“The queen lovingly said to her friends in amazement, ‘How heavy is Shiva’s bow and how soft and gentle is the form of this prince.’” (Janaki Mangala, 73)
A youth is not expected to be strong. When the child first emerges from the womb, they are so helpless that you have to hold their head up and watch over them at all times to make sure they don’t find danger. They can’t feed themselves and neither can they move to any place on their own. The mother who nurtured the child while in the womb thus has an automatic tie of affection. No matter how mature the child later becomes, she always remembers the helpless infant that required constant supervision.
How was a young prince who had just arrived in the assembly going to lift a bow of a massive weight? The queen was amazed beyond belief at the dichotomy. Her daughter Sita was to wed the first prince to lift the bow, which belonged to Lord Shiva, a famous deity of the Vedic tradition. He is the god of the mode of ignorance, which means that the ghosts, goblins, and evil-doers worship him for benefits. Every person is provided religion by God; no one is shut out. Depending on their level of intelligence, they may not be open to the idea of worship in the mode of goodness, wherein one follows duty for the sake of virtue, not expecting a personal result for their dedication.
“Of sacrifices, that sacrifice performed according to duty and to scriptural rules, and with no expectation of reward, is of the nature of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.11)
The three modes of material nature are goodness, passion and ignorance. The bodies assumed by the living entities are composed of these modes, as are their activities. Worship is a kind of activity, as is charity, sacrifice, penance, etc. All acts that fall under the umbrella of religion fall into these three modes. In ignorance one pays no attention to proper time and circumstance. They desire their cherished boon right away, and for this they can approach Lord Shiva, who is known as Ashutosha because he is easily pleased.
Lord Shiva spends his time worshiping God. He doesn’t like to have his meditation broken, so he quickly whisks away his worshipers, giving them whatever they want. The hope is that the worshiper will eventually be purified through their association with Shiva, who lives in complete renunciation, not requiring any of the opulence that he gives to others. His item of focus is the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.
Those feet once roamed the earth. They belonged to the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama. Sita’s mother saw Rama enter her kingdom alongside His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra. The occasion was the svayamvara contest, and so all the princes were assessed by the spectators.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Sita’s mother is remarking to her friends the difference between the youth, Rama, and the bow, which belonged to Shiva. She is speaking to her friends with affection and amazement. There is an automatic affection for Rama, as this is the effect the Supreme Lord has on the eyes that are not tainted by material attachment. The queen was qualified to receive that spontaneous emotion based on her affection for her daughter. Sita is God’s eternal consort, His wife for all intents and purposes. To love her in devotion is to love God, and so it was not surprising that the queen was enamored by Rama.
That affection then led to worry, as the bow was very heavy. The child is not expected to move large appliances within the house, nor can they drive the much larger automobile. How was the youth Rama supposed to lift a bow that required hundreds of men just to bring in to the assembly? Rama is described as soft and gentle, while the bow is hard as steel and very heavy.
There was no need to worry, though, as the same youth had just protected Vishvamitra. Rama and Lakshmana defeated the enemies of the saints living in the forest, and so they were well-equipped for fighting, though still very young. This bow was destined to be lifted by Rama, and in this case the paradoxical vision made the outcome that much more delightful.
One of the Supreme Lord’s names is Ajita, which means unconquerable. He is undefeated in the true sense of the word. Sometimes when He plays as a young child, He allows His friends to win, but this doesn’t equate to defeat, as a loss is only meaningful when there is something on the line, when there is the desire for victory in competition. The desire in this case related to the queen, her attendants, Sita, Lakshmana, Vishvamitra, Janaka, and countless other pious souls anxiously awaiting the conclusion to the contest. Rama comes through in the clutch, delivering to His devotees their cherished desires, which always relate to His happiness.
In youth not expected to find strength,
Infant can’t move any significant length.
Mother holds young child’s head,
And makes sure they don’t fall from bed.
A youth slightly more mature to arena came,
Hailed from Ayodhya, Rama was His name.
To lift the bow of Shiva was the expectation,
But it was heavy beyond imagination.
Her fears to friends the queen revealed,
By lifting bow their worries Rama healed.