“When Rama went walking towards the bow, worry came over King Janaka and family.” (Janaki Mangala, 99)
gae subhāyam̐ rāma jaba cāpa samīpahi |
soca sahita parivāra bideha mahīpahi ||
“I know that I shouldn’t worry so much about what will happen, but I am helpless in this situation. I really want this house. My wife and I were just kicked out of our other apartment. Not a forced eviction for any wrongdoing, it’s just that the people who own it need the extra space for their family. They’ve given us a few months to find a new place, and I’d really like to buy a house this time. I don’t want to throw money away on rent anymore.
“This one house looks perfect. It is ideal for our future plans. It fits with the number of children we’d like to have. I can also do some of the renovations myself, creating rooms suited for entertainment and comfort. I can also fix things so that if there is a power outage, we will have a backup generator in place that relies on gas. This way we won’t miss a beat. Also, it will be nice knowing that I won’t get suddenly removed from my home because of someone else’s desires.
“This is all well and good, except there is competition for this new house. The people selling it really like us, but there is another bid. We’re able to match the bid, and the seller has preferred us, but still this doesn’t mean that the house is ours. As we are financing the purchase, the bank needs to give its approval. In order for that to happen, they must inspect the house. If something is not right, they will withdraw the money, which will immediately give the seller a reason to choose one of the competing bids.
“Common sense tells me that we have a pretty good chance of getting the house. More than likely, we will get it, but there is still the chance of failure. For the time being, I can’t seem to think of anything else. All of my future plans rest on this single outcome, and until that outcome is settled, my mind will not be at ease. One way or the other, I’d like to have the issue resolved. I can’t imagine living like this for much longer.”
For a famous king a long time ago, the minutes seemed like hours because of the high stakes resting on an outcome. It wasn’t a house that he was purchasing. He wasn’t waiting to hear on a job he applied for. He wasn’t anticipating an acceptance letter from the college of his choosing. There was nothing really related to his personal comfort. In fact, the worry was entirely over someone else’s future. She would not live with him afterwards, so in essence the king’s worry was rooted in love. To want more for someone else than you want for yourself is the accepted definition of love, and in this case the desire related to a suitable husband for the king’s daughter.
The moment of tension wasn’t necessarily expected. King Janaka knew that his daughter might get married, for it was his idea to hold a contest to determine her husband. There was still the chance that she wouldn’t get married also. The contest required the lifting of an enormously heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva. Janaka invited all the royal families from around the world to this sacred place. Because of Janaka’s character and the beauty of his daughter, the princes were eager to try to win the contest.
Many of them tried, but they all failed to even move the bow. Janaka and family did not have so much riding on the outcome then. They watched, but they weren’t overly worried. But now the situation was different. The worry was so intense that it sprung up from the competitor’s moving towards the bow alone. An outcome was soon to arrive. If this moment were likened to a college course, it would be like hearing of the final grade, seeing whether you passed or failed. Shri Rama would either lift the bow or not. The people watching would know soon enough, but worry overcame them anyway.
And why were they suddenly worried? Of all the suitors, they thought Rama was the best. Sometimes this isn’t the best way to describe a preference. If we’re shown samples of carpet to go on the floor in our living room, we might not like any of them. Out of what we’re shown, we’ll pick the one that we hate the least. That is the point to the samples after all. If we knew the exact color and style we wanted from the outset, we would just order it.
In this instance, Rama was not merely the preferred prince out of the lot. As soon as the people saw Him, they wanted Him to win the contest. In fact, some in the crowd whispered that Janaka should call off the contest and hand over the beloved daughter Sita to Rama right away. “Why take any chances? He drew up this contest to find the worthy husband for her. No one is worthier than Rama. We can tell this by looking at Him. He is obviously some kind of divine figure. We also know that His character is unmatched. As a humble youth, He has protected the religious observances of the sages living in the forest. He and His younger brother risk their lives to protect the innocent. In this way no one in society can match them in stature.”
Janaka too wanted Rama to win when he saw Him. Now that the moment was approaching, the anticipation was too great. The future fate of Sita Devi was on the line. Since the people loved her, if she received bad fortune they would take it worse than her. And by the same token, if something good happened to her, they would be even more elated than she would be.
As Shri Rama is the Supreme Lord, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead, He never fails to deliver what His devotees want. And true to form, those spectators who agonized through the suspense felt so much elation that they never forgot about that moment for the rest of their lives. The saints who heard about it immortalized it in poem and song. Goswami Tulsidas relays the event to us in his Janaki Mangala poem, which was composed thousands of years after the fact. In this way if we shift our worries over to God, concerning ourselves with His stature, fame, honor and reputation, then the agony over uncertainty ends up benefitting us immensely.
Agony of uncertainty in outcome,
When will the result to me come?
Without this or that I can surely go,
Either way, the outcome I really want to know.
Janaka and friends desired desperately,
For Rama to lift the bow triumphantly.
Minutes like hours they went,
In thinking of God time well spent.