“If he now abandons his oath, after having announced it to the people, his infamy would spread throughout the world. No one knows the ways of the creator.” (Janaki Mangala, 70)
aba kari paija panca maham̐ jo pana tyāgai |
bidhi gati jāni na jāi ajasu jaga jāgai ||
The ways of the creator are a mystery. One baby is born completely healthy while another has defects. One child grows up to be just fine, escaping the dangers created by the threefold miseries of life, while another is constantly in trouble from disease, natural disasters, and the influence of other living entities. One king a long time ago had a particularly interesting life, especially in relation to his daughter. Coming to him under odd circumstances, the issue of her marriage would be equally as interesting. The anticipation reached a crescendo at the final moments, as it appeared that the king had made a mistake.
The daughter came to the king from the ground. We might tell our children that babies come from the mailman or the supermarket, but this is done to avoid the topic of the birds and the bees, sex life. King Janaka’s daughter was indeed found in the ground. She was still alive, amazingly enough. The king was in the process of cultivating the field for a religious sacrifice. Obviously an odd place to find a human being, the king couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He held her in his arms after wiping the dust from her face, and he immediately felt parental affection for her.
The next important moment in their lives was her marriage. She reached an appropriate age, and so the king had to decide who would protect her for the rest of her life. She was something special. He named her Sita because she came from the ground, and now it was time to part ways. In the Vedic tradition, the wife is considered to be part of the husband’s family. She essentially renounces her ties to her original family, as her occupational duty is to serve her husband. The good king and his wife taught these principles to Sita during childhood, so she was more than ready to accept her responsibility.
But the king felt like a rich man about to become poor. He decided that no ordinary prince was worthy of his exceptional daughter. Therefore he took a vow in front of everyone that the lifter of Lord Shiva’s bow would win Sita’s hand. News spread around the world and royal caravans arrived in King Janaka’s city for the contest. They did so on a matter of trust. The king took an oath, so there was no way he was going to break it. We board the airplane slated for an intended destination because we trust the airline. We believe that they will take us to the place they say they will. If we don’t trust them, why board the airplane?
In a similar manner, these royal families believed Janaka. He had a proven track record on the issue of virtue. Thus they knew all they had to do was lift this enormously heavy bow. Seemed simple enough, no? The residents of the town gathered and watched as one prince after another attempted to lift the bow and then failed. No big deal, as everything was going according to plan. But as we remember, the ways of the creator, who is responsible for the bodies we assume and the circumstances we end up in, are impossible to predict.
Suddenly, two handsome youths appeared on the scene. Their entourage consisted of a sage who called the forest his home. The boys were princes, so they were eligible for the contest, but they had arrived there at the sage’s direction. King Janaka was known to be hospitable to brahmanas, so he immediately welcomed the trio. Upon seeing the two brothers, Janaka’s mind was taken. He became lost in an ocean of transcendental bliss.
This was due to the fact that the brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, were God and His number one servant respectively. Janaka’s daughter Sita was the goddess of fortune, so unbeknownst to him, Janaka was involved in coordinating the reunion between God and His wife in the real-life play known as the Ramayana. Janaka’s reaction is natural for a pure-hearted person who sees God. Indeed, he also had the proper reaction when he found Sita as a baby.
There were a few problems, however. Janaka did not know the divine natures of the people involved; nor was he confident that Rama could lift the bow. This meant that the vow, which was responsible for this entire assembly, could turn out to harm him. This boy Rama, the elder of the two and thus the one eligible for the contest, was perfect for Sita. If Janaka had known of Him beforehand, he never would have drawn up the contest. He would have given Sita over to Him immediately.
The people of the town talked amongst themselves as this was going on, and Goswami Tulsidas kindly eavesdrops to let us know what they were saying. One group was cursing the king for his vow, while another was empathetic to his plight. In the above referenced verse, we see that someone is saying that the king would awaken infamy for himself throughout the world if he should go back on his word. Moreover, the king had no idea that Rama, the perfect match, would arrive. The ways of the creator are impossible to predict, so we can’t just change our mind later on to suit our whims.
Time and circumstance play an important role in Vedic rituals. The king’s vow was also very important; it was in line with dharma, or virtue. To go off of sense impulses, without any consideration for the impact changes have on others, is not a very wise course. In this instance, Rama Himself coordinated the events, which meant that the last-minute dilemma served to enhance the fame of the event. If Janaka had just given Sita over to Rama, the marriage ceremony may not be as well remembered today. It was better for Rama, in a youthful and beautiful form, to lift an amazingly heavy bow without a problem, showing the world that He was the only match for the beautiful Sita Devi, the daughter of that virtuous king who held true to his vow and thus satisfied all the parties involved.
The ways of creator can’t predict,
Pain in some and others pleasure to sit.
King’s infamy with broken vow to spread,
Sticking with the truth better instead.
Arrangement by Supreme Lord set,
Hand of beautiful Sita He’d get.
Worry’s increase fame to contest brought,
Rama to win, Janaka’s word not to go for naught.