Skip to main content

King Janaka in Hindu Scriptures and Ramayana



King Janaka is a philosopher king mentioned in Hindu scriptures. He is the foster-father of Sita in the Ramayana. But all these Janaka are not the same. ‘Janak’ means ‘pitha’ or ‘father’ or ‘fatherly figure’ and those dutiful rules who won the heart of his subjects were called as Janak. Thus, Janaka is a term used in Hindu scriptures to refer to an ideal monarch – an ascetic king – rajarishi.
King Janaka was liberated though he lived amongst passions. He had immense properties and wealth, position and power. He had everything, but he was calm. (Swami Satyananda Saraswati 1923 – 2009)
As per Satapatha Brahmana, Janaka was the name assumed by the kings of Videha Kingdom.

King Janaka in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad mentions about a King Janaka performing a yajna involving gifts to find out the greatest philosopher in the land. He offered a thousand cows with ten pieces of gold tied to the horns of each cow and informed the assembly that the greatest philosopher among them could drive the cows to his/her hermitage.

Sage Yajnavalkya gets up in the assembly asks his disciple to drive the cows to his hermitage.

Then the other sages and scholars assembled in the yajna challenge Sage Yajnavalkya.

All the philosophical queries are answered; when there is no one to challenge Sage Yajnavalkya, he is declared as the greatest philosopher.

The fourth chapter of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad is dedicated to the philosophical discussion between Sage Yajnavalkya and Janaka.
Yajnavalkya said: O Janaka! You have attained the fearless (Brahman). (Chapter 4. 2..4).
Brahman is fearless; one who knows this, becomes the fearless Brahman. The knower of the fearless Brahman becomes himself absolutely fearless. (Chapter 4.4. 25). 
King Janaka in the Bhagavad Gita
In chapter 3 verse 20 of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Sri Krishna gives King Janaka as an example of those how had attained libration through Karma Yoga.

The Gita teaches that true sanyasa is not outer but inner renunciation of desires. Raja Janaka lived in a palace, but was non-attached. He was a jnani and practiced sanyasa. (Understanding Jnana and Karma)

Janaka Gita
Janaka Gita consists of the thoughts that passed through the mind of the philosopher king Janaka on hearing the Siddha Gita sung by certain Siddhas outside his palace.

The king surmises that the mind is the root cause of all the miseries of mortals and that the remedy lies in the annihilation of the mind.

When Mithila Burns Nothing of Mine Burns – King Janaka
Disciples of Sage Yajnavalkya thought their teacher was partial to Janaka. One day when a philosophical discussion was taking place, the news came that Mithila, the capital city of Janaka, was burning. The disciples took their meager belongings and rushed out. Janaka did not budge and continued to participate in the philosophical discussion.

The disciples wanted to know why King Janaka did not rush to save his expensive possessions.
Janaka had transcended ego, and notions of I and mine.

Janaka in the Ramayana
Janaka is a religious and noble king in the Ramayana. He found a girl child while ploughing the field. He named her Sita and became her foster father.

When it was time for the marriage of Sita, Janaka announced that only a person who could handle and string the bow of Shiva in his possession would be eligible to marry her.

Sage Ashtavakra and Janaka
Sage Ashtavakra’s father Sage Khagodara had to perform Jal Samadhi after he was defeated by Vandina, a scholar in the court of Janaka.

Sage Ashtavakra learned about his father’s death and arrived at the court of Janaka to face Vandina in philosophical discussion.

When Ashtavakra arrived at the court of King Janaka, the courtiers started laughing seeing his deformed body.

Immediately Ashtavakra started laughing more loudly. The courtiers were silenced by his laughter.
Curious Janaka wanted to know the reason why Ashtavakra was laughing loudly.

Ashtavakra said that he laughed because the King was leading a court of cobblers. The courtiers are only interested in skin (not the soul). This impressed Janaka.

Janaka gave permission for the debate and Ashtavakra easily defeated Vandina. But Ashtavakra did not allow the scholar to perform Jal Samadhi as he considered that knowledge should not be used as a weapon to end the life of any living being.

Janaka then banned Jal Samadhi in his kingdom.

Janaka and Ashtavakra Gita
Ashtavakra Gita or Samhita is in the format of a dialogue between Sage Ashtavakra and King Janaka. 
Janaka asked, “Oh Lord, how does one attain liberation and how is non-attachment attained? Please tell me this.
Ashtavakra replied, “Oh beloved, if you want liberation, then renounce the passions as poison and take forgiveness and innocence, compassion, contentment, and truth as nectar. (More on Ashtavakra Gita here and here 
Woman in the court of King Janaka
Gargi Vachaknavi and other women participated in the philosophical discussions in the court of King Janaka.

Challenging Sage Yajnavalkya, Gargi Vachaknavi asked a series of complex questions relating to Brahman and other allied matters in the court of King Janaka.

Latest Posts