembers an accident from long ago when he was cursed to lose his son. He understands that his present suffering is a consequence (karma) of his actions long ago. Although the young boy has no name in this version of the story, in other versions he is called Shravan; you can learn more at Wikipedia: Shravan.
Image: The illustration shows Dasharatha, the dead hermit boy, and his grieving parents.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [500 words]
Now the Maharajah Dasharatha was doomed to die a sorrowful death. Be it known that in his youth, when he loved to go a-hunting, he heard in the jungle depths one evening a gurgling of water and thought an elephant or a deer had come to drink from a hidden stream. He drew his bow; he aimed at the sound and discharged an arrow. A human voice uttered a cry of agony. Breaking through the tangled jungle growth, Dasharatha discovered that he had mortally wounded a young hermit who had come to draw water for his aged parents.
The poor victim forgave the king and counselled him, saying, “Hasten to my sire and inform him of my fate lest his curse should consume thee as a fire consumes a withered tree.” Then he expired.
Dismayed and sorrowing deeply, Dasharatha went towards the dwelling of the boy's parents, who were blind and old. He heard the father cry, “Ah! Why hast thou lingered, my son? I am athirst, and thy mother longs for thee.”
In broken accents the king informed the lonesome parents of their son's death. The sire lamented aloud and said, “Oh! Lead me to my son! Let me embrace him for the last time.”
Dasharatha conducted the weeping parents to the spot where the lad lay lifeless and stained with blood. The sire clasped the body and cried, “Oh! Wilt thou not speak and greet me, my son? Thou liest on the ground; thou dost not answer me when I call. Alas! Thou canst not love me any longer. Thy mother is here. Oh! Thou who wert dutiful and kind, speak but one tender word to her and to me. Who will now read to us each morning the holy books? Who will now find roots and fruits to feed us? Oh, tarry with us yet a little longer, my son. Wait for us ere thou dost depart to the Kingdom of Death — stay but one day longer, and on the morrow thy father and mother will go with thee on the weary and darksome path of no returning. How can we live now that our child and protector is taken from us?”
So the blind old hermit lamented. Then he spake to the king and said, “I had but this one child, and thou hast made me childless. Now slay me also because Death is blunted and unable to hurt me any more. A father cannot feel greater agony than when he sorrows for a beloved son. This peculiar sharp sorrow thou wilt yet know, O king. As I weep now and as I am hastened to death, mourning for my son, so wilt thou suffer in like manner, sorrowing for a dearly beloved and righteous son. Thy death, O Dasharatha, will cleanse thee of this crime.”
Having spoken thus, the hermit built the funeral pyre for the dead boy, and when it was lit, he and his wife leapt amidst the flames and entered the Kingdom of Death.