|Reign||probably 7th century BCE|
Janaka (also spelled Janak; Nepali: जनक, Sanskrit: जनक[note 1]) is the name used to refer to the kings of Videha.[note 2] The Janaka Dynasty ruled the Videha kingdom from their capital, Mithila, identified with modern Janakpur in Nepal. A certain King Janaka, who probably reigned during the 7th century BCE, is mentioned in the late Vedic literature as a great philosopher-king. A King Janaka is also mentioned in the Ramayana epic.
His conservation with Ashtavakra is recorded as Ashtavakra Gita, where in he is depicted as one realised and this tested by the sage Ashtavakra. Many spiritual teachers have referred to this writing often translating and deducing its meaning.
Janaka in Vedic literature
Late Vedic literature such as the Shatapatha Brahmana and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad mention a certain King Janaka (c. 7th century BCE) as a great philosopher-king of Videha, renowned for his patronage of Vedic culture and philosophy, and whose court was an intellectual center for Brahmin sages such as Yajnavalkya. Under his reign, Videha became a dominant political and cultural center of South Asia.
Janaka kings in Ramayana and Mahabharata time
The most famous among the Janakas was Seeradhwaj, a Vaisya king.
In Balakanda 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 advanced spiritually and reached the state of a rishi, though he was a king administrating the kingdom of Mithila, present day Janakpur in Nepal. 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 epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Janakas were a race of kings who ruled Videha Kingdom from their capital Janakpur, which was an ancient state in the foothill of Himalayas before its unification into Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The father of Sita was named Seeradwaja Janaka. These epics mention many other Janaka kings who were all great scholars and led the life of a sage, though they were kings. They engaged in religious conversations with many sages.
One of the Janaka kings took Sage Vyasa's son Sukha (also called as Sukha Dev, Sukhadev Goswami) under his tutelage directed by Vyasa. Vyasa was born during Mahabharata time to Satyavati, daughter of the fisherman Dusharaj and sage Parashara.
King Janaka had a younger brother named Kushadhwaja who ruled the kingdom of Benares. He had two daughters, Mandavi and Shrutakirti who were wedded to Bharata and Shatrughna, the brothers of Lord Rama and sons of Dasharatha.
- In other languages, Khmer: Janak, Kannada ಜನಕ, Telugu: జనకుఁడు, Tamil: ஜனகன், Thai: ชนก (Chanok), Malay: Maharisi Kala. Also known as Raja Janaka (राजा जनक, rājā janaka)
- The Videha (or Mithila) kingdom was located in South Asia, the east of the Gandaki River, west of the Koshi River, north of the Ganga river and south of the Himalaya. The region is now divided between present day Nepal and the Indian state of Bihar.
- Vanita, Ruth. "Full of God:Ashtavakra and ideas of Justice in Hindu Text". Equinox Publishing Ltd.
- Radhakamal Mukerjee (1971). The song of the self supreme (Aṣṭāvakragītā): the classical text of Ātmādvaita by Aṣṭāvakra. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 978-81-208-1367-0. Source:  (accessed: Friday March 19, 2010)
- H. C. Raychaudhuri (1972), Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.41–52
- H.C. Raychaudhuri (1972)
- Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, 97–265.
- Dictionary of Hindu Lord and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola