Legend of Shiva’s bow is narrated as Vishvamitra asks Janaka to show that bow to Rama and Lakshmana, as they have come this far to have a glimpse of that great bow. Janaka, while narrating its history, makes an offer saying that his daughter Seetha will be given in marriage, if only Rama can string the bowstring of Shiva’s bow. In the very same sixty-sixth chapter of Kishkindha Kanda, Valmiki narrates the birth of Hanuma through Jambavanta, elaborately. But here Valmiki informs through Janaka about the nature of birth of Seetha, very concisely, which gave raise to too much of debate about this enigmatic Seetha and her birth. Some points are given in the endnote.
ततः प्रभाते विमले कृत कर्मा नराधिपः |
विश्वामित्रम् महात्मानम् आजुहाव स राघवम् || १-६६-१
vishvaamitram mahaatmaanam aajuhaava sa raaghavam || 1-66-1
Then on performing morning time rites in the aurora of next morning, king Janaka invited great souled Vishvamitra, along with Raghava-s. [1-66-1].
तम् अर्चयित्वा धर्माअत्मा शास्त्र दृष्टेन कर्मणा |
राघवौ च महात्मानौ तदा वाक्यम् उवाच ह || १-६६-२
raaghavau ca mahaatmaanau tadaa vaakyam uvaaca ha || 1-66-2
On reverencing Vishvamitra and the noble souled Raghava-s according to the formalities envisaged by scriptures, then the virtue souled Janaka spoke these words, indeed. [1-66-2].
भगवन् स्वागतम् ते अस्तु किम् करोमि तव अनघ |
भवान् आज्ञापयतु माम् आज्ञाप्यो भवता हि अहम् || १-६६-३
bhavaan aaj~naapayatu maam aaj~naapyo bhavataa hi aham || 1-66-3
“Oh, god, you are welcome, oh, holy sage, bid me as to what I should for you, for I am biddable by you, indeed… [1-66-3].
एवम् उक्तः स धर्मात्मा जनकेन महात्मना |
प्रत्युवाच मुनिर् वीरम् वाक्यम् वाक्य विशारदः || १-६६-४
pratyuvaaca munir viiram vaakyam vaakya vishaaradaH || 1-66-4
When said thus by the foreseer Janaka, [who can foresee as to why Vishvamitra came with Raghava-s this far, and thus asked him as to what next is to be done,] that sage Vishvamitra, for he is presager and wordsmith, [and who knows what is to be done next,] said these words in reply to that valiant king Janaka. [1-66-4].
पुत्रौ दशरथस्य इमौ क्षत्रियौ लोक विश्रुतौ |
द्रष्टु कामौ धनुः श्रेष्ठम् यत् एतत् त्वयि तिष्ठति || १-६६-५
draShTu kaamau dhanuH shreShTham yat etat tvayi tiShThati || 1-66-5
“These two are the sons of Dasharatha, well-renowned Kshatriya-s in world, and they are desirous to see that marvellous bow which has a place with you… [1-66-5].
एतत् दर्शय भद्रम् ते कृत कामौ नृप आत्मजौ |
दर्शनात् अस्य धनुषो यथा इष्टम् प्रतियास्यतः || १-६६-६
darshanaat asya dhanuSho yathaa iShTam pratiyaasyataH || 1-66-6
“You may show that bow, well bodes you, and on beholding that bow the desire of these two princes will come true, and they will go back as they like… [1-66-6].
एवम् उक्तः तु जनकः प्रत्युवाच महामुनिम् |
श्रूयताम् अस्य धनुषो यत् अर्थम् इह तिष्ठति || १-६६-७
shruuyataam asya dhanuSho yat artham iha tiShThati || 1-66-7
But Janaka replied the great sage Vishvamitra when he was addressed thus, “I shall [firstly] tell by which reason that bow has its place here… [1-66-7].
देवरात इति ख्यातो निमेः ज्येष्ठो मही पतिः |
न्यासो अयम् तस्य भगवन् हस्ते दत्तो महात्मना || १-६६-८
nyaaso ayam tasya bhagavan haste datto mahaatmanaa || 1-66-8
“Oh, godly sage, there was a king renowned as Devaraata, sixth one from Nimi, [the originator of our lineage,] and this bow was handed down to him for custodial care by the Sublime Soul, Shiva… [1-66-8]
Comment: Some mms use the word jyeSTaH instead of SaSTa for Nimi and then the meaning is that Nimi’s eldest son is Devaraata. Basing on the account that is given by Janaka at the time of Rama’s mariage with Seetha, Devaraata is the sixth one from Nimi, the originator of Janaka’s lineage..
दक्ष यज्ञ वधे पूर्वम् धनुः आयंय वीर्यवान् |
रुद्रः तु त्रिदशान् रोषात् स लीलम् इदम् अब्रवीत् || १-६६-९
rudraH tu tridashaan roShaat sa liilam idam abraviit || 1-66-9
“Once, during the devastation of the Vedic-ritual of Daksha Prajapati, the mettlesome god Rudra, rancorously outstretching the bowstring of this bow, said this to all gods, superciliously… [1-66-9].
