“The men and women of the city are staring at the lamp of Raghu’s family with love, while they give a bad look to the king of Videha.” (Janaki Mangala, 65)
pura nara nāri nihārahiṃ raghukula dīpahiṃ |
doṣu nehabasa dehiṃ bideha mahīpahiṃ ||
On one side there is love, and on the other strong disappointment. One vision gives so much joy and happiness that the person opposing that pleasant vision is instantly blamed for his mistake. Of course there was no mistake, but due to strong affection the people of the town began to worry over what might happen. What if their newfound visitor, who became the joy of their life, emerged a failure due to the king’s stubbornness? In that case the fault would lie with the king and not anyone else. Seeing this handsome youth, the king should have immediately taken back his word, and no one would have minded.
The word in this case was the vow to give away his daughter to whoever could lift an extremely heavy bow. King Janaka was the host of the ceremony in the kingdom of Videha, and aside from being known for his mastery over the senses, the famous ruler was known to never tell a lie. He lived by his word, so when it was declared that his beautiful daughter Sita would wed whoever would first lift a bow belonging to Lord Shiva, it was understood that the contest was legitimate. A simple measure of strength was all it would take; nothing else.
All seemed well and good until Shri Rama arrived on the scene. He is described through so many terms because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Can one name suffice for the person who has limitless transcendental features? How can we only pick one way to describe Him, for through experiences our mind’s preoccupation changes all the time? One second we are worried about finishing an assignment for school and the next we’re concerned over the future of our financial situation.
The changes occur rapidly, and depending on how those changes manifest, we can take the same periods of time to be either long or short. For instance, four years spent in college seem a lot longer than four years spent at the same job as an adult. Expanding to an even larger scale, twelve years of schooling prior to college seem much longer than twelve years of working. The difference, of course, is in perspective, as the maturation process brings a more marked change in the individual when they are younger.
If you work at the same company or the same occupation for a long time, there aren’t many external changes that allow you to gauge progress, or even notice it. In school there is always the beginning of the subsequent year, where you take new classes and interact with new people. That might not be the case with your occupation in adult life; thus making time go by a lot faster.
So depending on where you are in life, you may have particular things that interest you, items and issues that you take to be of paramount importance. As God is the supreme everything, He can be worshiped at any point in one’s life. To the residents of the town hosting this ceremony, the focus was particularly on strength and qualities conducive to being a good ruler. Sita would be given away to a prince after all, and his duty would be to protect Janaka’s precious gem.
Sita was just as qualified in truthfulness, austerity, cleanliness and mercy as her father. She is never bereft of these qualities because she is eternally the goddess of fortune, the consort of the Supreme Lord. She gives Him more pleasure than anyone else can, and as a byproduct of her position, she has all glorious attributes. Janaka was the right match to have as a father for Sita, who was found one day in the ground while Janaka was preparing for a sacrifice.
She was thus technically his adopted daughter, but that did not get in the way of his fatherly duties. If anything, the manner in which he found Sita made Janaka even more affectionate. It is one thing to love your biological offspring, for it is nature’s way to have a bond with people who are connected to you in blood. But the adopted son or daughter didn’t automatically belong to your family, so when you show them the same affection, the love is actually stronger.
Janaka didn’t want to give Sita away, but the age was right for her marriage, and if he kept her unmarried he’d invite scorn to his family. The princes arriving in Janakpur were fully capable, but none of them could even move the bow. Then came Shri Rama, who in the above referenced verse is described as the light of the Raghu family. This is a significant statement because Raghu’s family was already splendorous, as the dynasty originated from the sun-god, Vivasvan. His son was Manu, and his son was Ikshvaku, who in turn set the standard for good government.
Rama was considered the light of the Raghu family because He made it even more famous. His brightness spread through His transcendental features, which were all splendorous. When the sun shines bright in the sky, it’s influence is impossible to miss. Even if you’re not in direct contact with the sunlight, you know that the sun has an effect based on the heat that results.
In a similar manner, Rama’s splendor was shown off immediately upon His arrival in Janaka’s city. The residents with pure eyes could not get enough of the Supreme Lord, who was accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana. The two were escorting Vishvamitra Muni, who outwardly acted as their preceptor. Their youth made the brothers more charming to look at, and since Rama was the elder of the two, He was eligible to take part in the contest and marry Sita.
In the course of day-to-day affairs, if someone really angers us, if they behave badly or insult us in some way, our dislike of them makes us automatically treat others better. This is just part of human nature, as the disliked’s association creates a noticeable contrast with the people who don’t behave poorly towards us. It’s like tasting something really bitter one second and then something sweet the next. The sweetness of the second item is a constant, but since the bitter taste was just there, it feels like the sweetness is stronger while tasting.
For the residents in Janakpur, the situation was sort of reversed. The sweetness of Rama’s vision was so nice that when looking at Janaka next they immediately felt dismay. They were angry that he had created a situation where this delightful youth could possibly lose the contest. Or worse yet, what if Rama got hurt trying to lift the heavy bow? His bodily features were so delicate that no one wanted any harm to come to them.
“They pray to God to grant them blessings: ‘May You garner fame and return victorious. May You not lose a single hair while bathing.’” (Janaki Mangala, 29)
The residents of Ayodhya had a similar affection for Rama, whom they knew since His initial appearance on earth. When the delight of mother Kausalya left Ayodhya with Lakshmana and Vishvamitra, the people of the town gathered by the road and prayed for their welfare. They prayed to God to protect the two boys and allow them to return successful. They did not want a single strand of hair to fall off them while bathing.
The brothers left with Vishvamitra for the forest to protect the sages against the attacks of the night-rangers, who used illusion as their strongest weapon. They would change shapes at will and sometimes become unseen, making it easier to pounce on the sacrifices of the sages, who were looking for a quiet setting that was more conducive to spiritual advancement.
Rama would prove His ability by defeating the female demon Tataka. Though she tried her tricks of illusion, becoming invisible and then visible, just by using sound Rama was able to locate her and shoot her with His arrows. Though He was reluctant to fight with a female, at the insistence of Vishvamitra He ended her life and thus gave the sages the protection they desired.
In Janakpur, lifting the bow of Lord Shiva would be no problem for Rama, but the residents didn’t know this. His beauty mesmerized them, and so they didn’t want Him to leave their sight. “Let Him win the contest so that He can enter our extended family. This will make us happy.”
Any strong leader will regularly take criticism, for that is part of life at the top. Sharp criticism from dependents is part of the league in which the leaders play, and it’s an indication of the authority they wield. If these leaders weren’t important, there would be no need for anyone to complain.
Janaka absorbed these daggers shot by the eyes of the residents who loved Rama so much upon first glance. He decided to continue on with the contest, though he was kicking himself a little too. Shri Rama, the savior of the fallen souls, who remains by the side of the devotees who cherish His association, would not disappoint. He would win the contest, marry Sita, and live happily in the hearts of the residents who looked upon Him with love. The same king who was previously cursed suddenly became the most celebrated person for having been the instrument to bring the light of Raghu’s family together with Sita.
If Rama lost then the contest to be moot,
Loving Him, daggers at king people shoot.
From his vow king should have taken a pause,
If Sita not to wed Rama he would be the cause.
Such love for God was very nice,
No need for worry, contest to suffice.
Shiva’s bow in His hand Rama held,
A victorious Lord devotees then beheld.