“Vishvamitra then instructed Janaka, telling him to allow the sun of the sun family to look at Lord Shiva’s bow.” (Janaki Mangala, 90)
kausika janakahiṃ kaheu dehu anusāsana |
dekhi bhānu kula bhānu isānu sarāsana ||
There are many ways to describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and from each way a new path for glorification is found. It’s like having a magic wand that can be waived to create endless discussions that warm the heart and inform the mind. In this particular instance, Goswami Tulsidas nicely set the table by first mentioning that the failure of many princes in a contest was like watching a forest full of the best lotus flowers killed by a chilling frost. And after the onset of that winter chill, the sun of the sun family was to have His chance, to show that someone could indeed lift this amazingly heavy bow.
Shri Ramachandra is a historical personality and also an incarnation of God. We are informed of this by the Vedas. His name says that He is the moon that gives full transcendental pleasure. His appearance took place in a dynasty that originated with the sun-god, Vivasvan. When hearing such facts, the tendency is to think that in a primitive era man didn’t know much about things out of their grasp, so they just personified such things as the sun, the moon, and the rain. This seems plausible enough, but we also know that despite the wealth of material science and research over millions of years there is still no explanation given for the sun’s origin. If there was a big bang of chemicals to create life, why can’t we repeat the same explosion? Are chemicals more intelligent than us? How can chemicals randomly create an object that burns brightly without cessation, while we can’t even keep a light bulb burning for as long as we want?
The ancient scriptures of India assign personalities to the sun and the moon not out of sheer conjecture, but as an accurate way to describe how all material bodies operate. There are three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. Think of goodness as knowledge, passion as a neutral state, and ignorance as just that, stupidity, lack of knowledge. The elements belonging to these modes can then be combined into so many different proportions, resulting in 8,400,000 species. The sun is a divine figure, so it is mostly in the mode of goodness. It is a giver of life, and so it is to be honored.
The sun’s body is composed mostly of the element of fire, whereas in some creatures fire is almost absent. The sun’s family lineage is described in books like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. The sun’s son was Manu, and his son was Ikshvaku, who took charge of government. These were not sense-gratifiers; they operated off of religious principles, or dharma. The princes who took birth in this line upheld the standard of government set by Ikshvaku. Yet Rama is described as the sun of this line because He was the brightest figure. He made it even more famous than it already was.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Vishvamitra Muni is not exaggerating when He refers to Rama as the sun of the sun race. Prior to this, Rama was used as protection in the forest against wicked ogres who were attacking the sages. Think of retreating to the wilderness to find peace and quiet. You want to get away from the hustle and bustle of civilized life and just take it easy for a while. These sages took this attitude to the extreme and decided to make the forest their home. They just wanted to worship God, and the Vedas gave them plenty of rituals and regulations to follow. There would be fewer distractions in the forest, or so they thought.
Rakshasas, creatures who were mostly in the mode of ignorance, purposefully attacked these sages because of their respect for religious principles. If I live in ignorance I can’t really successfully debate someone who lives in knowledge. My arguments will always fail, for deep down I know that I am engaged in the wrong activities. The only way I can emerge victorious is if I destroy my opponent. This is a principal tool of the politician who doesn’t stand for anything in his campaign. Rather than tell people the truth, that he wants to stay in power so that he can distribute taxpayer dollars to his specific interest groups of choice, he will try to slander the opposition, using every fallacy of argument there is in order to sway voters.
These Rakshasas couldn’t argue, so they just attacked. Therefore the sages required protection and so Vishvamitra went to Ayodhya to get the help of Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Though they were very young at the time, they still defeated the Rakshasas. The forest was previously chilled by these vile creatures, but the sun of the solar dynasty was there to bring the lotus-like sages back to life.
On this occasion in Janakpur, Rama would not revive the princes who had failed to lift the bow. They were trying to win the hand of Sita Devi in marriage. She was King Janaka’s beloved daughter. Rama’s transcendental warmth would revive the hopes of the people of the town, who wanted Him to win. They saw His beauty and were enamored by it. They had never seen anyone like Rama before. This is what happens when you see God, and in order to see Him right you must be pure at heart. Only then will your eyes notice the Divine when it is standing in front of you.
As a pious king himself, Janaka respected the priestly class, and so Vishvamitra was not out of place in instructing Janaka. It was at the sage’s direction that the brothers went to Janakpur, for they were otherwise content staying in the forest and protecting him. Vishvamitra was doing the work of the demigods, the celestials who wanted Rama to rid the world of the head of the Rakshasas, Ravana. Through lifting the bow of Lord Shiva, the wheels were set in motion for the demon’s demise.
Chill of the frost on the forest goes upon,
Life of the beautiful lotuses thus gone.
With a most powerful sun to arrive,
Petals open up, life of the lotuses to revive.
Shri Rama was solar dynasty’s sun,
Ready to lift bow that others could none.
Vishvamitra instruction to Janaka gave,
Lifting bow, Rama dreams of residents to save.