“If the Creator had not given our eyes the gift of the guest Rama, then no one would have blamed the king for the result.” (Janaki Mangala, 74)
It’s natural to lament when you’re caught in an unfavorable situation. You didn’t ask for this difficult circumstance; it just happened. If you are wise and understand that the Creator is ultimately responsible for distributing the outcomes to action, you can rightfully blame him for the circumstance, though in reality every individual has free will in their decisions. We can blame the law of gravity for the pain we feel from falling to the ground, but it is our choice to take steps, and with each step there is the potential for a misstep, which then causes a fall. The fall referenced here relates to the missed opportunity of finding the perfect match for your daughter, who is deserving of the most chivalrous prince in the world.
In the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, King Janaka was famous throughout the world. Just as the day is divided into different portions, such as morning, afternoon and evening, the duration of the creation gets split up into yugas, which not only indicate the amount of time elapsed since the initial birth of the universe but also point to the qualitative makeup of society specific to each time period. The Treta Yuga is like the afternoon; it is just after the initial moments of the creation. The people are still very pure; dharma, or virtue, stands on three of its initial four legs.
King Janaka was exemplary in his practice of dharma. A beautiful daughter belonged to the ideal king, and he did not want to let go of her. But protocol called for a marriage when she reached the suitable age. With the advice of his counselors, Janaka decided on a bow-lifting contest. The first prince to lift this heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva would be garlanded the victor by Sita, Janaka’s daughter. The oath was made in front of others, which meant that everyone would know if King Janaka went against his word later on. For a king in those times nothing was worse than being untrustworthy. If you couldn’t stay true to your word, how could you expect anyone else to be truthful? And without truth what kind of a society will you have?
Janaka’s dedication to virtue made his wife very nervous towards the end of the contest. A handsome youth who was perfect in every way for Sita had arrived at the assembly. The queen would have handed Sita over to Him immediately were it not for the oath taken by her husband. The main problem was that this prince was so youthful in appearance. He had delicate features, and beautiful and soft skin. He was accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Janaka’s wife is lamenting over the situation and blaming the Creator for it. If Rama had never come to the scene, there wouldn’t have been an issue. Either someone would have lifted the bow or no one would have, in which case there would have been no blame. “I tried my best”, Janaka could say. “There is obviously no prince on earth worthy of Sita’s hand.” The exact sequence of events pertaining to this famous incident vary depending on the creation. In the original Ramayana of Valmiki it is described that Rama finally steps up to lift the bow after Janaka describes the bow’s history. In the Ramacharitamanasa, which incorporates versions told in other Vedic texts like the Puranas, after seeing many princes fail Janaka proclaims that there is no suitable match for Sita, at which point Lakshmana angrily intervenes to proclaim that his elder brother can most certainly lift the bow.
The queen thought that since Rama was now here, people would blame Janaka for the oath if the outcome wasn’t ideal. The lament is similar to meeting a person of the opposite sex, developing a strong affection for them, and not being able to marry them. If they had never come into your life, you wouldn’t have felt the pain of rejection, the sting over the loss of a cherished object. But for some reason the Creator destined for you to meet that person, form an attachment to them, and then be forever separated from them.
Everything does happen for a reason, and on this occasion Rama’s delicate features painted a nice contrast to the extremely heavy bow that was central to the contest. In certain situations it looks like the preferred outcome is just impossible. Perhaps the two parties in a romantic affair are too incompatible to make things last. In amorous relations, one party may be attracted to the other, but the other side may not feel the same way. If you want to hire a top notch employee, they might not be willing to come to your firm. You may want to eat at a certain restaurant on a specific night, but the establishment might not be open.
Here it looked like things weren’t going to work out. Rama was too youthful in appearance. He didn’t look as strong as the other princes, all of whom couldn’t even move the bow. Ah, but with God the impossible is not only possible, but it can be made to look easy. With a single exhalation the Supreme Lord as Vishnu creates this and many other universes, and so even within the youthful figure of the prince of the Raghu dynasty He can easily lift a bow that takes hundreds of ordinary men to move. On that day He would live up to His stature as the rescuer of the surrendered souls. With nowhere else to turn, the queen and her friends left the outcome up to the higher authorities. No one is a higher authority than Rama, so He would swiftly deliver the desired outcome.
To the devotees He is a deliverer swift,
Of their desires, their sought after gift.
For the queen it was the husband for her daughter,
She wanted Rama to win and no prince other.
But the Lord of features belonging to a youth,
The weight of Lord Shiva’s bow this did not suit.
Even in youthful form God can amaze,
And so to this day Sita with Rama stays.
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