यस्मात् भाग अर्थिनो भागान् न अकल्पयत मे सुराः |
वर अंगानि महाअर्हाणि धनुषा शातयामि वः || १-६६-१०
vara aMgaani mahaaar.hhaaNi dhanuShaa shaatayaami vaH || 1-66-10
” ‘Oh, gods, whereby you have not apportioned my portion [of oblations in Vedic-ritual s, as I am also the] desirer of such portion, [thereby] I will shred the highly revered heads of yours with this bow…’ [So said Shiva to gods.] [1-66-10].
ततो विमनसः सर्वे देवा वै मुनिपुंगव |
प्रसादयन्ति देवेशम् तेषाम् प्रीतो अभवत् भवः || १-६६-११
prasaadayanti devesham teShaam priito abhavat bhavaH || 1-66-11
“Then, oh, best saint Vishvamitra, all gods are truly dismayed, and on their supplicating, Bhava, namely Shiva, the God of Gods is gladdened… [1-66-11].
प्रीति युक्तः तु सर्वेषाम् ददौ तेषाम् महात्मनाम् |
तत् एतत् देवदेवस्य धनू रत्नम् महात्मनः || १-६६-१२
न्यासभूतम् तदा न्यस्तम् अस्माकम् पूर्वजे विभो |
tat etat devadevasya dhanuu ratnam mahaatmanaH || 1-66-12
nyaasabhuutam tadaa nyastam asmaakam puurvaje vibho |
“And that Sublime Soul Shiva gladly gave that bow to all of the great souled gods, and oh, godly saint, then those great souled gods gave this gem of a bow of Shiva, the God of Gods, to our ancestor [Devaraata,] for custodial care… [1-66-12, 13a].
अथ मे कृषतः क्षेत्रम् लांगलात् उत्थिता मम || १-६६-१३
क्षेत्रम् शोधयता लब्ध्वा नाम्ना सीता इति विश्रुता |
kShetram shodhayataa labdhvaa naamnaa siitaa iti vishrutaa |
“Later, when I was ploughing the ritual field then raised by the plough [from the furrow is a baby girl… since she is] gained while consecrating the ritual-field, she is named as Seetha, and thus she is renowned… [1-66-13b, 14a].
भू तलात् उत्थिता सा तु व्यवर्धत मम आत्मजा || १-६६-१४
वीर्य शुल्का इति मे कन्या स्थापिता इयम् अयोनिजा |
viirya shulkaa iti me kanyaa sthaapitaa iyam ayonijaa |
“Hers is a non-uterine birth as she surfaced from the surface of the earth, but fostered as my own soul-born girl and I determined [to giver her in marriage to a bridegroom where his] boldness is the only bounty, [I receive in that marriage…] [1-66-14b, 15a]
Comment: ‘Dowry is property or money brought by a bride to her husband’ and this is familiar throughout the world. In ancient India, there was a counterpart custom to this, called kanyaa shulkam meaning ‘some bounty, property or money offered by a bridegroom’s family to the bride’s family’ since they are getting a worthy bride, coming into their family, not just as a mere wife of the bridegroom, but to upkeep and promote that family and its progeny. And this dowry or its counterpart is not compulsorily be paid in hard cash, but it may be any kind of gifts mutually exchanged, which has slowly developed into a mega havoc these days. Here Janaka wants the ‘valour’ of his prospective son-in-law as bounty due to him in the marriage of Seetha..
भूतलात् उत्थिताम् ताम् तु वर्धमानाम् मम आत्मजाम् || १-६६-१५
वरयामासुः आगम्य राजानो मुनिपुंगव |
varayaamaasuH aagamya raajaano munipuMgava |
“Oh, eminent sage, as my daughter has surfaced from the surface of earth and has come of age, the kings, [having heard my declaration that the bounty for Seetha is boldness alone,] have come and besought for her… [1-66-15b, 16a].
तेषाम् वरयताम् कन्याम् सर्वेषाम् पृथिवीक्षिताम् || १-६६-१६
वीर्य शुल्का इति भगवन् न ददामि सुताम् अहम् |
viirya shulkaa iti bhagavan na dadaami sutaam aham |
“To all of those kings who are beseeching for the girl, I have not given my daughter, saying that she will be given for a bounty of boldness… [1-6-16b, 17a].
