Ayodhya, Kosala (present-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
Dasharatha (Sanskrit: दशरथ, IAST: Daśaratha; born Nemi) was the king of the Kosala kingdom and a scion of the Suryavanshi dynasty in Hinduism. He ruled from this capital at Ayodhya. Dasharatha was the son of Aja and Indumati. He had three primary consorts: Kausalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra, and from these unions were born Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. He is mentioned in the scriptures of Ramayana and Vishnu Purana.
King Dasharatha was believed to be an incarnation of Svayambhuva Manu, the son of the Hindu creator god, Brahma.
Dasharatha was the son of King Aja of Kosala and Indumati of Vidarbha. He was originally named Nemi, but he acquired the moniker Dasharatha (Ten chariots) as his chariot could move in all ten directions, fly, as well as return to earth, and he could fight with ease in all of these directions.
Dasharatha became the ruler of Kosala after the death of his father. He was a great warrior who subjugated many of the neighbouring kingdoms with his prowess and slew many asuras in battle.
According to Valmiki Ramayana's Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 34, Verses 10 to 13, King Dashratha had around 350 wives, among whom 3 of them were his favourite queens. Kausalya was Dasharatha's chief queen. Sumitra and Kaikeyi were his other favoured consorts. Kausalya belonged to the kingdom of Dakshina Kosala, Sumitra was from Kashi, and Kaikeyi hailed from the Kekeya Kingdom.
Daśaratha's rules over a utopian Ayodhyā, but he lacks a son to carry on his dynasty. He decides to perform an aśvamedha (horse sacrifice) in order to beget a son. His counsellor and charioteer Sumantra tells him of a prophecy that by bringing the sage R̥śyaśr̥ṅga to Ayodhyā, he will beget sons. To fulfil the prophecy, Daśaratha travels to Aṅga, where king Romapāda's daughter Śāntā is married to R̥śyaśr̥ṅga. Bringing R̥śyaśr̥ṅga to Kosala, he instructs the brahmins to perform the aśvamedha. After the aśvamedha is properly performed, a Putrīyā Iṣṭi is performed for the attainment of sons. During its performance, a figure emerges from the fire carrying a vessel of celestial porridge. The being tells Daśaratha to give the porridge to his wives, and he gives half the porridge to Kausalyā, a half of a half to Sumitrā, half of what remained to Kaikeyī, and the remaining portion again to Sumitrā. Kausalyā gives birth to Rāma, Kaikeyī to Bharata, and Sumitra to the twins Lakṣmaṇa and Śatrughna.
A maid of Queen Kaikeyi named Manthara convinced her that the throne of Maharaja Dasharatha belonged to her son Bharata, and that her stepson, crown prince Rama (the hero of the Ramayana)— should be exiled from the kingdom. The ugly maid also reminded her of the promise made to her by Dasharatha when she saved him in the great war against the asuras, that she was promised 2 boons and she could use them to make Bharata king. By crowning Rama as king, Dasharatha would be doing an injustice to her, as she wanted Bharata to be king.
Thus, after this conversation, Dasharatha was reminded by Kaikeyi about the two boons he had yet to fulfill for her. She talked of the time when she saved him from the demons during a celestial battle against Sambasura, an enemy of both Indra and Dasharatha. During a fierce battle between the two, the wheel of Dasharatha's chariot broke and Sambasura's arrow pierced the king's armor and lodged in his chest. Kaikeyi, who was acting as Dasharatha's charioteer, quickly repaired the broken wheel and then drove the chariot away from the battlefield. She nursed the wounded king back to health. Touched by her courage and timely service, Dasharatha offered her two boons. However, Kaikeyi chose to ask for those boons later, and King Dasharatha was obliged to fulfill them. Kaikeyi demanded that Bharata be crowned king and Rama be sent to the forest for fourteen years. Hearing this, Dasharatha fell into a swoon and passed the night in a pitiable condition in Kaikeyi's palace.
After Rama's departure to the forest, Dasharatha lay in his bed with a wailing Kaushalya. He suddenly remembered an incident which had occurred in his past. He narrated to Kaushalya about how, by accident, he had killed a young man named Shravana, mistaking him to be a deer. Dasharatha, who was then a crown prince, had gone hunting on the banks of River Saryu. He was an expert in hunting by determining the direction of sound and heard the gurgle of an animal drinking water. Mistaking it to be deer, Dasharatha shot an arrow. He became mortified when he heard a human cry as the arrow found its target. Dasharatha hurried there to find a boy lying sprawled on the banks of the river with an arrow lodged in his chest. Dashratha was aghast and profusely apologised to the young Shravana trying to revive and help him. The boy forgave Dasharatha for his unintentional, unrighteous act and demanded that Dasharatha pull the arrow out of his chest. He also told him to take the pitcher of water to his blind parents, who must be waiting for him since they were thirsty because of all the travel. The boy succumbed to his injury. Dasharatha approached the blind couple and told them about their son's unfortunate death. The parents, grief-stricken, cursed Prince Dasharatha: "Just as we are suffering and dying due to the separation from our beloved son, you too shall have the same fate." Dasharatha concluded the chapter by saying that his end was near and the curse of Shravana's parents had taken effect.