“Taking the oath, Janaka gave away Sita to Rama in all politeness and happiness in a beautiful scene that was reminiscent of when the king of mountains gave away Parvati to Shiva and when the ocean gave away Lakshmi to Vishnu.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 18.1)
सन्कल्पि सि रामहि समरपी सील सुख सोभामई |
जिमि सन्करहि गिरिराज गिरिजा हरिहि श्री सागर दई ||
sankalpi si rāmahi samarapī sīla sukha sobhāmaī |
jimi sankarahi girirāja girijā harihi śrī sāgara daī ||
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is so kind that He occasionally intervenes in a matter directly affecting the credibility and standing of His pure devotees. Just when things look their bleakest, when it seems all hope is lost, when the stars have apparently misaligned on purpose, to cause the greatest damage, the original one rises to the occasion, like the bright sun illuminating the already illustrious solar dynasty.
On the holiday of Rama Navami, we remember not only the descent of the Supreme Lord as Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, but also His many extraordinary feats, accomplishments, and personal interventions to bring peace and calm to otherwise dangerous situations.
While directly associated with the Raghu dynasty, which has King Dasharatha as the leader at the time of Rama’s sacred arrival, Bhagavan in that avatara also has relations with the king of Mithila, whose leader is Janaka at the time.
As the father of Sita Devi personally attests, there is a long line of kings of the same name within that family. The Janaka of Ramayana fame is more accurately identified through the name Shiradhvaja.
तत: शीरध्वजो जज्ञे यज्ञार्थं कर्षतो महीम् ।
सीता शीराग्रतो जाता तस्मात् शीरध्वज: स्मृत: ॥
tataḥ śīradhvajo jajñe
yajñārthaṁ karṣato mahīm
sītā śīrāgrato jātā
tasmāt śīradhvajaḥ smṛtaḥ
“From Hrasvaroma came a son named Shiradhvaja [also called Janaka]. When Shiradhvaja was plowing a field, from the front of his plow [shira] appeared a daughter named Sitadevi, who later became the wife of Lord Ramachandra. Thus he was known as Shiradhvaja.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.13.18)
That Janaka found his first daughter accidentally, while ploughing a field. He held great affection from the initial moments, when holding her in his arms. He later vowed to give her away in marriage through the self-choice ceremony [svayamvara] arranged as a contest.
Princes from around the world would arrive. They would make an attempt to lift the heavy bow of Lord Shiva, which was passed down in the family. The prince who could lift the bow would win. They would get to marry Janaka’s daughter, the beautiful Sita.
This was Janaka’s sankalpa. This was his vow, but upon witnessing the presence of the eldest son of King Dasharatha, who was escorted to the contest by the venerable Vishvamitra Muni, there was some trepidation. Perhaps Janaka had made a terrible mistake.
You see, if the beautiful Rama, who looked to be the perfect match for Sita, qualified in every way, could not lift the bow, then there was no chance for such a marriage arrangement to take place. Janaka’s vow would, alas, be the cause of great embarrassment.
There was sankalpa in both the rules of the contest and also the formal marriage ritual. There was truth on all sides, as Janaka’s daughter was uniting with the Absolute Truth Himself, who is not formless. There may be a formless feature, known as niraka-brahman, from the standpoint of understanding an all-pervading energy, but at the source is always a person.
It is a singular identity, though He manifests in a variety of ways. Rama Navami celebrates one such manifestation, and through Rama’s movements and actions, so many were blessed and saved. Janaka was already qualified to receive Sita as a daughter, and his determination to uphold righteous principles brought him Rama as a son-in-law.
Goswami Tulsidas says the scene of giving away Sita to Rama was similar to how the mountain-king gave away his daughter to Mahadeva and the ocean offering Lakshmi in marriage to Vishnu. This arrangement aligned with righteousness. There was duty and honor from all sides.
In the same way, devotees of Rama vow to continue in their efforts to stay connected with Him, to serve Him with love and determination, and to always remember Him. This vow spans multiple lifetimes; for as many as may occur moving forward.
Wherever they land, whether in heaven or hell, they will always see Rama standing by, ready to protect with bow and arrow. They will remember the glorious occasion of Janaka’s vow holding steady, carrying as much weight as Rama’s bow itself.
In that vow steady,
Equal to bow heavy.
Such that only to lifter to go,
Each participant to know.
But alas the perfect match coming,
Janaka now embarrassed becoming.
But Rama that oath maintaining,
Bow in air His arm sustaining.