“While he was tilling a field with a plow in his hand, it is said that I, the daughter of that king, arose from underneath the earth’s surface.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.28)
तस्य लाङ्गलहस्तन्य कर्षतः क्षेत्रमण्डलम्।
अहं किलोत्थिता भित्वा जगतीं नृपतेस्सुता।।
tasya lāṅgalahastanya karṣataḥ kṣetramaṇḍalam।
ahaṃ kilotthitā bhitvā jagatīṃ nṛpatessutā।।
An integral aspect to the Ramayana history, King Janaka was in preparation for a yajna. This is sacrifice for a specific purpose. Yajna is synonymous with Vishnu, who is the Supreme Lord. Sacrifice is meant for His satisfaction. As advised to the bow-warrior Arjuna, every act should be dedicated to Vishnu, as this will bring the most auspicious result.
यत् करोषि यद् अश्नासि
यज् जुहोषि ददासि यत्
यत् तपस्यसि कौन्तेय
तत् कुरुष्व मद्-अर्पणम्
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
“O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.27)
Janaka was preparing the field. He was the king, so he knew the importance fertile ground has to a society. However many advancements can be made in technology, the basics with respect to living always remain the same. There must be rain. There must be fertile ground. And there must be someone to reap the harvest.
While digging his way to something better, the king received an unexpected surprise. Based on his situation, Janaka could have responded in a variety of ways, which diverge significantly from the path ultimately chosen.
1. Not my problem
Janaka found a baby girl in the ground. She was still alive. As Sita Devi describes to Anasuya, the king was childless at the time. Nevertheless, the following rationale could be justified:
“Hey, this is not my problem. Obviously, the child belongs to someone else. If I didn’t stumble upon this area, nothing would have changed. I am in the middle of preparing for a yajna. My focus is on pleasing Bhagavan with a specific activity delineated for such a purpose. What is a baby going to do for me?”
2. Men are not cut out for this
As much as a father may try, with a newborn there are some limitations brought on by nature. When the child is desperate for milk from the mother, the father has no other recourse. He cannot satisfy the crying child. Unless and until there is visual and physical contact between the mother and child, the crying will continue.
Janaka could have walked away based on gender. He is a man, after all. What would he know about raising a child? The baby was a girl, also, which means that Janaka could not pass down the kingdom to her. There would be the added responsibility of finding a suitable husband for her in due time.
3. I am a yogi
Janaka was well-known for his detachment. The title of Videha suited him. A person in the renounced mindset, vairagya, is not swayed by the temporary. Family life can be the greatest illusion, since there is the hope that through offering love and affection to others happiness will abound. Many times the dependents become spoiled and only look to see what the provider has to offer them on a given day. Failure to meet expectations will create resentment.
As Sita describes, Janaka felt affection immediately. Was his status as a yogi invalidated? Was he now back in the clutches of maya, the illusory energy whose influence keeps the connection in yoga a distant dream?
Actually, the girl was the goddess of fortune. Unconditional affection for her qualifies as bhakti. The behavior in Janaka actually enhanced his position in vairagya. He brought her home and named her Sita. A voice from the sky confirmed that this was his daughter in all righteousness.
The devotional way of life does not always go as planned. While a person may wish to simply chant the holy names in seclusion, the Divine may have different ideas. If the mentality is the same, if the purity in the heart is not tainted, then even accepting a new member of the family continues the devotional mindset.
Baby girl in ground,
By King Janaka found.
While preparing the field,
For mercy of plenty yield.
Ways that could have reacted,
That not by family to be distracted.
Or father for this not made,
But instead with affection stayed.