Raja Janaka was the kings of Videha Kingdom. Their capital was Mithila, which is believed to be present day Janakpur, Nepal. The most famous Janak was Seeradhwaj a vaishya king.
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 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.
King Janaka`s Love for God: Shri Vishu-Shri Rama
`When Janaka had seen for the very first time Shri Rama and Shri Lakshmana (the 2 brothers when they were children), he was curious to know about their identities , so he asked:
“O lord of the sages, please do not hide anything from me, tell me who are these two children? The supreme Lord in whose thoughts my mind is completely engrossed, does the same Lord manifest in these two children? My mind which has renounced everything and is not the least disturbed by desires is behaving strangely today. The effects which the red-legged partridge has on its heart after seeing the Moon, I am experiencing the same after seeing these two children”.
King Janaka whose mind and heart was engrossed in thoughts of God, was impressed by the sight of Rama and Lakshmana. The thought of the unseen Almighty vanished from his mind and was replaced by the thoughts of Shri Rama. It was but natural because who would like to run after the unseen, if he is fortunate enough to see the ‘real’.
Janaka’s affection for Shri Rama was boundless. This is evident in the following incident: After marrying Sita, Shri Rama was on his, way back to Ayodhya along with the marriage procession. Janaka too came along with them to see them off. Dashrath requested him to return back to his palace. But, not willing to let Rama go out of his sight, Janaka refused many times. After repeated insistence of Dashrath, he got down from the chariot with tears in his eyes. He came towards Shri Rama and said:
“O Rama, I do not have words for your praise”. Janaka had mystical love for Shri Rama which cannot be described in words.
Once, a brahmin who wondered why Janak Raja was praised so highly visited Mithila. When he met Janak Raja, the king told the brahmin to travel around entire Mithila with his guardsmen. He gave a pot of oil to the brahmin to place on his head and instructed the guardsmen to cut off the brahmin’s head if even a single drop fell! The brahmin traveled around the city constantly paying attention only to the pot of oil. When the brahmin returned, Janak Raja asked him what sights he had enjoyed in Mithila? The brahmin replied that he had noticed nothing – his focus had not ventured anywhere besides the pot of oil. Janak Raja explained that he ruled the kingdom in a similar fashion: “I live as if there is a sword on top of my throne, held only by a single hair. If I waver in my focus on God, I will be destroyed.”