The Kingdom of Videha - The Janakas of Mithila

The Kingdom of Videha - The Janakas of Mithila

The Kingdom of Videha - The Janakas of Mithila

Videha dynasty of Mithila is one of the prominent dynasties of ancient India. The most significant mention of this dynasty is found in the epic Ramayana because of the fact that devi Sita belonged to this illustrious lineage of Kings who called themselves Janaka, because they treated their subjects as their children. Because of their rishi like attitude and lifestyle they were often referred as Rajarshis.

In this post we will talk about the family of Devi Sita and try to answer questions like - why was the kingdom called Videha? how did the capital get the name Mithila? What was the reason behind the title Janaka? How did the family come in possession of the divine bow of Mahadev? while exploring about some of the prominent Kings of this illustrious dynasty of ancient India.

The Origin - Nimi's Sacrifice

Second son of Maharaj Ikshvaku of Suryavamsha was Nimi. Once Nimi wanted to conduct a long sacrifice for the benefit of his people and approached Brahmarshi Vashishtha for the same. Vashishtha was occupied conducting a many years long sacrifice for Devraj Indra and asked Nimi to wait.

Keeping the benefit of his subjects in mind Nimi did not wait and approached Gautama Rishi instead. Gautama rishi agreed and Nimi's sacrifice started under the guidance of Gautama rishi.

When Brahmarshi Vashishtha returned after completing Indra's sacrifice and found out that Nimi did not wait and started the sacrifice without him, he got angry and cursed Nimi to loose his body. Nimi did not appreciate being cursed for doing good for the people and cursed Vashishtha back the same. (Later Brahmarshi Vashishtha had to be reborn as son of Mitra-Varuna to Urvashi.) 

The Rishi's did not stop the sacrifice and when the Gods appeared at the end of the sacrifice they offered Nimi his body back. Nimi refused and chose to reside in the eyelids of his people. That is why the time taken to blink is called Nimisha.

Since Nimi lost his body, he came to be known as Videha and the dynasty started by him was called by the same name.

The First Janaka - Mithi, the founder of Mithila

With Nimi no longer residing in his physical body, Rishi's churned his lifeless body and through this churning was born Mithi (born through churning) who was also called Vaideha for being born from a lifeless body (son of Videha). Because of his miraculuous birth he assumed the title of Janaka and all his descendent kings followed this tradition.

The city where Mithi built the capital of Videha Kingdom came to be known as Mithila after him.

The Divine Bow of Mahadev

Janaka’s son was Udāvasu of whom was born Nandivardhana; his son was Suketu (Sukeśa) who gave birth to Devarāta.

It was Devarata who received the divine bow of Mahadeva from the Gods who gave it to him for safe-keeping. The bow remained in Mithila worshipped by various generations of Janaka before being broken by Shriram.

From Devarata was born Bṛhadratha, whose son was Mahāvīrya, the father of Sudhṛt; from him sprang up Dhṛṣṭaketu; his son was Haryaśva, whose son was Maru. Maru’s son was Pratīpaka whence was born Kṛti; his son was Devamīḍha whose son was Viśruta, the father of Mahādhṛti. His son was Kṛtirāta whose son was Mahāromā; his son was Svarṇaromā from whom was born Hrasvaromā.

The Janaka of Ramayana - the father of Devi Sita

From Hrasvaromā sprang up Sīradhvaja, who while ploughing the earth for sacrifice, Sītā (the consort of Rāma) was born (discovered) at the point of the ploughshare. He is hence remembered as Sīradhvaja (one whose plough gave him celebrity like a flag).

After Ramayana

From him was born Kuśadhvaja, whose son was Dharmadhvaja. He (Dharma) had two sons called Kṛtadhvaja and Mitadhvaja. From Kṛtadhvaja, Keśidhvaja, and from Mitadhvaja, Khāṇḍikya were born.

The son of Kṛtadhvaja was expert in the spiritual lore. Khāṇḍikya was proficient in the path of action (karma-mārga), but being afraid of Keśidhvaja, he ran away (leaving his country).

Keśidhvaja had a son called Bhānumān whose son was Sudyumna. His son was Śuci, whose son was Sanadvāja; from Sanadvāja was born Ūrdhvaketu whose son was Aja, who had Purujit as his son. His son was Ariṣṭanemi whose son was Śrutāyu; his son Supārśvaka gave birth to Citraratha, whose son Kṣemardhi was the king of Mithilā. From him Samaratha whose son was Satyaratha; from him sprang Upaguru whose son was Upagupta who was an aṃśa of the Fire-god. His son was Vasvananta, whose son was Yuyudha, from whom was born Subhāṣaṇa; his son was Śruta whose son was Jaya, the father of Vijaya. His son was Ṛta. From him was born Śunaka, whose son was Vītahavya, from whom was born Dhṛti. From Dhṛti was born Bahulāśva, whose son was Kṛti noted for great self-control.

These are verily the kings of Mithilā who were all proficient in the Science of the Soul (Spiritual lore) through the grace of Yājñavalkya the master of yoga. Even though they led the life of householders, they were above the conflicting pairs like pleasure and pain, etc.