The Holy Places of Jaiva Dharma: Mithila


King Janaka Greets Dasharatha Before Rama's Wedding in Janakpur
Philadelphia Museum Collection, c. 1700

May 21, 2014 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the holy places mentioned in the Jaiva Dharma of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur - Part 93.

There are countless famous passages found in sastra about Mithila and King Janak, including an extensive mention of Mithila throughout Mahabharta and in the Garga Samhita. The latter dedicates an entire chapter to the 'The Story of the Mithila Women', which we will discuss in a later segment.

Mithila is always mentioned as one of the markers of ancient's Gauda-desa's geographic boundaries. Earliest mention of the term 'Pancha Gauda' is found in Kashmir's historical chronicle, the Rajatarangini of Kalhana, in which Gauda is mentioned in association with Sarasvata, Kanyakubja, Mithila, and Utkala.

The Skanda Purana states that the five Gaudas referred to the kingdoms of Sarasvata, Kanyakubja, Utkala (Orissa), Maithila, and Bengal, but that the name was primarily used for the region lying between East Bengal (Banga) and Mithila.

In a past Sun Feature series on Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Mithila is described in historical narratives as being northern Bihar:

    The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed

    "After the very brief rule of the Soma kings in Nepal, a new dynastic era began, known as the Licchavi Period, from around 400 to 800 A.D. The Licchavis arrived in Nepal much like the Somas, attacking from Mithila (northern Bihar) India in the south. Some records say that the last Kirat king, Gasti, was attacked not only by Somas, but by the Licchavis as well. Either way, the start of the Licchavis rule is generally given as 400 A.D., after the demise of the last Soma king. "

The inclusion of Mithila as an important boundary marker for Gauda extends as far forward as the era of Lord Chaitanya's lila, as we read in Sree Krishna Chaitanya by Nisikanta Sanyal M.A.:

    "There is evidence to prove that there were similar grades in the geographical denotation of the word 'Gauda' also at the period of the Advent of Sree Chaitanya. It was then applied to ( 1 ) the country under the rule of the Muhammedan King of Bengal, (2) to his Capital situated in the modern district of Malda, (3) to the tract adjoining the old town of Nabadwip to which the Capital of the country had been transferred from Gauda in Malda by Lakshmana Sena, the last independent Hindu King of Bengal; (4) while the compound 'pancha-Gauda' 'the five Gaudas' meant practically the whole of Northern India and, specifically, (5) the five countries of Kurukshetra, Kanauj, Utkal, Mithila and Gauda (Bengal), (6) the Brahmana residents of which regions were also designated as 'I>'pancha-Gauda' . The terms 'Gauda' and 'Gauda-mandala' (Circle of Gauda) used by the associates and followers of Sree Chaitanyadeva, as a designation of themselves and their country, mean the greater part of the modern province of Bengal with old Nabadwip 'the city of the Nine Islands,' as centre…"

    Sree Krishna Chaitanya, Vol. I

There is an excellent passage in the Santi Parva of Mahabharata in which Mithila is mentioned by the pious King Janak:

    "'My treasures are immense, yet I have nothing! If again the whole of Mithila were burnt and reduced to ashes, nothing of mine will be burnt!' As a person on the hill-top looketh down upon men on the plain below, so he that has got up on the top of the mansion of knowledge, seeth people grieving for things that do not call for grief. He, however, that is of foolish understanding, does not see this. He who, casting his eyes on visible things, really seeth them, is said to have eyes and understanding. The faculty called understanding is so called because of the knowledge and comprehension it gives of unknown and incomprehensible things. He who is acquainted with the words of persons that are learned, that are of cleansed souls, and that have attained to a state of Brahma, succeeds in obtaining great honours. When one seeth creatures of infinite diversity to be all one and the same and to be but diversified emanations from the same essence, one is then said to have attained Brahma.

    Those who reach this high state of culture attain to that supreme and blissful end, and not they who are without knowledge, or they who are of little and narrow souls, or they who are bereft of understanding, or they who are without penances. Indeed, everything rests on the (cultivated) understanding!'"

    Mahabharata, Section 17 of Rajadharmanusasana Parva, Santi Parva

And earlier in the Santi Parva we find a more detailed description of Mithila, as described by Bhishma, who is narrating the pastime of Sri Suka being sent to get shelter of King Janak's instruction:

    "'Thinking of Emancipation, Suka approached his sire and possessed as he was of humility and desirous of achieving his highest good, he saluted his great preceptor and said,--Thou art well versed in the religion of Emancipation. Do thou O illustrious one, discourse to me upon it, so that supreme tranquillity of mind, O puissant one, may be mine!

    Hearing these words of his son, the great Rishi said unto him,--Do thou study, O son, the religion of Emancipation and all the diverse duties of life!--At the command of his sire, Suka, that foremost of all righteous men, mastered all the treatises on Yoga, O Bharata. as also the science promulgated by Kapila. When Vyasa behind his son to be possessed of the resplendence of the Vedas, endued with the energy of Brahma, and fully conversant with the religion of Emancipation, he addressed him, saying,--Go thou to Janaka the ruler of Mithila. The king of Mithila will tell thee everything for thy Emancipation.--Bearing the command of his sire, O king, Suka proceeded to Mithila for enquiring of its king about the truth of duties and the Refuge of Emancipation. Before he set out, his sire further told him,--Do thou go thither by that path which ordinary human beings take. Do not have recourse to thy Yoga-puissance for proceeding through the skies--At this Suka was not at all surprised (for he was humble by nature).

    He was further told that he should proceed thither with simplicity and not from desire of pleasure.--Along your way do not seek for friends and spouses, since friends and spouses are causes of attachment to the world. Although the ruler of Mithila is one in whose sacrifices we officiate, still thou shouldst not indulge in any feeling of superiority while living with him. Thou shouldst live under his direction and in obedience to him. Even he will dispel all thy doubts.

    That king is well versed in all duties and well acquainted with the scriptures on Emancipation. He is one for whom I officiate in sacrifices. Thou shouldst, without any scruple, do what he bids.-- Thus instructed, the righteous-souled Suka proceeded to Mithila on foot although he was able to traverse through the skies over the whole Earth with her seas. Crossing many hills and mountains, many rivers, many waters and lakes, and many woods and forests abounding with beasts of prey and other animals, crossing, the two Varshas of Meru and Hari successively and next the Varsha of Himavat, he came at last to the Varsha known by the name of Bharata. Having seen many countries inhabited by Chins and Huns, the great ascetic at last reached Aryavarta. In obedience to the commands of his sire and bearing them constantly in his mind, he gradually passed along his way on the Earth like a bird passing through the air. Passing through many delightful towns and populous cities, he saw diverse kinds of wealth without waiting to observe them.

    On his way he passed through many delightful gardens and planes and many sacred waters. Before much time had passed he reached the country of the Videhas that was protected by the virtuous and high-souled Janaka. There he beheld many populous villages, and many kinds of food and drink and viands and habitations of cowherds swelling with men and many herds of cattle. He beheld many fields abounding with paddy and barley and other grain, and many lakes and waters inhabited by swans and cranes and adorned with beautiful lotuses. Passing through the Videha country teeming with well-to-do people, he arrived at the delightful gardens of Mithila rich with many species of trees. Abounding with elephants and horses and cars, and peopled by men and women, he passed through them without waiting to observe any of the things that were presented to his eye."

    Mahabharata, Section 336 of Mokshadharma Parva, Santi Parva


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