Every major project in the Ramayana begins with an Ashvamedha Yagya. A ‘yagya’ may be interpreted in the sense of a ‘ritual’ or in a more scientific sense, as the preparation for the ‘launch of a mission’. The story of the birth of Sri Rama and his brothers also begins with an Asvamedha Yagya.
Before the story moves to Ayodhya other events take place. The celestials discuss the menace that Ravana, the ruler of Lanka has become for the sages on earth. The celestials and Ravana had earlier signed a treaty whereby they had assured Ravana that no harm would come to him from the celestials. However, with Ravana growing in power, and becoming an increasing threat, they decide on a strategy to eliminate Ravana without breaking the promise made in the agreement.
The celestials decide that an ‘avatar’ of Indra will be born to Dasharath of Ayodhya, the mightiest of the rulers on earth. It just so happens (or it is planned this way) that Dasharath is performing ‘Putrakamesti’ ritual as he desires to have a son.
During the ‘Putrakameshti’ ritual someone arrives in a ‘blazing form’ (most likely a spacecraft), from the land of the celestials. He introduces himself as the messenger of Prajapati, he is dressed in black and red, he is very tall, his hair is like that of a lion’s mane and he is carrying a ‘divine vessel’ which he hands over to Dasharatha so that he can ‘give’ it to the ones who are ‘eligible’. Here is the actual verse:
इदम् तु नृप शार्दूल पायसम् देव निर्मितम् |
प्रजा करम् गृहाण त्वम् धन्यम् आरोग्य वर्धनम् || १-१६-१९
‘Oh, tigerly king, take this dessert prepared by divinities, this is a blessed dessert, that enriches progeny and health’. [1-16-19]
भार्याणाम् अनुरूपाणाम् अश्नीत इति प्रयच्छ वै |
तासु त्वम् लप्स्यसे पुत्रान् यदर्थम् यजसे नृप || १-१६-२०
‘Oh, king, let this be ‘consumed’… the childbearing will be fructified in your wives by bearing sons, hence give this among your eligible wives’, so said the Divine Being to Dasharatha. [1-16-20]
Here is the interpretation. It is the dessert (seed) that is ‘divine’. The ‘receiver of the seed’ is not its equal. The receiver has to be ‘eligible’ for the divine ‘seed’. In other words, the divine vessel carries the genetic material to complete the ‘Putrakameshti yagya’ which is really ‘the steps required for completion of the birth process’. What follows in time, is the birth of the four brothers, Rama, Bharat, Lakshmana and Shatrugna.
But before Sri Rama’s birth, other beings were also genetically engineered and brought to life. The Ramayan says that the presiding god or organizer Bramha, dictates that a new race called the ‘vanaras’, ‘that looks like monkeys, but are not monkeys’, be procreated.
Bramha instructs the team to take the genes from prominent ‘apsaras’ and ‘gandharvas’, from the girls of ‘yakshas’ and ‘pannagas’, and also from the bodies of ‘kinnaraas’, ‘she-vidyaadharaas’, ‘she-rikshas’ and ‘she-monkeys’. The Ramayana says that this was done to ensure that the ‘vanaras’ would be wizards of miracles, so that they could travel through the air, would be bestowed with intellect, and could be untiring in their efforts. (Ramayana, Balaknada, Section 17, Verses 3-6.)
The genetic material is taken from many sources,only the outer form or shape of the ‘vanaras’ is like that of the monkey.
ते तथा उक्ताः भगवता तत् प्रति श्रुत्य शासनम् |
जनयामासुः एवम् ते पुत्रान् वानर रूपिणः || १-१७-८
When Brahma addressed them thus, those gods have agreed to his order and accordingly started to parent sons in the semblance (vanara rupin) of monkeys. [1-17-8]
This pedigree that is created is given the label of ‘vanaras’. They are look-alike of monkeys but are not monkeys. They are ‘vaana ruupiNam’ meaning ‘resembling monkeys’ and are developed from genetic material taken from apasara, gandharvas, yakshas etc. The ‘vanara’, just like ‘homo sapiens’ only look like monkeys, but are not monkeys.
There are many instances of genetic alterations in the Ramayana, before the birth of Sri Rama. Instances are seen in Mahabharata too, for example – the birth of the 100 Kaurava brothers etc.