ततः सर्वे नृपतयः समेत्य मुनिपुंगव || १-६६-१७
मिथिलाम् अभ्युपागंय वीर्यम् जिज्ञासवः तदा |
mithilaam abhyupaagaMya viiryam jij~naasavaH tadaa |
“Then all the kings convoked and on arriving at Mithila, then they wanted to ascertain the calibre [of the bow, vis-a-vis their own…] [1-66-17b, 18a]
तेषाम् जिज्ञासमानानाम् शैवम् धनुः उपाहृतम् || १-६६-१८
न शेकुः ग्रहणे तस्य धनुषः तोलने अपि वा |
na shekuH grahaNe tasya dhanuShaH tolane api vaa |
“For them, those who wanted to ascertain the calibre of the bow, that bow of Shiva is fetched to their proximity, but they are incapable to joggle it, or even to catch hold of it… [1-66-18b, 19a]
Comment: This bow of Shiva will be transported on a wheeled casket-cart with eight wheels and drawn by five thousand robust persons. This is narrated in next chapter. ‘It is drawn by drawn by five hundred bulls…’ aananda raamayana says so. In other versions of Ramayana, it is said that many people will pull that casket-cart, as one or two persons cannot haul it. Once, when Seetha was playing with other girls, their flowery ball of girl’s rugby goes under this cart. None of her girlfriends is dare enough to near this bow-casket-cart, since it is a reverential casket-cart. But Seetha goes there and pushes that casket-cart aside with her left hand, as though it is a garland, and retrieves that flower ball. This capability of Seetha in easy handling of Shiva’s bow, becomes a bane to her, when one among the wives of sapta R^iSi ‘Seven Sages…’ issues a curse to Seetha, saying that ‘Seetha will be separated from her husband for some time, of course, for the good of people…’ So says the tradition..
तेषाम् वीर्यवताम् वीर्यम् अल्पम् ज्ञात्वा महामुने || १-६६-१९
प्रत्याख्याता नृपतयः तन् निबोध तपोधन |
pratyaakhyaataa nR^ipatayaH tan nibodha tapodhana |
“Oh, great saint, on knowing the valour of those valorous ones as valueless, I countermanded them… oh, ascetically wealthy Vishvamitra, by that you may know [the sequel of it…] [1-66-19b, 20a].
ततः परम कोपेन राजानो मुनिपुंगव || १-६६-२०
अरुन्धन् मिथिलाम् सर्वे वीर्य संदेहम् आगताः |
arundhan mithilaam sarve viirya saMdeham aagataaH |
“Then, oh, eminent sage, those kings beleaguered Mithila in a blind fury, since a self-mistrust bechanced among them all, about their own valour… [1-66-20b, 21a].
आत्मानम् अवधूतम् ते विज्ञाय मुनिपुंगव || १-६६-२१
रोषेण महता आविष्टाः पीडयन् मिथिलाम् पुरीम् |
roSheNa mahataa aaviShTaaH piiDayan mithilaam puriim |
“They surmised for themselves that they are brushed off by me, and they possessed by a high rancour, they strangled the City of Mithila… [1-66-21b, 22a].
ततः संवत्सरे पूर्णे क्षयम् यातानि सर्वशः || १-६६-२२
साधनानि मुनिश्रेष्ठ ततो अहम् भृश दुःखितः |
saadhanaani munishreShTha tato aham bhR^isha duHkhitaH |
“Then elapsed is an year and in anyway the possessions for livelihood went into a decline, oh, eminent sage, thereby I am highly anguished [1-66-22b, 23a].
ततो देव गणान् सर्वान् तपसा अहम् प्रसादयम् || १-६६-२३
ददुः च परम प्रीताः चतुरंग बलम् सुराः |
daduH ca parama priitaaH caturaMga balam suraaH |
“Then I have assuaged the assemblages of gods by my ascesis and gods are also highly gladdened and gave me fourfold forces… [1-66-23b, 24a]
Comment: The four components of army are foot soldiers, cavalry, elephant-squadrons, and chariot-warriors..
ततो भग्ना नृपतयो हन्यमाना दिशो ययुः || १-६६-२४
अवीर्या वीर्य संदिग्धा स अमात्याः पाप कारिणः |
aviiryaa viirya saMdigdhaa sa amaatyaaH paapa kaariNaH |
“Then those evildoers and self-mistrustful kings while being drubbed [by the heaven-sent army, they have become] vigourless and broken, and they beat a hasty retreat… [1-66-24b, 25a].
तत् एतत् मुनिशार्दूल धनुः परम भास्वरम् || १-६६-२५
राम लक्ष्मणयोः च अपि दर्शयिष्यामि सुव्रत |
raama lakShmaNayoH ca api dar.hshayiShyaami suvrata |
“Oh, tigerly sage this is that supremely radiant bow, and oh, saint of sacred vows, I will show it, even to Rama and Lakshmana… [1-66-25b, 26a]
Comment: Here by the use of word ‘even’ ‘also’ Janaka is reckoning Rama or Lakshmana on par with other kings who have tried their hand in lifting it. As of now, Janaka is not admitting any supremeness or super-humanness to them. In Janaka’s asking at verse 4 ‘what can I do next…’ etc., Janaka has sensed as to why this Vishvamitra brought some boys on this long a route, that too by foot. But he is not yet self-assured of Rama’s capability or otherwise. Hence, the next verse starts with the clause ‘if’..
यदि अस्य धनुषो रामः कुर्यात् आरोपणम् मुने |
सुताम् अयोनिजाम् सीताम् दद्याम् दाशरथेः अहम् || १-६६-२६
sutaam ayonijaam siitaam dadyaam daasharatheH aham || 1-66-26
“If Rama strings the bowstring of that bow, oh, sage, I will offer my daughter, whose birth is non-uterine, to Dasharatha’s Rama…” [So said Janaka to Vishvamitra.] [1-66-26b, c].