Reading Guide. Remember that Dasharatha needed a son for a very specific purpose: to carry on the royal line. Now he has four sons, so he must decide who will be the heir apparent.
Image: The illustration again comes from a Ramayana of the Mughal period. You can read more about Mughal painting at Wikipedia.
Source. Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists by Sister Nivedita (1914). [400 words]
Now Dasharatha reflected that he had ruled for many, many years and was weary, and he thought no joy could be greater than if he should see Rama established on the throne. He summoned a council of his vassals and counsellors and neighboring kings and princes who were accustomed to reside in Ayodhya, and in solemn words, like the thunder of drums, addressed this parliament of men.
"Ye well know that for many long years I have governed this realm, being as a father to those that dwell therein. Thinking not to gain my own happiness, I have spent my days in ruling according unto Dharma. Now I wish for rest and would install my eldest son Rama as heir-apparent and entrust the government to him. But herein, my lords, I seek for your approval, for the thought of the dispassionate is other than the thought of the inflamed, and truth arises from the conflict of various views."
The princes rejoiced at the king's words as peacocks dance at the sight of heavy rain-clouds.
There arose the hum of many voices as for a time the brahmins and army-leaders, citizens and countrymen considered together. Then they answered, "O aged king, assuredly we wish to see Prince Rama installed as heir-apparent, riding the elephant of state, seated beneath the umbrella of dominion."
Again the king inquired of them for greater certainty, "Why would ye have Rama to your ruler?" and they replied, "By reason of his many virtues, for indeed he towers among men as Shakra amongst the gods. In forgiveness he is like the Earth, in debate like Brihaspati. He speaks the truth and is a mighty bowman. He is ever busied with the welfare of the people and not given to detraction where he finds one blemish amongst many virtues. He is skilled in music, and his eyes are fair to look upon. Neither his pleasure nor his anger is in vain; he is easily approached, and self-controlled, and goes not forth to war or the protection of a city or a province without victorious return. He is beloved of all. Indeed, the Earth desires him for her Lord."
Then the king summoned Vashishtha, Vamadeva, and other of the brahmins, and charged them to make ready for Rama's installation.