The feelings between Shri Rama and Sita in the same place together made every person present that day not want to blink in the fear of missing something. All of their hearts were pounding as they inwardly prayed to God, ‘Please Lord, make Janaka wed his beloved daughter to Shri Rama; the world will praise him for it.’ The people were captivated as the inevitable union of the divine couple drew closer.
A minister came forward at Janaka’s request and proclaimed:
To all present please heed the vow of our King Janaka. The strength of you assembled here is unparalleled. Your strength is like the moon, but Lord Shiva’s bow is like the eclipse. Known to all, it devours all strength. Even great warriors such as Ravana and Banasura retreated into the darkness at the sight of it. Whomever has the strength to break this great bow of Lord Shiva will be proclaimed the groom to Princess Sita.
Filled with desire, the princes listened anxiously. Some of them stood up with fists clenched and almost growling whilst looking at the bow. Bowing down to their chosen deity (ishtadevta), one by one, the princes came fourth and attempted to lift and break the bow, but it could not even be moved. After some of the princes tried and failed, others came to their senses and gave up without trying.
Thousands tried and thousands failed to even move Lord Shiva’s bow. Baffled at every attempt, it seemed an impossible task. Like a disciplined and virtuous lady who refuses to yield to the charms of a young prince, the bow refused to be move. Was it all a big joke? Had the princes been invited to be ridiculed? Like a renunciate who has renounced lay life but with his mind still filled with desire, the princes were ineffective.
Janaka said in anger:
At my invitation you have come here from every corner of the world, taking the form of humans. Many of you may be gods or demons, but it seems that the creator has not made a man capable of breaking this bow and winning the hand of my daughter. All of you have said that you could do this task, but the bow has not moved the distance of a grain of sand! The earth seems devoid of all heroes. Give up princes! Sita shall remain unmarried and I can not abandon my vow. Sita shall remain a maiden. Know that this is not in my hands but in the hands of destiny alone. Had I known that there were no longer any capable heroes in the world, I would have never undertaken this swayamvar.
Lakshmana became filled with anger, his brows tightened and his eyes became bloodshot red. Janaka’s words were like arrows through his heart. He said:
In the presence of Shri Rama, how can you speak such unworthy words King Janaka?!
Conscious of the fact that Shri Rama wouldn’t approve of Lakshmana speaking out to Janaka in that way, Lakshmana chose to speak from his heart to his brother:
You my brother are the jewel of our dynasty. Without any hesitation I would lift the entire earth like a small ball and smash it into pieces as if it were a clay pot. By your grace my Lord, I could smash the great Mount Meru like a vegetable. What to think of this old bow? If you give me your permission, I will string this bow like bending a plant. By your grace O Lord, I will crush it as if stepping on a mushroom. If I fail to, I will never hold a bow again.
It was as if the earth trembled at Lakshmana’s words. Janaka was taken aback and the princes still present were filled with fear. Their Guru, Vishvamitra, intervened and said in a soft voice:
This moment is an auspicious one. My child, come forward and break this bow like a twig and relieve Janaka of his suffering.
The Lord of the solar dynasty stood up and approached the bow. As he stood up from his seat, the eyes of the saints present were like blooming flowers at the peak of spring, like bees returning home at sunset. The remaining princes vanished into the background like the stars at first light of the morning, their egos nowhere to be seen. The arrogance earlier expressed by the princes shriveled up like lilies.
The saints and gods were gleaming at the sight of Shri Rama like a Chakravaka bird reunited with its beloved partner after a night of separation. Shri Rama, after touching the feet of his Guru, walked towards the bow with grace while the saints prayed to Lord Ganesha for his success.
Sita’s mother said with love in her heart:
I insist that anyone who considers himself a friend of Mithiala give their blessings to the young prince to participate in this Swayamvar. Even before great warriors like Ravana and Banasura, this young prince should be granted this opportunity. Destiny will always take its course.
A friend of Sita’s mother said:
Those who appear destined should not be taken lightly however young or different they may be. What comparison could be made of the ocean to the Sage Agastya, who was born from a small jar but had the power to drain the ocean dry! The sun’s orb appears small but the moment it rises it vanquishes all of the darkness in the sky! A mantra is very small and appears like any other word, but it has Brahman the supreme reality under its sway. Hari, Hara, all of the gods can be found by a single word. A tiny stick can be used to control even the most powerful, furious elephant. Armed with his bow and arrow of flowers, cupid has divinely arranged this auspicious moment. Realising this give up all of your doubts…Shri Rama will indeed break the bow of Shiva.
Sita looked towards Shri Rama and inwardly prayed to each of the gods for their blessings. Trying to remain calm, her heart was beating fast as she prayed, ‘Dear Lord Shiva and Bhavani, please be gracious to me with your blessings. Grant me your grace by making this bow light. Dear Lord Ganesha, the greatest servant of Lord Shiva, granter of wishes, it is for this day that I have waited to ask anything of you. If you hear my prayers, please make the bow of Shiva lighter than a feather.’
Sita continued to look at Shri Rama as she prayed, her eyes filled with tears of love, her spine tingling and hairs standing on end, she feasted upon his beauty. She couldn’t help but think that her father had made a terrible mistake making this promise…her destiny was in God’s hands. She said:
O Lord, how can I maintain a balanced mind? Can a diamond ever be pierced by the pointed stalk of a Shirisha flower? Nobody can help me except you. O bow of Lord Shiva, you have shown your heaviness to everyone here present, now I pray that you become as light as a feather! My heart is yearning for you to do this, this second feels as long as a hundred ages.
Turning her eyes from the Lord to the ground, her eyes sparkled like the reflection of the moon in a river. Her tears remained close to her eyes knowing that they had gazed upon Shri Rama. Like gold to a stingy man, they too desired the bliss of Rama. She said to herself:
If I am true to my vow in thought, word and deed, and if my mind really desires the feet of the Lord, I am sure God, who dwells in the heart of every living being, will unite me with the Lord. It is an eternal truth that one who cherishes this eternal love for the Lord will eventually be united with him.
Looking again at the Lord, she promised to love him until the day she died. Shri Rama, the embodiment of compassion, knew everything.