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Janaka (Sanskrit: जनक, janaka) or Raja Janaka (राजा जनक, rājā janaka) were the Kings of Videha Kingdom. Their capital was Mithila, which is believed to be present day Janakpur, Nepal. The most famous Janak was Seeradhwaj; he is mentioned in the Ramayana as the father of Sita and also there are references to him in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Mahabharata and Puranas.

Legend of Janakas

The Janakas were known to versed in the knowledge of the Atman, and remained free from attachments even while living as householders and rulers.

Janak in Ramayana

In Baal Kand of Valmiki's Ramayana, Seeradhwaj Janaka (more popularly known merely as Raja Janak or King Janak) proposed a test of strength in which suitors vying for his daughter's hand in marriage would have to string the great bow of Lord Shiva. Lord Rama passed this test of strength, and Janaka's daughter Sita (also referred to as Janaki) wed Rama and together they resided in Ayodhya.

Seeradhwaj Janaka was not only a brave king, but was also as well-versed in the shastras and Vedas as any rishi. He was the beloved pupil of Yaajnavalkya, whose exposition of Brahman to the king forms one chapter of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna cites Seeradhwaj Janaka as an illustrious example of the Karma yoga.

Seeradhwaj Janaka was also said to be a Rajarshi having spiritually advanced and reached the state of a rishi, though he was a king administrating the kingdom of Mithila. He was also instructed by sage Ashtavakra upon the nature of the self or Atman; this exposition forms the content of the famous treatise Ashtavakra Gita.

According to the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Janakas were a race of kings who ruled Videha Kingdom from their capital Mithila. The father of Sita (the wife of Raghava Rama) was named Seeradwaja Janaka. These epics mention many other Janaka kings who were all great scholars and lead the life of a sage though they were kings. They engaged in religious conversations with many sages.

For genealogy of Janakas, see Kings of Mithila

References

  • Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola
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