“One person is saying: ‘This person is an unmarried youth, while Lord Shiva’s great bow is heavy and hard. How can a childlike swan carry a mountain? Why hasn’t anyone told the king about this?’” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 7.2)
eka kahahiṃ kunvarū kisora kulisa kaṭhora siva dhanu hai mahā |
kimi lehiṃ bāla marāla mandara nṛpahiṃ asa kāhum̐ na kahā ||
“It’s David versus Goliath. This bow is as hard as steel and so heavy that the most powerful princes in the world can’t even move it. They have come from far and wide to participate in the contest, but the bow is besting them, like a formidable foe whose strength is too great to overcome. Now this beautiful prince, who is of a tender age and unmarried, is expected to try His hand at lifting the bow? He will get embarrassed. Can a young swan move a mountain? That is pretty much what the king expects this youth to do. Why hasn’t anyone notified the king? He should not allow this to happen.”
Some of the onlookers at the contest were so much in love with the jewel of the Raghu dynasty that they worried over His embarrassment and also His suffering. We would never expect a child to lift up an automobile. Forget the fact that they won’t be able to move the car, the primary concern is over their safety. Why should they risk getting hurt doing something that is impossible? The Supreme Personality of Godhead gives off the innocence of a young helpless child, yet even within that form He can do wonders. The entire universe can be seen within His mouth, so why should He have difficulty lifting up a bow?
Though He was a youth during the time of this incident, before this event, when He was even younger, Lord Rama, King Dasharatha’s eldest son, played happily in the royal courtyard in Ayodhya. Just as in Janaka’s kingdom, the onlookers in Ayodhya were amazed at the sight of Rama. So beautiful, delicate, handsome and charming was He that none could believe that a human being could assume such a form. The devoted bird Kakabhushundi once came close to the young Rama. After being chased he was eventually swallowed by the boy. Rama did this both for His own fun and the bird’s.
What the bird saw within Rama’s mouth was astounding: the entire cosmos, the universal form - at least a version of it. The eyes can’t properly fathom the length and breadth of the entire creation. Picture looking at the world’s largest number and trying to decipher its value. With commas placed in the right positions the number would still be impossible to understand. As another exercise, try looking at a container of straws and then guessing how many are in there. Look at a box of jellybeans and try to come up with an accurate count. You could put forth a guess, but your eyes have really no way of ascertaining the count of unique items.
If that limitation exists with something in our immediate vicinity, imagine then how paltry our understanding of the universe is. The universe is far more complex than we think. A few automobiles driven in a particular area may have an impact on the surrounding environment, but climate as a whole operates on a much larger scale. More formidable than the earth is the galaxy, and larger than a galaxy is the universe. That entire creation is but one representation of the Supreme Lord, who appeared in Ayodhya as the young prince named Rama.
Many thousands of years later, the same Rama would return to earth in His manifestation of Shyamasundara, the beautiful Lord Krishna, the son of Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. Similar loving feelings were directed at God this time around, and again the youthful appearance did not prevent the Supreme Lord from performing miraculous feats. There were the attacks by the Putana witch, the demon using the whirlwind, and the asura who took the form of a bull. These were but a few of the wicked characters who tried to kill Krishna while He was still a young child, but even in that form the Lord was able to defend Himself.
In Janakpur on this famous day, the people watching over the festivities worried that the young Rama, accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana, would fail in the contest and maybe get hurt in the process. The delicate features of the youthful delight of mother Kausalya masked the known fact that the exalted sage Vishvamitra had previously insisted on Rama to be his protector. The sage was very powerful from his austerity. He knew very well of Rama’s abilities, and he also knew that there were others around to protect him. King Dasharatha insisted on bringing his entire royal army into the forest to protect the munis, but Vishvamitra said that he only needed Rama. Lakshmana came along as well, for if you get Rama you get Lakshmana always. The two are like twins, with Lakshmana fair in skin color and Rama dark.
Some residents of Janakpur were so afraid of Rama failing to lift the bow that they wondered why no one had alerted King Janaka to the potential trouble. The contest was to determine the husband for his beautiful daughter, Sita Devi. A king is a protector first and foremost. If he were true to his role, Janaka would protect Rama from the heavy bow, which would overcome His strength. At least this was the feeling of the kind-hearted devotees observing the scene.
They hadn’t been acknowledged devotees for long. Upon first sight of Rama and Lakshmana entering the kingdom with Vishvamitra the viewers could tell there was something special about them. These youths were so beautiful in appearance that they couldn’t be of this earth. Rama was the perfect match for Sita, and for this match to materialize He had to win the contest. But if He lost, if Lord Shiva’s bow bested Him, He would automatically become ineligible to wed the goddess of fortune.
The youthful form with its delicate features made the ensuing act of the Supreme Personality of Godhead all the more pleasurable to the eyes. Rama would calmly step into the arena and easily lift the bow. In the process of stringing the bow, He would break it. Has anyone heard of a swan breaking a mountain? With the Supreme Lord, these seemingly impossible feats are child’s play. He can break things with His youthful figure, and He can smile gently while fighting with the enemy.
Rama’s most remarkable strength is found within His name. Just by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the sweetheart who won Janaki’s hand in marriage arrives on the scene to give pleasure. Those names form the subject matter of the couplets and verses which describe the original event. Hearing those verses paints the picture of the original scene within the mind, giving the eyes a feast of deserved delights.
How does Rama do it? How does His name carry His personal presence? Hearing is believing in the Vedic tradition. The ancient scriptures of India pass on sublime wisdom to be used in achieving the highest end. Through sound connect with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though to us the sound of the Absolute Truth is absent form, since it addresses a personality with divine features it can carry out the same miraculous feats that the original person can. Rama is always destined to be with Sita, despite what the external circumstances may portend. In the same way, no matter our plight or personal condition, the holy name can rescue us from the ocean of material suffering.
The youth who from Ayodhya was sent,
To be always together with Sita is meant.
What external conditions portend don’t bother,
Youthful form to the Supreme Lord no matter.
As a delicate swan people of Janakpur Rama saw,
Lifting mountain-like bow would break nature’s law.
But for God in any form all He can do,
Can kill demons while smiling too.
Within His holy name the same power exists,
Chant it for despair and dismay to resist.