Janaka

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

The king Nimi was the son of Ikṣvāku and grandson of Vaivasvata Manu. He gave up his body due to the curse of the sage Vasiṣtha. Since there was chaos in the kingdom, people churned the body of Nimi. Due to this, a person came out of that corpse, who was named ‘Videha,’ ‘Mithi’ and ‘Janaka’. He was crowned as the new king. Hence, all the persons born in his lineage came to be known as Vaideha or Maithila or Janaka.

The original name of the Janaka of the Rāmāyana was Śīradhvaja. When he was tilling his land as a part of the ceremony connected with the Putrakāmesṭi sacrifice, he got a female baby inside a golden box. He named her ‘Sītā.’ His wife's name was Sumedhā. His own daughter, which was born later, was named Urmilā.

When he arranged the svayamvara[1] of his daughter Sītā, he had stipulated that whoever strung the Śivadhanuṣ[2] would win her as his wife. Śrī Rāma did so and married Sītā.

Janaka’s name appears in the Mahābhārata several times. This epic have given prominence to his sage talks with Pañcaśikha about spiritual wisdom, Sumedhā on the need to follow the duties of a kṣattriya even after attaining jñāna or knowledge, Aśma on dharma in general and Kahola.

His equanimity due to the attainment of spiritual wisdom has been described by the incident where he received the news of his capital Mithilā being reduced to ashes due to great fire. His conversation with the sage Parāśara has now become well known as the Parāśaragitā.[3] He stressed the importance of giving up āśā (desire) and mamatā (attachment) for attaining true happiness.

According to the Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad,[4] he received spiritual wisdom from the great sage Yājñavalkya.


References

  1. Svayamvara is the marriage by choice by the bride.
  2. Śivadhanuṣ means the bow of Śiva which was in his possession.
  3. Śāntiparva 290-298
  4. Brhadāranyaka Upaniṣad 4th Chapter
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore