Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Janaka included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Janaka


Janaka was descended from Viṣṇu in the following order:—Brahmā,—MarīciKaśyapaVivasvānVaivasvataIkṣvākuNimiMithiUdāvasuNandivardhanaSuketuDevarātaBṛhadrathaMahāvīraSudhṛtiDhṛṣṭaketuHaryaśvaMaru—Pratvantaka—KīrtirathaDevamīḍha—Vibudha—Mahīdhraka—KīrtirātaMahāromanSvarṇaromanHrasvaromanSīradhvaja (Janaka).

Janaka dynasty.

Daṇḍa, Vikukṣi and Nimi were the three prominent sons of Ikṣvāku. The dynasty of Vikukṣi earned reputation as the cradle of such powerful Kings as Vikukṣi, Kratha, Māndhatā. Triśaṅku. Hariścandra, Sagara and Bhagīratha. Śrī Rāma also was born in Vikukṣi’s dynasty. It was Nimi, the younger brother of Vikukṣi who founded the Videha dynasty. There is a story about that dynasty getting the name, Videha. Nimi decided to conduct a yajña and requested Vasiṣṭha to act as high priest at the yajña. Vaṣiṣṭha, who then was busy with the affairs of another yajña asked Nimi to postpone his proposed yajña to a later date. To this Nimi made no answer, and Vasiṣṭha went away under the impression that his suggestion had been accepted by Nimi. Accordingly, as soon as he got free from other preoccupations Vasiṣṭha went to Nimi to conduct his yajña. But, Nimi had already performed the Yajña with Gautama as high priest. Enraged at this Vasiṣṭha cursed Nimi that he should lose his body and become Videha (without body). As the result of the curse Nimi fell down dead. As Nimi had no sons living the Ṛṣis churned out of his body a child. As the child was got by mathana (churning) he was named Mithi Janaka. After that all kings born in Mithi’s dynasty began using the common name Janaka.

The actual name of Janaka, father of Sītā, was Śīradhvaja. Mithilā or Mithilāpurī was the city founded by Mithi. From the time of the curse pronounced on Nimi the Kings of that dynasty also came to be known as Videhas, and the country they ruled Videha. (See Nimi). (Devī Bhāgavata, 6th Skandha).

Brother of Sīradhvaja.

Sīradhvaja, the father of Sītā had a brother called Kuśadhvaja. While Śīradhvaja was the King of Mithilā the King of Sāṃkāśya called Sudhanvan attacked Mithilā. Sīradhvaja killed Sudhanvan in the war and crowned his brother Kuśadhvaja as the King of Sāṃkāśya. Lakṣmaṇa’s wife Ūrmilā was Kuśadhvaja’s daughter. Kuśadhvaja had three daughters called Māṇḍavī, Ūrmilā and Śrutakīrti. Bharata married Māṇḍavī and Śatrughna married Śrutakīrti. (Kamba Rāmāyaṇa, Bālakāṇḍa; Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa. Bālakānda, Canto 71).

Birth of Sītā

At a time when Sīradhvaja had no issues a girl emerged from the furrows of the ploughed earth, and Sīradhvaja felt the desire to bring up the child as his own daughter. And, a celestial voice, "Oh! Sīradhvaja! it is your own daughter" clinched the issue for the King. That daughter was Sītā. Sīradhvaja—Janaka—accordingly brought up Sītā as his own daughter. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Ayodhyā Kāṇḍa, Cantol 18).

Janaka got Śaivacāpa. See

under Jamadagni

Janaka and Kahoṭaka. See

under Aṣṭāvakra.

Janaka and Aṣṭāvakra. See

under Aṣṭāvakra.

Janaka in Yamaloka.

King Janaka once, by his yogic powers cast off his physical body. A vimāna (aerial chariot) from Devaloka arrived to carry Janaka’s soul there. On his way to Devaloka Janaka approached Kālapurī where innumerable sinners were being tortured in the various hells. When they breathed the air which had come in contact with Janaka’s body, they got much relief from their tortures and the fire of hell now became cool and pleasing to them. When Janaka was about to go away the inmates of hell begged him not to leave them in that condition. He thought to himself thus: "If these beings get some comfort or happiness from my presence I shall surely stay here in Kālapurī, which will be my svarga (heaven)." Thinking thus, Janaka the most righteous of souls stopped there.

And then Kāla arrived there to determine suitable punishments to the various kinds of sinners, and seeing Janaka there, asked why he, the most virtuous and the purest of souls, waited there, Janaka explained his reason for standing there and added that he would quit the place only if Kāla released all those people from hell. On hearing Janaka’s answer Kāla pointed out to him one by one the sinners who were being tortured in hell and explained things as follows:—"Look here, that fellow there had seduced the wife of his most intimate friend, and that is why he is tied to a red hot iron bar for 10,000 years. After those 10,000 years he would be born in a pig’s womb, and when he is born among human beings it would be as a eunuch. The other fellow there forcibly kissed another man’s wife, and so he has to be roasted in Raurava hell for hundred years. That other fellow is put into this vessel filled with blood and pus with both his hands cut off as he had stolen other people’s property. This fellow did not speak even a word of welcome to a tired and hungry man who sought his hospitality at night. That is why he has been thrown into thick darkness, and there, for a hundred years, he must undergo the additional suffering of wasp-bite. As for this man he had in a loud voice found fault with another man, and this other fellow is his friend who listened to those vilifications attentively. And, that is the reason why both of them have been pushed into this unused well. So, all these people have to suffer for their sins. You, King Janaka, who did only righteous acts will please go away from this accursed place."

Janaka asked Kāla how those sinners could be released from hell, and Kāla answered that if any good act of the King was transferred to them they could be set free. One early morning Janaka had, with a pure heart, chanted "Rāma, Rāma" and that good act was exchanged for the freedom of the sinners.

After their release had been effected, Janaka asked Kāla: "You say that only sinners come here. What sin have I committed that I should come here?" Kāla’s reply to the question was as follows:—"Oh! King, no one else in the whole world has so much puṇya as you have got. But, a small sin you have committed. Once you prevented a cow from eating grass, and, therefore, you had to come up to the gates of hell. Now, that sin has been atoned for. So you may go to svarga." Janaka saluted Kāla and in the divine vimāna went to Heaven. (Padma Purāṇa, Chapters 30 and 31).

Artificial Janaka.

While Sītā was a captive in Laṅkā Rāvaṇa, to bring her round, deputed a very clever magician called Marutta to her, disguised as Janaka, her father. And Marutta, in the capacity of her father consoled her and advised her to yield to the wishes of Rāvaṇa. But Sītā did not yield, and the artificial Janaka assumed his original form of Marutta and went away. (Kaṃba Rāmāyaṇa, Sundara Kāṇḍa).

Other information about Janaka.

(1) Bhīmasena defeated one Janaka, who was King of Mithilā during the time of the Pāṇḍavas. (Sabhā Parva, Chapter 30, Verse 13).

(2) King Janaka was a personification or incarnation of all good qualities. (Vana Parva, Chapter 207, Verse 37).

(3) Janaka, the father of Sītā, in his old age renounced his kingdom and became a recluse. (Śānti Parva. Chapter 18, Verse 4).

(4) Once the sage called Aśmaka imparted some pieces of advice to Janaka. (See under Aśmakopākhyāna).

(5) Once in a war between Janaka and a king called Pratardana, the army of Janaka, in the presence of the army of Pratardana stood aghast, and Janaka incited them to fight by showing heaven and hell to them. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 99, Verse 4).

(6) Once in a war with a King called Kṣemadarśī when victory for Janaka was found to be an impossibility he, as advised by Sage Kālakavṛkṣaka gave his daughter to Kṣemadarśī in marriage. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 106, Verse 2).

(7) Once Māṇḍavya a great sage put many questions about Tṛṣṇā (desire) to Janaka and he, the great philosopher answered the questions quite satisfactorily (Śānti Parva, Chapter 276).

(8) On another occasion Janaka had a talk with Sage Parāśara about the attainment of prosperity and welfare. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 296).

(9) There was a King called Karāla Janaka among the Janaka Kings. Once Vasiṣṭha gave some good advice to Karāla Janaka. (Śānti Parva, Chapters 302308).

(10) Once a Sage advised a Janaka King called Vasumān on subjects relating to Dharma. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 309).

(11) Vasumān Janaka, son of Devarāta put many questions to Yājñavalkya and they were answered to the full satisfaction of the King. (Śānti Parva, Chapters 310-318).

(12) The Janaka King called Janadeva had once a discussion with Sage Pañcaśikha about the means to avoid death. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 319).

(13). There was once a Janaka King called Dharmadhvaja, and Sulabhā, an erudite woman in Mithilā wanted to test the King. By her yogic powers she assumed the form of a very beautiful woman and visited Janaka’s palace. She was offered a seat by the King, and seated on the stool she took her soul into the body of Janaka, and the soul entered into a dicussion on philosophic subjects with Janaka. Sulabhā was thus convinced about the unique scholarship of the King and left the palace ashamed about her attempt to test the King. (Śānti Parva, Chapter 320).

(14) Śuka, the son of Vyāsa not being fully satisfied by the study of Bhāgavata once visited Janaka at the instance of his (Śuka's) father, and Janaka did so easily clear the doubts of Śuka, which even Vyāsa had not been able to successfully tackle. (Devī Bhāgavata, 1st Skandha).

(15) King Janaka did not eat flesh. (Anuśāsana Parva, Chapter 115, Verse 65).

(16) Dharma, once in the guise of a brahmin imparted many pieces of advice to Janaka. (Aśvamedha Parva, Chapter 32).

The above facts prove that the Janaka kings, as a rule, were great scholars and philosophers.

Synonyms of Janaka.

Aindradyumni, Daivarāti, Dharmadhvaja, Karāla, Karālajanaka; Maithila, Mithilādhipa, Mithileśvara, Vaideha etc.

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