Shiva’s Bow

IMG_0164“Emptying and filling the pitcher, looking again and again at the bow and Rama they are thinking. The men and women are both happy and sad, and so with all their hearts they are praying to Lord Shiva.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 10.1)

“This is Lord Shiva’s bow after all. He originally gave it to the family ruling over Janakpur, and it has since made its way down the succession of kings, now in King Janaka’s possession. Such a pious ruler is worthy of such a wonderful bow belonging to a divine figure of a sterling character. Lord Shiva can make anything happen, as it is said that at the end of the creation he will ignite the fire to destroy everything. In Vedic literature references are often made to this fire of devastation as a way to describe a fiery onslaught of gigantic proportion. Now it is Shiva’s bow to determine the husband for Janaka’s beautiful daughter Sita. He must save us today, for our worry is too much.

“Why are we worrying, you ask? This beautiful youth from Ayodhya has captured our hearts. This contest is a test of strength, so naturally many princes from around the world have arrived. They brought their friends, family and priests with them. They wanted their close ones to be with them should they win the contest and marry Sita. Who could blame them for their presumptiveness? A king these days is determined by their strength in fighting more so than their ancestral link. If the king can’t protect his citizens from foreign attack, he isn’t much of a ruler. If he can’t weed out the evil elements of society and bring them to justice, he isn’t much of a protector.

“These are the best kings in the world, and they surely think that they can lift the bow. But thus far not one of them has been able to move the bow an inch. This must be Shiva’s doing, as no one but he can understand the reason for its immense weight. It is like a giant mountain made of iron, and this youth from Ayodhya is like a delicate swan. He is so beautiful, and His innocence is further enhanced by the bow and arrow set that He dutifully carries. His equally as beautiful younger brother Lakshmana is with Him, and so we are hoping that both brothers will soon be united with Janaka’s family.

“Normally, we wouldn’t think there was any hope. We’ve never heard of a swan lifting a mountain. On the contrary, the swan would be greatly overpowered by the mountain, so much so that it wouldn’t survive the clash. Thus even by Rama attempting to lift this bow there is the chance of harm. Yet there is one thing that gives us hope. Rama and His brother are accompanied by Vishvamitra Muni. This venerable rishi, the son of Gadhi, is their spiritual master at this time, and though he has taught them much, he has also relied upon them for protection.

Rama and Lakshmana slaying Tataka“We have heard that Rama, with the help of Lakshmana, killed the wicked demon Subahu. He has also protected the sacrifice of the sage from the fiend Maricha, who as a Rakshasa is known for his affinity for disrupting sacrifices. Rama also killed the female Rakshasa Tataka who had been harassing the sages in the forest. This means that He possesses strength as well. This contest is also a kind of sacrifice, as it is to determine the religiously wedded husband for Janaki, our beloved princess. Rama must also protect this sacrifice and thereby ensure that Janaki receives the proper husband.

“As Rama is so beautiful, we can’t help but stare at Him. One second we are confident that He will win, but then the next we look at the bow and fall back into despair. Our hopes fill into a kalasha, which then empties as soon as we look at the bow. We didn’t have this worry before Rama arrived. We were actually eager to watch the contest, to see who could win. But now we have a vested interest. Rama must win. It cannot be any other way. But what if He loses? Then the perfect match will be foiled. Some will say that it is Janaka’s fault for making the contest, while others will blame the creator for having made such a pitiable situation.

“At this time what else can we do but pray to Lord Shiva. He is a devotee of Shri Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means that whatever Shiva asks for he will get. Others are known to worship Shiva as well, and since he is easily pleased he is known as Ashutosha. We’re not asking for material opulence. We don’t want to rule the world through some power to be used for evil. We don’t ask for a long life or the elimination of distress. We simply pray for the bow to be made as light as a feather when Rama tries to lift it. He is the proper husband for Sita, and without Shiva’s help we don’t think the match can materialize.

“If Mahadeva grants us this wish, we will sing of the glorious occasion in all felicity. We think that the occasion will be so famous that sages, housewives and kings alike will fondly remember it going forward. Fruitive workers, mental speculators, yogis and devotees will all look back to this day and immediately get a smile on their face. As the bow will be a key instrument in the making of the marriage of Sita and Rama, Lord Shiva will be honored as well. Therefore it is in his interest to help us on this day, one we hope to never forget.”

In Closing:

A small leaf at his deity’s feet drop,

And soon material opulence you have got.


As Ashutosha easily he gives what is desired,

Destroys the creation at end with universal fire.


His life spent in divine contemplation,

Chanting Rama’s name is his meditation.


That same Rama towards his bow came near,

In watchers drew both excitement and fear.


Unable to bear internal tug of war fight,

They prayed to Shiva to make the bow light.

Categories: janaki mangala

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