Reading Guide. The story starts with two kings: Dasharatha and Janaka. King Dasharatha is the ruler of the Koshala kingdom and lives in Ayodhya, while Janaka is the king of the Videha kingdom and lives in Mithila. The passage below explains that Dasharatha is a king in the Solar dynasty, called Surya-vansha in Sanskrit; you can see a list of the Solar kings at Wikipedia.
Image: The image below shows the city of Ayodhya, an ancient city which contains holy sites associated with Rama's story. You can read more at Wikipedia: Ayodhya.
Source. Indian Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie (1913). [300 words] This section, along with the next two sections, come from a version of the Ramayana by Donald Mackenzie; he also wrote a version of the Mahabharata which forms the main basis for the PDE Mahabharata.
Valmiki sang that in days of yore there were two mighty kingdoms in sun-bright Hindustan, and these were Koshala, whose king was Dasharatha, father of Rama, and Mithila, which was ruled over by Janaka, the father of beauteous Sita.
Now the capital of Koshala was Ayodhya, which shone in splendour like to Indra's celestial city; it had wide streets with large dwellings, richly decorated temples, towering like mountains, and grand and noble palaces. In the palace gardens there were numerous birds and flowers, shady groves of fruit trees, and lakes gemmed with bee-loved lotuses; the soft winds were wont to beat back the white water-blooms from the honey bees as coy maidens are withheld by the impulses of modesty from their eager lovers. Birds disported on the gleaming lakes, kingfishers were angered to behold themselves mirrored in the depths, thinking they gazed upon rivals, and ruffled the waters with their flapping wings.
The city of Ayodhya was full of prosperous and happy people.
Maharajah Dasharatha, who was of the Solar Race, dwelt in a stately palace; it was surrounded by strong walls and guarded by a thousand warriors fierce as flames of consuming fire and ever watchful like to mountain lions which protect their dens. Eight sage counsellors served the monarch with devotion, and he had two family priests, Vashishtha and Vamadeva.
But although Dasharatha was mighty and powerful, and prospered greatly, his heart was full of sorrow because that no son had been born to him by either of his three queens, Kaushalya, Kaikeyi, and Sumitra.