“One group is saying: ‘The king is good and shouldn’t be spoken of poorly. Just as a nose does not look good without a ring, so the king does not look good when his word has no meaning.’” (Janaki Mangala, 66)
eka kahahiṃ bhala bhūpa dehu jani dūṣana |
nṛpa na soha binu nāka binu bhūṣana ||
The clothes go with the person wearing them. For a king the clothes correspond with his leadership, with the way that he administers the kingdom. The clothes are an ornament to complete the picture. Just like their integral paraphernalia, the word of the king is what establishes his high standing. Breaking that word is never good, and therefore the king shouldn’t be overly criticized when he holds firm to his vow.
Many thousands of years ago King Janaka held firm to a particular vow, and this resulted in so many different opinions. The controversy first arose with the arrival of an enchanting figure, who was accompanied by His younger brother and His preceptor. The disciple in this case is actually the spiritual master of the three worlds, the original truth. He is the source of the ultimate system of knowledge known as Vedanta, which has truths not found in any other discipline.
The supremacy of Vedanta is rooted in its founder, who didn’t concoct any information. He didn’t have to learn anything, so whatever He first spoke was automatically flawless. Those who accepted Vedanta from Him or through someone in that chain of disciplic succession thus accepted conclusions to be utilized for finding the summit of happiness. In this sense Vedanta is all-encompassing; it covers every aspect of life. Whether one is large or small, young or old, or male or female is of no concern, because each individual is represented by their spirit soul, their basis for identity.
“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
This kind youth accepted a spiritual master as a formality, to show others that high knowledge comes not from mental speculation but from intentional and humble submission before a bona fide teacher. This kind attention to the saintly class was one reason He was dear to the inhabitants of the city He entered.
There were also many more features to increase the transcendental delight of the onlookers. The youth was escorting the venerable Vishvamitra Muni because the sage required protection from nishacharas, or night-rangers. If you fight in the night it’s difficult for your opponent to see you. Also, the nighttime is generally reserved for sinful activity and those who live by it. Thus the peaceful sages had the odds stacked against them in the forest that was suddenly infiltrated by these ghoulish creatures of the night.
Though of a young age, Shri Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, could still defeat these demons. Vishvamitra knew this, so that is why he went to Ayodhya to specifically request the king to part with Rama’s company for a short while. The younger brother Lakshmana accompanied Rama, making for a sweet picture when the trio entered Janakpur, where a grand contest was taking place.
The contest was the source of the controversy amongst some in the assembly. The contest related to who would marry the daughter of King Janaka, the host of the ceremony. The first person to lift a massively heavy bow would be crowned the victor and be garlanded by Sita Devi, the precious daughter of the king. Therefore so many royal families traveled to Janakpur to try to win the contest and enhance the fame of their dynasty.
Yet when people saw Rama, His ability to defend, and His kind attention to the guru, they were taken with Him immediately. Add to the fact that Rama’s beauty was out of this world and you can understand why so many started to worry over the outcome of the contest. “What if Rama doesn’t win? What if King Janaka’s vow results in Rama becoming ineligible to marry Sita?” Some in the crowd started giving Janaka a negative look, in a sense shooting daggers at him with their eyes.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, some are stepping up to say that Janaka doesn’t deserve blame. He should not be spoken about negatively because he was virtuous. Prior to this event he was famous around the world for having a renounced attitude, carrying out his obligations without attachment. If it weren’t for his fame and high standing, the many people who were there that day would never have bothered to show up. One person’s arrival shouldn’t change Janaka’s standing. Whoever did or didn’t come to the ceremony shouldn’t figure in the character of the king.
It is said that a king without his word is like a nose without a ring. The ring in the nose gives special beauty to that part of the face, acting as an integral ornament, especially for women. If the king went back on his promise, it would be like losing part of his clothes, like being embarrassed in front of everyone. It is important for the leader to avoid embarrassment because he must be respected by the subjects. If an authority figure is not respected, they lose their authority and subsequently their ability to administer justice.
If Janaka suspended the rules and gave Sita away to Rama, his word would have been broken. It was his dedication to piety that caused him to hold the contest in the first place. That contest brought Rama, the Supreme Lord, to his kingdom, so in this sense his vow is what led to the potential for the transcendental bliss of having God’s association. Therefore upholding his word and staying true to the rules of the contest was the right way to go.
Shri Rama would validate that decision by lifting the enormously heavy bow and winning Sita’s hand. The symbolic ring of truth got to stay in the nose of the king, whose stature was enhanced by welcoming Shri Rama to his family. The devoted souls bask in the Supreme Lord’s association, and so for them Shri Rama upholds their vows while carrying out His own desires in the process.
To the truth a pious king is deferent,
Like a nose decorated with ring ornament.
If the emperor to lose his clothes,
Then in embarrassment he goes.
King Janaka previously had a vow,
To which he should hold steadfast now.
For Sita Rama was surely right,
Known just from first sight.
Rama to validate the king’s decision,
Lifted bow in His hands a wonderful vision.