The In-Laws

lotus flower“As the barat procession approached the city, the people happily came to welcome them. Looking at each other and meeting, it was like love became complete.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 15.1)

niyarāni nagara barāta haraṣī lena agavānī gae |
dekhata paraspara milata mānata prema paripūrana bhae ||

Few situations in life are more awkward than the initial meeting with the in-laws. They are your new family. Though you may know your future spouse, you likely don’t know their family as well. No matter what you do, no matter how you act, they will always love your spouse more than they will love you. They are not guaranteed to like you, either, as they are naturally protective of their family member about to get married. In Janakpur a long time ago, strangely there were no awkward motions or inhibitions when the in-laws met each other prior to the wedding. This was due entirely to the nature of the participants.

In a traditional marriage, undoubtedly the bride-to-be has a tougher task ahead of her as it relates to the relationship with the in-laws. The groom may get a hard time from the bride’s father, but her father isn’t expected to live with them. The term “being given away” is not merely symbolic. The husband takes charge of protecting the woman once she gets married. She leaves the family of her father.

The wife, on the other hand, must coexist with her husband’s family. Tensions can especially rise with the mother-in-law. For the mother, her whole life her job has been to care for her son. Now a new person is expected to take over that role. The bride wants to make sure she does a good job, but at the same time she doesn’t want to diminish the importance of the mother-in-law. As a mother’s love for her son is very strong, any apparent deficiency in the bride’s duty to her husband becomes prone to correction. And in adulthood who likes to be corrected by anyone else, let alone your husband’s mother?

Sita and RamaSita and Rama had the ideal marriage in so many ways. She was going to enter a family that had three mothers for the one groom. There was only one biological mother, but kings during those times often had more than one wife. This was not a problem since the wives were protected. They were happy living with the king, so who was to say that it wasn’t pious? Indeed, to protect a woman in marriage is a highly chivalrous act on the part of a ruler.

The groom’s party, for their part, didn’t know the bride’s side very well. They hadn’t specifically arranged the marriage. To the eyes of the world, Sita and Rama were joined by chance. Sita was so beautiful and precious that her father decided that she couldn’t be wed in the ordinary way. A contest of strength would determine her future husband. Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, happened to be at the contest. At the insistence of the sage Vishvamitra, He tried His hand at lifting the bow in the arena. And wouldn’t you know it, He won.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the barat procession that came from Ayodhya is approaching the city of Janakpur. The barat procession is the marching of the bridegroom’s party towards the site of the wedding, which is typically the bride’s home. Here we see that the bride’s party welcomed them with great enthusiasm. It wasn’t a formal gesture, either. The two parties were so genuinely happy to see each other that it was like love became complete.

Indeed, Rama is the Supreme Lord and Sita His eternal consort. They appear in the earthly realm every now and then to enact pastimes. I may not always live with my brothers, but wherever we are, we always stay brothers. In the same way, Sita and Rama may not always be together physically, but they are still eternally linked. When they meet, others feel so much happiness. They are overjoyed because they are devoted to the divine couple. They know how much Sita loves Rama and how much Rama loves Sita. They know how pious King Janaka is and how courageous King Dasharatha is.

King DasharathaDasharatha’s name means one who can fight ten chariots coming from the ten different directions [north, south, east, west, the four corners, up and down]. Dasharatha is a protector of dharma, or virtue. Similarly, Janaka is famous for being self-realized. He carries out his work, but he is not attached to the results. This is how we should act, because we don’t have control over the outcomes to action. Two people may both be morally situated, but they will not always find equal circumstances. Two people may work hard at running their businesses, but both of them are not guaranteed to be successful. Better to carry out your prescribed duties with a cool head. No one was cooler than Janaka, and so it was fitting that his family would be joined with Dasharatha’s.

The same joyful greeting is given by devotees who worship Sita and Rama in the temple. The same greeting is given daily by Shri Hanuman, who chants their names nonstop. The same joyful greeting is given by the devotees to other devotees, for they carry the message of Godhead with them. Goswami Tulsidas here beautifully depicts a wonderful scene, where love comes to life through the meeting of the energetic Supreme Lord and His energy.

In Closing:

The barat procession about to meet,

With smiling faces they will greet.

 

Awkwardness there was none,

In desires all participants were one.

 

So joyful when families did meet,

Looked like love finally to be complete.

 

To natures of Sita and Rama this was due,

Pleasantness to their devotees extended too.

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